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A year ago, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley celebrated his birthday in style. He threw himself a giant party at the LDS Conference Center and invited the whole community to share in his delight at turning 95.
Today's milestone will likely pass more quietly, especially in light of concerns about Hinckley's health.
The leader of the 12 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will celebrate his 96th birthday "at Brigham Young University in Provo, attending an 11 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony for a new alumni and visitors center named in his honor," LDS spokesman Dale Bills said. "Family, invited guests and university leaders will host him at a private luncheon following the groundbreaking."
It will be one of the few public events Hinckley has attended since surgeons removed a cancerous growth from his colon and he has undergone chemotherapy treatments.
"Things have changed and are changing," Hinckley told Mormons at the church's annual General Conference in April, mentioning his January surgery and some "residual problems."
But the irrepressible Hinckley has had trouble letting go.
"The life of a president of the church is not his own," Hinckley said. "He has very little privacy and no secrets."
He maintains a regular work schedule, Bills said, which means most days Hinckley goes to his office at LDS Church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City. He is, after all, a guy who never spent a night in the hospital before January.
In March, he traveled to Santiago, Chile, to rededicate a temple and preside over a lively cultural celebration by thousands of Chilean Latter-day Saints in an outdoor stadium. On June 11, he was in Iowa City, Iowa, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of 10 Mormon handcart companies' trek across the Great Plains and over the Rocky Mountains to the Salt Lake Valley beginning in 1856
At his 95th birthday bash, Hinckley hinted that he would give an even bigger gala for his 100th. Now health issues seem to have tempered that optimism.
"I am in the sunset of my life," Hinckley said in April. "I am totally in the hands of the Lord."