Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Quoted from The Ensign, “News of the Church”, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve, May, 1994, pp 103-104. (An article from the Church News that was published shortly after Elder Hales’ death follows this first article.)
When Elder Robert D. Hales moved from the Presiding Bishopric’s office in the Church Office Building into his new office in the church Administration Building, the first picture he hung on the wall was a painting of the sacred grove.
“When I was a deacon, my father took me to the Sacred Grove,” says Elder Hales. “There we prayed together and dedicated our lives. Then he talked to me of sacred things. When we arrived back home, my father, who worked as an artist in New York City, painted a picture of the Sacred Grove for me. I’ve always hung that picture in my office, and when I look at it, I remember my father and our talk that summer afternoon.”
Experiences such as this were a continual part of family life in the Hales home, located in a heavily wooded area of Long Island, New York. Born on 24 August 1932, Robert was the third and last child of John Rulon and Vera Marie Holbrook Hales. “I was always grateful my older brother and sister, Jerry and Janet, let me tag along with them,” says Elder Hales. “We were a close family. My dad liked to work in the yard, and he wanted us to learn to work, so we all worked in the yard together. Our home was a beautiful place to grow up, and my family has always been a source of strength for me.”
The gospel was the center of family life for the Hales family. Over the years Robert’s father and mother served in various positions in the Queens Ward, located twenty miles from the Hales family’s home. His parents also served a stake mission. In fact, at one time the entire bishopric was made up of people who had been converted as a result of Robert’s parents’ missionary labors. While serving in the bishopric, Robert’s father would lead work parties with the Aaronic Priesthood to clean and beautify the meetinghouse grounds. It was in the Queens Ward that Robert, a college sophomore, met Mary Crandall. “After I met her, I never
went out with anyone else,” says Elder Hales. The two were married in the SaltLakeTemple on June 10, 1953 and later became the parents of two children: Stephen, born in 1955, and David, born in 1958.
After graduating from the University of Utah in 1954, Robert (or Bob to his friends) served for three and a half years in the U. S. Air Force as a jet fighter pilot. He then attended Harvard, where he received his master of business administration in 1960. Career opportunities quickly opened for him, and throughout his professional life he served in major executive positions with several national companies. As a result, the Hales family lived in England, Germany, Spain, and several different areas of the United States.
Personable as well as decisive, Elder Hales is a natural leader who has served in the church throughout his life, including as branch president in Albany, Georgia, in Weston, Massachusetts, and in Frankfurt, Germany; in a branch presidency in Seville, Spain; and as bishop in Weston, Massachusetts, in Chicago, Illinois, and in Frankfurt, Germany. He was serving as a regional representative when he was called to full-time Church service in 1975 as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. In 1976, he became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
“One of the great joys of my Church service came during the first three years as a General Authority as I helped plan twenty-seven area conferences,” says Elder Hales. “I loved traveling with members of the First Presidency, the Apostles, General Authorities, and other leaders and getting to know them and their wives. Watching prophets, seers, and revelators bearing witness of the truthfulness of the gospel to the Saints in country after country was marvelous.”
“To watch and be a part of the growth of the Church has been the ‘joy of my life’, says Elder Hales. While a member of the Seventy, Elder Hales served as president of the England London Mission from 1978 to 1979. In April 1985, he was called to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Church, where his primary responsibility was the temporal affairs of the Church. “The greatest satisfaction was seeing the faithfulness and goodness of the members of the Church in their tithes and offerings,” says Elder Hales, “As we live the principles of welfare, love and compassion will abound in our homes, in our lives, in our worship, and in our service to others.”
Relaxation usually comes in the form of sports and music for Elder Hales. As a boy, he loved to play baseball. Today, when he has a few minutes to relax, he watches snatches of sports events – all videotaped earlier from the television. He also enjoys playing golf and spending time with his grandchildren. Elder Hales also enjoys playing the piano – “if no one is listening,” he says. He remembers once when he was
asked to play the piano for the opening hymn in a Seventies meeting. All went well until he began playing faster and faster. The faster he played, the faster the Seventies would sing. It was a close race, but Elder Hales says he finished “just barely ahead of the Brethren.”
Though in good health now, Elder Hales has suffered two heart attacks. “I’m happy for every day that I am here, he says. “I have a renewed appreciation and gratitude for everybody and everything on earth and in heaven.”
One of Elder Hale’s favorite scriptures is Doctrine and Covenants 41:11, in which, after the Lord called Edward Partridge as “bishop of the church,” he said that Edward Partridge’s “heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile.” Elder Hales has much in common with Edward Partridge. He, as his wife says, has absolutely no guile. He has a pure heart. He just wants to do the right thing.”
Following the leaders of the Church has always been among the “right things” Elder Hales has tried to do. “My father-in-law said that when I see a document with the signature of the First Presidency on it, I will never go wrong if I follow its instructions. That’s a bit of advice I have always taken.”
His respect for the leaders of the church has remained steady throughout the years. Now, as an Apostle, he will stand with them as a special witness for Christ.
“I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ and our Savior and Redeemer. If we will have faith in our Savior, He will see us through our trials and tribulations, and we will endure to the end and return to His presence after this mortal probation. As it says in 3 Nephi 5:13, ‘I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.’ “
An article from the Church News for the week of October 8, 2017. The article was written by John Hart and Sarah Jane Weaver. Elder Hales passed away on Sunday, October 1, 2017:
Never satisfied with less than his best, Elder Robert D. Hales was relentless in his devotion to responsibility, especially to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He relied on gospel principles to guide him as a youth pitching baseball, as a young adult flying military aircraft, as a student in a master’s program at Harvard University as an international business executive, and as a General Authority the 42 years. He was a personable man who enjoyed being around people and sharing a sense of humor.
Elder Hales died peacefully from causes incident to age on Sunday, October 1, at 12:15 pm at a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was surrounded by family at the time of his passing. He was 85 years old.
Elder Hales was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles in 1975, to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1976, as Presiding Bishop in 1985 and to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1995. During his tenure as Presiding Bishop, the rate of building meetinghouses and international humanitarian aid increased.
While serving as a General Authority Seventy, he served as president of the England London Mission, 1978 to 1981, and, after his release, served as first counselor in the Sunday School general president from 1981-1985. He was executive administrator over Europe when the Freiberg Germany Temple was built in what was then the German Democratic Republic, also known as East Germany.
In the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he served on the BYU Board of Trustees, was adviser to the general auxiliaries of the Church, served as first contact for Europe, and was the Church’s point man for the Church’s contributions to the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City. These included “Light of the World,” a presentation in the Conference Center for Olympic guests and Church members, addressing the media, and carrying the Olympic flame up the steps of the Church Administration Building to President Gordon B. Hinckley. He also encourage Utahns of all faiths to serve in some capacity during the Games.
In 2003, he received an honorary doctorate in Christian Service from BYU and this July he was recognized with the 2017 Pioneers of Progress President’s Award, sponsored by the Days of ’47, Inc.
Prior to his call as a General Authority, Elder Hales served as regional representative and stake president and as a bishop three times. He was a business executive for four companies, and was a group vice president with Cheseborough Ponds.
During the Pioneers of Progress Award ceremony, held July 13, Elder Hales said the greatest challenge in life is “enduring to the end.” “I think that enduring to the end is the greatest accomplishment, to be able to give everything you have got,” said Elder Hales. “It is like the coaches say, ‘When you give everything on the playing field, you can’t ask for more.’ ”
Robert Dean Hales was born August 24, 1932, in New York City, New York, to John Rulon and Vera Marie Holbrook Hales. His family had moved from Rexburg, Idaho, to New York where the father was a successful commercial artist. Young Robert attended school in Great Neck, New York where he was among but few Latter-day Saints. In his school district was the United Nations Building and many of those he lived around were of international origin. “As a boy I felt that if I ever once deviated from the principles of the Church, it would be very difficult to explain to my friends,” he once said. “To me it was a responsibility and, had I broken that trust, I think it would have been a problem.”
Growing up, he learned the gospel from his parents by both precept and example. For example, his father once took him to the Susquehanna River to teach him of the restoration of the priesthood. From his mother he absorbed welfare principles while sharpening his teen driving skills; he drove the car so his Relief Society president mom could deliver goods to those in need. As a new deacon, when he rose to share his feelings, tears filled his eyes because the Spirit was so strong, he said later.
His teenage passion was baseball. He was a pitcher both in high school and college, but was told he could not make it as a professional player. “The great people who help us in life are the ones who are the most honest,” he would later say.
He turned his interest to academics at the university of Utah, supporting his education as a radio announcer for KSL and KDYL radio stations. During his college years, he met and married Mary Crandall, and, after graduating, served in the USAF as a fighter pilot. He flew the F-84 and F-100 in the strategic and tactical air commands. He was an adjutant and part of the precision firepower demonstration team of his squadron. Serving in the U.S. Air Force helped provide the means for graduate school.
After his military service, he attended Harvard University and received a master of business administration degree. While there, he was called as elders quorum president. “I was concerned about my grads and afraid I was going to fail if I took time out for such a Church calling,” he said. “But Mary and I pondered the call and said, ‘We can do them both – school and church service’ “.
After graduation, he began his career in business, and decided to proceed on a multi-national basis, a step foreshadowed by his growing up among families from the United Nations. The Hales family, which grew to include two sons, moved from city to city, from country to country – England, Germany, Spain; and cities in the United States including New York, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; Albany, Georgia; and Big Spring, Texas. “The wife is left to take care of everything,” recalled Sister Hales. “The first time we moved overseas, he said, ‘You will need to finish selling the house and car, make the flight plans and take care of all the business that needs to be done before leaving the country.’ ” And she did, with some guidance by telephone from the Harvard graduate. “Whatever decision I made, he accepted” she said. “It’s a much more rewarding relationship when one isn’t doing the labor while the other provides all the brains.”
They continued the pattern established in graduate school to accept callings regardless of their personal circumstances. And he was successful in his work. Eventually his career brought them, through employment with Gillette, Max Factor, Paper Mate, and Cheseborough Ponds, to Scarsdale, New York. It was while living in this community north of New York City that they received President Spencer W. Kimball’s call for him to become a General Authority. Meetings where he spoke as a General Authority were noted for their spirituality, and he frequently shared the testimony he gained as a youth. “My testimony has been a gift that has been given to me,” he said. “There has never been a time when I have doubted.”
In general conference on October 4, 2003, he observed: “Gaining a testimony and becoming converted begins with study and prayer, then living the gospel with patience and persistence and inviting and waiting upon the Spirit.” He spoke of temple dedications when he said, “During these times, among many others, I have felt the undeniable witness of the Spirit of God, like a fire burning in my heat, that the restored gospel is true.”
Elder Hales suffered failing health for several years. In his October 2011 general conference address, in which he spoke of ‘waiting upon the Lord’, he said, “Every one of us is more beloved to the Lord than we can possibly understand or imagine. Let us therefore be kinder to one another and kinder toward ourselves. Let us remember that as we wait upon the Lord, we are becoming ‘saints through his atonement, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon us, even as a child doth submit to his father’ “. (Mosiah 3:19).