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Bruce D. Porter stood as a lanky, 6-foot-7 LDS leader whose physical awkwardness and self-deprecating manner (as well as his penchant for compassion, storytelling and robustly singing his children to sleep with hymns) endeared this gentle giant to every Mormon congregation or committee he served.

Meanwhile, his quick wit, incisive observations and deep love of learning, including a political science education at Harvard University, made him the LDS Church's go-to guy on international relations.

After years of enduring kidney disease, including a failed transplant, Porter died Wednesday of a pulmonary infection in Salt Lake City, where he had been flown from Moscow while serving until recently as president of the Europe East Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was 64.

"We are profoundly grateful for the valiant service he offered to the very end of his life," church spokesman Eric Hawkins said Thursday in a news release. "He will be greatly missed."

Porter's health during his more than two decades as a Mormon general authority was an ongoing battle for the energetic leader.

"His wife, Susan, would perform dialysis several times a week," said longtime friend Mark Crego of Springfield, Va., "yet he never slowed down from his church responsibilities."

Before being named to the Utah-based faith's Second Quorum of the Seventy in 1995, Porter was teaching political science at church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo.

He previously worked as executive director of the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting and as a research fellow at Harvard, according to his official biography on lds.org. He also served as an analyst for the Northrop Corp. and as a staffer with the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

In 2003, Porter moved from the Second Quorum of the Seventy to the First Quorum, where he served in the Salt Lake City Area Presidency, on the Middle East/Africa North Desk and as executive director of the global faith's Correlation Department.

Through every assignment, Porter was resolutely humble and pastoral.

As a lay bishop, the future general authority "never focused on punishment, but always brought the focus back to Christ," said Crego, who was in Porter's Washington, D.C., area congregation. "Elder Porter knew the difference between going through the LDS motions and having a living relationship with Christ. To him, that was the key to pastoral counseling."

As a friend, he said, Porter "always had time to listen in love."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Twitter: @religiongal

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