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President James E. Faust dies at age 87

President James E. Faust, 87, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a general authority for nearly 35 years, died early today.

A news release from the LDS Church said he died at his home of "causes incident to age," surrounded by his family. The time of death was reported as 12:20 a.m.

Funeral services will be at noon Tuesday in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

Bruce Olsen, managing director of Church Public Affairs, said this morning that President Faust's "gentle manner and depth of knowledge, which was an important part of his ministry for nearly 35 years, will be missed."

"He was a true Christian who spoke and wrote with wit and wisdom," Olsen said. "Many members of the church loved his unique way of teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ at General Conference."

Olsen said church members around the world are calling to extend to President Faust's family their heartfelt condolences.

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President Faust was set apart as Second Counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley on March 12, 1995, and served there for nearly 12 1/2 years. He was ordained an apostle on Oct. 1, 1978, at the age of 58, and served in the Quorum of the Twelve for 16 years.

One of his last notable public appearances was on June 23, 2007, the occasion of President Gordon B. Hinckley's 97th birthday and also the dedication of the new Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center at Provo's Brigham Young University.

"These past 12 years have been a tremendous blessing to serve with him and Thomas S. Monson and see quite literally the Lord working through a prophet," President Faust said during the dedication.

In his final General Conference address on April 1, 2007, President Faust extolled the healing power of forgiveness.

"Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven," he said. "In the words of one of my favorite hymns, 'Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be/E'en forgiven now by me.' With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior 'to forgive all men.'"

His physical mobility had been limited the past several years and he delivered remarks from a seated position.

During his years as a general authority, he was president of the church's international mission, general authority adviser for South America, executive director of the Church Curriculum Department, director of Welfare Services and editor of the church's three monthly magazines — Friend, Ensign and New Era. He had also served as managing director for the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA.

President Faust was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve on Oct. 6, 1972. He was called to the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1976. He had also served as stake president of the Cottonwood Stake (1956-68), on the high council in the Big Cottonwood Stake (1947-48) and as bishop in the Big Cottonwood Ward (1949-55) and as counselor in the bishopric of that ward. He was called as a regional representative for the church in 1968.

He was also chairman of the Jordan Valley Bishops Council and a second counselor in the Cottonwood Stake Presidency, 1955-56.

President Faust served a mission to Brazil from 1939-42, where he was a district president. In 1998, he received a Brazilian national citizenship award — an honor given to only a few world leaders — and was awarded honorary citizenship of the city of Sao Paulo.

A 1937 graduate of Granite High School, he lettered in football and track and was also a prosecuting attorney in student court. He was later inducted into the Granite High Hall of Fame.

He was also a 1948 graduate of the University of Utah School of Law, where he received a bachelor of arts and a juris doctorate degree. He ran the quarter-mile and was a member for the mile relay team for the U. in 1938.

His college education was interrupted by service during World War II in the U.S. Air Force, from which he was discharged as a first lieutenant.

He practiced law in Salt Lake City from 1948 until his call to be a general authority in 1972. He had served as president of the Utah Bar Association from 1962-63 and as a member of the Utah Legislature on the Democratic ticket from 1949-51. While a legislator, he also served as chairman of the House liquor investigation committee.

President John F. Kennedy also appointed him to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Racial Unrest. He had also been a member of the Constitutional Revision Committee for the State of Utah. and had been an adviser to the American Bar Journal. Former Utah Gov. Scott Matheson had appointed him state director of the Friendshipping Force.

President Faust also served on the board of the Deseret News Publishing Co. from 1970 to 1996. That service included being vice president and chairman of the executive committee. He had also been a trustee of Ballet West and had been in the board of directors for Commercial Security Bank.

In 1997, he was given an honorary degree of Christian service by Brigham Young University. The University of Utah awarded him an honorary degree in 2002.

He was characterized as a high school football letterman, a husband, father, church leader and the "family Google" by the Brigham Young University Management Society when he was honored with its "Distinguished Utahn" award in 2006.

His daughter, Janna F. Coombs, called him "a great family patriarch," who teaches his children and grandchildren from the experiences of his "rich and righteous life," after he received that award.

President Faust's own humility and humor was also evident when he received that award:

"I'm sure that I don't deserve this honor," President Faust said in accepting the award. "But as Jack Benny once said, 'I don't deserve this honor. But then I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that, either.'"

In 2003, President Faust became the first recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.

He told society members that lawyers, sometimes accused of being greedy, should always put the interest of clients first. He recalled that, after covering his expenses, he earned a mere $3 from his first client, but never wanted for material things.

He also told society members that the laws of men are hardly enough for a civilized society to survive on. Those who keep the laws of God have no need to break the laws of men, he said.

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President Faust was born July 31, 1920, in Delta, one of five sons to George A. Faust and Amy Finlinson Faust. He learned early in life the value of honest work, both at home and at the farms of his grandparents in central Utah. When he was 3 years old, his family moved to a house on Norris Place in Salt Lake City and attended the 11th Ward.

During his formative years, he was influenced by many church leaders and teachers. One bishop, President Faust said, was T.C. Stayner who had two themes: Be honest and keep your word.

"He repeated those over and over and over. It got to the point where it was completely predictable, and a little bit tiresome, but the message stuck. I am grateful for a man of integrity who had that kind of influence on me."

Hunting and fishing were among his favorite leisure activities in his young adult days.

He met his wife, Ruth Wright, while attending Granite High. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 21, 1943.

The gospel was always an important part in President Faust's life, as well as that of his wife. "The church is our life. We have always honored the calls that have come to us because we know this is the Lord's church."

"I can't even remember when I didn't have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I think this has been an inherent spiritual gift."

His church callings before becoming a general authority of the church included bishop, stake high councilor, stake president and regional representative. He was called as a counselor in his ward Sunday School superintendency at age 17.

When called as an assistant to the Twelve in 1972, President Faust said, "I'm not only humbled, I'm scared. I will need help, especially from the Lord, or I will be inadequate."

After being called to the Twelve, then-Elder Faust said, "I understand that a chief requirement for the holy apostleship is to be a personal witness of Jesus as the Christ and the Divine Redeemer. Perhaps on that basis alone, I can qualify. This truth has been made known to me by the unspeakable peace and power of the Spirit of God."

Later on in his address he pledged to God and the prophet "my life, and whatever energy and little ability I may have, fully and completely and without reservation."

· · · · ·

President Faust often mentioned the warm, close relationship he had with his family. "When children get older and settled, your relationship with them is different," he said. "They are not only children but good friends."

Family and loved ones always came first for President Faust, his wife, Ruth, said.

She once mentioned two examples that were highlighted in a profile of President Faust that appeared in an article by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve in the August 1995 Ensign, five months after President Faust was sustained as second counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley in the First Presidency.

The first example concerned his initial call as an assistant to the Twelve in October 1972.

"We had a special family home evening, including the only grandchild back then," Sister Faust recalled. "Jim went around the circle and told the children what was unique about them and how they were special individually. Then he told them about his call, stressing that if he were not a good father, he could not succeed as a general authority, adding, 'I am never going to be released from my calling as a father or grandfather.'"

In the second example, when he was called to the First Presidency in March 1995, President Faust did the very same thing.

In 1995 the teaching involved 22 grandchildren and ended with President Faust saying again how very important they all were to him and that he couldn't succeed as a member of the First Presidency if he wasn't a good father.

Sister Faust further observed, "This is the kind of person he has been all of his life. Family and loved ones have come first."

One example of his deep devotion to Sister Faust might be gauged by the fact that while they were separated as newlyweds during World War II, he wrote a letter every day to her. The letters arrived irregularly, and one day Sister Faust received 90 letters.

Her employer gave her the afternoon off to go home and read them.

In this same magazine article, daughter Lisa observed that, "My dad has always made it very clear how much he loves my mother and respects womanhood. He has always treated her with a sweet tenderness."

When President Faust was called to the Quorum of the Twelve and while he was receiving congratulations from the brethren on the stand, his chief concern was: "Where's my wife?" Even later on, when he gave conference addresses, he was quick to look over to receive Sister Faust's smiling approval.

"What would you have been without your wife, Ruth?" President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, once asked President Faust.

"It shocked me a little even to think about what life would be and would have been without her," he said 24 hours later.

He and Sister Faust had five children, 23 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

Contributing: Tom Hatch