Top-Ranking Mormon Leader, Dead At 85
SALT LAKE CITY - Top-ranking Mormon leader Robert D. Hales has died from causes related to his age. He was 85.
Hales died peacefully 12:15 p.m. Sunday in a Salt Lake City hospital surrounded by his wife and family, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said.
Hales missed this weekend's church conference after being hospitalized several days ago for treatment of pulmonary disease and other conditions.
The New York City native was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and business executive before being chosen in 1994 as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a high-level governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He is the fourth top Mormon leader to die in the last three years. Quorum members Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry and Richard G. Scott died in 2015.
A replacement will be chosen for Hales at a later date. Funeral plans are pending.
Hales was born in 1932 and grew up in Long Island in a Mormon family with a father who was an artist. Hales would recall a special moment he shared with his father when the two visited a wooded area in upstate New York where church founder Joseph Smith said he saw God and Jesus in what Latter-day Saints call the "first vision." Throughout his life, Hales kept a special painting of the sacred grove in his various offices that his father made for him after that trip.
As a high school baseball pitcher, he dreamed of playing in Major League Baseball. He never realized that dream, but he did get to throw out a first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 2007 as part of Mormon Night at Dodgers Stadium.
Hales earned a business degree from the University of Utah and a master's in business administration from Harvard University. He was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, where picked up a phrase, "return with honor," which he used in speeches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.