President Gordon B. Hinckley: "I Am an Optimist. I Think the Future Looks Good."

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 219

During his first five years as President of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Church members on every continent of the world except Antarctica. “‘I do not enjoy travel, …’ [he] said during the October 1996 general conference. ‘But I do enjoy looking into the faces and shaking the hands of faithful Latter-day Saints.’ …“… [Several years later, he said:] ‘I’m determined to continue this for as long as I have the strength to do so. I’m getting old. I’ll be 90 in June. That’s getting up there. I can feel it in my feet sometimes. [But] that’s my desire [to be among the members]. I think the people of the Church are entitled the opportunity to meet the president of the Church” (“‘Looking into the Faces of Faithful Latter-day Saints,’”Church News,Mar. 4, 2000, 8, 13).

His Life (1910–)


Born June 23 in Salt Lake City to Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley


Age 8, baptized by his father on April 28 in Salt Lake City


Age 20, his mother died


Age 23–25, served a mission in Great Britain


Age 25–47, worked full-time for the Church’s missionary committee, followed by other positions in Church departments


Age 26, married Marjorie Pay on April 29; called to serve on the Sunday School General Board


Age 47, ordained an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Age 51, ordained an Apostle


Age 71–84, counselor in the First Presidency to Presidents Spencer W. Kimball (1981), Ezra Taft Benson (1985), and Howard W. Hunter (1994)


Age 84, sustained as President of the Church

His Presidency (1995–)



Announced the release of all regional representatives of the Twelve and the new calling of Area Authority; “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” presented


Began the building of smaller temples around the world so that all members might have the blessings of regular temple attendance


Organized additional quorums of Seventy from the leaders called as Area Authorities; worldwide Quorums of Seventy reached a total of five


Traveled throughout the world meeting with the Saints in Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia, and the South Pacific


Represented the Church on several television programs; announced the rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple


Dedicated the new Conference Center in Salt Lake City; Church membership was 10,752,986 at the beginning of the year—passed 11 million during the summer

During his first five years as President of the Church, he traveled almost 250,000 miles, visited 58 countries, spoke to 2.2 million Church members and others, and dedicated 24 temples.

The Life of President Gordon B. Hinckley

1. “When Gordon B. Hinckley became President of the Church following the death of President Hunter, he was asked what would be the focus of his Presidency. He replied: ‘Carry on. Yes, our theme will be to carry on the great work which has been furthered by our predecessors who have served so admirably, so faithfully and so well. Building family values, yes. Fostering education, yes. Building a spirit of tolerance and forbearance among people everywhere, yes. And proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ’ [Church News,Mar. 18, 1995, 10].

2. “President Hinckley’s extensive experience with Church leadership prepared him well for the Presidency. He was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1961. Beginning in 1981, he served as a Counselor in the First Presidency to three Church Presidents—Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, and Howard W. Hunter. During some of these years, he carried extraordinarily heavy responsibilities when these Church Presidents suffered from the infirmities of age.


3. “While young Gordon B. Hinckley was on his mission in England, he received some counsel that has served him well throughout his years of challenging responsibilities. Being somewhat discouraged, he wrote a letter to his father, saying, ‘I am wasting my time and your money. I don’t any point in my staying here.’ After some time, he received a short letter from his father that said: ‘Dear Gordon. I have your letter. … I have only one suggestion. Forget yourself and go to work. With love, Your Father.’

4. “President Hinckley said of that moment: ‘I pondered that, and the next morning in our scripture class we read that great statement of the Lord: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). It touched me. That statement, that promise, in conjunction with my father’s letter, prompted me to go upstairs, … get on my knees, and make a covenant with the Lord that I would try to forget myself and go to work. I count that as the day of decision in my life. Everything good that has happened to me since then I can trace back to the decision I made at that time’ [Gordon B. Hinckley: Man of Integrity, 15th President of the Church,videocassette (1994)].

Gordon B. Hinkley speaking

5. “President Hinckley is well known as a person of irrepressible optimism, always filled with faith in God and in the future. ‘ “Things will work out” may well be President Hinckley’s most repeated assurance to family, friends, and associates. “Keep trying,” he will say. “Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out”’ [in Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley,”Ensign,June 1995, 5].

6. “When asked by a reporter to identify the greatest challenge facing the Church, he responded, ‘The most serious challenge we face and the most wonderful challenge is the challenge that comes of growth.’ He explained that increased growth presents the need for more buildings, including more temples: ‘This is the greatest era in the history of the Church for temple building. Never has the construction of temples gone forward with the momentum that is now being carried forward. We have 47 operating temples. We have 13 other temples in some course of construction reaching back to the drawing board. We will continue to build temples’ [inChurch News,Mar. 18, 1995, 10]. Increased Church growth has also made necessary the translation of the Book of Mormon into many languages.

7. “President Hinckley has had personal experience with the dramatic growth of the Church. While attending a conference in Osaka, Japan, in 1967, he looked out at the audience, which included many young people, and said: ‘In you I the future of the Church in Japan. And I a great future. We have scarcely scratched the surface. But I feel impressed to say what I have felt for a long time, and that is that the day is not far distant when there will be stakes of Zion in this great land’ [“Addresses,” AV 1801; in LDS Church Archives]. Within a generation, therewere 100,000 Latter-day Saints in Japan, many stakes, missions, and districts, and a temple.

8. “President Hinckley is also very interested in the growth of the Church in the Philippines, where the first stake was organized in Manila in 1973. Two decades later, at the time he became President of the Church, over 300,000 Philippine members were receiving the blessings of the gospel, including a temple in their country. President Hinckley has shown great concern for the growth of the Church in other parts of Asia as well, including Korea, China, and Southeast Asia.

9. “The spirituality of many members in Asia is evidenced by the experience of a General Authority who was assigned to call a new stake president in a Philippines stake. After interviewing a number of priesthood brethren, he was impressed to call a man in his mid-twenties to be the stake president. He asked the young brother to go into an adjoining room and take some time to select his counselors. The brother came back in about 30 seconds. The General Authority thought he had misunderstood, but the new stake president said, ‘No. I knew through the Spirit of the Lord that I was going to be the stake president a month ago. I’ve already selected my counselors.’

10. “It is fitting that President Hinckley, who has done so much to assist in the establishment of the Church throughout the world, was able to announce during his administration: ‘Our statisticians tell me that if the present trend continues, then some time in February of 1996, just a few months from now, there will be more members of the Church outside the United States than in the United States. The crossover of that line is a wonderfully significant thing. It represents the fruit of a tremendous outreach’ [in Conference Report, Oct 1995, 92–93; orEnsign,Nov. 1995, 70]. …

11. “One General Authority explained how each Saint can best sustain President Hinckley: ‘As he assumes the holy office to which he has been called—prophet, r, revelator, Presiding High Priest and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, … the best thing we can do to sustain him in his office is to “carry on, carry on, carry on!”’ [Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley,” 13]” (Our Heritage,139–43).

Understanding the Reading

The Life of President Gordon B. Hinckley

Our predecessors(par. 1)Those who have gone before us 
Forbearance(par. 1)Patience 
Infirmities(par. 2)Weaknesses, illnesses 
In conjunction with(par. 4)Along with 
Irrepressible(par. 5)Unstoppable 
Optimism(par. 5)Hopeful attitude 
Adjoining(par. 9)Attached 

The Teachings and Testimony of Gordon B. Hinckley

12. “When asked about the coming years, President Hinckley said, ‘I our young people in the Church. I a lot of them. I them all over. I’m absolutely enthusiastic about the quality of their lives, their strength, their goodness, their faithfulness. I haven’t the slightest concern about the future of this Church, as I our young people. They study the scriptures. They go to seminary and institute. They pray about their decisions. They socialize among themselves, in a wonderful atmosphere of faithfulness. They’re on their way to becoming strong, faithful and able Latter-day Saints who will deliver when they are called upon to do so’” (“‘We Must Look After the Individual,’”Church News,Mar. 4, 2000, 13).

13. “The lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith. …

14. “… Because our Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death [the crucifix] as the symbol of our faith. But what shall we use? No sign, no work of art, no representation of form is adequate to express the glory and the wonder of the living Christ. He told us what that symbol should be when He said: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).

15. “As His followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing His image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of Him whose name we have taken upon ourselves.

16. “Our lives must become a symbol of meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the living Christ, the Eternal Son of the living God” (“Our One Bright Hope,”Ensign,Apr. 1994, 2, 5).

17. “Every one of you was endowed by your Father in Heaven with a tremendous capacity to do good in the world. Train your minds and your hands that you may be equipped to serve well in the society of which you are a part. Cultivate the art of beingkind, of being thoughtful, of being helpful. Refine within you the quality of mercy which comes as a part of the divine attributes you have inherited. …

18. “You need never feel inferior. You need never feel that you were born without talents or without opportunities to give them expression. Cultivate whatever talents you have, and they will grow and refine and become an expression of your true self appreciated by others” (“The Light within You,”Ensign,May 1995, 99; an address during a General Young Women Meeting).

19. “I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

20. “So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings. …

21. “We are carrying a message of self-reliance throughout the Church. Self-reliance cannot [be obtained] when there is serious debt hanging over a household. One has neither independence nor freedom from bondage when he is obligated to others” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 70–71; orEnsign,Nov. 1998, 53).

22. “It is not an easy thing to become a member of this Church. In most cases it involves setting aside old habits, leaving old friends and associations, and stepping into a new society which is different and somewhat demanding.

23. “With the ever increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way. Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’ (Moroni 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things. …

24. “The challenge now is greater than it has ever been because the number of converts is greater than we have ever before known. … Every convert is a son or daughter of God. Every convert is a great and serious responsibility” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 66–67; orEnsign,May 1997, 47–48).

25. “Having looked over all of this [created earth], [God] declared it to be good. He then created man in His own likeness and image. Then as His final creation, the crowning of His glorious work, He created woman. I like to regard Eve as His masterpiece after all that had gone before, the final work before He rested from His labors” (“Daughters of God,”Ensign,Nov. 1991, 99).

Gordon B. Hinkley as a boy

26. “I thank the Lord for the knowledge He has given me that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have spoken before of the experience I had as a twelve-year-old boy, a newly ordained deacon. With my father I went to our stake priesthood meeting. He sat on the stand as a member of the stake presidency, and I sat on the back row of the chapel. The men of that large congregation stood and sang [“Praise to the Man.”]

27. “As I heard them sing that hymn with power and conviction, there came into my heart a witness of the divine calling of the boy Joseph, and I am grateful that the Lord has sustained that witness through more than seventy years since then” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 70; orEnsign,Nov. 1993, 51).

28. “Of all the things for which I feel grateful this morning, one stands out preeminently. That is a living testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One. …

29. “… I have become His Apostle, appointed to do His will and teach His word. I have become His witness to the world. I repeat that witness of faith to you and to all who hear my voice. …

30. “Jesus is my friend.None other has given me so much. …

31. “He is my exemplar. …

32. “He is my teacher. …

33. “He is my healer. …

34. “He is my leader. …

Gordon B. Hinkley

35. “He is my Savior and my Redeemer.Through giving His life in pain and unspeakable suffering, He has reached down to lift me and each of us and all the sons and daughters of God from the abyss of eternal darkness following death. …

36. “He is my God and my King.… To His glory there will be no night. …

37. “… He is the Lamb of God, to whom I bow and through whom I approach my Father in Heaven” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2000, 86–88; orEnsign,May 2000, 69–71).

Understanding the Reading

The Teachings and Testimony of Gordon B. Hinckley

Cultivate(par. 17–18)Develop 
Preeminently(par. 28)Above all 
Abyss(par. 35)Pit 

Studying the Reading

Do activities A and B and either activity C or D as you study “President Gordon B. Hinckley.”

Activity A iconGetting Acquainted with President Hinckley

Answer the following questions from the information about President Gordon B. Hinckley’s life and presidency:

  1. 1.

    Where did he serve a full-time mission?

  2. 2.

    What scripture helped him make a covenant with the Lord on his mission?

  3. 3.

    How many Presidents of the Church has he been associated with since he became a full-time employee of the Church and a General Authority?

  4. 4.

    How long did he serve as a counselor in the First Presidency?

  5. 5.

    What did Elder Holland say is the best way we can sustain the prophet?

Activity B iconBeing an Optimist

  1. 1.

    What are three reasons people let themselves become upset over existing conditions or circumstances in their nation or the world?

  2. 2.

    President Hinckley described himself as an optimist. Briefly explain what an optimist is. Review paragraph 5, and explain why you think President Hinckley is an optimist.

  3. 3.

    Study paragraphs 6–11 and list three reasons why a member of the Church should feel optimistic.

  4. 4.

    Would you describe yourself as an optimist? Why, or why not?

Activity C iconCreate Eight Titles

Write a title for each of the eight statements in “The Teachings and Testimony of Gordon B. Hinckley” (par. 12, 13–16, 17–18, 19–21, 22–24, 25, 26–27, 28–37). For each title, use a phrase from what President Hinckley said that expresses the major theme of the statement. For example, a title for paragraphs 13–16 could be “The Symbol of Our Faith.”

Activity D iconChoosing to Do Better

President Hinckley has often challenged Church members to do better. From paragraphs 12–37, list 10 ways he counseled us to improve. From your list, choose one way in which you want to improve during the next week. Briefly explain what you will do to follow his counsel.