The Life Story of Robert D. Hales

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Portrait of Robert D. Hales as a boy
Portrait of Robert D. Hales as a boy, courtesy of LDS.org

Robert D. Hales Baseball Card

Robert D. Hales serves as an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But did you know that he also used to play baseball and fly fighter jets? In this biography of Robert D. Hales, read about his promptings from the spirit, faithfulness in serving callings, and the lessons he has learned in his life.

Baseball Stories and Lessons

Lessons in Baseball

When Robert was growing up, he loved to play baseball in the backyard with his friends and older brother. The only trouble they ever had happened if they hit a ball into the neighbor’s yard. The woman who lived there never returned their baseballs; the boys suspected she ate them.

One day, when Robert was about ten or eleven, he hit a home run. But he did a little too well. The ball not only went into the woman’s yard, but it hit her greenhouse. The boys heard the shattering of glass and all bolted except for Robert and his brother.

Robert’s brother said, “You have two choices. You can run, and then the phone will ring, and Dad will ask why you didn’t face up to it. Or you can go see her right now. You can own up to it.” Robert later realized his brother was speaking from personal experience.

Robert decided to own up to the accident and went over to the woman’s house. He saw a long line of their baseballs neatly sitting on the window sill. When the woman answered the door, Robert apologized for what had happened and asked if he could have the baseball back, something none of the other boys had ever done before. The woman said that he could only if he did some chores for her. Because Robert admitted his mistake, he was able to earn back all of their baseballs (Return).

Baseball and the Sabbath

Robert was in junior high when his parents took a trip to Europe. While they were gone, he tried out for a semiprofessional baseball team and made it. Robert signed a contract in which he was supposed to play two games every Sunday. These games didn’t interfere with church, so Robert thought he had everything figured out.

Then, when he was warming up one Sunday, his uncle and his cousins drove by. Robert’s cousins had told his uncle that he was playing baseball on Sunday, and his uncle had not believed their claim until he saw it for himself.

Soon, Robert got a call from the stake president, who invited him over for lunch on Sunday. Robert told him he couldn’t make it. The president asked about the next Sunday, and when Robert still said he couldn’t go, he asked about the Sunday after that. Finally, Robert said, “President, I think we need to talk.”

They did talk, and the president spoke of the sacred nature of the Sabbath and of BYU athletes who had refused to play on Sunday. Robert talked with the manager and owner of the team, explaining why he couldn’t play for them anymore. They were very understanding and let him out of his contract (Return).

Rober D. Hales playing baseball
Rober D. Hales playing baseball, courtesy of the book “Return”

A Coach’s Advice

When Robert was only a freshmen in high school, he became the starting pitcher for his baseball team. But even though he was the starting pitcher, things weren’t going well for him. He caused his team to lose three games in a row with the score of 1-0. When Robert saw a headline in the school newspaper, “Hard-Luck Hales Loses Again,” he had had enough.

Robert took his uniform to his baseball coach and told him he wanted to quit the team. However, the coach said:

Do you know why you’re losing? Your pitching arm is tired at the end of the game because before the game when you’re supposed to be warming up, you’re out there impressing everybody with your fastball and curveball. You probably pitch the equivalent of two or three innings doing that. Stop showing off and you won’t wear out your arm.

Robert followed his coach’s advice and he won the next game with a shutout. He later said:

That’s why you love a coach who will tell you what you need to hear. If you listen to your coach, you can avoid repeating your mistakes and have a better opportunity to achieve your goals. The Lord is like that, too. I don’t get tired of the chastening of the Lord or the Lord’s anointed.

Robert has learned to follow the advice of others, including the Lord (“Robert D. Hales” ; Liahona article “Robert D. Hales: Return with Honor”).

Fastball Signals

Robert remembers a big game he played in high school. It was the bottom of ninth inning with two outs, the bases loaded, and Robert pitching to one of the best batters in Long Island. The catcher kept signaling Robert to throw a fastball, but Robert didn’t think he had enough strength left in his arm so late in the game, so he ignored the catcher.

Finally, the catcher got so frustrated that he threw his glove down and yelled, “Throw what you want!” The coach came up to the mound and spoke with Robert. He said, “Do you know the kid behind the plate is tough? He’s one of the finest catchers we’ve ever had. . . . he knows where the location of the pitch should be. If you’re half smart, you’ll listen to him.”

The coach started walking back to the bench, and added, “By the way, I’m the one signaling to him for you to throw a fastball.” Robert realized that he had been putting his own wisdom above others. He threw a fastball and won the game (Return).

Robert D. Hales as a pitcher in high school
Robert D. Hales as a pitcher in high school, courtesy of the book “Return”

Robert D. Hales’ Courtship & Marriage

Courtship with Mary

Robert attended the University of Utah for his bachelor’s degree, but during the summers, he went back home to New York. It was during one of these summers that he met Mary Crandall in his Queens Ward; her family had just moved there from California. After their first date, Robert told his father, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry for time and all eternity.” His father warned him, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

However, soon Robert and Mary were spending a lot of time together. She would help him wash his car, he would help her babysit her siblings, etc. Robert says, “After I met her, I never went out with anyone else. We were together every evening after work for the first two months . . . it was as though we were never going to be apart.”

At the end of the summer, Robert and Mary both went to school in Utah. Robert returned to the U, and Mary (ironically) attended its rival college, BYU. The summer after that, they were married (“Robert D. Hales” ; Ensign article “Elder Robert Dean Hales Assistant to the Council of the Twelve”).

Robert and Mary Hales wedding
Robert and Mary Hales wedding, courtesy of Deseret News

Gifts, Finances, and Love

Like all newlyweds, Robert and Mary had little money to spare. He remembers a time when he came home after being overseas during Christmas. He and Mary saw a beautiful dress in a store window, and he told her that if she liked it, he would buy it for her.

She went into the dressing room to try it on, but a moment later, a sales clerk walked past Robert and put the dress back in the window. After they left the store, he asked Mary what had happened. Mary told him, “It was a beautiful dress, but we can’t afford it!” Robert D. Hales later said that “I love you” are the three most loving words and “we can’t afford it” are the four most caring.

Years later, when they were more financially secure, Robert decided he wanted to buy Mary a fancy coat. When he asked what she thought of the coat he had in mind, she asked, “Where would I wear it?”

After a moment, she also said, “Are you buying this for me or for you?” She was asking if he was buying the coat because he loved her, or because he wanted to show he was a good provider. Robert realized that it was more of the latter. They then spoke of better ways to use their money (General Conference talk “Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually”).

Robert and Mary Hales
Robert and Mary Hales

Hiding Dishes in the Oven

When Mary was the Relief Society president, she often left the boys with Robert so she could attend meetings. Sometimes, Robert and the boys were very productive and cleaned the house to surprise her. However, other times, they had too much fun playing and forgot.

One time, Robert heard Mary pull the car into the driveway and the house was a mess. He quickly tried to cover it up. He hid the dirty dishes in the oven, dragged the unplugged vacuum over the carpet, and told the boys to hurry into bed even though they were still dressed and pretend to be asleep.

This trick worked. However, it only worked once. The next time, Mary said, “All right, you guys, the party’s over.” Then, everyone helped to clean up the house (Return).

Robert D. Hales with his wife and two sons
Robert D. Hales with his wife and two sons, courtesy of LDS Living.

Listening to the Still Small Voice

Promptings as a Home Teacher

Robert had become a new executive with a company in England and was going to host a dinner party where he would meet his colleagues. However, when he left work that day, he felt that he should go see an older sister he home taught. Robert did not want to be late and was reluctant to follow the prompting, but he did what the spirit asked.

The sister did not answer the door when Robert knocked, and he knew she was normally home at that time of day. Robert went around to the back and saw a door open. There, he discovered the sister unconscious on the floor, having suffered from a heart attack. Robert was able to get medical help that saved her life (Return).

On a later date, Robert was about to leave work and go home to another dinner party when he received a prompting from the spirit. He felt he should go see another elderly sister he home taught. He called home to tell Mary what he was going to do. She reminded him about the party, and he promised that he would come home as soon as possible.

Little did he know, the elderly sister had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that day. She needed to choose whether to try treatment or not. The sister prayed and decided she wanted the guidance of her home teachers to help her make the decision. But she had no telephone to contact them with, so she prayed that they would come by.

Because Robert listened to the prompting, he did come by. He prayed with the sister and they decided she shouldn’t go through with treatment. A few weeks later, she passed away. The doctors told them that any treatment would not have done her any good (Church News article “New apostles aware of heightened role”).

The Spirit and New Stake Presidents

When Robert served as a General Authority, he helped some of the apostles reorganize stake presidencies. He remembers a time when he went with Ezra Taft Benson. They interviewed candidates, prayed, and interviewed some more. Benson asked Robert if he knew who the new stake president should be. Robert told him that he hadn’t received the inspiration yet. After a long pause, Benson said that he hadn’t either.

However, they were inspired to ask three men to speak during the Saturday evening session of stake conference. When the third speaker began his talk, Robert received inspiration that this man should be the new stake president. He looked over to Benson and saw tears in his eyes. Robert knew that he had received the same prompting (General Conference talk “Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of Prophets”).

Another time, Robert searched for a new stake president with Marvin J. Ashton. They decided to conduct the interviews, pray, and then write the name of who they thought the new president should be on a piece of paper. Robert did not receive an answer to his prayers, so he just left his paper blank, folded it, and put it on the desk.

Ashton asked if Robert wanted to pray again. They did so, but Robert still hadn’t received an answer. He felt pressure to write a name, but still left his paper blank. Ashton asked if he wanted to look at the papers now. They did so, and Robert saw that Ashton’s were blank as well.

Then, the current stake president knocked on the door. He said that a man who had just moved into the stake stopped by to see him. The president, however, felt impressed that Ashton and Robert should interview him. They did so and received the prompting that this man should be the new stake president (Return).

Lessons in Callings

Being an Example to the Deacons Quorum

When Robert was president of the deacons quorum, his Queens Ward held church in Citizen’s League Hall. They placed the sacrament table in front of a stage on the main floor. After church, the deacons would climb the stage, put the trays away, and then leap off the stage.

Once, Robert was jumping off the stage only to see that his bishop was right in front of him. The bishop caught Robert midair. Robert quickly defended himself saying, “Well, everyone else is doing it.” The bishop responded, “Yes, but you are the president of the deacons quorum.” He then proceeded to teach Robert about the sacred nature of the sacrament (Liahona article “Robert D. Hales: Return with Honor”).

“We’ll do them both.”

Robert was very busy when he was getting his masters degree in business administration from Harvard. So when his bishop called him to be the Elders Quorum President, he was a little unsure if he should accept the calling. He and Mary prayed about the decision. After their pray, Mary said, “I’d rather have an active priesthood holder than a man who holds a master’s degree from Harvard. We’ll do them both.”

When he came home from school the next day, he saw that Mary had walled off a section of the unfinished basement in their apartment. Robert used it as an office space for his school and church work. He was able to fulfill his calling and complete school. Robert later said, “I put myself in the Lord’s hands when I made that decision.” He also said:

That decision was much harder to make than when, years later, I accepted the call to serve as an Assistant to the Twelve and left my business career behind. Some people may have trouble understanding that, but I believe you really show the Lord who you are and what you are willing to become when you make those hard decisions as a young person.

Because of the decision he made when he was young, Robert D. Hales has learned to serve the Lord no matter what the circumstances (“Robert D. Hales” ; Liahona article “Robert D. Hales: Return with Honor”).

Lifelong Mission

Robert was in a board meeting when his secretary came and told him that a Marion T. Romney was on the phone. Robert corrected her, saying it was Marion G. Romney. When she told him that “He said you would leave this meeting if I told you that he was calling you,” Robert told her that he was right.

Romney extended the calling of mission president for the London England Mission to Robert, who accepted it. But not long after that, Robert received another phone call, this time from the prophet himself, President Spencer W. Kimball. “Brother Hales,” Kimball said, “do you mind if we change your mission?”

“No, that will be fine, President,” said Robert.

“Do you mind if it is little bit longer than three years?”

“However long you want it, President.”

“We would like a lifetime of service.”

And that is how Robert became a General Authority. He first served as Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, and later as a Seventy (General Conference talk “A Question of Free Agency”Liahona article “Robert D. Hales: Return with Honor”).

Robert D. Hales and other General Authorities participating in humanitarian efforts
Robert D. Hales and other General Authorities participating in humanitarian efforts

Bonus Story

Recovering from Failed Experiences

Robert joined the ROTC while attending the University of Utah and decided to take some flying lessons there. On the first lesson, the instructor impatiently waited for the ground crew to come, then finally decided to go out and turn the propeller himself. He showed Robert the ignition and throttle so he could start the plane, but failed to show Robert where the brakes were.

They started the plane and the instructor tried to get back inside. But since Robert did not know where the brakes were, he couldn’t slow down. The instructor was left behind as the plane rolled along the taxiway and Robert steered it so he wouldn’t hit other planes.

The plane moved faster and faster, and Robert realized that it might take off. So he turned into a hangar and crashed into another plane, wrecking them both. That was the end of his flying lessons for a while. However, Robert wanted to become a jet fighter pilot. So in Florida, he overcame his fears and learned how to fly a plane (Return).

Robert D. Hales climbing into a plane cockpit
Robert D. Hales climbing into a plane cockpit, courtesy of Deseret News

After Robert D. Hales Was Called An Apostle

Robert D. Hales has served many callings in his life, including branch president, bishop, high counselor, regional representative, president of the England London Mission, area supervisor in Europe, area president of the North America Southwest Area, presiding bishop, etc. He has also had several homes in places such as Georgia, Spain, Massachusetts, Illinois, Germany, London, etc. (“Robert D. Hales”).

Throughout all of their traveling, he and Mary would raise two sons. On April 2, 1994, he was called as an apostle for the Quorum of the Twelve (“Elder Robert D. Hales”).

Current photo of Robert D. Hales
Robert D. Hales

When Robert was serving in the air force, one of the biggest lessons he learned there was through his unit’s motto, “Return with Honor.” In the article, “Robert D. Hales,” he says that the motto:

was a constant reminder to us of our determination to return to our home base with honor after we had expended all of our efforts to successfully complete every aspect of our mission.

Robert D. Hales tried to emulate this example in his life by serving faithfully for the Lord.

He passed away in the hospital just after the Sunday morning session of General Conference on October 1, 2017.

To learn more about Robert D. Hales, check out his Facebook Page or visit the links below.

Abby graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelors degree in English and an emphasis in Writing Studies. She enjoys reading, writing, baking good food, and eating it too.