Regarding the undaunted way in which Latter-day Saints confront death, well-known literary scholar Harold Bloom proclaimed the following: “What is the essence of religion? … Religion rises inevitably from our apprehension of our own death. To give meaning to meaninglessness is the endless quest of all religion. … Of all religions that I know, the one that most vehemently and persuasively defies and denies the reality of death is the original Mormonism of the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Joseph Smith.”
The entire reason for religion is man’s apprehension of death. Hugh Nibley was wont to quote a poem by A.E. Housman on this subject of man’s preoccupation with life and death:
Man has not been able to get away from death. Man has thought about it since time began, and it preoccupies his thoughts day in and day out. It is part of the “terrible questions” as Nibley put it, that man has made since the start. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? What is the purpose of this life? What will happen to me after I die? What will I do for eternity? It is the subject of much art, literature, and religion since the beginning. If there is one thing that man fears most, it is probably death, and the unknown that accompanies it.
But the Latter-day Saints know differently. We thank God for a latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith, who restored the truths of the physical and bodily resurrection, of the sealing of eternal families, and the principles of eternal life and exaltation, and what eternity consists of, teachings we learn about and make a promised reality in the temples of the Lord.
The most remarkable temple builder who has ever lived passed away this evening at the age of 97 – the Prophet of God on earth, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and our beloved friend and exemplar, Gordon Bitner Hinckley.
In the 165 years before he was called to the office of president and prophet of the Church 47 temples to God were erected on the earth. During President Hinckley’s 13 years as God’s anointed servant, 77 temples were built up to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 124 temples are now operating around the world, with another 13 temples under construction or announced, nearly tripling the number that existed previously. From an average of constructing a temple every 3.5 years, President Hinckley produced a near 21 fold increase in the rate to every 2 months! In the year 2000 alone, 34 temples were dedicated and given the exalted and holy status of the House of the Lord. During his lifetime he dedicated 85 temples, more than any other man who has ever lived. We might even say that President Hinckley has done more, save Jesus and Joseph Smith only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it, by extending the saving blessings and ordinances of the temple to countless millions of God’s children around the world (see D&C 135:3). Other members believe similarly.
Many prophets and apostles, ancient and modern, have envisioned this day and prophesied of the inspired and prophetic work of President Hinckley:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie –
We expect to see the day when temples will dot the earth, each one a house of the Lord; each one built in the mountains of the lord; each one a sacred sanctuary to which Israel and the Gentiles shall gather to receive the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps they will number in the hundreds, or even in the thousands, before the Lord returns. [Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1982), 277.]
President Brigham Young –
To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal. [JD 3:372]
Even Isaiah of old foretold this time, and likely saw the ministry of President Hinckley,
Enlarge the place of thy tent, and . . . stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations . . . (Isaiah 54:2)
Elder Merrill J. Bateman has explained Isaiah’s scripture thus,
I suddenly realized that the phrase “the curtains of thine habitations” refers to temples, to houses of the Lord. In looking at the last days, Isaiah saw that a key feature of Church growth would be the building of temples. Temples will spread across the earth. (The Dawn of a New Millenium, Jan. 11, 2000)
Many others have also prophesied of the time when temples would “dot the earth.” President Hinckley saw that era and gave us the realization of that prophecy and vision. Glory be to God for the inspired work of this remarkable man of God! Indeed, we thank thee, O God, for a prophet!
Said the prophet,
I believe that no member of the Church has received the ultimate which this Church has to give until he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the Lord. Accordingly, we are doing all that we know how to do to expedite the construction of these sacred buildings and make the blessings received therein more generally available. . . . We are determined, brethren, to take the temples to the people and afford them every opportunity for the very precious blessings that come of temple worship. (Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service, Oct. 1997)
Let it be known to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people that Gordon B. Hinckley was a chosen prophet of God, that he spoke the word of the Lord, and was a first hand witness of the Savior Jesus Christ! He was God’s prophet, seer, and revelator on the earth. He set in motion the accelerated building up of the most sacred spaces on earth, the holy temples of the Lord, in the most spectacular way this world has ever seen, and in them the saints have worshiped God and performed saving gospel ordinances in and to His name. The world will forever remember the legacy of our beloved prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley!