Members got to know President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) through his counsel and service, his sense of humor, his love, and his foresight. A new glimpse at his journals, however, reveals additional facts and stories you may never have heard before about the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
1. He once had to sleep in a classroom.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated that the phrase “things will work out” may well have been President Hinckley’s “most repeated assurance” to his friends and family. This optimism would carry him through countless situations.
He once stayed with a stake president whose family lived in an old schoolhouse that they had converted into a home. That night, a classroom served as President Hinckley’s bedroom. During stake conference the next day, he quipped, “I [have] slept on a great many occasions in classrooms before—but never in a bed.”
2. He had a special love for the youth of the Church.
During the Winter Olympics of 2002, shortly before meeting with the president of Germany, President Hinckley made a special visit to a 13-year-old young woman on her birthday. She was suffering from a serious illness. “We had a delightful visit,” he wrote. “I told her that we would remember her in our prayers.”
3. He postponed a flight home to visit members in Saipan.
On his way home from an 18-day journey to eight nations in Asia and the Pacific, President Hinckley discovered that his plane would be landing in Saipan to refuel. Although it was not a scheduled stop, he and his wife took the time to meet with the 10 missionaries and 60 Church members residing there.
4. He admired his wife’s ability to connect with large audiences.
After their five children were grown, the Hinckleys usually traveled together. When she met missionaries, Sister Hinckley would often give their parents a surprise phone call when she returned home.
“[Marge] knows how to say the things that please and help the people,” he recorded after a regional conference. “The rest of us preach while she simply talks with them.”
5. His love for planting trees carried on into his 90s.
“I have to plant some trees each spring,” wrote President Hinckley at the age of 82. “I think I have done so for at least the last 50 years. … There is something wonderful about a tree It starts ever so small and grows through the seasons. It affords shade from the hot summer sun. It bears delicious fruit. It carries on the remarkable process of photosynthesis. … A tree is one of the remarkable creations of the Almighty.”
A few days before his 91st birthday, he recorded, “I do not need to plant anymore, but I will. That is my nature.”