Inspired by the life of President Gordon B. Hinckley, our ‘thoughts of the week’ are derived from Brennen’s memorized poems, and Elder Gee’s story…

In honor of our beloved church President and Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, who passed away last night, I wish to pay tribute to his exemplary life of Christlike love and lifelong service to his fellowman. He set a tremendous example of compassionate leadership and missionary service, which today both my sons, Brennen and Garrett, strive to follow. I will be forever grateful for his example and inspired guidance.

“His life was a true testament of service, and he had an abiding love for others,” said U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and fellow Mormon. “His wit, wisdom, and exemplary leadership will be missed by not only members of our faith, but by people of all faiths throughout the world.”

“His leadership in humanitarian efforts around the world was matched only by his efforts in his own beloved state and community as a committed citizen,” said Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Mormon. “He has stood as a remarkable example of selflessness, charity and humility and he will be greatly missed by all.”

Born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, President Hinckley graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in arts and planned to attend graduate school in journalism. Instead, a church mission took him to the British Isles.

He began his leadership role as Prophet and President in 1995 (Brennen was 13 and Garrett was only 9) by holding a rare news conference, citing growth and spreading the Mormon message as the church’s main challenge heading into the 21st century.

Hinckley’s grandfather knew church founder, Prophet Joseph Smith and followed leader Brigham Young west to the Great Salt Lake Basin. He often spoke of the Mormon heritage of pioneer sacrifice and its importance as a model for the modern church.

“I think as long as history lasts there will be an interest in the roots of this work, a very deep interest,” Hinckley said in a 1994 interview with the AP.

“Because insofar as the people of the church are concerned, without a knowledge of those roots and faith in the validity of those roots, we don’t have anything,” he said.

President Hinckley and Sister Hinckley enjoyed a long and enduring association with Brigham Young University. The students all loved his many frequent visits and his tender love for them was evident, as captured in this slide show, below, entitled, Our Journey Together. Please take a moment to view.

This week I wish to share some of the life philosophies and steadfast beliefs of J. Brennen Gee and his younger brother, Elder Garrett Burton Gee, both of whom cherish their pioneer heritage and strive fervently to follow the counsel, example, and teachings given by President Hinckley during his lifetime, which will continue to live on in the lives of all the millions, whose lives he touched.

From J. Brennen, as expressed in a letter addressed to his younger brother, Garrett, who is currently serving a mission:

“I’ve made it a goal to start memorizing edifying poems these days in my free time, I downloaded a bunch onto my phone so I can read them whenever. Here are a few I’ve learned…”

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by
Men that are good,
Men that are bad

As good and as bad as i

I will not sit in the scorners seat

Or hurl the cynics ban
Let me live in a house by the side of the road

And be a friend to man

Sam Walter Foss

Dare to be Mormon
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm

And dare to make it known

And, my favorite:

’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while

To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:

“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,

“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”

“A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two?

Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?

Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three—”
But no,

From the room, far back, a gray-haired man

Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,

And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet

As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,

With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”

And he held it up with the bow.

“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?

Two thousand!
And who’ll make it three?

Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,

And going, and gone!” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,

“We do not quite understand

What changed its worth.”
Swift came the reply:

“The touch of a master’s hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune,

And battered and scarred with sin,

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.

A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,

A game—and he travels on.

He’s “going” once, and “going” twice,

He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought

By the touch of the Master’s hand.

Myra Brooks Welch

From a September report to his Mission President, Elder Gee writes:

Dear President,
I would like to share with you a story:

The Princess Cruise Line was in the Vladivostok port today. Tourists seemed to be everywhere. After Zone meeting, we finished eating and planning English club earlier than we had planned so we took advantage of the blessing and opportunity and went out to preach the Gospel.
We were in the center of the city heading out of the underground walkway when someone stopped me to point out and tell me that a woman had fallen and was bleeding. I turned to find a woman down on the stairs. By the time I got to her there was quite a bit of blood. Her husband, another American woman tourist, a Russian woman, and their tour guide had also come to her attention.
She was in pretty bad shape. Her leg had been split down the shin and the ankle and was wide open. We got her leg elevated right away yet blood was still coming. The American woman was wiping away all she could with paper napkins. I right away had the next passing young man call for help with his cell phone. The Russian woman pulled out a small bottle from her purse and poured it onto the wound and instantly the bleeding stopped.
Throughout all of this the fallen woman was very strong and courageous. She did not scream, she was in obvious pain, yet she was calm. That was very impressive to me as it seemed that everyone around her was panicked.
I was there in the middle the whole time translating 100 mph between the work-upped Americans and Russians.
Of coarse more than anything my attention and focus was to the poor fallen woman. I haven’t been around a lot of blood in my life except for my own personal wounds and I know that it’s not the best thing to keep looking at it. As we waited I kept trying to draw her attention away from her wound. I would see her face drop every time she looked. I found out where she was from and she was so excited to hear that I had lived but 10 minutes away from her when I lived in San Francisco. She had a very lovable personality. She bragged to me that she was 84 and this was her first accident. I told her I was in awe at how well she was handling it. She kept telling her husband, as he stood their in shock to take a picture of it.
President I am happy to report that everything turned out alright. We got the cruises emergency crew to get a car over and then we carried her to the car. There was a lot of blood on everyone’s hands but I was prepared with alcohol wet wipes. (Being a germ-craze helps eh?) As I gave a wet wipe to the American woman who was helping she asked: “Are you a Mormon?” I looked down at my tag and realized it was in Russian. She told me: “I myself am not Mormon but I have a nephew from Texas who served like you in Venezuela and is now studying Engineering at BYU.” I must tell you President that the way she looked at me after that left such an impression. It was as if after all these years she never quite understood her nephew and his Mormon faith until this moment.
The Russian woman that was helping came up to me before she left and told me: “Write down my phone number please.”
After that, I was talking to their tour guide, a young woman in shock who hadn’t said a word the whole time, and asked: “Do you speak English?” She right away released all her stress saying: “Russian!?! English!?! I don’t even know anymore!?!” …she received an invitation to English club.
President I was so impressed by this elder woman and her strength. I was also so pleased to see how well these Americans and Russians pulled together to help her in her urgent time of need. And I am SO GRATEFUL to God for blessing me with the opportunity to be the middleman between them.
This is a long letter President. Thank you for your time. I know it’s precious. I wanted you to know which great opportunities God is blessing your missionaries with to serve those around us.
So let me close with a little cherry on the top. As I was walking away some Americans asked me: “Excuse me young man, but where do you know English from so well..?”

Love, Elder Gee

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