Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dies at age 82

Former Senate Majority Leader and Latter-day Saint Harry Reid, 82, died Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, following a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement, calling Reid “a devoted and capable public servant who was dedicated to his family, his faith, and his country.”

“We are grateful for his tireless service in each of these facets of a life well-lived,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. “We pray that Sen. Reid’s loved ones will be blessed and sustained at this tender time of parting and in the years ahead.”

Reid, D-Nevada, retired in January 2017 after five terms in the U.S. Senate, including eight years as majority leader and four as minority leader. He served in the U.S. House before being elected to the Senate. His service marks the highest-ranking position a Latter-day Saint has ever held in the U.S. Congress.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said Reid was an excellent senator, a faithful Latter-day Saint and a personal friend for many years.

President Ballard said Reid would counsel with Church leaders and employees about situations around the world. “He always sought understanding and was willing to do what he could to help the Church,” he said.  

The senator cared about the “safety, security and well-being” of the Church’s missionary force serving across the globe, President Ballard added, noting that the senator was supportive of efforts to obtain missionary visas and, on a few occasions, assisted with missionary evacuations.  

President Barack Obama turns towards Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. looks on, before he made a statement to reporters, after a meeting regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Thursday, June 10, 2010, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.
President Barack Obama turns towards Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. looks on, before he made a statement to reporters, after a meeting regarding the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Thursday, June 10, 2010, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Credit: Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

He was a loyal and trusted friend, who stayed in contact with President Ballard well after his retirement. During a trip to England in October, President Ballard spent time with one of Reid’s grandsons.

Reid was also a solid Church member. “Every chance he had while traveling on Sundays, he made his way to sacrament meeting,” said President Ballard.

In a 2001 Church News interview, Reid said he was unique in Congress — not only because he was an active member of the Church, but also a Democrat.

“I try to be as good to people as I would expect them to be to me,” he said.

Raised in a home without indoor plumbing in the rural mining community of Searchlight, Nevada, Reid said his life can be an example to young people. With his wife, Landra, he converted to the Church as a student at Utah State University. After graduating in political science and history, he earned a law degree from George Washington University. “If I can make it, anyone can,” he said.

Reid spoke about faith, family, and public service during a BYU devotional in 2007. He ended his talk with his testimony of prayer, faith and the restored Church and encouraged students to create a better world.

The J. Reuben Clark Law Society honored Reid for his long career in politics with the Distinguished Public Service Award at its annual fireside in the Conference Center, on Jan. 20, 2017. Elder Lance B. Wickman, general counsel for the Church and an emeritus General Authority Seventy, presented the award, calling Reid “a force to be reckoned with.”

“As one of the most visible public officials in the nation, he also has been one of the most influential. … Throughout all his years at the pinnacle of government, he has been a loyal, constant source of wisdom and timely assistance on many matters of vital interest to the Church,” Elder Wickman said.

Reid and his wife have five children, a daughter and four sons.

“The Church has been really important in my life,” Reid told the Church News in 2001. “It has been a real buttress to my life.”