Elder Robert Hales, an influential Mormon elder, has died at the age of 85, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The church lauded his devotion to his faith and family, and he held numerous leadership posts in the Mormon church, including the position of apostle for more than two decades. He was respected for his wisdom and for living his testimony.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hales Died Surrounded by His Family of Natural Causes Due to Advanced Age
According to the Mormon Newsroom, Hales “died at 12:15 p.m. Sunday in the hospital at age 85 from causes incident to age. He was surrounded by his wife and family at the time of his passing.” According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Hales “had been in the hospital for several days… undergoing treatment of pulmonary and other conditions.”
He was already in poor health by 2011, the newspaper reported, and was using an oxygen tube.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “That lifetime of dedication to the faith he loved — including various leadership posts in his local Mormon congregations, more than 40 years as an LDS general authority and 23 years as an apostle — ended at 12:15 p.m. Sunday, when Hales died at age 85.” The newspaper added, “His passing came moments after the morning session of the faith‘s 187th Semiannual General Conference.”
In addition to his family, according to The Salt Lake newspaper, “Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was also at Hales’ side.”
2. Elder Hales Was Part of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles & Was Described as Living His Testimony
“Elder Hales was sustained on April 2, 1994, to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and received his call as a general authority on April 4, 1975. As a general authority, he first served as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and later as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. He was Presiding Bishop of the Church from April 1985 until his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1994,” the Mormon newsroom said.
“He lived his testimony,” said President Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency, in a press release on the Mormon newsroom. “He knew God. He knew the Savior, and he loved the Savior. … And he behaved as if God was close, Heavenly Father was close.”
CBS News reported, “He is the fourth top Mormon leader to die in the last three years. Quorum members Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry and Richard G. Scott died in 2015. A replacement will be chosen for Hales at a later date. Funeral plans are pending.”
3. Hales Leaves Behind His Wife, Mary & Two Children
Hales is survived by his wife and two sons.
“He married Mary Crandall, and they have two sons,” the Mormon newsroom reported.
On his Facebook page, Hales wrote of his wife, “Early in our marriage I suggested that we pay our tithing from out of our year-end bonus, which came after the first of the year. I was thinking about tithing like life insurance or fire insurance—something you pay to stay out of trouble. But my sweet wife and companion taught me: ‘No,’ she said, ‘we will pay tithing as we go, because we love the Lord and want to build His kingdom.'”
Hales frequently shared religious thoughts on his Facebook wall, “We have the responsibility to stand strong with a shield of faith against the fiery darts of the adversary. We are role models to the world, protecting God-given, inalienable rights and freedoms. We stand in defense of our homes and our families. … How will you resist [Satan’s] aggressive tactics? Put on the whole armor of God.”
He also wrote of his marriage, “When Sister Hales and I were married, Elder Harold B. Lee gave me some beautiful advice about marriage: ‘Bring home flowers often enough that your wife doesn’t say, ‘What’s the matter?’ Court your dear wife in the same manner you did to bring her to the temple,’ Elder Lee counseled, ‘so that when you leave this life, she will want to be with you for time and all eternity.’ That was a great lesson for me. To have that love throughout our married life on earth, we need to keep it alive by feeding it every day. This is the way our marriage progresses from being merely performed in the temple to actually becoming celestial in nature.”
4. Hales Was Born in New York City & Served in the U.S. Air Force
“Robert Dean Hales was born in New York City on August 24, 1932. He was a graduate of the University of Utah and held a master of business administration degree from Harvard. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot,” reported the Mormon newsroom.
“Hales’ combination of experience in private business, time spent in the military and deep roots in the religion made him emblematic of Mormon leaders of his era,” said Matthew Bowman, associate professor of history at Henderson State University, to CBS News.
“He often emphasized discipline and goal-setting in his conference speeches,” according to CBS.
According to CBS, Hales “grew up in Long Island in a Mormon family with a father who was an artist” and “as a high school baseball pitcher, he dreamed of playing in Major League Baseball.”
Of parenthood, he wrote on Facebook, “Parents, you are called to be loving teachers and missionaries to your children and youth. They are your investigators. You bear the responsibility to help them become converted. In truth, all of us are seeking to be converted—which means being filled with our Savior’s love.”
5. As a Child, Hales Visited New York’s Sacred Grove
After his death, The Salt Lake Tribune described how Hales’ religious calling was forged.
“When Robert D. Hales was a young teenager living on Long Island, his father took him to the Sacred Grove in upstate New York, the same forested sanctuary where Mormon founder Joseph Smith — at about the same age — had reported seeing heavenly messengers more than a century earlier,” the newspaper reported.
Hales said in a biography, according to the newspaper, “There we prayed together, and dedicated our lives.”