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**LJ Idol Season 4 Week 13 Entry: Current Events**

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began with one man, Joseph Smith, in 1830.  A mere farm boy from a small town in upstate New York began a movement that swept the nation and eventually the world.

Last week, the leader of this worldwide Church passed away at the age of 97.  Gordon B. Hinckley served as President of the Church from 12 March 1995 until his death on 27 January 2008.  During that time, one third of the current membership joined the Church and now more members live outside the United States then in the United States.

Mormonism, as it is more commonly known, used to be a “Utah thing”, but no more.  At one time, converts would leave their homes abroad to travel to the mountains and desserts of the Utah valley, but no more.  Temples, the highest house of worship, used to mainly be in Utah, but no more.

Gordon B. Hinckley, the most travelled leader of the Church ever, tirelessly cared for a flock of 13 million people in 171 nations.  He more than doubled the number of operating Temples, encouraging all members to attend services there on a regular basis.  He instituted what is known as The Perpetual Education Fund, a very successful way of helping many young people in developing nations to get the education they need to better their lives.  President Hinckley became a popular guest for news programs, and even earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

Estimated millions watched the funeral proceedings on Saturday, thanks to the modern technology of Internet and satelite broadcast.  Youtube videos commemorating this man’s life flood email boxes, Glenn Beck made a most moving announcement of President Hinckley’s death, and challenges rushed the globe.

In the west, teens wore Sunday Best to school in honour of Hinckley, others vowed to do a random act of kindness each day in February, and still more have joined the Hinckley Challenge to read the Book of Mormon in 97 days.

It is easy to say that President Hinckley left some awfully big shoes to fill.

Where does the Church go from here?

Since the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in 1844, a system has been in place.  The leader of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the man with the most tenure, takes over leadership of the Church.  He chooses two counselors to stand by his side through prayer.  Saints knew immediately who the next President would be, but not necessarily the counselors.

In a press conference aired on BYU-TV across the satellites, the announcement came on February 3.  Each member of the new presidency spoke, and there was an allowance for questions and answers.

New Latter-Day Saint Leaders: Presidents Eyring, Monson, and Uchtdorf, take questions at Press Conference.

Thomas S. Monson is just the man to follow Gordon B. Hinckley as conductor on the train known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He is the sixteenth president and 80 years old.  Monson is well known for telling stories from his own life experiences, service to the needy from the poor to the widows, and loving the colour yellow.

He stood by President Hinckley’s side for decades, working closely with the former leader.  They were counselors together for years, and then he served as counselor to President Hinckley.  He says there “will be no abrupt changes” as he and President Hinckley were in such accordance to the affairs of the Church.

President Monson looks to his two counselors, one of which may have come as a surprise to some members.  Henry B. Eyring, 74, was called as second counselor not even six months ago following the death of James E. Faust, in the semiannual worldwide conference of the Church.  President Hinckley “knighted” Eyring with his cane to the enjoyment of Eyring and all in attendance.  Eyring now serves as President Monson’s first counselor.

In a true show of just how worldwide the Church has become, the new second counselor of Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a pilot from Germany.  Uchtdorf is 67 and joined the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in October 2004.  When asked about the worldwide nature of the Church in combination with President Uchtdorf being the first member of the presidency born outside of the USA, President Monson praised his new counselor and jokingly remarked that Uchtdorf knew every airport on the planet and has been to more countries than anyone.

For most, these events fell by the wayside as unimportant information on page twelve of their news journals.  “Who cares about those crazy Mormons?”

Not for me.  I am one of those ‘crazy Mormons’, and I am proud of it.  The news of President Hinckley’s death both saddened me and brought me joy.  I am sad to see a beloved leader go, a man that stood for everything I want to stand for.  Gordon B. Hinckley was the sort of man I would like my husband to be, and my sons.  He was strong, faithful, kind, loving, intelligent, and spiritual.  On the other hand, he was 97 and so many of his family had long since passed from this life into the next.  I know the reunion on the other side was a joyous one. I am glad that he can be reunited with those he loved so much, including his dear wife, Marjorie.

I am excited to see where President Monson and his counselors lead us.  He is fond of trains, and so I picture him in the engine of this train.  Leaning out, yelling, “All aboard!” With a toot of the whistle, he’s ready to head down the tracks laid by the fifteen men that came before him.  The tracks lay behind, showing the history of where the Church came from, the tracks lay before showing the future of where the Church will go.

Thomas S. Monson will remain true to the past while heading towards the future.  In his own words:

The past is prelude to the future

–Lady O

—sources for my essay are below.  Mostly I pulled from the press conference given, which is a little harder to link, so I linked articles and the like that are relevant.  Photograph comes from Deseret news

Youtube: Glenn Beck on President Gordon B. Hinckley

Youtube: A Tribute to Gordon B. Hinckley

LDS.org – Thomas S. Monson Named 16th President

LDS.org Biography of Dieter F. Uchtdorf

LDS.org – Millions Pay Tribute to President Hinckley, Giant Among Men

CNN – Thousands View Body of Mormon President

MSNBC – Mormons Introduce New Leader