LDS apostle Robert D. Hales dies at age 85

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Photo: KUTV) 

(KUTV) Elder Robert D. Hales, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has died, the church announced.

Hales, who was 85 years old, passed away at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, the church said in a statement. He was surrounded by friends and family. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Hales' passing happened just minutes after the conclusion of the Sunday morning session of LDS general conference. He had missed this conference after being hospitalized last week for treatment of pulmonary and other conditions.

President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the church's governing First Presidency, announced Hales' passing during the Sunday afternoon session.

“We will miss him," said Eyring. "His wisdom and goodness have blessed our lives for many years."

Eyring said President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was also present in the hospital when Hales died.

In June, Hales sat down with 2News for an interview as he was honored as a "Pioneer of Progress" by the Days of '47. During that interview, he spoke candidly about the health challenges he had battled for years. He said he only worked a few hours at a time in the office, but he planned to keep pushing forward.

“I think that enduring to the end is the greatest accomplishment,” Hales said in that interview. "It’s like the coaches say, when you’ve given everything on the playing field, you can’t ask for more."

Robert Dean Hales was born in New York City in 1932. He played baseball and attended school at the University of Utah and Harvard. Hales also served in the U.S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot.

In 1952, Hales met Mary Crandall in New York. They later married and had two sons.

Hales went on to become an executive at several large companies. He said he learned a lot during his time in the private sector.

“It's what people can bring to an organization and what it can do for the community and even the country,” Hales told 2News in June.

Hales’ life was marked by church service, starting when he was young. He served as a bishop and branch president three times each. Hales joked, "I was a slow learner."

In 1975 he became assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. He was later called as a member of the Seventy and presiding bishop.

His 1990 speech, "The Aaronic Priesthood: Return with Honor," became one of his best known.

"As a father, I put my arms around each of my boys as they left to serve their missions and whispered in their ears, 'Return with honor,'" Hales said. "I can picture our Father in Heaven putting his arms around each of us as we left his presence and whispering, 'Return with honor.'"

In 1994, Hales received a calling that would last the rest of his life -- an apostle.

“What a joy to go out and travel the world,” Hales said. “I just think that's the best part of it is who you meet.”

Hales' passing leaves a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The church said it is unknown when that vacancy will be filled.

While Hales was not able to attend any sessions of general conference before he passed away Sunday, he had prepared some remarks to share. One of his fellow apostles, Elder Neil L. Andersen, shared an excerpt of Hales' talk.

“When we choose to have faith we are prepared to stand in the presence of God," Andersen read from Hales' prepared text. "After the Savior’s crucifixion he appeared only to those who had been faithful in the testimony of him while they lived in mortality. Those who rejected the testimonies of the prophets could not behold the Savior’s presence nor look upon his face. Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God."

The news of Hales' death Sunday prompted reaction from government and community leaders.

"I will always remember the honor of working alongside Elder Robert D. Hales in efforts to lift and enhance some of our local institutions," Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted. "I consider him an extraordinarily humble and spiritual leader. Utah and its citizens are better because of his personal ministry. He will be missed, but not forgotten. My prayers are with his loving wife Mary and the Hales family at this time."

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch also released a statement about Hales' death.

"Elder Hales exemplified humility, which was the hallmark of his life," said Hatch. "While millions of us grieve his passing, we take peace and comfort in knowing that his service continues on the other side of the veil."

Hatch said he planned to deliver a tribute to Hales Monday on the Senate floor.

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