By Kristina Schroeder
Political leaders, church authorities, family, friends and Latter-day Saints around the world spent the weekend remembering President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who passed away early Friday morning.
President Faust was 87 years old. He served in the First Presidency for the last 12 years and as a general authority for 35.
Whether he was known as president, chairman, Elder, lieutenant, counselor or simply “Uncle Jim,” President Faust was a man who touched the hearts of all he associated with.
Anyone who knew him, even if just for a minute, remembers with fondness his kindness and love for all.
“President Faust was always cordial, kind, understanding, and always willing to listen to a story,” said Earl Grossen, who saw President Faust frequently at Bill”s Market in the avenues of Salt Lake City. “He was wonderful and I have nothing but fond memories. I really loved the man.”
Bill Spencer, who runs the market on 8th Avenue, is about the same age as President Faust, and considers him a good friend.
President Faust would come in regularly, and when the boys who worked there would call him president, “he”d say, ”just call me Jim,” ” Spencer said.
Spencer opened the market in 1922, and said he will always remember his conversations with President Faust about the old days.
“I just can”t describe how good he was,” Spencer said, his voice breaking as he finished. “He would talk with you, not to you. I liked him very much. After he”s gone you wish you had told him how much you thought of him, you know?”
Before he was a general authority, President Faust was prominent in politics and law, where he made many friends and was respected by all.
“The world and the Utah Democratic Party have lost an irreplaceable role model who taught us how to reach out to one another,” said Wayne Holland, chair of the Democratic Party, in a news release.
“As a community leader, President Faust was an inspiration for Democrats to get involved in public service,” he said. “His quiet and thoughtful counsel will be missed.”
Upon hearing of President Faust”s passing, Rep. Chris Cannon expressed his sympathies to the family and recalled a favorite memory.
President Faust walked into a candy shop one day where a friend of Cannon”s was working, he said. Not expecting to see a member of the First Presidency in his store, the man didn”t recognize President Faust, but knew he was familiar.
In an effort to figure it out, he asked his visitor”s name. The response was “Jim,” Cannon said. They chatted for a few minutes more, but it still bothered the man.
When he asked his last name and realized with whom he had been speaking, he was embarrassed. President Faust, however, was “gracious and humble,” he said.
“Jim embodied the Savior”s mandate to be ”wise as serpents and harmless as doves,”” Cannon said. “He was a lawyer who disciplined himself in his profession [and] in church service and became wise. He was unfailingly kind. I will miss him, his family will miss him, and as a people, we will greatly miss him.”
Perhaps his greatest contributions to the world were through his service to the LDS church.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to journalists about President Faust”s life on Friday.
“Through his faith and his total belief, and his obedience and willingness to listen to the promptings of the spirit, he moved forward and was able to accomplish miracles during his ministry,” he said. “On behalf of the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, his associates, we will deeply miss him and will always remember him and the great teachings he has left for us.”
Comments of love and sympathy have poured in for the family, including over 400 comments on the online version of the Deseret News” article about his life.
“What a great example he has been for our youth,” reads one comment from the Manning Family. “After attending a General Priesthood Session our youngest son once mentioned, ”How can a man so old know what a deacon needs to hear? He”s got to be a servant of the Lord.” All I could say was, ”He is.””
President Faust also had major contributions to and involvement with BYU.
He served on the Board of Trustees since 1995, and has been awarded numerous awards from the University, including an Honorary Doctorate of Christian Service and the Marion G. Romney Distinguished Service Award.
“As a campus community that includes more than 300,000 alumni, we offer our thoughts and prayers to his family,” read a statement from President Samuelson”s office. “[We] express to them our gratitude for President Faust”s many years of service to BYU, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the world at large.”
In honor of his life, BYU has lowered the U.S. flag to half-staff until Tuesday evening after the funeral.
Students and faculty are all joining his family and the general authorities in mourning the loss of our great leader.
“I think this is going to be so difficult,” said Mary Woodger, who is part of the Church History and Doctrine department on campus. “I do think President Hinckley has lost his best friend.”
BYU is also the home to some of President Faust”s family, including his granddaughter, Stefi Faust.
“My grandpa had such a keen sense of humor,” said the sophomore majoring in speech-language pathology. “There was always such a sparkle in his eyes. I will always admire his compassion for his fellow men.”