SALT LAKE CITY – Gordon B. Hinckley was remembered as a “prophet to the people” on Saturday as tens of thousands of faithful Mormons gathered to say goodbye to the church’s longtime president.
The funeral at the conference center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints capped a week of mourning for Hinckley, who died Jan. 27 at age 97.
Hinckley’s children and closest advisers chronicled his lifetime service to the faith, including unprecedented growth during his 13 years as president.
“He was our prophet, seer and revelator. He was an island of calm in a sea of storm,” said Thomas S. Monson, a friend for more than 50 years, a close adviser and likely to be Hinckley’s successor. He called him a “prophet to the people.”
During Hinckley’s tenure, the church expanded to 13 million members from 9 million in 160 countries. He established an education fund to help returned missionaries, expanded the church’s humanitarian work and built more than 75 temples around the world.
On Feb. 8, the church will dedicate its 125th temple, in Rexburg, Idaho.
“Disciplined and courageous, with an unbelievable capacity for work, he believed in growth,” daughter Virginia H. Pearce said. “He was a marvel to watch.”
The 90-minute service was mixed with eulogies and soothing hymns from the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the nearly full 21,000-seat conference center.
Politicians from Utah, Idaho, California, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Mormon, attended the service.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose father once served in the church’s highest leadership, and his wife, Anne, also attended.
In a final gesture, mourners waved white handkerchiefs as Hinckley’s coffin left the conference center, repeating a gesture he often used to greet the crowds wherever he appeared.
Hinckley will be buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, alongside his wife. His successor is expected to be named this week.