Thousands are expected to attend a public funeral Friday for Mormon leader L. Tom Perry, who died at the age of 92 from cancer.

Perry was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' highest governing body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The group is modeled after Jesus Christ's apostles, which members serving under the church president and his two counselors.

Perry died Saturday, just 40 days of being diagnosed with rare anaplastic thyroid cancer that his family said spread like "wildfire."

He was the oldest member among the church's top 15 leaders.

Perry spoke regularly at church conferences and was one of four leaders to meet with President Barack Obama during his recent Utah trip. He was known for his big grin and his optimism. He wrote a book in the mid-1990s titled "Living with Enthusiasm."

He was a tall, athletic man who played sports as a youngster and was well-known for exercising and staying in shape throughout his life. He loved watching sports, too, and loved the Boston Red Sox. In 2004, he threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park during Mormon night.

Perry worked as a retail executive before being named to the quorum in 1974.

A replacement will be chosen by church president Thomas S. Monson, considered the religion's prophet. Members of the faith believe those decisions are guided by inspiration from God. Monson may take weeks or months before naming a new member of the quorum.

Some past quorum members have been moved up from another governing body, the Quorum of the Seventy, while others have come from leadership posts at church-run universities.

The funeral is set to begin at 11 a.m. in Salt Lake City at the Tabernacle in Temple Square.