The truth is that God does not change. He is always God, and the things that were important to him anciently are still important. But people change. Culture changes. The world constantly hurls itself into the future. Naturally God directs an ever-progressing course of changes and adjustments. Therefore, while it’s obvious the the Church today is different than what it was 180 years ago, that still doesn’t mean that God isn’t ultimately at its head or that it isn’t the same church as the church Peter lead after Christ’s ascension to heaven.
For instance, over the past 15 years, the church has significantly altered its public image, almost tripled the number of temples across the planet, rose as one of the leading faith-based sources of humanitarian aid, and advocated for tolerance of and reaching out to other faiths, especially in Utah. The Priesthood and Relief Society curriculum has changed dramatically. Tolerance has also been advocated for the well-treatment and understanding of marginalized groups, such as the mentally ill and those struggling with same-sex attraction. The church has established a program to help its members in economically struggling countries. It has beautified the Salt Lake downtown area (Conference Center, Joseph Smith Memorial building, Main Street Plaza, etc.).
In fact, although it is admittedly difficult for me to think this far back, it is a different church from what it was in 1995. Then it was a bit skittish and shy of public attention and not quite sure of how to handle international public attention. Now it seems supremely confident and at ease.
Thanks to this man. Well, thanks to the Lord, actually, but the Lord has directed His church through this man. President Hinckley presided over my home stake before even my father was a twinkle in my grandfather’s eye. Throughout my entire life, he has been part of the First Presidency. It is difficult to imagine the leadership of the Church without him. His words have encouraged me and guided me through my youth. He was figuratively at my side in Finland on my mission. He has been a great example of competant leadership, hard work, and unconditional love. It was hard to watch him these last few years go on without his wife. He often talked so fondly of her. His relationship with her profoundly affected my own perspective on marriage, dating, and women through crucial years.
I felt a brief pang of grief Sunday night, but it was soon replaced by pride—pride in a man who has fought the good fight and lived a good life. I’m proud of him for being so consistent in “standing a little taller” and happy that he can now be reunited with his wife. Pride then gave way to a reverent excitement. I know how much the church changed under him, and I’m wondering what the future holds. What’s around the corner?