SALT LAKE CITY - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced the passing of Elder Robert D. Hales at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
According to the Church's press release, 85-year-old Elder Hales was surrounded by his family in a hospital when he died due to "causes incident to age."
Elder Hales was born in New York City in August 1932, but was a graduate of the University of Utah. He also held a Masters degree in Business Administration from Harvard. His business career and his service in the United States Air Force as a jet fighter pilot was a big part of his life before being called to full-time church service.
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.
"He lived his testimony," said President Henry B. Eyring, a member of the LDS Church's First Presidency. "He knew God. He knew the Savior, and he loved the Savior. … And he behaved as if God was close, Heavenly Father was close."
Other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told FOX 13 they feel the great loss, as well, but added he will live on in their hearts and in the message he left.
"When we choose to have faith, we are prepared to stand in the presence of God," read Elder Neil L. Andersen in Sunday afternoon's session of the 187th Semi-annual General Conference. "Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God," he continued.
These statements were excerpts from a handwritten message Elder Hales wrote in preparation to speak at the Sunday morning session, health permitting. He was not able to make it.
"I feel like Elder Hales has taught us so much in his life and also in his dying," said Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric. "In the years he suffered so much, he was always there and showing us with great dignity how you go through these kinds of challenges."
Bishop Edgley met Elder Hales when Hales was a regional representative and went to a conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Edgley was Stake President.
"I always respected him," Edgley said of Hales. "Loved him, as a matter of fact."
Edgley said Hales was a good friend and a great leader. He said Hales practiced humility and brought out the best in others. Edgley said Hales had many wonderful qualities, including a good sense of humor.
He shared with FOX 13 a story he said he will always remember of Hales, see the video below for that anecdote.
"When he was dealing with the affairs of the church, he exemplified the love that he had for the members and the non members of the church, and for the poor. He was instrumental in getting started in a lot of our humanitarian work for the poor," Edgley said. "His life was centered around service."
Edgley also recognized Hales' wife for all of the years she cared for him. He said he cannot pay her enough tribute.
Funeral details have not been announced yet but the LDS church says it will make details about the service available to the public 'when they become available.'
Church officials say they have not yet determined when the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve will be filled.