Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rest In Peace

Paul Wolfowitz was one of the chief "neocon" thinkers who promoted the invasion/occupation of Iraq from his post as assistant Secretary of State. After the first Bush term, he took the job (government appointed) as head of the World Bank. His tenure there was brief owing to a conflict of interst problem with his girlfriend, also a high level WB employee.
Now he again has a foot in the White House door as the unpayed head of an advisory committee which deals with arms proliferation. This is a bit like getting civics lessons from Rodney King. I only mention it in hopes that there is another committee out there with the job of getting decision makers to ignore anything which comes from the Wolfowitz crowd.

It's a tough week for Latter Day Saints, Mitt Romney's co-religionists, the Mormons. The Church's president for almost 13 years, Gordon B. Hinckley, passed away Sunday evening. He was 97 years old, so he wasn't cheated from a full life. Happily, he seemed to enjoy good health even in advanced years, and never lost the ability to communicate with church members, a good number of whom he met in his travels all over the world.
Mormons believe that the Church's president receives revelations regarding church matters. This being the case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the message from the messenger. But there can't be any doubt that, from whatever source, the Hinckley years were good ones for the church. Membership grew by almost half, and the Word was spread to countries which had been part of the Communist Bloc and through large areas of Africa. Temples, buildings of great importance to faithful Mormons , were begun and finished in all inhabited continents by the dozen. Other changes, large and small, were undertaken at a pace which seemed to give the lie to the old image of Mormon leaders as hidebound and otherworldly.
President Hinckley naturally grew older through all this, but never seemed too much like an old man. He could sternly emphasize something without seeming to be a nag, he had very little bad to say about other churches, and seemed genuinely concerned about the church's future even when recalling its past. He always seemed happy, and that helped us be happy. He even had a role in making friends for the church through media interviews with Mike Wallace and other newsmen, or serving as a kind of unofficial host of the 2002 Winter Olympics held in and around Salt Lake City.
He wasn't perfect. When he spoke following 9/11 or on war and peace, he seemed over his head. A botched attempt to bring President Bush to the BYU Provo campus last spring became an invitation to Dick Cheney to speak at graduation. The whole affair had to be turned inside out to accommodate the VEEP, whose address was only 15 minutes but, thankfully, not political. Personnel changes, especially at BYU, often seemed heavy-handed. The church's media properties were allowed to move editorially even further to the right.
The church will go on. President Hinckley's successor will be the 7th church president since 1970. Changes will continue, but the church's message and appeal to Americans and those in other countries will persist. The funeral for President Hinckley will be broadcast to meeting houses in about 150 countries in 69 languages. We'll be able to see it (and hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) in our local building, a five minute drive away. I didn't know him personally, but I heard him give dozens of addresses aimed at members and families all over the world. I didn't like everything he said, but I have to marvel that someone in his nineties could still command such attention and respect for what he stood for TODAY. So, rest in peace, President Hinckley.


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