Robert Hales, a top-ranking Mormon leader, died from age-related causes Sunday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement. He was 85. Hales is survived by his wife and two sons.
According to the Church's press release, Hales, who had left his successful business to guide the church, was surrounded by his family in a Salt Lake City hospital at the time of his death.
His death came amidst the 187th Semiannual General Conference of the church that was held over the weekend, and which Hale couldn't attend after he was hospitalized several days ago for treatment of pulmonary disease and other conditions, Deseret News said.
The New York City native received his call as a general authority for the church in 1975. He was chosen as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a high-level governing body of the Mormon Church, in 1994.
Prior to that, Hales was presiding bishop of the Church from April 1985. He also served as a branch president, three-time bishop, high councilor and stake president’s counselor.
Hales was a graduate of the University of Utah and held a masters degree in business administration from Harvard. He also served in the United States Air Force as a jet fighter pilot before joining full-time church service.
According to Deseret News, Hales described how he came to know God in an October 2014 general conference address.
"As a boy, I used to gaze into the starry sky and ponder and feel his presence. I thrilled to explore the magnificent beauties of God’s creations — from tiny insects to towering trees. As I recognized the beauty of this earth, I knew that Heavenly Father loved me," he said.
Hales stated he grew convinced about God’s presence as he learned from his parents and teachers, read the scriptures and was mindful of the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
"As I exercised faith and obeyed the commandments, the Holy Ghost testified that what I was learning was true," he added. "This is how I came to know for myself."
The news of his death was announced Sunday evening by Henry Eyring, one of two top counselors to the church president, Thomas Spencer Monson.
“We will miss him. His wisdom and goodness have blessed our lives for many years,” said Eyring. “We express our love to his sweet wife and carer, Mary, and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family.”
Several lines from a message that was prepared by Hales for the conference were shared at the venue by Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
"When we choose to have faith we are prepared to stand in the presence of God," he quoted Hales. "After the Savior's crucifixion, he appeared only to those who had been faithful in the testimony of Him while they lived in mortality. Those who rejected the testimonies of the prophets could not behold the Savior's presence nor look upon his face. Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God"