On the afternoon of 30 May 1996, I went with my family and two friends to the Araneta Coliseum in Manila to hear President Gordon B. Hinckley speak. He was visiting the Philippines, and we were excited to see him.
We arrived at the coliseum at 4:30 P.M. My friends, Princess and Paulo, my sister, Hay-Hay, and I lined up at an entrance. We soon found ourselves entering the topmost seating area of the coliseum.
We spent the next one and a half hours looking for better seats. When we were finally seated at 6:00 P.M., we waited and tried to be quiet. I did some thinking. I was preparing to hear the President of the Church, whom I had read so much about but did not know as a person. I could play “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, number 19) on the piano from memory, but was I really thankful? I knew about President Gordon B. Hinckley because I had read about him. I believed he was a prophet because everybody said so. After some reflection, I realized I didn’t have a testimony of him. I realized that to have a testimony of him, I needed to know him and love him.
Suddenly the crowd stood up. Some people said President Hinckley had arrived. But after five minutes, we realized he hadn’t and sat down. I joked that it was just practice—we’d be able to stand with elegance and unity when he did arrive. The second time we stood, he still hadn’t arrived. The third time I was skeptical, but the choir began singing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” Some people were waving, and some were clapping. Then I saw him; he passed right in front of us. We sat down when he motioned for us to sit, and the meeting began.
The first speaker talked about missionary work in the Philippines and how it has progressed in the short time since Elder Gordon B. Hinckley gave his first speech here in April 1961. At that time Elder Hinckley said, “What we begin here will affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people in this island republic, and its effects will go on from generation to generation for great and everlasting good” (“Dateline Philippines,” Tambuli, April 1991, 17). He was right; the Philippines now has more than 350,000 Church members.
President Hinckley counseled the young people to be “honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous,” and to do “good to all men” (A of F 1:13). He counseled all students to seek after the best education they can attain. He counseled single members to find worthy companions and marry in the temple for time and eternity. He apologized for not being able to hug and shake hands with all 35,000 people in the congregation. But he sent his love and his special blessing to each of us—blessing us that we would walk uprightly before the Lord.
While he was speaking, I felt his love—personally. At that moment, he became real to me. He has real love to offer to people, I thought. I couldn’t help but love him back. This was the first time I had ever had such an experience. His love answered many doubts in my mind. Finally I had a testimony that he is a prophet of God. I had not just knowledge, but a real testimony!
The meeting ended with the choir singing “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (Hymns, number 152). President Hinckley and his companions walked down the aisle waving for the last time—until we meet again.
Tears were flowing from people’s eyes as they sent their love and gratitude to him.
I went home thanking my Heavenly Father for a prophet. I went home knowing that Heavenly Father has much in store for me. And because I had come to know a prophet of God, I went home knowing myself a little better.