In a hospital bed in Arlington, Virginia, on May 4, 2016, at the age of 82, former Senator (R-Utah) Bob Bennett died due to complications from his long struggle with pancreatic cancer and a recent stroke, Deseret News reported.
During his three-terms serving as Senator Bennett aided in the diversion of the Y2K crisis. Bennett acted as a point man, making predictions, urging the formation of a special committee, and encouraging the involvement of foreign nations. The millennium rolled around without a hitch, thanks to Bennett. Senator Bennett also had a hand in finding a solution to the Mexican peso crisis of the mid-1990s.
“Bob was a truly great human being. He was brilliant, he was effective, he was a great senator”, said current Utah Senator (R-UT) Orrin Hatch of Bennett.
Even on his death bed, Bennett continued to act as a civil servant. According to The Daily Beast, Bennett drew his family close, but instead of admonishing some last pieces of sage advice, Bob asked, “Are there any Muslims in the Hospital?”
“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump.”
In the months leading up to his death, Bennett was outspoken in his support for the Muslim community within the United States. During a hospital interview with Deseret News following the stroke Bennett remarked, “there’s a lot of Muslims here in this area. I’m glad they’re here”.
According to Bennett’s wife, as the family traveled from Washington to Utah for Christmas Bennett made a point to speak to people wearing hijabs:
“He would go to people with the hijab [on] and tell them he was glad they were in America, and they were welcome here. He wanted to apologize on behalf of the Republican party.”
Trump’s call for a “shutdown” of Muslim immigration to the United States struck something inside Bennett. As an active member of the LDS church, Bennett regarded religious liberty as one of the most important facets of modern society.
As Elder Robert D. Hales said in the April 2015 session of General Conference, “The first is freedom to believe. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God.”
Bennett’s son, Jim, spoke of his father’s feelings towards Muslims saying his father “[recognized] the parallel between the Mormon experience and the Muslim experience.”
Both denominations have suffered significant ridicule and persecution by the public — not to mention a wide-scale lack of understanding of doctrine and incorrect association with radical organizations.
The First-presidency issued a statement following Brother Bennett’s death: “This is a day marked with both sadness and gratitude as we acknowledge the passing of former United States Senator Bob Bennett and reflect upon his lifetime of faithful service to his family, his Church, and his nation. The love and prayers of Church leaders are with his beloved wife, Joyce, and their wonderful family as they remember his remarkable life and mourn his passing.”
Dual funerals were held for Bennett on May 9th: one in the D.C. area, the other in his home state of Utah.