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The hymn that was sung at President Hinckley’s funeral, by Janice Kapp Perry


“About two months before my niece, Kathy Blacker, died (January 11, 2008), she found a three-verse poem by President Gordon B. Hinckley among her files.  Although she was resigned to dying, she had some fears about the dying process and his words greatly comforted her.  She was particularly moved by the second verse, which described exactly what she was feeling.  She wrote to President Hinckley’s office to ask permission to have the poem printed on her funeral program, and she received a very nice letter from his secretary, Don H. Staheli, saying that President Hinckley gave his permission for her to do so.  The letter also conveyed some very comforting words from President Hinckley, which were helpful to Kathy in her final weeks, and he said he would remember her in his prayers.

Then Katy suggested that I (JKP) write and ask permission to give the poem a hymn setting.  I did so, and Brother Staheli conveyed President Hinckley’s permission for me to write the hymn.  After offering some heartfelt prayers that I might be able to write appropriate music for his profoundly beautiful and moving text, I wrote the hymn setting and sent a copy to President Hinckley’s office for approval at the end of December.  I receive no immediate response.

Kathy passed away January 11 and after her funeral I sent a copy of her funeral program to President Hinckley’s office so he could see how nicely his poem was displayed along side a beautiful painting of Christ.  When I heard that President Hinckley had passed away last Sunday night, I was feeling a little sad to think I hadn’t receive a letter with his official approval.  But the very next day after his passing, the hoped-for letter arrived with his approval, his permission for me to publish it in a future volume of my ‘Hymns for Choirs’ series, and leaving it to my discretion as to whether to submit it to the church music division.  The timing was so unusual and I was extremely grateful to receive the letter as a tender mercy in my life.

Then on Monday afternoon, Craig Jessop, the Tabernacle Choir director, heard about the hymn and had his office call me to obtain a copy of the hymn for consideration for President Hinckley’s funeral.  On Tuesday, while traveling in California, I learned that the hymn would be performed by the Tabernacle Choir at President Hinckley’s funeral on Saturday.  Having seen the great comfort this hymn brought to my niece who died just two weeks before President Hinckley passed away, my great desire is for people throughout the world to have a free copy of these magnificent words of President Hinckley to comfort them in time of loss of loved ones.

What is this thing that men call death, this quiet passing in the night?
’Tis not the end but genesis of better worlds and greater light.

O God, touch Thou my aching heart and calm my troubled fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure, give strength and peace beyond my tears.

There is no death, but only change, with recompense for vict’ry won.
The gift of Him who loved all men, the Son of God, the Holy One.


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