Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles passed away on Oct. 1, just hours before the final session of the Oct. 2007 General Conference. In wake of the news, students and a professor at BYU-Hawaii reminisced on his life on earth by sharing their favorite memories of him.
Business Management Professor Helena Hannonen worked for Elder Hales before his calling to the presidency of the Seventy. She recounted, “He always found the positive, [was] always encouraging, always kind.”
Hannonen shared a story of Elder Hales that she said shows his desire to be kind, humble, and love others. She smiled and said, “One day he said ‘Helena, is there anything I can do to help you?’ And so I asked him to make some copies, so he took the paper to go make me copies.
“Then my German friend said, ‘Oh Helena, you can never ask a General Authority to make copies.’ And I said, ‘Why not? He asked me how he could help me.’” She said she later realized, “Most people would [think], ‘I'm a Seventy, that’s below me.’ But he took the copies and helped me.”
Hannonen described his “extraordinary” work ethic, “When we worked we would always say, ‘Are we crossing waves yet?’ In other words, ‘Are we bringing about change?’ because he was [always] about change and results.”
Elder Hales said in the Feb. 2002 Ensign, “We are clearly instructed that each of us is given a gift or gifts. Do we know what gift we have been given? Are we seeking to find our gifts?”
Ellie Magelby, a freshman studying exercise science from Utah, stated some spiritual gifts she thinks Elder Hales had. “He was very genuine which I liked a lot. He made me feel special [reminding me] I am a unique daughter of God.”
In the Oct. 2010 General Conference, after realizing the dictionary gave no definition of the word agency in context to act, Hales said, “We teach that agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves and not to be acted upon. Without agency we would be unable to make right choices and progress.”
Hannonen said, “He was a true leader. When you were with him you knew what the vision was and he was leading. His personality was of integrity, ethics, and he was very charismatic. He always treated everyone [equally] … I could trust him and he could trust me.”
Hannah Evans, a freshman majoring in piano from Utah, said, “Elder Hales was an incredibly strong speaker. His points were always well thought out and genuine. Elder Hales was very understanding, and I think he knew how to connect with people. He always felt very genuine [about] his love.”
Evans said, “I am sad to see him go, but I’m happy for him. I loved the phrase Elder Anderson used in his talk when he said, ‘Elder Hales is graduating from mortality.’”