“My childhood was a happy one,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley. “It was a nice time to be growing up. We had no radio or television; the Church was the center of our activities. Many things went on in our ward. It was the place where we found our recreation, where we did our socializing, and where we attended church and the various meetings.
“We had good teachers in the ward. They were not all great scholars, but they had great faith and knew what the gospel was about because of their experiences and testimonies.” Elder Mark E. Petersen, who later became a member of the Council of the Twelve, was one of his teachers.
“When I was a little boy,” President Hinckley said, “we traveled by horse and buggy. We had a sorrel horse, Prince, who was a feisty animal. He had to be treated just right or he would get a little balky and mean. He was rather high-spirited but a fine-looking animal.
“Then one historic day in our family, my father came driving up to our home in a new 1916 Model T Ford. What an exciting day that was! That Ford took the place of Prince and the buggy, yet all the time that I was growing up, we had a saddle horse or two.”
The Hinckley family lived in Salt Lake City in a home with a very large library. “That was a great place to go to read and study,” recalled President Hinckley. “Both of my parents were well educated and had a great love for learning. We had more than a thousand books in our library, and my mother read to us when we were children.”
Even though his young family lived in the city, President Hinckley’s father bought a farm out in East Millcreek. “My father believed that it was good for boys to learn to work when they were very young,” President Hinckley continued, “so on Saturdays in the early spring and in the fall, we would go out to the farm. And in the summer we would live there. I learned to live around animals and learned the lessons of nature—the beauty that is there and the penalties that come when nature is abused.
“We had large fruit orchards, and we learned how to prune trees. We built stilts that would put us about thirty inches off the ground, and then we could work up in the trees without ladders.
“In January, February, and March we pruned the trees, but we didn’t like it, because it was hard work. Yet we did learn something from it: You can determine the kind of fruit crop that you will have in September by the way you prune the trees in February. That was a great lesson, and it applies to people as well. You can pretty much determine the kind of adults you will have by the way you care for them as children.
“I remember coming home from school one day, and I had picked up a little language of the wrong kind. I came into the house and used the Lord’s name in vain. My mother was shocked by it, and she washed my mouth out with soap. She then taught me about the Lord’s name and quoted to me the commandment against taking it in vain. In my imagination I can still taste the soap, but more importantly, I can still remember the lesson. I think that since then I have never used the Lord’s name in vain, and I hope that I never shall.”
President Hinckley was ordained a deacon when he was twelve, and he remembers going to his first stake priesthood meeting with his father, who was the stake president. “All the men in that great congregation stood and sang ‘Praise to the Man’ (Hymns, no. 27), and there came into my heart the conviction that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. That conviction flooded over my being then, and it’s never left me.”
President Hinckley’s message to the children of the Church is that “we ought to strive to learn and to read good books. It’s fine to watch some television, but we don’t need to watch too much of it. We’d do better to spend more time reading good books.
“It’s wonderful to cultivate friendships in the Church and to enjoy the Church and all of its programs. We need to walk in obedience to the commandments. We don’t need liquor, we don’t need tobacco in our lives. We don’t need drugs. We don’t need any of those things. We can have a lot of fun and wonderful times in the association of great friends without those things. There’s great safety in obedience.
“It’s wonderful to be a child growing up in a Latter-day Saint home where parents pray and love and encourage and lead children in the way that their Heavenly Father would have them be led. Be grateful for good parents, and follow their counsel.”