Monday, January 28, 2008

Statement From Wayne Holland, Utah Democratic Chair, on Gordon B Hinckley

A statement from Wayne Holland, Chair of the Utah Democratic Party on the death of LDS President Hinckley

It is customary for organizations to release short statements of condolence at the death of prominent community leaders. Upon learning of the death of Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I found it impossible to sum up the Utah Democratic Party’s feelings about his leadership in a few short words. Utah Democrats appreciate his contributions to the world and our community too much to let his passing be memorialized with a one paragraph statement.

Utah Democrats embrace diversity as a source of strength in our community rather than a reason for division. President Hinckley exemplified this principle more than any other Utahn. He did more than just outreach to people around the world. In various LDS temple dedications and other services, he celebrated our cultural differences and, in doing so, helped us all discover the common humanity that we share. President Hinckley demonstrated this value with his good works around the globe and here at home in Utah .

Utah Democrats are constant advocates that access to government services be as widespread as possible. This principle is reminiscent of President Hinckley’s commitment to improving the access of LDS Church members to facilities where they could participate in sacred temple ordinances without undue travel and financial hardship aiding many LDS faithful who previously had little hope of ever attending far-away temples. Again, the work of his life demonstrated our common values.

President Hinckley wrote two books that many Utah Democrats cherish. Democrats in Utah and around the country are familiar with his 2000 book “Standing for Something.” The book speaks to people of all political persuasions and all faiths expounding on common personal virtues that bring us together as a community and help uplift us. The Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States , Sen. Joseph Lieberman, was featured on the dust jacket of that book. While the book focuses on ten specific values, it provided Democrats in Utah with another virtue – courage, the courage to stand for their convictions which are based on the ten virtues that he did write about.

The other book of importance to Utah Democrats was President Hinckley’s biography “James Henry Moyle: The Story of a Distinguished American and an Honored Churchman” published in 1951. James Moyle was the first Chairman of the Utah State Democratic Party and our party’s nominee for governor and the United States Senate in the first two decades of our State’s history. He served on the Democratic National Committee until 1932. Mr. Moyle was a prominent attorney who went to law school in Michigan with George Sutherland, who later became a Supreme Court Justice. Moyle would serve in the Treasury Department of two national administrations for Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This book is an important historical document for the Utah Democratic Party and we are grateful to President Hinckley for his work on this important text.

Another thing we need to mention is President Hinckley’s dedication to openness both with the news media and in the political process though establishment of the Public Affairs Committee. The establishment of this important Church committee institutionalized a method of communication between the Church and the secular world. He used it masterfully, empowering the committee to meet with local and national officials and arranging numerous interviews with the national and local news media, increasing transparency about the LDS Church and its positions.

As an example: For years, politicians and the news media have treated political statements coming from the LDS Church administration as though they were delivered in some code that could only be discerned by the worthy. One particular instance took place in May of 1998 when Elder Marlin Jensen speaking for the LDS Church made its strongest public statement to that date about the need for political diversity among members, while expressing concerns the Republican Party is becoming the “church party.” The statement was immediately dismissed by then Congressman James V. Hansen who insisted that if the LDS Church really meant what Elder Jensen had said it would have come from President Hinckley. So, at a later date when President Hinckley was asked at the National Press Club, “Given the platform and positions taken by the Democratic Party, can you be a good church member and a Democrat?” He answered, “Yes, I think so.” He thus put an end to the debate.

Finally, on a personal note, I will always appreciate the words of comfort that he brought to the family and friends of former Congressman Wayne Owens by speaking at his funeral services. Congressman Owens was a close friend and mentor to me. I will never forget President Hinckley’s comment that, “Any man who is engaged in the cause of peace is engaged in the cause of Christ. That was the essence of Wayne 's life.” President Hinckley offered his comfort to thousands of others in a similar manner that I know will always be appreciated.

The world has lost an irreplaceable role model who taught us how to reach out to one another and appreciate our diversity. He showed us the importance of access to the facilities and services that are important to conducting our lives in a fulfilling manner. He taught us to stand for something and live our virtues. He gave Utah Democrats an important text telling of our Party’s history. And, he was a community leader, who brought some openness and transparency through his willingness to talk to the public. We thank his family for sharing him with us and supporting his efforts. We thank the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint for providing us with such an inspiring leader. At this time our prayers are with them.

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