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Elder Robert D. Hales passes away at 85

SALT LAKE CITY — Elder Robert D. Hales, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has died, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A spokesperson for the LDS Church says Elder Hales was surrounded by members of his family when he passed. He was 85 years old.

Born August 24, 1932, in New York City, Elder Hales got his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah, where he met his future wife, Mary Crandall. He later received a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard. Eventually, his New York roots led to his involvement in some of the early planning for the Manhattan, New York temple.

“In my wildest dream, that the time would come when the whole theater would be filled with members of the Church, and performance with thousands of youngsters, is beyond my comprehension,” he said at the dedication.

Elder Hales became a General Authority in 1975, serving as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He served as Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church starting in 1985 until he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1994.

His health had been an issue at various times over recent years. He spoke while seated at General Conference in October of 2011.

“These mortal challenges,” he said at the time, “allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow his son.”

Elder Hales spoke often about his training and background in the United States Air Force in talks to fellow Latter-day Saints.

Photo courtesy of the Hales Family

“While training to be a jet fighter pilot, I prepared to make such vital decisions in a flight simulator. For example, I practiced deciding when to bail out of an airplane,” he said in one talk.

That experience, Elder Hales said, taught him about much more than just flying a plane.

“My friend, who had not prepared to make that decision, stayed with the plane, and died in the crash,” he related.

He used that illustration over the years in talks with young men as he stressed the importance of preparing their hearts and minds so as not to be led astray.

“When flying an airplane, if you change your position by just one degree at a time, your inner ear cannot detect the change,” he said in a talk on ‘spiritual vertigo.’ “Brethren, young and old, when we practice selective obedience, we change our position relative to the Lord, and usually by only one degree at a time.”

He urged Latter-day Saints to, like his Air Force unit’s motto, “return with honor.”