Gordon B. Hinckley, president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a man of great optimism, energy and vision, said Douglas County resident Sharla Hales, one of Douglas County's 1,347 Mormons. He believed in the goodness of man despite the problems of this world.
Hale said that under his leadership, it was a wonderful time to be a church member,
"We couldn't have foreseen the great things he would do," she said. "It will be tough to fill his shoes."
Surrounded by family and friends Hinckley died at his home Sunday. He was 97.
He served as president for nearly 13 years and was the oldest president in the church's history.
"It's the end of an era," said Bill Brewer, a Mormon and Douglas County resident. "Because of his visionary leadership, the church has made a great deal of progress."
Under Hinckley's leadership, the church has flourished as never before around the world, with new temples rising in Africa and South America and new members joining by the tens of thousands.
The expansion is a testament to the tireless work of Hinckley, a spiritual pioneer who traveled as no Mormon leader had before to raise the church's profile, according to the Associated Press.
The positive role he played was felt here as well as abroad.
Temples play a key role in the Mormon religion but they can be difficult to access. Hinckley provided that access by building more of them in this country, Hales said.
"Before the Reno temple was built, we had to travel to Oakland," she said. "He changed the whole nature of temple building. It's been a real blessing."
During the western migration of Mormons, the church created a "perpetual immigration fund." The money was initially gathered from members of the church who had established themselves, then distributed among newer immigrants trying to gain a foothold. In turn, those immigrants put money back into the fund for future immigrants.
Hinckley applied that principle to help provide education for youth in third-world countries, Hales said.
"President Hinckley saw that the youth in third-world countries had no chance at an education," Hales said. "Now, those in under-developed countries can get their educations."
Hinckley was born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah to prominent Mormon writer and educator Bryant S. Hinckley and English teacher Ada Bitner. He completed high school in 1928, then attended the University of Utah where he showed an interest in writing.
After graduating from the university he became a missionary for the church, serving in the London-based British Mission from 1933 to 1935. He subsequently spent 46 years in the church's top leadership ranks, the last of those as its 15th president.
He married Marjorie Pay in 1937 and together, they have five children. They had been married for 67 years when she died in April of 2004.
Susie Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.