Local worshippers gather to remember Mormon leader

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Mike Fontano and Liana Starks discuss the influence the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' late president Gordon B. Hinckley had on their lives before watching his funeral service on television at the Carson City stakecenter on Saturday.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Mike Fontano and Liana Starks discuss the influence the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' late president Gordon B. Hinckley had on their lives before watching his funeral service on television at the Carson City stakecenter on Saturday.

Hundreds of Mormon faithful gathered around Carson City Saturday morning to honor church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died Jan. 27.

During the service broadcast from Salt Lake City, Hinckley's children and LDS authorities eulogized the 97-year-old Mormon prophet.

The funeral also included a musical performance from Hinckley's favorite singing group - the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Prior to the service, dozens gathered at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Carson City Nevada Stake, for fellowship and prayer before watching a closed-circuit broadcast of the memorial service.

"He's been our prophet for the last 13 years," said churchgoer Mike Fontano, 28. "He's pretty much been the church's (leader) all through my growing up. So yes, this is a monumental occasion."

While the Carson congregation sat in remembrance and spoke in dulcet tones, crowds in downtown Salt Lake Saturday morning were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, though only 21,000 fit in the LDS Conference Center.

Leading up to the memorial service this week, lines stretched around the LDS Conference Center as more than 5,000 people at a time waited to watch a video of Hinckley at his 95th birthday party two years ago.

The same throngs also found their way to the downtown's Hall of the Prophets to catch a glimpse of Hinckley's casket.

For local Mormons who could not make the pilgrimage to Salt Lake this week, honoring Hinckley's passing took on great personal meaning, causing some to reflect.

"I think for me, it's not so much sadness as feeling a renewed closeness to God," said Liana Starks, 23. "I think that's important when remembering him."

Other local LDS gathered in homes and watched, along with more some of the 12.9 million Mormons worldwide viewing, with families and friends, the services on the Internet at www.lds.org.

Those who dressed up and visited the Carson City church in person to watch the service said there was "something to" paying homage at the place of worship.

"I didn't come down here for any exceptional reason besides it's appropriate to dress up and really pay your respects," Fontano said. "He lived a long and great life."

Hinckley's legacy will reveal a robust leader who punctuated his ascension to the head of the world's fastest-growing church with a half-hour unscripted news conference on March 12, 1995.

The church was then less than 9 million.

During his tenure as the church's president, Hinckley became the most-traveled head of the church, visiting Africa, the Eastern Block and Asia. He was credited by Mormon officials for helping usher the church's continued growth, both domestically and abroad.

Bill Brewer, president of the Carson City stake, said he felt "blessed" to serve the church while Hinckley was its leader.

"We seek comfort in knowing he'll be joining his family on the other side of the veil," he said.

Brewer said the Carson City Nevada Stake of the church is currently 4,519 members and growing, which performed more than 70 baptisms locally last year.

Nevada has more than 169,000 members with more than 1,000 baptized last year.

"We've grown fairly steadily," Brewer said. "Hinckley was certainly a great leader of the church."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

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