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Gordon Hinckley in Salt Lake City in 2005. Source: George Frey/Getty Imag

Gordon Hinckley in Salt Lake City in 2005. Source: George Frey/Getty Images hide caption

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When the newswire announcing the death of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley buzzed into my blackberry, I mentioned it to my boyfriend, who grew up in the Mormon church, and wondered who the new head would be. His immediate response? "Thomas Monson." He's right. According to tradition, the former leader's second-in-command assumes the church presidency, but only after the leadership gathers to pray on it. NPR's Howard Berkes will help us remember Hinckley, a man who changed the church dramatically during his tenure, and look ahead to Monson.

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President Hinckley definitely presented a new slant on old staple teachings of the LDS church, somewhat contrarily to the claim of the caller who "clarified" that the church would never change its teachings or doctrines.

Personally I feel that moderation of LDS teachings is a good thing, but it is most definitely a change in doctrine. When President Hinckley explained that a revelation received by a previous prophet of the church was in fact "a little couplet coined" - that is, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become," he was definitely changing what it means when a prophet says he has had a revelation.

For a religion who believes that when the prophet speaks and when God speaks it is the same (D&C 1) this shift in perspective of what a prophet's revelation is really worth ( its merely a couplet now) is a big one.

Sent by John Gilmore | 3:58 PM | 1-28-2008

I find it curious that NPR would take only two responses to their announcement of the Death of President Hinckley and one of them was a criticism of something some extremist members did over 150 years ago at Mountian Meadows. Why did they not bring up the fact that over the past ten years President Hinckley has directed the humanitarian efforts of the church to supply food, supplies and shelter to tens of thousand of people when disasters strike all around the world including the Katrina disaster. The have saved literally thousands of lives. This humanitarian effort for decades was applied only to members of the LDS Church, but during Hinckley's presidency, it has been non-demoninational in its scope and at a cost of millions of dollars in aid with no request for any payback. Did NPR miss that fact to highlight an event that occurred without Church sanction so many years ago. That is what they see as President Hinckley's legacy? Shame on NPR.

Sent by Perry O. Gooch | 4:37 PM | 1-28-2008

We'll hope that this brief mention is not the sum of coverage which NPR makes at Pres. Hinckley's passing. This truly great man leaves a legacy of service which about which others should read, hear, discuss, etc. This was, indeed, too brief an exposure.

Sent by KJ Brough | 5:55 PM | 1-28-2008

Gordon Hinckley was a remarkable figure for his willingness to speak with the world about the faith and for his endearing sense of humor. He seemed a very accomplished and capable person but it seemed he would have preferred to have lived a private life. He responded to his "calling" to serve in a public fashion anyway. He may not have changed the doctrine, but he did reaffirm existing doctrine and in some cases specifically excluded opinions made by other prophets as doctrine. Church "doctrine" is a fluid concept and generally to remain doctrine, a statement or concept must be reaffirmed by living church leaders. Hinckley's commitment to the international membership of the Church, his work ethic, and his kind-hearted, genteel persona will be missed for a long time.

Sent by Jan Davidson | 6:10 PM | 1-28-2008

John misunderstands the doctrine of when a prophet speaks as a prophet (ie. when what a prophet says is binding revelation from God). Every word or statement spoken by a man who is a prophet is not considered revelation from God. A prophet can give his opinion, write a poem or a song, or whatever and he can be speaking for himself alone. Only those things spoken "by the power of the Holy Ghost" are considered God's word. That is the condition for taking a prophet's word and God's word as the same. If the standard was that every word that came from a prophet's mouth was God's word, then something as routine as "Please pass the peas" would suddenly become holy. That is not the case.

And, as a side note, when a prophet speaks in his role as a prophet, followers are asked to pray to God themselves for a confirmation of his instruction. They are never asked to follow blindly, but to receive a spiritual witness for themselves.

Sent by Janice | 9:55 AM | 1-29-2008

While Janice is correct in that Mormons do not consider everything out of a prophet's mouth to be revelation, she must admit that the phrase in question was considered to be "true" among the faithful.

And while Gordon Hinckley did provide a new "slant" on many aspects of his faith, he still supported the subjugation of women and discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, & transgenders. Furthermore, with the exception of a German man, there are no foreign persons in the governing body of this international church.

Hinckley may have brought a lot of change, but there's still a long way to go.

Kaileo Cross
Honolulu, HI

Sent by Kaileo Cross | 9:43 PM | 1-29-2008

At one point the interviewer asked how much the next prophet could expect to be paid, however the question was not adequately answered. The prophet and apostles do not receive a salary for their service. The men who fill these callings leave diverse types of careers to serve God full-time. I doubt many of them are rich, but I know that my tithes do not go toward a paycheck for any leader in the church no matter what level of service they give.

I suppose that if a prophet or apostle were experiencing a financial crisis the Church wouldn't leave them hanging. The Church has an extensive Welfare system which can provide the basic necessities of life during times of extreme hardship (including times of financial distress) and I expect that this help is as available to the prophet as it is to me.

Sent by Ryann Bowns | 12:21 AM | 1-30-2008

Now, to address who is in the governing body of the church. The general governing body of the church is composed of several quorums: The First Presidency, The Quorum of the Twelve, and several Quorums of the Seventy. It is true that in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, the only non-U.S. citizen is Elder Uchtdorf. But that is not always the case. In the past, there have been men from England and Canada.

In the Quorums of the Seventy, there are leaders from all over the world, including, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Brazil and several other South American countries, Japan, and on and on. And, yes, there is even a black man. Those called to these quorums generally need to have had a great deal of experience in church membership leadership so that they know the doctrines well and so that they "know the ropes" to governing the general church membership. I am certain that as the church becomes more established in more and more lands, that the leadership will continue to become more and more international.

I hope these posts have helped.

Sent by Janice | 5:32 PM | 1-30-2008

President Hinckley said "People wonder what we do for our women. I'll tell you what we do. We get out of their way and look with wonder at what they're accomplishing." I know that I am a more capable and empowered woman because of my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am constantly reminded that I am a divine daughter of God. I have been exposed to innumerable opportunities to discover my talents and develop new skills. I know that President Hinckley practiced what he taught about the importance of women because his wife loved him very much. She talked about how he allowed her to spread her wings and how he supported her in her goals. The doctrines and practices of this church, exemplified by its leaders, have never caused me to feel subjugated.

Sent by Ryann Bowns | 12:25 AM | 2-2-2008