Gordon Hinckley, the Priest, Prophet, and Revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, died yesterday at 97. He had been the top Mormon for 13 years. This is very long reign for a Mormon Prophet, since they usually succeed to the job after decades working up the hierarchy. Hinckley's likely successor, for example, is 80.
I see Hinckley as the Mormon John Paul II because, like the late, great Pope, he served a long time, traveled extensively rallying the faithful, and was aggressive but positive about his faith. Moreover, Hinckley oversaw the shift of the Mormon majority from the Utah and the USA to the global south -- a miniature version of the massive shift of Catholic strength from north to south since John Paul's election in 1978. 1978 was also a big year for the Mormons: that was when the top leaders had their "pentecost moment" and received a new revelation to open the priesthood (full church status for Mormon men) to black people. Hinckley took that revelation and ran with it. In his term as Prophet, almost two decades later, Hinckley oversaw a slew of new LDS temples in Africa and Latin America.
Mormon growth, like Christian growth in most denominations, is greatest south of the equator. Hinckley's successor will be an old white man from Utah, and probably the couple of successors after that. Someday, though, not to long from now, the Mormon Prophet will be a darker-skinned man from far away.