God Be With You, Elder Hales
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir lost a dear friend as Elder Robert D. Hales passed away in an area hospital on Sunday afternoon October 1 following the morning session of the 187th General Conference. Elder Hales had served as a General Authority since 1975. He was 85.
On Sunday evenings when Elder Hales was growing up in New York, he lay on the floor and listened with his family to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s radio broadcast, Music and the Spoken Word. He was not unusual; tens of thousands around the world have been listening to the broadcast since its inception in 1929.
Elder Hales had long been in the service of the Lord. He was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 2, 1994 having previously served as Presiding Bishop, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy and as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
When he was called as a General Authority, Elder Hales began listening to the Choir in the Tabernacle and then in the Conference Center as part of the semiannual General Conference of the Church where he would be assigned to speak. “Oh, how we need General Conference!” he has said. “Through conferences our faith is fortified and our testimonies deepened.”
Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir count Elder Hales as one of their dear friends. “Choir members are blessed to participate in General Conference and feel the spirit of the Lord’s chosen leaders,” Ron Jarrett, Choir president said when he heard of his passing. “We have been blessed by the messages of this great leader. Elder Hales has been an example of integrity, spirituality, kindness, and commitment. We love him and will miss his sweet tenderness and his pure love for God and his children.”
In 2002 as Salt Lake hosted the Olympic Winter Games, Elder Hales, as chairman of the Church's Olympic Coordinating Committee, carried the Olympic torch down South Temple to the Church Administration Building passing it off to President Gordon B. Hinckley, and his counselors, Thomas S. Monson and James E. Faust.
He also was instrumental in spotlighting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Olympic events. Elder Hales described that time as a partial fulfillment of prophesy by Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains… and all nations shall flow unto it.” (Isaiah 2:2) He later described the Choir as “shouldering” a significant role in introducing the Church and its members to the world.
“The nations of the earth and many of their leaders have come,” he later recounted. “They have seen us serving alongside our friends in this community and our neighbors of other faiths. They have seen the light in our eyes and felt the clasp of our hands. ‘The mountain of the house of the Lord’ with its brightly lit spires, has been witnessed by 3.5 billion people around the world.” And then he noted, “The nations have heard the glorious sound of this Tabernacle Choir.” (“Out of Darkness into the Marvelous Light,” April 2002 General Conference)
The Choir performed prominently in the opening ceremonies, a two-and-a-half-hour spectacular, seen by a TV audience of an estimated 3.5 billion. At the request of Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square also offered four free Saturday-night concerts in the Tabernacle as what was billed as the Cultural Olympiad. On the Sunday morning following each of the concerts, guest artists joined the choir for its weekly broadcast Music and the Spoken Word.