How to bury a prophet

I thought this article was fascinating and insightful.  Enough so that I am replicating it here.  It is from the OnFaith series at The Washington Post.

Associate Professor, Religious History

Kathleen Flake is associate professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University. more »

The Latter-day Saints buried their prophet on Saturday. Thousands attended the service in person and millions more faithful watched in chapels around the globe, as well as on the internet. What they saw was an unusually personal ceremony for a very public man who led and to large degree defined the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Notwithstanding the numbers and titles of participants, Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was a family affair both in word and sacrament. It was an extraordinary display of what makes Mormonism tick.

Gordon Bitner Hinckley died at the age of 97, having been in the church’s leading councils since 1958 and served as its fifteenth president since 1995. He shaped the church through a half century of growth in 160 countries. A third of its present membership joined during his tenure as president. His counsel to them was more practical than sublime: be better neighbors, stand a little taller, and choose the right. He was much loved for living these virtues. Displaying remarkable vigor late in life, he traveled to meet church members on every continent, responding to their needs with curricular, welfare, and building programs whose costs are impossible to imagine and no one will admit.

He met the press also to a degree unequaled and with an openness heretofore unknown among Mormonism’s leadership. This effort too was largely successful. No less a cynic than CBS’s Mike Wallace admitted Hinckley “fully deserves the almost universal admiration that he gets.” The qualifier is a necessary reference to many who distrusted Hinckley’s representations of Mormonism as Christian and his insistence that marriage was properly limited to a man and a woman. At the other extreme, to critics within who felt he gave up too much in a Larry King interview, Hinckley responded simply: “I know the doctrines of this church as well as any.” His outreach was interfaith, not ecumenical. There was no stauncher advocate of Joseph Smith’s claim to have restored the fullness of the Christian gospel and church than Gordon Hinckley. He was, as Newsweek’s Jon Meacham said, “a charming and engaging man, an unlikely prelate — and all the more impressive for that.”

The same could be said of his funeral. It was an unlikely but impressive mix of the sacramental and the mundane. This is so because Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was no exception to Mormonism’s general rule that families bury their dead. They design and execute the memorial program. They say the prayers and perform the ordinances that send their loved ones off to the next life. Yes, the chapel in this case was the LDS Conference center that held 21,000 mourners; the lay pastor who conducted the meeting was Thomas Monson, Hinckley’s presumptive successor as “prophet, seer, and revelator;” and the music was provided by the 300-plus Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But, in all other essentials, the service was performed by the family. A son gave the invocation. Monson conducted at the request of the family, he said, not by ecclesiastical right. Only one dignitary was mentioned as among the mourners: a representative of the American president. When his name was given, the camera’s briefest glance away from the pulpit to the audience gave the only hint of famous others.

The eulogy was given by a daughter who described her father’s life as half-way point in a now seven-generation story of sacrifice, death, and survival that is the Mormon saga. Explicitly gathering the millions watching into that story, she declared “we are one family sharing an inheritance of faith.” Friends with high titles spoke next. Though the requisite list of his ecclesiastical accomplishments was given, it was subordinated to his success as a courageous and amusing friend and a successful husband and father. Another daughter gave the benediction: “we are buoyed by the knowledge that we will see him again as family, as friends.”

Hinckley’s sons and daughters with their spouses led the casket out of the hall and between an honor guard of church authorities. Cameras followed the mourners, focusing on his five children, 25 grandchildren and 62 great grandchildren who formed the cortege to the cemetery. There, possibly most surprisingly, the eldest son dedicated the grave without fanfare. Notwithstanding the presence of the church’s chief leaders, the son stepped forward to pronounce: “By the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, I dedicate this grave for the remains of Gordon B. Hinckley, until such time as thou shall call him forth.” Then, the hierarchs were “dismissed,” as Monson put it. Finally, as the church teaches is the case in the afterlife, only the family remained.

Families are, as Latter-day Saints like to say, “forever.” What they don’t say is that the church is not forever. It is only the instrument for endowing families with the right and duty to mediate the gifts of the gospel to their members; thereby, sealing the willing among them as families in the life to come. This was Hinckley’s message as a prophet. As he would have it and as the best Mormon funerals do, his message was embodied and enacted by his family who blessed him in death, no less than in life. This is how the Latter-day Saints, at least, bury a prophet.

Good bye to 2006

Another year has passed. Has it really? It doesn’t feel like it. I don’t feel any older. I don’t think I look any older. What really happened in 2006? Did it really exist? I know it did. I have the memories of it and the evidence. (I won’t be like some nations claiming that you cannot prove the past, like the Holocaust).A former President has died ending the year. I remember meeting President Ford in Twin Falls, Idaho. I must have only been about 10 or
12 at the time. I guess he liked to golf once and a while at the course down in the canyon. (Sad, I don’t even remember the name of it.  (Perhaps I am getting older….)

Who else died this year? I read a few of Milton Friedman’s books. I still sing to myself the music of Malcolm Arnold, especially River Kwai.  I remember joking about what it must be like to be Robert C Baker, but now I would feel bad joking of chicken nuggets. Buck Owens who I saw in Branson passed away. We can’t forget political leaders like President Ford, Senator Stafford, or Congressman Sonny Montgomery. Ed Bradley who I liked to watch. 60 Minutes just won’t be the same anymore without Bradley and Wallace. Who were some not so notable, or infamous, Mr. Lay, Jeff Lundgren, Saddam. It has been a year for deaths! Oh, I about forgot Steve Irwin. It seemed every little kid in England talked of Steve.

A couple of family members have passed away. Ebertha Lutz of my Van Leeuwen line. Dean Sharp just passed away last week. His funeral is on Thursday up in Pasco, Washington. That doesn’t leave many of the Sharp family around either. I know Grandpa is struggling with his death.  Dad, Jan, and Grandpa are going up to the funeral. I hope when my time comes, it will go as well. He wasn’t feeling well, and went to the hospital. His oxygen was low, so they put him on oxygen and he wanted to go home. He was resting and Lois heard him make a noise and saw his oxygen was off. She went over and he was gone. Quick, painless, and comfortable.

I only visited with Dean two weeks ago. I called him to ask him some family history questions about his parents and recollections of Mary Ann Stoker, aka Lillian Musgrave. He told me characteristics of his parents, Edward Sharp and Lillie East. He always had a cool little laugh when he finished speaking. Don’t know if it was a nervous laugh, something he picked up, but it always made me feel relaxed. He never
knew his grandmother, I had to get that information elsewhere. Good bye Dean.

I received an e-mail from a Terry McHugh in South Carolina. He was searching information on the Stoker line. I filled him on information I
had, and gleaned quite a bit from him. It was good to focus some more on the Stoker line. I still have yet to figure out why my Mary Ann
Stoker (married Sharp) went by Lily (Lillian) Musgrave for a spell.

I called Grandpa and he shared a few memories with me. He said she was fairly tall, I am not sure what that means. Grandpa is not necessarily tall. He used to walk past her house every day on the way to school.  He would stop in on his way home when she was alive. It is the same house my Aunt Caroline lives in now.

She would have him put the hooks in the holes for her shoe laces. She also had him pull the strings on her girdle for her. He used to ask why
she needed the thing; after all she was so skinny. She would just sigh and ask him to pull them just a little tighter. It sounded like it was sweet memories. She had a horn for hearing. She went deafer over the years. Grandpa would ask why she needed that horn and she would say it was because he wasn’t speaking loud enough. It was interesting that June Streeter had memories of Lily, but didn’t know who she was. It wasn’t until a few months back talking with her daughter that I cleared that up in her mind.

Life changed considerably for Amanda and me this year. I again made a move across the country. One thing is for sure, get married and the
physical baggage multiplies! You would think that my trunk full of possessions would only double. Some reason or another, women are not
confined to a Spartan life. But add a marriage to it, and the making of a home, and things grow exponentially. There are ways I would like to
go more Spartan, but Amanda won’t have any of that. Probably a good thing.

Dad had his operation and seems to be back to normal. Indeed, he is better than he has been for the last five years. I am glad he has made
such a recovery, even improvement. Jan had her operation on her back.  For some reason I cannot recall if that was earlier this year or not.
Yes, I think it was, pretty sure it was. She is doing much better. Her progress has not been as quick as Dad’s but she is doing better.

Overall it has been a good year. Even the few dreams I have had have all been good. There is one that repeated some over the year. Have yet no idea what it could possibly mean. I am back living at Kasota Road.  But I have to go to the dentist. I go, and it is Garrison Keillor who
is the dentist. We end up chatting about a few things. By the time the appointment is done, he has split a tooth in half, and pulled it.  Having removed a tooth, I am concerned and discuss my issues with him.  He takes and makes me a new tooth and screws it back into the top of my mouth. I am shocked that I can notice no difference from the old to the new tooth. I am impressed there is no swelling and no pain. He doesn’t even use pain killers. It is his reasoning that makes things work so well despite my little idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it is just that I need
to reason and talk through more things in life. I almost laugh in the mornings when I realize I am dreaming of going to the dentist, spending
the conversation with Keillor, and then arise to find life is great.  Perhaps it is just a happy dream. Don’t know why I find it so ironic that the dentist and Keillor make me happy, but I won’t complain. (Now people will think I am more off my rocker than ever!)

Well, I think I will sign off. I look forward to what 2007 has to bring. I am sure it will have many surprises and interesting things to mention. It will be the first year in a long time that I am planning, for the most part, of staying in the same state. Since graduation I have hopped between states every year.

Moving to Virginia Day #1

The first day has been completed.  We have driven from Provo, Utah to Parker, Colorado. Your typical day of driving but I thought I would offer a few comments.
Driving between Provo and Price going down through the canyon right before you head into Price, I saw a hub cap go flying from the driver side of the car and go behind me off the passenger side of the road.  I saw little chunks of it flying off which indicated it probably was not worth the savage.  To add to it, I had this idiot driver following very closely behind me, so I did not dare slam on the brakes to pull over.  Not to mention Amanda trying to tempt me with some smoked almonds. 
Driving over the continental divide I thought my poor car was going to die.  In the past when I have driven the divide I just set the cruise and once and a while the car would shift down to take it back up to normal speed.  Wow, what loading the trunk and back seat of your car can do!  It kicked my cruise off every time and just to maintain the speed of the loading trucks I had to push the pedal to the floor and drop it to lowest gear.  We sped along nearing red line and still being passed by Walmart trucks (which to me is simply embarrassing).
We finally made the pass and in Frisco filled up the car.  We still averaged about 28 miles to the gallon to that point.  We only had one more real pass to climb. After going through the tunnel, there was an accident by Georgetown 12 miles ahead and we were stopped on the freeway.  I knew the truckers were not happy.  The stop and go traffic on a 5-7% grade made the whole freeway stink with the burning of brakes.  I think my poor brakes even suffered a bit with the load.  I just put it in 1st gear and tried to coast it as much as possible.  There was a vehicle somewhere ahead that was stinking something terrible. 
We drove our way pretty easily to Parker after that.  We were able to see the Denver Temple.  We had to drive on the toll road because we had no idea how to get to where we were going without the directions we had.  But we found the home of my old friend Nicole Whitesides.  She is now married to Nathan Wallace.  We had a great chat.  Nathan is a great guy, it was the first time I met him.  She even came to see me home at the airport when I got back from the mission.
They have a very nice home on the very outskirts of town.  Literally, there is nothing but desert beyond.  But it will be filled very quickly from what we understand.
We went out to eat at some Asian place where the food was very, very spicy hot.  I broke a good sweat and enjoyed it.  Amanda on the other hand ate quite a bit and went home sick.  She is still feeling stomach sick this morning.  I hope it will depart during the day.  We will just have to see.
We crashed and went to bed after Nicole and I went through the yearbook.  I updated her on everyone I am still in contact with, she updated me on who she knew, and we reminisced about the old days.  She was the girl who told me we could not date in high school because I was not planning on going on a mission.  I liked her enough I decided I better look into it.  I was not active yet in the church.  She is the one who really planted the seed in many respects.  I decided that I was not against it like I was before her. I decided to look into the church a bit more.
It was with her car that I ran straight into Kevin Orton and pinned him against a White Toyota pickup.  I wonder if feeling ever came back into the side of his leg. He has not said anything.  Perhaps he has just become used to it, or it returned.  That was the most I ever heard Kevin swear.  It is amazing I did not break both of his legs.  We were both very fortunate that no major hospital bills came from that event and he isn’t maimed for life.
I went on many dates with Nicole and she was such a wonderful friend all through high school. She was from a different middle school.  Her friends became my friends and mine became hers.  Dustin and Kevin became very good friends with her too.  Kevin and her even dated for a spell. 
Anyhow, enough of the past.  Today we make our trip to Kansas City, Missouri.  I pray for heavens protection, guidance, and blessings.  May all go well to Glen Allen.