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Duane Cardall reportingHistorians may declare that President Hinckley made a greater mark on his Church than any prophet since the 19th century.
In many ways he symbolizes its growth. One symbol of his service sits in the Conference Center where he will be eulogized. A remarkable story illustrates President Hinckley's signature throughout the building.
When President Hinckley's funeral begins, those who will address the congregation will be speaking from a very special pulpit. President Hinckley himself told us about it during the first official meeting held in the Conference Center in April 2000.
He said, "I love trees. When I was a boy we lived on a farm in the summer, a fruit farm. Every year at this season we planted trees.
"Well, some 36 years ago I planted a black walnut. It was in a crowded area where it grew straight and tall to get the sunlight. A year ago, for some reason it died. But walnut is a precious furniture wood. I called Brother Ben Banks of the Seventy, who, before giving his full time to the Church, was in the business of hardwood lumber. He brought his two sons ... to look at the tree. From all they could tell it was solid, good, and beautiful wood.
"One of them suggested that it would make a pulpit for this hall. The idea excited me. The tree was cut down and then cut into two heavy logs. Then followed the long process of drying, first naturally and then kiln drying. The logs were cut into boards at a sawmill in Salem, Utah. The boards were then taken to Fetzer's woodworking plant, where expert craftsmen designed and built this magnificent pulpit with that wood.
"The end product is beautiful ... it represents superb workmanship, and here I am speaking to you from the tree I grew in my backyard, where my children played and also grew.
"It is an emotional thing for me. I have planted another black walnut or two. I will be long gone before they mature. When that day comes and this beautiful pulpit has grown old, perhaps one of them will do to make a replacement.
"To the skilled workers who have designed and built this, I offer my profound thanks for making it possible to have a small touch of mine in this great hall where the voices of prophets will go out to all the world in testimony of the Redeemer of mankind."