The First Presidency shared words of comfort, love and spiritual reassurance to the survivors of nine Latter-day Saints — all members of the extended Hansen family — who were killed in a private plane crash over Thanksgiving weekend.
In a letter read by Elder Gary E. Stevenson at the Dec. 18 funeral of Hansen family patriarch, James D. Hansen, Sr., the First Presidency extended “with heartfelt sorrow” condolences to Brother Hansen’s wife, Coralie Hansen, and all their grieving relatives and loved ones.
“We unite our prayers with all who mourn with you,” stated the letter, signed by President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. “Although we do not always understand why such events occur, we do know that God our Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ know your needs. They have compassion for you and know the pain in your hearts.
“We are reminded of the words of the Lord to His disciples: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’” (John 14: 27).
Brother Hansen died in a Nov. 30 plane crash while enroute to Idaho Falls after traveling to South Dakota for a pheasant hunt the Hansen family took every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Also killed in the single-engine crash were Brother Hansen’s sons, James Hansen Jr. and Kirk Hansen; grandsons Jake Hansen, Stockton Hansen and Logan Hansen; great-grandson Houston Hansen; and grandsons-in-law Kyle Naylor and Tyson Dennert.
Three Hansen family members survived — including grandsons Matt Hansen and Josh Hansen; and a grandson-in-law, Thomas Long.
“Your dear husband and precious family members have returned to the arms of their Heavenly Father,” the letter added. “We pray that your understanding of the love of the Lord and of His plan for us will bring you great comfort at this tender time of parting.”
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided at Brother Hansen’s funeral at the Ammon 8th Ward meetinghouse in Ammon, Idaho. He was accompanied by Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Henry J. Eyring, an Area Seventy.
Before the viewing, President Ballard and Elder Stevenson met with the family. President Ballard commended the family for their great faith and life-long devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and gave them a special blessing of comfort.
During the funeral service, President Ballard offered a gentle suggestion to Brother Hansen’s relatives and friends — and, perhaps “to anyone who has lost someone” to the next world.
When referring to departed loved ones, he said, don’t use the term “was.”
Instead, say “is.”
“James Hansen is in the great world of the spirits of the dead,” he said. “He is alive.”
President Ballard shared “wonderful insight” regarding the Resurrection written by President Joseph F. Smith, who lost his own father, Hyrum, when he was five, and his mother when he was 13. During the course of his life, President Smith lost 16 of his own children and grandchildren.
In the April 1916 general conference, the Church’s sixth president — President Ballard’s own great-grandfather — spoke of the thin veil separating the living and those in the spirit world. The principles of the gospel reveal that the connections binding family members and friends do not end with the passage of mortality.
“I claim that we live in their presence,” said President Smith. “They see us. They are solicitous of our welfare. They love us now more than ever. Now they see the dangers that beset us. They can comprehend better than ever before the weaknesses that are liable to mislead us into dark and forbidden paths.”
The Hansens are enduring a great family tragedy, said President Ballard. But the sacred, living connection that binds the Hansen family remains.
“You will feel their presence,” he told Sister Hansen and her family. “There will be times when you will sense that they are watching over you. Don’t resist it, brothers and sisters. Let heaven help you through this. Let those who have passed on help you through this.”
“Will you see them?” he asked.
“Most likely not. Will you feel they are near? Absolutely — and especially if you will find time in this busy, hectic world we now live in to be still.”
President Ballard closed his remarks by reassuring the Hansen family of the Brethren’s love for them before bestowing upon them an apostolic blessing of peace and comfort.
“We leave with you our Heavenly Father’s blessing that the peace of the Lord will now carry you through until that great day of reunion when you are back in one another’s arms and sharing one another.”
In his remarks, Elder Stevenson said the testimonies of Brother Hansen’s posterity is a tribute to his legacy and memory.
The Apostle said he met Brother and Sister Hansen in the late 1970s when he was dating his wife, Lesa, and whose family was in the same ward as the Hansens.
“I was impressed then with the [Hansen] family — and, over the years, I’ve become even more impressed as his posterity has grown.”
The day is defined by sorrow, he said. “And at the same time, we are blessed because we have a knowledge that is a balm for that sorrow.”
Many of life’s most difficult, sorrowful questions can be answered with hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the first questions one might ask is where are the Hansen relatives who were lost in the accident. The Book of Mormon, said Elder Stevenson, provides the answer:
“Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection — Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men… are taken home to that God who gave them life.
“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow” (Alma 40:11-12).
The scriptures also teach that the soul and the body shall be restored to its proper and perfect frame.
“The great plan of happiness,” said Elder Stevenson, “comes to us because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
He then drew upon the third chapter of Preach My Gospel that teaches: “As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sickness and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace and consolation.
“All that seems unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
During the funeral service, Brother Hansen’s daughter, Lauralie Hansen Seedall, shared a life sketch of her father. Lynn Goldman and Bishop Garn Herrick offered talks.
Several of Brother Hansen’s grandchildren — Josh Hansen, Jamie Hansen, Jason Seedall, Elder Zachary Hansen, Kaylie Seedall, Jordan Long, Alexis Naylor, Jessica Dennert, Matt Hansen, Jeff Seedall and Jonathan Seedall — shared tributes and favorite memories of their grandfather and other loved ones.
The tragedy has staggered people from all corners of the globe who came to love the Hansens through their philanthropy and commitment to helping others.
“I’ve never known a family more dedicated to service and giving,” said Becky Bursell, a Hansen family friend and business associate. “It all started with Jim Sr., and has been passed down through his children and grandchildren.
“They viewed making an impact a responsibility, not a choice.”
Funerals for several other Hansen relatives have been held in recent days, with the final funeral — for James Hansen Jr., Jake Hansen and Houston Hansen — scheduled for Monday, Dec. 23.