Flags flew at half-staff at LDS temples, Church buildings and university campuses the week after Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles died on Oct. 1, 2017.
Following his death, Church leaders and members reflected on the leadership and ministry of the beloved Church leader.
During the 187th Semiannual General Conference for the Church on Oct. 1 — the same day Elder Hales died — President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency shared tribute to his friend and colleague of many years.
“We will miss him,” President Eyring said. “His wisdom and goodness have blessed our lives for many years. We express our love to his sweet wife and caregiver, Mary, and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family.”
Local politicians expressed their appreciation for the LDS Church leader. On the Senate floor the morning after Elder Hales died, Senator Orrin Hatch said, “Yesterday afternoon after decades of dedicated service as a minister of Jesus Christ, he completed his mortal mission and returned with honor to our heavenly home. The challenge he leaves behind is for all of us to do the same. …
“While millions of us grieve his passing, we take peace and comfort in knowing that his service continues on the other side. I knew him very well, played golf with him, thought he was one of the greatest men in my life and I want to pay tribute to him and his family here today in front of the whole United States Senate and the country. He was one of the most worthwhile people I’ve ever met and we’re going to miss him.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert said, “Jeanette and I join millions of people around the world in mourning the passing, and celebrating the life, of my friend Elder Robert D. Hales. I will always remember the honor of working alongside Elder Hales in efforts to lift and enhance some of our local institutions. He was always friendly. He was a man with no guile. I consider him an extraordinarily humble and spiritual leader. The state of Utah and its citizens are better because of his example and his personal ministry. He will be missed but not forgotten. My prayers are with his loving wife, Mary, and the Hales family at this time.”
Church members around the world have turned to social media sites to honor their beloved leader. While many posted a thought on their personal profiles online after hearing the news, a video about his life and legacy shared on Elder Hales’ Facebook page has been shared more than 12,380 times and has had more than 584,000 views. Hundreds of comments have been posted sharing tributes and condolences.
Included are some of the tributes posted on social media sites in honor of Elder Hales.
“I remember as an almost 17-year old listening to Elder Hales during a session of LDS conference [#LDSconf] when he was the Presiding Bishop. The theme of his talk was ‘Return with Honor’ and it touched me. He shared that he had put his arms around each of his boys as they left to serve LDS missions and whispered in their ears, ‘Return with honor’. I’ve thought of that motto many times, especially as I left to serve a mission in Russia 25 years ago. Elder Hales has now returned to his heavenly home ‘with honor.’ ” — Matt Bond
“Elder Hales holds a special place in my heart. I had an opportunity to meet and converse with him many years ago before he became an Apostle. He was a very kind and gentle man. I can’t think of a better day for him to pass into the hands of our loving Heavenly Father.”— Beverly Shields Thompson
“In the latter half of 2015 I studied Elder Hales’ conference addresses in order from his first testimony after being ordained an apostle in April 1994 to his last talk in April 2017. Studying in this way gave me an awesome view into the impressions and themes given to him by The Lord for us. His ministry was referred to frequently by his brethren in the quorum as humble and meek, and I would agree. Of all his talks, this one I’m sharing from October 2000 stands above the rest in it’s humility, sincerity, and doctrinal significance. He shares some of the suffering he endured, some things he learned, and that angels ministered to him in his times of greatest need. I love the Lord of whom Elder Hales testified, and I witness he was called as an apostle in our day for our benefit. I count it a blessing to have heard his witness and I accept it wholeheartedly.” — Garth Quigley
“I had so much respect for Elder Robert D. Hales and for his wife Mary. I remember the theme for our mission, “Return with Honor.” He lived that principle and taught us to follow.” — Jody VanValkenburg
“In 2002 Elder Hales conducted a fireside for military service members and their families in San Diego, CA. Theresa and I attended as we were keenly aware of an imminent deployment to combat. Elder Hales served as a fighter pilot as a young man and that evening as a special witness of Jesus Christ he was powerful, comforting and encouraging. He gave us an apostolic blessing and it was a wonderful moment in my life as a member of the military and a holder of the priesthood. Thank you Elder Hales for your service to God and to our Country.” — Shon Brodie
“I will never forget sitting in the LDS chapel in Bilbao Spain to be instructed by Elder Hales almost 40 years ago. We were a group of about two dozen missionaries and it was a cold winter day…. back then I knew that I was part of something very special and these many years later that event still stands out, I have often quoted things I learned that day.. later he was called to be one of the modern day Apostles of Jesus Christ. He will be missed.” — Betty Christensen
“What an amazing example of enduring to the end! I have so appreciated his example, his testimony and service. He helped me through a hard time with poor health by his saying of ‘When you can’t do what you have always done, you do what matters most’. He will be missed. My prayers go out to his sweet wife and family and all of those who loved him. I imagine him being greeted on the other side with ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’” — Debbie Pearson
“My dear Mission President my dear friend. I was the only sister from NZ. This man to me was such a loving example of a priesthood holder of the Saviour. You could feel the Saviours love through him. He was always concerned about you and your companionship and how your relationship was going together. See a problem and fix it. Sister Hales was alway 150 percent behind him. Will always love and miss this very special man. May the Lord bless and comfort Sister Hales and family at this time.” — Lesley Potaka Ormsby
“Yesterday during General Conference, Apostle Elder Robert D. Hales passed away. His testimony of the Savior was one of the greatest things I remember about him. This quote [by Elder Hales] says it all: ‘Oh, if I had the voice and trump of an angel that I could say to all mankind that [Jesus Christ] is risen and that he lives; that he is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father, the promised Messiah, our Redeemer and Savior; that he came into this world to teach the gospel by example. His divine mission is directed to you and me to come unto him and he will lead us into life eternal.’ … His voice will be sadly missed at general conference and other times. May his family find joy in the memory he left behind and knowing they will see him again.” — Charleen Ross Haugen