Gordon B. Hinckley: Fifteenth President of the Church

Presidents of the Church Student Manual, (2012), 260–85


President Gordon B. Hinckley

Highlights in the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

Age

Events

 

He was born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley.

8

He was baptized by his father (April 28, 1919).

20

His mother died (Nov. 9, 1930).

21

He graduated from the University of Utah (June 1932).

22–24

He served a mission to the British Isles (1933–35).

24

He was appointed executive secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee (1935).

26

He married Marjorie Pay (Apr. 29, 1937).

33

He accepted a position at the Union Depot and Railroad Company in Salt Lake City (1943).

41

He was appointed general secretary of the General Missionary Committee (1951).

42

He was asked by President David O. McKay to prepare the temple presentations in non-English languages (1953).

46

He was called as president of the East Millcreek Stake (Oct. 28, 1956).

47

He was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve (Apr. 6, 1958).

51

He was ordained an Apostle (Oct. 5, 1961).

71

He was called as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball (July 23, 1981).

75

He was called as a counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson (Nov. 10, 1985).

83

He was called as a counselor to President Howard W. Hunter (June 5, 1994).

84

He became President of the Church (Mar. 12, 1995).

85

He read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” at the General Relief Society meeting (Sept. 23, 1995).

86

He represented the Church on the television news show 60 Minutes (broadcast Apr. 1996); he organized additional Quorums of Seventy (increased to five quorums on Apr. 5, 1997).

87

He announced that smaller temples would be built throughout the world (Oct. 1997).

88

He addressed, by satellite, what may have been the largest gathering of missionaries ever convened to that date (Feb. 21, 1999).

89

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued the document “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” (Jan. 1, 2000); he dedicated the Palmyra New York Temple (Apr. 6, 2000).

90

He dedicated the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah (Oct. 8, 2000); he traveled 250,000 miles, visited 58 countries, spoke to 2.2 million members and dedicated 24 temples (2000); he announced the Perpetual Education Fund to assist young Church members worldwide with their education (Apr. 2001).

92

He dedicated the Nauvoo Illinois Temple (June 27, 2002); he spoke at the first ever Global Leadership Training by satellite broadcast (Jan. 2003)—broadcast in 56 languages and available to 97 percent of priesthood leaders around the world.

93

His wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley died (Apr. 6, 2004).

95

He traveled 24,995 miles in a tour of Asia and Africa from July to August 2004, visiting Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, India, Kenya, and Nigeria; he was the first Church President to visit India; his trip culminated with the dedication of the Aba Nigeria Temple.

97

He died in Salt Lake City, Utah (Jan. 27, 2008); he was the longest living President of the Church.

He Descended from a Pioneer Heritage [15.1]

“President Hinckley’s forebear, Thomas Hinckley, served as governor of Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, from 1681 to 1692. His grandfather, Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, lost his parents and, with his brother, traveled from Michigan to Springfield, Illinois, to live with his grandparents. As a teenager he walked to Nauvoo and met the Prophet Joseph Smith” (Boyd K. Packer, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: First Counselor,” Ensign, Feb. 1986, 3).

Ira Nathanial Hinckley

Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, Gordon B. Hinckley’s grandfather

In 1843, at the age of 14, Ira Nathaniel Hinckley joined the Church, and in 1850 he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. After settling in Salt Lake City with his family, he went back East on trips to help other Saints migrate west. In 1862 he enlisted in the army to guard the transcontinental telegraph line during the Civil War. In 1867 President Brigham Young sent Ira a letter, asking him to accept a new assignment:

“‘We wish to get a good and suitable person to settle on and take charge of the Church Ranch at Cove Creek, Millard County. Your name has been suggested for this position. As it is some distance from any other settlement, a man of sound practical judgment and experience is needed to fill the place. Cove Creek is on the main road to our Dixie, Pahranagat, and Lower California, some 42 miles south of Fillmore and some 22 miles north of Beaver. If you think you can take this mission, you should endeavor to go south with us. We expect to start a week from next Monday. It is not wisdom for you to take your family there until the fort is built. … Should you conclude to go, let us know by the bearer of this letter, and when you start, come with conveyance to accompany us.’

“… Ira sent the courier back with a simple reply: ‘Say to the President I will be there on the appointed day with conveyance prepared to go’” (Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley [1996], 12).

Cove Fort

Ira Nathaniel Hinckley oversaw the building of Cove Fort in 1867.

His Father Was Strong and Faithful [15.2]

Ira Nathaniel Hinckley left his family in Coalville, Utah, until the fort at Cove Creek was ready to be occupied. While he was away, his wife Angeline Wilcox Noble Hinckley gave birth to a son, Bryant Stringham Hinckley (Gordon B. Hinkley’s father), on July 9, 1867. Ira moved his family to Cove Fort in November of 1867, and for the next 17 years they helped travelers passing through the area find shelter, food, and safety.

Angeline Wilcox Noble Hinckley

Angeline Wilcox Noble Hinckley, Gordon B. Hinckley’s grandmother

“Bryant Hinckley’s earliest memories were of life at Cove Fort, where he and his brothers learned to ride almost as soon as they learned to walk. Many an afternoon found them atop the fort wall, their field glasses in hand, watching cowboys on fleet-footed ponies corral the wild horses and cattle that roamed the hills to the east. …

“In 1883, when Bryant was sixteen, Angeline moved to Provo so that Ira’s five oldest sons … could attend the Brigham Young Academy. Bryant was at an impressionable age, and the academy opened up a whole new world for the boy from rural Utah. …

“Upon graduation, Bryant was offered a teaching position at the academy on the condition that he obtain further training, so he later traveled east to Poughkeepsie, New York, and attended Eastman Business College, from which he graduated in December 1892. He also completed several months of graduate work at Rochester Business University before returning home in the spring of 1893 to teach at the BY Academy and, in June 1893, to marry Christine Johnson” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 16–18).

Bryant Stringham Hinckley

Bryant Stringham Hinckley, father of Gordon B. Hinckley

In early 1900 Bryant was offered and accepted the position of principal at the new LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. “His instincts for business as well as his skill as a teacher and communicator served the college well. … By the time he left after ten years of service, the school was considered one of the best business colleges in the country” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 18).

Bryant and Christine Hinckley became the parents of nine children. Tragically, on the same day their fifth child was born, their two-year-old daughter died with a severe fever, and in July 1908, after 15 years of marriage, Christine suddenly became violently ill and was rushed into emergency surgery. All efforts to treat her were futile and she died shortly thereafter. Bryant was overwhelmed. His wife was gone and he was left alone with eight children to care for.

Birth of Gordon B. Hinckley [15.3]

In time after the death of his wife, Bryant Hinckley felt that his children needed a mother and he needed a companion. At that time he was the principal of the LDS Business College, and on the faculty was a talented teacher named Ada Bitner who taught English and shorthand. After a short courtship, Bryant and Ada were married in the Salt Lake Temple on August 4, 1909.

Ada Bitner Hinckley

Ada Bitner Hinckley, mother of Gordon B. Hinckley

“Bryant had been promised in a patriarchal blessing almost fifteen years earlier: ‘You shall not only become great yourself but your posterity will become great, from your loins shall come forth statesmen, prophets, priests and Kings to the most High God. The Priesthood will never depart from your family, no never. To your posterity there shall be no end … and the name of Hinckley shall be honored in every nation under heaven.’

“The day Bryant and Ada rejoiced in the arrival of their first son, they couldn’t have foreseen that he would in great measure fulfill that prophecy. Born on June 23, 1910, and given his mother’s maiden name, he would be known as Gordon Bitner Hinckley” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 22).

Gordon B. Hinckley as baby

Young Gordon B. Hinckley

He Learned Lessons in His Youth [15.4]

“A spindly, frail boy susceptible to earaches and other illnesses, Gordon was a constant worry to his mother. In the evening it was common to find Ada warming two small bags of salt, which she would hold against his aching ears. …

“Gordon also suffered from allergies, asthma, and hay fever, and the living conditions of the day exacerbated his problems. Nearly everyone in Salt Lake City burned coal in stoves or furnaces, and the resultant soot hung over the city, particularly in the dead of winter, like a suffocating blanket. …

“The heavy concentration of soot and other pollutants was Gordon’s nemesis. At age two he contracted a severe case of whooping cough, threatening enough that a doctor told Ada the only remedy was clear, country air. Bryant responded by purchasing a five-acre farm in the rural East Millcreek area of the Salt Lake Valley and building a small summer home” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 24–25).

Gordon B. and Sherman Hinckley as boys

Gordon B. Hinckley (on right) with his brother Sherman, about 1913

Recalling some lessons he learned during his childhood, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“In my early childhood, we had a stove in the kitchen and a stove in the dining room. A furnace was later installed, and what a wonderful thing that was. But it had a voracious appetite for coal, and there was no automatic stoker. The coal had to be shoveled into the furnace and carefully banked each night.

“I learned a great lesson from that monster of a furnace: if you wanted to keep warm, you had to work the shovel.

“My father had an idea that his boys ought to learn to work, in the summer as well as in the winter, and so he bought a five-acre farm, which eventually grew to include more than thirty acres. We lived there in the summer and returned to the city when school started.

“We had a large orchard, and the trees had to be pruned each spring. Father took us to pruning demonstrations put on by experts from the agriculture college. We learned a great truth—that you could pretty well determine the kind of fruit you would pick in September by the way you pruned in February. The idea was to space the branches so that the fruit would be exposed to sunlight and air. Further, we learned that new, young wood produces the best fruit. That has had many applications in life” (“Some Lessons I Learned as a Boy,” Ensign, May 1993, 52).

The Hinckleys Held Family Home Evening [15.5]

President Gordon B. Hinckley shared the following insights into his childhood:

“In 1915 President Joseph F. Smith asked the people of the Church to have family home evening. My father said we would do so, that we would warm up the parlor where Mother’s grand piano stood and do what the President of the Church had asked.

“We were miserable performers as children. We could do all kinds of things together while playing, but for one of us to try to sing a solo before the others was like asking ice cream to stay hard on the kitchen stove. In the beginning we would laugh and make cute remarks about one another’s performance. But our parents persisted. We sang together. We prayed together. We listened quietly while Mother read Bible and Book of Mormon stories. Father told us stories out of his memory. …

“Out of those simple little meetings, held in the parlor of our old home, came something indescribable and wonderful. Our love for our parents was strengthened. Our love for brothers and sisters was enhanced. Our love for the Lord was increased. An appreciation for simple goodness grew in our hearts. These wonderful things came about because our parents followed the counsel of the President of the Church. I have learned something tremendously significant out of that.

“In that old home we knew that our father loved our mother. That was another of the great lessons of my boyhood. I have no recollection of ever hearing him speak unkindly to her or of her. He encouraged her in her individual Church activities and in neighborhood and civic responsibilities. She had much of native talent, and he encouraged her to use it. Her comfort was his constant concern. We looked upon them as equals, companions who worked together and loved and appreciated one another as they loved us” (“Some Lessons I Learned as a Boy,” 54).

Bryant Hinckley family

Bryant and Ada Hinckley with their children, Sylvia, Gordon, Sherman, Ruth, and Ramona, about 1928

The Hinckley Family Valued Learning in the Home [15.6]

Both of Gordon B. Hinckley’s parents were educators, and they wanted to give their children the best opportunities to learn. The family had a room in their home that held more than a thousand books for the family to read.

“Ada had been an exceptional student, and she expected the same of her children. For years Gordon treasured a small Webster’s Handy Dictionary that carried the inscription, ‘Ada Bitner Reward for Excellence, 1889.’ Books and education were important to Bryant as well, and he had converted one of the large rooms in their home to a library that could be closed off for studying. Its bookshelves were filled with more than a thousand volumes” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 30).

Years later, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke fondly of the family home library:

“When I was a boy we lived in a large old house. One room was called the library. It had a solid table and a good lamp, three or four comfortable chairs with good light, and books in cases that lined the walls. There were many volumes—the acquisitions of my father and mother over a period of many years.

“We were never forced to read them, but they were placed where they were handy and where we could get at them whenever we wished.

“There was quiet in that room. It was understood that it was a place to study.

“There were also magazines—the Church magazines and two or three other good magazines. There were books of history and literature, books on technical subjects, dictionaries, a set of encyclopedias, and an atlas of the world. There was no television, of course, at that time. Radio came along while I was growing up. But there was an environment, an environment of learning. I would not have you believe that we were great scholars. But we were exposed to great literature, great ideas from great thinkers, and the language of men and women who thought deeply and wrote beautifully” (“The Environment of Our Homes,” Ensign, June 1985, 4).

His Parents Expected the Best from Their Children [15.7]

Bryant S. Hinckley

Bryant S. Hinckley (1867–1961), father of Gordon B. Hinckley

“Ironically, for all the emphasis among the Hinckleys on literature and learning, as a young boy Gordon did not like school. At age six, when he should have started first grade, he hid from his parents on the first day of school. Because he was a small child with delicate health, Bryant and Ada decided he might do better the following year attending with his [younger brother] Sherman.

“When the first day of school arrived a year later, Gordon ran laps around the house in an attempt to avoid his mother, but Ada prevailed. … It wasn’t long before Gordon joined his age group in the second grade” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 30–31). It wasn’t until high school that Gordon’s attitude changed dramatically.

His parents always encouraged him and the other children to do their best and certain standards and behavior were always expected. They were not strict disciplinarians, but they had a way of communicating what was expected. If needed, they assigned extra chores to those children who needed encouragement. On one occasion, in the first grade, “after a particularly rough day at school, Gordon returned home, threw his books on the table as he walked through the kitchen, and let out an expletive. Ada, shocked at his language, explained that under no circumstances would those words ever come out of his mouth again and led Gordon to the bathroom, where she generously coated a clean washcloth with soap and rubbed it around his tongue and teeth. He sputtered and fumed and felt like swearing again, but resisted the urge” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 33). He later said: “The lesson was worthwhile. I think I can say that I have tried to avoid using the name of the Lord in vain since that day. I am grateful for that lesson” (“Take Not the Name of God in Vain,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 46).

He Received a Patriarchal Blessing [15.8]

Gordon B. Hinckley, age 12

Gordon B. Hinckley, about 12 years old

In 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of his patriarchal blessing:

“I had a patriarchal blessing when I was a little boy, eleven years of age. A convert to the Church [Thomas E. Callister] who had come from England, who was our patriarch, laid his hands upon my head and gave me a blessing. I think I never read that blessing until I was on the boat coming over to England in 1933. I took it out of my trunk and read it carefully, and I read it every now and again while I was on my mission in England.

“I don’t want to tell you everything in that blessing, but that man spoke with a prophetic voice. He said, among other things, that I would lift my voice in testimony of the truth in the nations of the earth. When I was released from my mission, I spoke in London in a testimony meeting in the Battersea Town Hall. The next Sunday I spoke in Berlin. The next Sunday I spoke in Paris. The next Sunday I spoke in Washington, D. C. I came home tired and weak and thin and weary, … and I said, ‘I’ve had it. I’ve traveled as far as I want to travel. I never want to travel again.’ And I thought I had fulfilled that blessing. I had spoken in four of the great capitals of the world—London, Berlin, Paris, and Washington, D. C. I thought I had fulfilled that part of that blessing.

“I say with gratitude and in a spirit of testimony … that it has since been my privilege, out of the providence and goodness of the Lord, to bear testimony of this work and of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith in all of the lands of Asia—nearly, at least—Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, what have you. I have testified in Australia, New Zealand, the islands of the Pacific, the nations of Europe, all of the nations of South America, and all of the nations of the Orient in testimony of the divinity of this work” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 422–23).

He Received a Strong Testimony of Joseph Smith [15.9]

Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley shared an experience he had as a young boy, when he came to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet:

“Many years ago when at the age of twelve I was ordained a deacon, my father, who was president of our stake, took me to my first stake priesthood meeting. In those days these meetings were held on a week night. I recall that we went to the Tenth Ward building in Salt Lake City, Utah. He walked up to the stand, and I sat on the back row, feeling a little alone and uncomfortable in that hall filled with strong men who had been ordained to the priesthood of God. The meeting was called to order, the opening song was announced, and—as was then the custom—we all stood to sing. There were perhaps as many as four hundred there. Together these men lifted their strong voices, some with the accents of the European lands from which they had come as converts, all singing these words with a great spirit of conviction and testimony:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

[Hymns, no. 27.]

“They were singing of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and as they did so there came into my heart a great surge of love for and belief in the mighty Prophet of this dispensation. In my childhood I had been taught much of him in meetings and classes in our ward as well as in our home; but my experience in that stake priesthood meeting was different. I knew then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God.

“It is true that during the years which followed there were times when that testimony wavered somewhat, particularly in the seasons of my undergraduate university work. However, that conviction never left me entirely; and it has grown stronger through the years, partly because of the challenges of those days which compelled me to read and study and make certain for myself” (“Praise to the Man,” Ensign, Aug. 1983, 2).

Gordon B. Hinckley as youth

Gordon B. Hinckley

There Wasn’t Enough Room at the Junior High School [15.10]

President Gordon B. Hinckley shared the following experience from when he entered junior high school:

“The [junior high school] building could not accommodate all the students, so our class of the seventh grade was sent back to the [elementary school].

“We were insulted. We were furious. We’d spent six unhappy years in that building, and we felt we deserved something better. The boys of the class all met after school. We decided we wouldn’t tolerate this kind of treatment. We were determined we’d go on strike.

“The next day we did not show up. But we had no place to go. We couldn’t stay home because our mothers would ask questions. We didn’t think of going downtown to a show. We had no money for that. We didn’t think of going to the park. We were afraid we might be seen by Mr. Clayton, the truant officer. We didn’t think of going out behind the school fence and telling shady stories because we didn’t know any. We’d never heard of such things as drugs or anything of the kind. We just wandered about and wasted the day.

“The next morning, the principal, Mr. Stearns, was at the front door of the school to greet us. His demeanor matched his name. He said some pretty straightforward things and then told us that we could not come back to school until we brought a note from our parents. That was my first experience with a lockout. Striking, he said, was not the way to settle a problem. We were expected to be responsible citizens, and if we had a complaint, we could come to the principal’s office and discuss it.

“There was only one thing to do, and that was to go home and get the note.

“I remember walking sheepishly into the house. My mother asked what was wrong. I told her. I said that I needed a note. She wrote a note. It was very brief. It was the most stinging rebuke she ever gave me. It read as follows:

“‘Dear Mr. Stearns,

“‘Please excuse Gordon’s absence yesterday. His action was simply an impulse to follow the crowd.’

“She signed it and handed it to me.

“I walked back over to school and got there about the same time a few other boys did. We all handed our notes to Mr. Stearns. I do not know whether he read them, but I have never forgotten my mother’s note. Though I had been an active party to the action we had taken, I resolved then and there that I would never do anything on the basis of simply following the crowd. I determined then and there that I would make my own decisions on the basis of their merits and my standards and not be pushed in one direction or another by those around me.

“That decision has blessed my life many times, sometimes in very uncomfortable circumstances. It has kept me from doing some things which, if indulged in, could at worst have resulted in serious injury and trouble, and at the best would have cost me my self-respect” (“Some Lessons I Learned as a Boy,” 53).

His Faith Transcended His Doubts [15.11]

“Gordon graduated from LDS High School in 1928 and enrolled in the University of Utah that fall, just a year before the onset of the Depression. …

“As Gordon worked his way through the university and made the transition from dependence upon his parents to personal responsibility, he, like many of his peers, began to question assumptions about life, the world, and even the Church. His concerns were compounded by the cynicism of the times. …

“Fortunately, he was able to discuss some of his concerns with his father, and together they explored the questions he raised: the fallibility of the Brethren, why difficult things happen to people who are living the gospel, why God allows some of His children to suffer, and so on. The environment of faith that permeated Gordon’s home was vital during this period of searching, as he later explained: ‘My father and mother were absolutely solid in their faith. They didn’t try to push the gospel down my throat or compel me to participate, but they didn’t back away from expressing their feelings either. My father was wise and judicious and was not dogmatic. He had taught university students and appreciated young people along with their points of view and difficulties. He had a tolerant, understanding attitude and was willing to talk about anything I had on my mind.’

“Underneath Gordon’s questions and critical attitude lay a thread of faith that had been long in the weaving. Little by little, despite his questions and doubts, he realized that he had a testimony he could not deny. And though he began to understand that there wasn’t always a clear-cut or easy answer for every difficult question, he also found that his faith in God transcended his doubts. Since that evening many years earlier when he had attended his first stake priesthood meeting, he had known that Joseph Smith was a prophet: ‘The testimony which had come to me as a boy remained with me and became as a bulwark to which I could cling during those very difficult years,’ he said” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 45–47).

His Mother Died [15.12]

Ada Bitner Hinckley

Ada Bitner Hinckley (1880–1930), mother of Gordon B. Hinckley

Gordon B. Hinckley’s mother, Ada Bitner Hinckley died on November 9, 1930, when he was 20 years old. Speaking of his mother’s death, he said:

“At the age of fifty, she developed cancer. [My father] was solicitous of her every need. I recall our family prayers, with his tearful pleadings and our tearful pleadings.

“Of course there was no medical insurance then. He would have spent every dollar he owned to help her. He did, in fact, spend very much. He took her to Los Angeles in search of better medical care. But it was to no avail.

“That was sixty-two years ago, but I remember with clarity my brokenhearted father as he stepped off the train and greeted his grief-stricken children. We walked solemnly down the station platform to the baggage car, where the casket was unloaded and taken by the mortician. We came to know even more about the tenderness of our father’s heart. This has had an effect on me all of my life.

“I also came to know something of death—the absolute devastation of children losing their mother—but also of peace without pain, and the certainty that death cannot be the end of the soul” (“Some Lessons I Learned as a Boy,” 54).

He Served a Full-Time Mission in England [15.13]

After graduating from the University of Utah in 1932, Gordon B. Hinckley intended to enroll at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City, but the Lord had other plans for him. “On a Sunday afternoon not long before his twenty-third birthday, Gordon was invited to Bishop Duncan’s home. The bishop got right to the point: Had he thought of serving a mission? He was shocked. In those days of depression, missionary service was the exception rather than the rule. The distressing financial future had made the burden of supporting a missionary virtually impossible for most families; indeed, few missionaries were even being called. Nevertheless, as soon as his bishop raised the subject, he knew what his answer must be: he told Bishop Duncan he would go.

“The reality of financing the mission loomed, however. Bryant assured his son they would find a way, and Sherman [Gordon’s younger brother] volunteered to help. Gordon planned to devote the modest savings he had accumulated for graduate school. Unfortunately, not long after he committed to go, the bank where he had established his savings account failed and he lost everything. But some time later the family discovered that for years Ada had nurtured a small savings account with the coins she received in change when buying groceries and had earmarked the fund for her sons’ missionary service. Gordon was overwhelmed with his mother’s years of quiet sacrifice and prescient foresight. Even after her death she continued to support and sustain him. More important was his mother’s example of consecration, and he considered sacred the money he received from her savings” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 56).

four missionaries

Elder Hinckley (second from right) with missionaries Angus Nicholson, Richard S. Bennett, and Ormond J. Koulam

He received his mission call to the European Mission, with headquarters in London, England. Elder Hinckley traveled to England on a ship that docked at Plymouth the night of July 1, 1933. The next day he was assigned to go to Preston, Lancashire.

missionaries in England

Missionaries in England, May 6, 1935. Elder Hinckley is in the back row, second from the left.

As with many missionaries, he had his discouraging moments. His allergies bothered him from all of the June grasses that were pollinating at the time he arrived. Tears from hay fever were constant, and his energy and stamina were at an all-time low. Later Elder Hinckley recalled:

“I was not well when I arrived. Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged. I wrote a letter home to my good father and said that I felt I was wasting my time and his money. He was my father and my stake president, and he was a wise and inspired man. He wrote a very short letter to me which said, ‘Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’ Earlier that morning in our scripture class my companion and I had read these words of the Lord: ‘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.)

“Those words of the Master, followed by my father’s letter with his counsel to forget myself and go to work, went into my very being. With my father’s letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service.

“That July day in 1933 was my day of decision. A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart. The fog of England seemed to lift, and I saw the sunlight. I had a rich and wonderful mission experience, for which I shall ever be grateful” (“Taking the Gospel to Britain: A Declaration of Vision, Faith, Courage, and Truth,” Ensign, July 1987, 7).

Gordon B. Hinckley speaking

As a missionary, speaking in Hyde Park, London, England, July 22, 1934

“No sooner had young Elder Hinckley thrown himself into the work in Lancashire than he received a letter calling him to London as a special assistant to Elder Joseph F. Merrill, a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and president of the European Mission.

“‘We didn’t baptize many people in London in those days,’ recalls mission companion Wendell J. Ashton, ‘but Elder Hinckley was a knockout in those street meetings on Hyde Park corner. I can promise you we learned to speak quickly on our feet. And Elder Hinckley was the best of the bunch. I have always thought that he gained tremendous firsthand experience there in London’s Hyde Park doing what he would so skillfully do for the rest of his life—defend the Church and speak up courageously of its truths. He was good at it then and he is good at it now’” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Ensign, June 1995, 8).

Gordon B. Hinckley with horse

On the East Creek farm, February 1936, soon after his mission

He Served on the Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee [15.14]

Gordon B. Hinckley

He served as executive secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee in 1935, where he wrote and developed many of the Church’s first public relations and visual materials.

After Gordon B. Hinckley’s mission, his mission president, Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve, asked him to report to President Heber J. Grant and the First Presidency concerning the publication of missionary materials. “A new committee of the Twelve was organized to bring to missionary work the power of the latest means of communication. Brother Hinckley was to serve as producer and secretary for the Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. This was, in fact, the beginning of the Public Communications Office in the Church. His plans to go to Columbia University would be put aside. His career as a seminary teacher, for he taught half-time when he returned from his mission, would be replaced. The committee included six members of the Twelve, with Elder Stephen L Richards as chairman” (Packer, “President Hinckley: First Counselor,” 5).

Gordon B. Hinckley and Joseph Fielding Smith

With President Joseph Fielding Smith, reading the booklet Truth Restored, which Gordon B. Hinckley had written

He Married Marjorie Pay [15.15]

Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Marjorie Pay

Gordon B. Hinckley and Marjorie Pay had been courting each other before his mission and had become good friends. She was excited to hear of his call and encouraged him to serve. “‘Marjorie was “the girl next door” when we were growing up,’ recalls President Hinckley’s younger sister Ramona H. Sullivan, ‘only in this case it was the girl across the street. And she was very pretty. The thing I remember most about Marge in those early years is how polished and impressive she was, even as a young girl, in giving readings and performances in the meetings and activities of our old First Ward. All the other kids would just sort of stand up and mumble through something, but Marjorie was downright professional. She had all of the elocution and all of the movements. I still remember those readings she gave.’

“Although they didn’t start dating seriously until after he was home from his mission, it was one of those very youthful readings Marjorie Pay gave which first caught his attention. ‘I saw her first in Primary,’ President Hinckley says with a laugh. ‘She gave a reading. I don’t know what it did to me, but I never forgot it. Then she grew older into a beautiful young woman, and I had the good sense to marry her’” (Holland, “President Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave,” 10–11).

Prior to her marriage to Gordon B. Hinckley, Marjorie made the following observations about her future husband: “‘As we got closer to marriage, I felt completely confident that Gordon loved me. But I also knew somehow that I would never come first with him. I knew I was going to be second in his life and that the Lord was going to be first. And that was okay.’

“Such a realization might well have discouraged some other brides-to-be, but Marjorie was unruffled. ‘It seemed to me that if you understood the gospel and the purpose of our being here, you would want a husband who put the Lord first. I felt secure knowing he was that kind of man,’ she explained” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 114–15).

There Was a Period of Adjustment to Marriage [15.16]

“While he continued to learn more about the administration of the Church, Gordon was also finding there was plenty to keep him occupied at home as he and Marjorie adjusted to living with each other. And there were adjustments. Shortly after they had announced their engagement, Emma Marr Petersen, Mark E. Petersen’s wife, had warned Marjorie that the first ten years of marriage would be the hardest. Her comment both puzzled and shocked Marjorie, who later admitted: ‘I was just sure the first ten years would be bliss. But during our first year together I discovered she was dead right! There were a lot of adjustments. Of course, they weren’t the kind of thing you ran home to mother about. But I cried into my pillow now and again. The problems were almost always related to learning to live on someone else’s schedule and to do things someone else’s way. We loved each other, there was no doubt about that. But we also had to get used to each other. I think every couple has to get used to each other’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 118).

He Was Called to the Apostleship [15.17]

Elder Hinckley and President McKay

With President David O. McKay at the pulpit in the Salt Lake Tabernacle

For 23 years Gordon B. Hinckley had worked at the Church headquarters and had nurtured a close relationship with many General Authorities. In 1958 he was called to serve as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Early in the morning of September 30, 1961, he received a phone call from President David O. McKay asking him to come to his office as soon as possible.

“Less than an hour later the two men sat knee to knee and President McKay explained the reason for this early visit prior to that morning’s session of general conference: ‘I have felt to nominate you to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,’ he told Elder Hinckley simply, ‘and we would like to sustain you today in conference.’ The words took Gordon’s breath away, and he searched without success for a response. How could it be, that such a call would come to him? He had known, of course, of the vacancy in the Quorum. But never for a moment had he—or would he have—thought he would be called to fill it.

“President McKay continued: ‘Your grandfather was worthy of this, as was your father. And so are you.’ With these words, Elder Hinckley’s composure crumbled, for there was no compliment the prophet could have paid him that would have meant more. ‘Tears began to fill my eyes as President McKay looked at me with those piercing eyes of his and spoke to me of my forebears,’ he remembered. ‘My father was a better man than I have ever been, but he didn’t have the opportunities I have had. The Lord has blessed me with tremendous opportunities.’ …

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley

A newly called Apostle, September 1961

“In a letter he pecked out on his own Underwood manual typewriter, he wrote his missionary son serving in Duisburg, Germany. ‘I thought I would let you know that I have been called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,’ he told Dick. ‘I don’t know why I have been called to such a position. I have done nothing extraordinary but have tried only to do the best I could with the tasks I’ve been given without worrying about who got the credit.’ Dick said later, ‘I could tell from the letter that Dad was overwhelmed with it all. I myself was surprised with the news. The thought had never crossed my mind that he might be called into the Twelve’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 234, 236).

Hinckley family

Elder and Sister Hinckley with their children, October 1961

He Felt Humbled by the Call to Be an Apostle [15.18]

When called upon to bear his testimony following his call to be an Apostle, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley told those assembled at general conference that day: “I think I feel some sense of the burden of this responsibility to stand as a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ before a world that is reluctant to accept him. ‘I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.’ I am subdued by the confidence of the Lord’s Prophet in me, and by the expressed love of these, my brethren, beside whom I feel like a pigmy. I pray for strength; I pray for help; and I pray for the faith and the will to be obedient” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1961, 115–16).

Elder and Sister Hinckley

Elder and Sister Hinckley, April 1970

We Must Remember the Atonement of Jesus Christ [15.19]

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

“No member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of his trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at his flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of his heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced his hands and feet, the fevered torture of his body as he hung that tragic day, the Son of God crying out, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34.)

“This was the cross, the instrument of his torture, the terrible device designed to destroy the Man of Peace, the evil recompense for his miraculous work of healing the sick, of causing the blind to see, of raising the dead. This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit.

“We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us” (“The Symbol of Christ,” Ensign, May 1975, 93).

He Was Called to Be a Counselor in the First Presidency [15.20]

“Surely one of the most challenging moments came to the life of Gordon B. Hinckley when, in the summer of 1981, President Spencer W. Kimball called Elder Hinckley to serve as a counselor in the First Presidency. Although they were experiencing varying degrees of declining health, the First Presidency was ‘complete’ with President Kimball, President N. Eldon Tanner, and President Marion G. Romney still serving. Nevertheless, in a moment of clear revelatory inspiration and good health, President Kimball asked Elder Hinckley to join the First Presidency as ‘Counselor in the First Presidency’—an additional counselor, for which there was ample precedent in Church history.

Presidents Kimball and Hinckley

With President Spencer W. Kimball

“‘When I accepted President Kimball’s call to join them, I did not know exactly how I would function or fit in, and perhaps they did not at the time,’ says President Hinckley. ‘But the circumstances called for additional help, and I was more than willing to give it. I did not know whether it would be for a few days or a few months.’

“As it turned out, President Gordon B. Hinckley would never again leave the First Presidency of the Church. In 1982 President Tanner passed away, with President Romney moving to First Counselor and President Hinckley being sustained as Second Counselor.

“‘That was a very heavy and overwhelming responsibility,’ he recalls. ‘It was an almost terrifying load at times. Of course, I consulted with our brethren of the Twelve.

“‘I recall on one particular occasion getting on my knees before the Lord and asking for help in the midst of that very difficult situation. And there came into my mind those reassuring words, “Be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16). I knew again that this was His work, that He would not let it fail, that all I had to do was work at it and do our very best, and that the work would move forward without let or hindrance of any kind’” (Holland, “President Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave,” 12).

Presidents Hunter and Hinckley

With President Howard W. Hunter

While serving as counselor to Presidents Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra T. Benson, and Howard W. Hunter, President Hinckley observed the physical burdens they experienced in the latter part of their lives. There were times when he presided at meetings when the President or the other counselors could not attend because of poor health. The responsibility of leadership fell upon him for many decisions that kept the Church moving forward. He accepted the overwhelming workload humbly and prayerfully.

Elder Thomas S. Monson reflected on President Hinckley’s role during this unique period in the Church’s history: ‘President Hinckley found himself in a most challenging situation, because President Kimball was still the prophet. Even though a man may be impaired physically, he might not be impaired mentally or spiritually. President Hinckley had the unenviable task of not going too far too fast, but of going far enough. He always had the rounded ability and common sense to do what a counselor should do—that of never intruding on what belonged solely to the President’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 401).

In all, President Hinckley served for 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency.

President Hinckley in Tabernacle

Between 1981–85, he frequently presided at general conference alone.

He Affirmed the Fundamental Doctrines of the Church, Likening Them to Four Cornerstones of a Building [15.21]

President Gordon B. Hinckley declared the cornerstones of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Absolutely basic to our faith is our testimony of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who under a divine plan was born in Bethlehem of Judea. …

“He is the chief cornerstone of the church which bears his name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no other name given among men whereby we can be saved. (See Acts 4:12.) He is the author of our salvation, the giver of eternal life. (See Heb. 5:9.) There is none to equal him. There never has been. There never will be. Thanks be to God for the gift of his Beloved Son, who gave his life that we might live, and who is the chief, immovable cornerstone of our faith and his church.

“The second cornerstone—the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith. …

“This transcendent experience opened the marvelous work of restoration. It lifted the curtain on the long-promised dispensation of the fulness of times.

“For more than a century and a half, enemies, critics, and some would-be scholars have worn out their lives trying to disprove the validity of that vision. Of course they cannot understand it. The things of God are understood by the Spirit of God. There had been nothing of comparable magnitude since the Son of God walked the earth in mortality. Without it as a foundation stone for our faith and organization, we have nothing. With it, we have everything. …

President McKay and Elder Hinckley

Looking at the first Chinese copy of the Book of Mormon with President David O. McKay, January 1966

“The third cornerstone—the Book of Mormon. … It contains what has been described as the fifth Gospel, a moving testament of the new world concerning the visit of the resurrected Redeemer on the soil of this hemisphere. …

“… Hand in hand with the Bible, whose companion volume it is, it stands as another witness to a doubting generation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is an unassailable cornerstone of our faith.

“Cornerstone number four—the restoration to earth of priesthood power and authority. …

“In its full restoration, it involved the coming of John the Baptist, … and of Peter, James, and John, they who faithfully walked with the Master before his death and proclaimed his resurrection and divinity following his death. It involved Moses, Elias, and Elijah, each bringing priesthood keys to complete the work of restoring all of the acts and ordinances of previous dispensations in this the great, final dispensation of the fulness of times. …

“Each of these cornerstones is related to the other, each connected by a foundation of Apostles and prophets, all tied to the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. On this has been established his Church, ‘fitly framed together,’ for the blessing of all who will partake of its offering. (Eph. 2:21.)” (“The Cornerstones of Our Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 51–53).

Presidents Hinckley and Monson and President Ronald Reagan

President Hinckley with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and President Thomas S. Monson at a bishops’ storehouse, September 1982

He Encouraged Single Church Members to Use Their Talents [15.22]

Addressing a group of young people, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“It would be a beautiful world if every girl had the privilege of marriage to a good young man whom she could look upon with pride and gladness as her companion in time and eternity, hers alone to love and cherish, to respect and help. What a wonderful world it would be if every young man were married to a wife in the house of the Lord, one at whose side he would stand as protector, provider, husband, and companion.

“But it doesn’t work out that way in every case. There are some, who for reasons unexplainable, do not have the opportunity of marriage. To you I should like to say a word or two. Don’t waste your time and wear out your lives wandering about in the wasteland of self-pity. God has given you talents of one kind or another. God has given you the capacity to serve the needs of others and bless their lives with your kindness and concern. Reach out to someone in need. There are so very many out there.

“Add knowledge to knowledge. Refine your mind and skills in a chosen field of discipline. Never in the history of the world have women been afforded such opportunities in the professions, in business, in education, and in all of the honorable vocations of life. Do not feel that because you are single God has forsaken you” (“If I Were You, What Would I Do?” Brigham Young University 1983–84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches [1984], 11).

President Hinckley teaching a group

President Hinckley teaching

He Taught the Importance of Motherhood [15.23]

President Hinckley speaking

Speaking at general conference

In the September 1983 general women’s meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“To you women who find it necessary to work when you would rather be at home, may I speak briefly. I know that there are many of you who find yourselves in this situation. Some of you have been abandoned and are divorced, with children to care for. Some of you are widows with dependent families. I honor you and respect you for your integrity and spirit of self-reliance. I pray that the Lord will bless you with strength and great capacity, for you need both. You have the responsibilities of both breadwinner and homemaker. I know that it is difficult. I know that it is discouraging. …

“We sense, at least in some small degree, the loneliness you must occasionally feel and the frustrations you must experience as you try to cope with problems that sometimes seem beyond your capacity to handle. …

“Now to others who work when it is not necessary and who, while doing so, leave children to the care of those who often are only poor substitutes, I offer a word of caution. Do not follow a practice which will bring you later regret. If the purpose of your daily employment is simply to get money for a boat or a fancy automobile or some other desirable but unnecessary thing, and in the process you lose the companionship of your children and the opportunity to rear them, you may find that you have lost the substance while grasping at the shadow. …

“… I am satisfied that [our Father in Heaven] loves his daughters as much as he loves his sons. President Harold B. Lee once remarked that priesthood is the power by which God works through us as men. I should like to add that motherhood is the means by which God carries forward his grand design of continuity of the race. Both priesthood and motherhood are essentials of the plan of the Lord.

“Each complements the other. Each is needed by the other. God has created us male and female, each unique in his or her individual capacities and potential. The woman is the bearer and the nurturer of children. The man is the provider and protector. No legislation can alter the sexes. Legislation should provide equality of opportunity, equality of compensation, equality of political privilege. But any legislation which is designed to create neuter gender of that which God created male and female will bring more problems than benefits. Of that I am convinced.

“I wish with all my heart we would spend less of our time talking about rights and more talking about responsibilities. God has given the women of this Church a work to do in building his kingdom” (“Live Up to Your Inheritance,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 83–84).

President Hinckley greeting young women

Greeting a group of young women

Selfishness Is a Major Cause of Divorce [15.24]

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

“Why all of these broken homes? What happens to marriages that begin with sincere love and a desire to be loyal and faithful and true one to another?

“There is no simple answer. I acknowledge that. But it appears to me that there are some obvious reasons that account for a very high percentage of these problems. I say this out of experience in dealing with such tragedies. I find selfishness to be the root cause of most of it.

“I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

“Selfishness so often is the basis of money problems, which are a very serious and real factor affecting the stability of family life. Selfishness is at the root of adultery, the breaking of solemn and sacred covenants to satisfy selfish lust. Selfishness is the antithesis of love. It is a cankering expression of greed. It destroys self-discipline. It obliterates loyalty. It tears up sacred covenants. It afflicts both men and women.

“Too many who come to marriage have been coddled and spoiled and somehow led to feel that everything must be precisely right at all times, that life is a series of entertainments, that appetites are to be satisfied without regard to principle. How tragic the consequences of such hollow and unreasonable thinking! …

“There is a remedy for all of this. It is not found in divorce. It is found in the gospel of the Son of God. He it was who said, ‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ (Matt. 19:6.) The remedy for most marriage stress is not in divorce. It is in repentance. It is not in separation. It is in simple integrity that leads a man to square up his shoulders and meet his obligations. It is found in the Golden Rule. …

“There may be now and again a legitimate cause for divorce. I am not one to say that it is never justified. But I say without hesitation that this plague among us, which seems to be growing everywhere, is not of God, but rather is the work of the adversary of righteousness and peace and truth” (“What God Hath Joined Together,” Ensign, May 1991, 73–74).

Marriage Should Be an Eternal Partnership [15.25]

anniversary cake

President and Sister Hinckley celebrating a wedding anniversary

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“I am satisfied that God our Eternal Father does not love His daughters less than He loves His sons. Under the gospel plan the wife walks neither ahead nor behind her husband, but at his side in a true companionship before the Lord.

“I see my own companion of fifty-two years. Is her contribution less acceptable before the Lord than is mine? I am satisfied it is not. She has walked quietly at my side, sustained me in my responsibilities, reared and blessed our children, served in many capacities in the Church, and spread an unmitigated measure of cheer and goodness wherever she has gone. The older I grow the more I appreciate—yes, the more I love—this little woman with whom I knelt at the altar in the house of the Lord more than half a century ago.

“I wish with all of my heart that every marriage might be a happy marriage. I wish that every marriage might be an eternal partnership. I believe that wish can be realized if there is a willingness to make the effort to bring it to pass” (“Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 97).

Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley, March 1988

“I believe in the family where there is a husband who regards his companion as his greatest asset and treats her accordingly; where there is a wife who looks upon her husband as her anchor and strength, her comfort and security; where there are children who look to mother and father with respect and gratitude; where there are parents who look upon those children as blessings and find a great and serious and wonderful challenge in their nurture and rearing. The cultivation of such a home requires effort and energy, forgiveness and patience, love and endurance and sacrifice; but it is worth all of these and more” (“This I Believe,” Brigham Young University 1991–92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [1992], 80).

He Became President of the Church [15.26]

On March 3, 1995, President Howard W. Hunter passed away. President Gordon B. Hinckley, knowing the mantle would now fall upon him to preside over the Church, needed the Lord’s assurance and confirmation. He went to the Salt Lake Temple to seek the Lord’s will. There in the meeting room of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, behind locked doors, he read from the scriptures and reflected upon the Savior’s Atonement. He studied the portraits of the prophets of this dispensation and felt that they were encouraging him and that he would be blessed and sustained in his ministry. President Hinckley wrote:

“‘They seemed to say to me that they had spoken on my behalf in a council held in the heavens, that I had no need to fear, that I would be blessed and sustained in my ministry.

“‘I got on my knees and pleaded with the Lord. I spoke with Him at length in prayer. … I am confident that by the power of the Spirit, I heard the word of the Lord, not vocally, but as a warmth that was felt within my heart concerning the questions I had raised in prayer.’

“After his time in the temple, President Hinckley felt a measure of peace about what lay ahead. ‘I feel better, and I have a much firmer assurance in my heart that the Lord is working His will with reference to His cause and kingdom, that I will be sustained as President of the Church and prophet, seer, and revelator, and so serve for such time as the Lord wills,’ he wrote afterward. ‘With the confirmation of the Spirit in my heart, I am now ready to go forward to do the very best work I know how to do. It is difficult for me to believe that the Lord is placing me in this most high and sacred responsibility. … I hope that the Lord has trained me to do what He expects of me. I will give Him total loyalty, and I will certainly seek His direction.’ …

“President James E. Faust voiced a sentiment shared by many General Authorities: ‘I don’t know of any man who has come to the Presidency of this Church who has been so well prepared for the responsibility. President Hinckley has known and worked with every Church President from Heber J. Grant to Howard W. Hunter, and has been tutored by all of the great leaders of our time one-on-one in a very personal way’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 508, 510–11).

He Was at Ease with the Media [15.27]

First Presidency press conference

The First Presidency during a press conference near the statue of Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building

© 1995 Deseret News

President Gordon B. Hinckley’s early assignments in public relations gave him much experience with the media. His willingness to interact with the media gave the Church unprecedented opportunities to share the message of the Restoration with the world. His interviews on radio and television offered some people exposure to the Church for the first time.

President Hinckley and Mike Wallace

With television commentator Mike Wallace, while President Hinckley was being interviewed for a segment on the television program 60 Minutes, December 1995

“‘President Hinckley is helping to lead the Church out of obscurity,’ Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated. ‘The Church can’t move forward as it needs to if we are hidden under a bushel. Someone has to step out, and President Hinckley is willing to do so. He is a man of history and modernity at the same time, and he has marvelous gifts of expression that enable him to present our message in a way that appeals to people everywhere.’ …

“‘President Hinckley respects the media, but he is not afraid of them,’ explained Elder Maxwell, who witnessed his performance in similar settings. ‘And he has such a solid grasp of both Church history and facts about the Church today that he is not likely to be thrown by a question that he hasn’t already thought about or processed in his own mind. He is able to give answers of sound-bite length that are important. He is quick mentally and equal to the engagements that come up. And he doesn’t feel compelled to gloss over any of our shortcomings as a people. He doesn’t put forward any gilding or veneer. As a result, reporters respond to his genuineness. He has the capacity to connect with people from all stations and in that respect is eminently prepared to tell our story to the world’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 536, 546–47).

President Hinckley and Larry King

Being interviewed on the Larry King Live television show

© 1998 Associated News Press

We Believe in Christ [15.28]

First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in front of the Christus statue in the North Visitors’ Center on Temple Square, 1995

During a 1995 radio interview, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained: “We are Christians. No church in the world speaks up with a stronger witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world than does this Church, which carries His name—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And His gospel is the gospel we teach. And the spirit of love which we exemplify is the spirit in which we try to work” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley,  278).

Revelation Continues [15.29]

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Somebody asked Brother Widtsoe once, ‘When are we going to have another revelation? How is it that we haven’t had any revelations since the Doctrine and Covenants was compiled? How long has it been since we’ve had a revelation?’ Brother Widtsoe replied, ‘Oh, about last Thursday.’ Now, that’s the way it goes. Each Thursday, when we are at home, the First Presidency and the Twelve meet in the temple, in those sacred hallowed precincts, and we pray together and discuss certain matters together, and the spirit of revelation comes upon those present. I know. I have seen it. I was there that June day in 1978 when President Kimball received revelation, surrounded by members of the Twelve, of whom I was one at the time. This is the work of God. This is His almighty work. No man can stop or hinder it. It will go on and continue to grow and bless the lives of people across the earth” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 555).

He Explained the Need for the Proclamation on the Family [15.30]

President Hinckleywith children

Enjoying some time with children

In September 1995, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It was first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting. Before he read it, he said: “With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history” (“Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 100).

At a media luncheon and press conference in May 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley offered more insight on the need for the proclamation: “Why do we have this proclamation on the family now? Because the family is under attack. All across the world families are falling apart. The place to begin to improve society is in the home. Children do, for the most part, what they are taught. We are trying to make the world better by making the family stronger” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 209).

“God Bless You, Mothers!” [15.31]

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“The true strength of any nation, society, or family lies in those qualities of character that have been acquired for the most part by children taught in the quiet, simple, everyday manner of mothers. What Jean Paul Richter once declared of fathers is even more true of mothers—and I paraphrase it just a little to make a point—‘What a mother says to her children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity.’ …

“… I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass. …

“God bless you, mothers! When all the victories and defeats of men’s efforts are tallied, when the dust of life’s battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race. Its quality will depend on you” (Motherhood: A Heritage of Faith [pamphlet, 1995], 6, 9, 13).

President Hinckley with Saints in Africa

President Hinckley greets the Saints in Africa

© 1998 Deseret News. Do not copy

Young Women Should Become Well Educated [15.32]

Speaking to the Young Women of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I urge each of you young women to get all of the schooling you can get. You will need it for the world into which you will move. Life is becoming so exceedingly competitive. Experts say that the average man or woman, during his or her working career, can expect to have at least five different jobs. The world is changing, and it is so very important that we equip ourselves to move with that change. But there is a bright side to all of this. No other generation in all of history has offered women so many opportunities. Your first objective should be a happy marriage, sealed in the temple of the Lord, and followed by the rearing of a good family. Education can better equip you for the realization of those ideals” (“Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, 92).

President Hinckldywith young women

Enjoying some time with the young women of the Church

The Church Is to Be an Ensign to the Nations [15.33]

As Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley traveled more than 1,000,000 miles and spoke to Church members in more than 60 nations. Having traveled so extensively, he understood the pressures put upon Church members throughout the world. At the October 2003 general conference of the Church, he explained the position the Church and its members should play in the world:

“I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world. We have had placed upon us a great, all-encompassing mandate from which we cannot shrink nor turn aside. We accept that mandate and are determined to fulfill it, and with the help of God we shall do it. …

“We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator. We shall have the comfort of knowing that we are doing what He would have us do. Others may not agree with us, but I am confident that they will respect us. We will not be left alone. There are many not of our faith but who feel as we do. They will support us. They will sustain us in our efforts.

“We cannot be arrogant. We cannot be self-righteous. The very situation in which the Lord has placed us requires that we be humble as the beneficiaries of His direction.

“While we cannot agree with others on certain matters, we must never be disagreeable. We must be friendly, soft-spoken, neighborly, and understanding” (“An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 82–83).

President Hinckley and President George H. W. Bush

President Hinckley with U.S. President George H. W. Bush, July 1992

© Deseret News

“The Church Is Not Complete without Temples” [15.34]

model of temple

A builder of many temples; speaking with Elder W. Grant Bangerter

President Gordon B. Hinckley often spoke of the importance of temples:

“It has been my consuming desire to have a temple wherever needed so that our people, wherever they might be, could, without too great a sacrifice, come to the House of the Lord for their own ordinances and for the opportunity of doing vicarious work for the dead. …

“The Lord has blessed us with the means, through the faithful consecrations of the Saints, to do that which we ought to do and must do. This is the greatest era of temple building in all the history of the world. But it is not enough. We must continue to pursue it until we have a dedicated temple within reach of our faithful people everywhere” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 629).

“I believe that no member of the Church has received the ultimate which this Church has to give until he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the Lord” (“Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 49).

President and Sister Hinckley

President and Sister Hinckley

He Planned to Have 100 Temples by the Year 2000 [15.35]

During the nearly 13 years that President Gordon B. Hinckley served as Church President, he announced the construction of 79 temples. At the time of his death, he had personally dedicated or rededicated 95 of the 124 temples then in operation.

During the April 1998 general conference, President Hinckley announced the building of smaller temples and announced the plan to have 100 working temples by the year 2000:

“In recent months we have traveled far out among the membership of the Church. I have been with many who have very little of this world’s goods. But they have in their hearts a great burning faith concerning this latter-day work. They love the Church. They love the gospel. They love the Lord and want to do His will. They are paying their tithing, modest as it is. They make tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples. They travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats. They save their money and do without to make it all possible.

“They need nearby temples—small, beautiful, serviceable temples.

“Accordingly, I take this opportunity to announce to the entire Church a program to construct some 30 smaller temples immediately. … They will have all the necessary facilities to provide the ordinances of the Lord’s house.

“This will be a tremendous undertaking. Nothing even approaching it has ever been tried before. … This will make a total of 47 new temples in addition to the 51 now in operation. I think we had better add 2 more to make it an even 100 by the end of this century, being 2,000 years ‘since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh’ (D&C 20:1). In this program we are moving on a scale the like of which we have never seen before. …

“If temple ordinances are an essential part of the restored gospel, and I testify that they are, then we must provide the means by which they can be accomplished. All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it. The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the Church has to offer” (“New Temples to Provide ‘Crowning Blessings’ of the Gospel,” Ensign, May 1998, 87–88).

The 100th temple announced (though it was the 77th dedicated) was built in Palmyra, New York, near the Sacred Grove and the Smith family farm where Joseph experienced the First Vision. The Palmyra New York Temple was dedicated on April 6, 2000, the 170th anniversary of the organization of the Church (see Shaun D. Stahle, “A Day of Sacred Significance,” Church News, Apr. 15, 2000, 3, 6).

He Taught of Blessings That Come from Temple Worship [15.36]

President Gordon B. Hinckley often spoke of the blessings that come from regular temple attendance:

“Most of our temples could be much busier than they are. In this noisy, bustling, competitive world, what a privilege it is to have a sacred house where we may experience the sanctifying influence of the Spirit of the Lord. The element of selfishness crowds in upon us constantly. We need to overcome it, and there is no better way than to go to the house of the Lord and there serve in a vicarious relationship in behalf of those who are beyond the veil of death. What a remarkable thing this is. In most cases, we do not know those for whom we work. We expect no thanks. We have no assurance that they will accept that which we offer. But we go, and in that process we attain to a state that comes of no other effort. We literally become saviors on Mount Zion. What does this mean? Just as our Redeemer gave His life as a vicarious sacrifice for all men, and in so doing became our Savior, even so we, in a small measure, when we engage in proxy work in the temple, become as saviors to those on the other side who have no means of advancing unless something is done in their behalf by those on earth.

“And so, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to take greater advantage of this blessed privilege. It will refine your natures. It will peel off the selfish shell in which most of us live. It will literally bring a sanctifying element into our lives and make us better men and better women” (“Closing Remarks,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 104–5).

“I am satisfied that if our people would attend the temple more, … there would be less absence of love in their relationships. There would be more fidelity on the part of husbands and wives. There would be more love and peace and happiness in the homes of our people. There would come into the minds of the Latter-day Saints an increased awareness of their relationship to God our Eternal Father and of the need to work a little harder at the matter of living as sons and daughters of God.

“While the temples are generally busy, there is not a temple in the entire Church that cannot accommodate many more than are now using these beautiful and dedicated facilities” (“News of the Church,” Ensign, May 1984, 99–100).

The Conference Center Was Built [15.37]

Conference Center

During the April 1996 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that the Church would build a new assembly building. The new building would be much larger than the Tabernacle, which seats about 6,000 people, and would better accommodate more of those who wanted to attend general conference. The groundbreaking ceremony for the facility was July 24, 1997, and the enormous building was completed in three years. The newly constructed Conference Center was designed to seat more than 21,000 people and is used for many other Church and community events.

During the first general conference held in the newly completed Conference Center, in April 2000, President Hinckley said:

“We are grateful for the enthusiasm of the Latter-day Saints concerning this new meeting place. I hope that enthusiasm will continue and that we shall have a full house at every conference in the future.

“This is the newest in a series of meeting places constructed by our people. When first they came to this valley they built a bowery. It shaded them from the sun but provided no warmth and very little comfort. Then they built the old Tabernacle. That was followed by the new Tabernacle, which has served us so very well for more than 130 years.

“Now in this historic season, when we mark the birth of a new century and the beginning of a new millennium, we have built this new and wonderful Conference Center. …

“The building of this structure has been a bold undertaking. We worried about it. We prayed about it. We listened for the whisperings of the Spirit concerning it. And only when we felt the confirming voice of the Lord did we determine to go forward” (“To All the World in Testimony,” Ensign, May 2000, 4–5).

group of leaders

Reviewing the Church’s program of humanitarian aid

© 1998 Deseret News

Pornography Enslaves [15.38]

Among President Gordon B. Hinckley’s warnings about pornography, he wrote:

“Pornography, which is a seedbed for more blatant immorality, is no longer regarded as back-alley fare. In too many homes and lives, it is now regarded as a legitimate slice of entertainment. Pornography robs its victims of self-respect and of an appreciation of the beauties of life. It tears down those who indulge and pulls them into a slough of evil thoughts and possibly evil deeds. It seduces, destroys, and distorts the truth about love and intimacy. It is more deadly than a foul disease. Pornography is as addictive and self-destructive as illicit drugs, and it literally destroys the personal relationships of those who become its slaves.

“Not one of us can afford to partake of this rubbish. We cannot risk the damage it does to the most precious of relationships—marriage—and to other interactions within the family. We cannot risk the effect it will have on our spirit and soul. Salacious videotapes, 900 telephone numbers, the filth found on the Internet, sensual magazines and movies—all are traps to be avoided like the deadliest of plagues” (Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes [2000], 36–37).

He Prayed for the Youth of the Church [15.39]

President Hinckley in Chile

Visiting with the youth in Chile, 1969

During a worldwide satellite broadcast, President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled the youth of the Church to do six things:

  1. 1.

    Be grateful.

  2. 2.

    Be smart.

  3. 3.

    Be clean.

  4. 4.

    Be true.

  5. 5.

    Be humble.

  6. 6.

    Be prayerful.

At the conclusion of his address, President Hinckley offered the following prayer and blessing upon the youth of the Church:

“O God, our Eternal Father, as Thy servant I bow before Thee in prayer in behalf of these young people scattered over the earth who are gathered tonight in assemblies everywhere. Please smile with favor upon them. Please listen to them as they lift their voices in prayer unto Thee. Please lead them gently by the hand in the direction they should follow.

“Please help them to walk in paths of truth and righteousness and keep them from the evils of the world. Bless them that they shall be happy at times and serious at times, that they may enjoy life and drink of its fulness. Bless them that they may walk acceptably before Thee as Thy cherished sons and daughters. Each is Thy child with capacity to do great and noble things. Keep them on the high road that leads to achievement. Save them from the mistakes that could destroy them. If they have erred, forgive their trespasses and lead them back to ways of peace and progress. For these blessings I humbly pray with gratitude for them and invoke Thy blessings upon them with love and affection, in the name of Him who carries the burdens of our sins, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 11).

Elder Hinckley in China

Elder Hinckley visiting Mainland China, May 1980

Salt Lake City Hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics [15.40]

From February 8–24, Salt Lake City welcomed the world by hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. It was a much anticipated event, with more than seven years of planning going into it. Thousands of volunteers gave the world exposure to the hospitality of Utah residents and did much to build relationships with nations of the world. It was “a time when people of all nations came to Salt Lake City, some with suspicions and prejudices, and left with appreciation and respect” (Sarah Jane Weaver, “Olympics Earn Friends and Respect for Church,” Church News, Mar. 2, 2002, 3).

Temple Square

The Salt Lake Temple, with the Church Office Building (far right) decorated for the Olympics with a banner of an ice skater

Afterward, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “‘I think we will be pleased and benefit from [the Olympics] not only abroad but right here at home in the great relationships we’ve had in this season putting on these world games.’ …

“The Olympics, he said, bring out excellence in athletics and people. ‘It’s a wonderful thing that someone becomes the best in the entire world in that particular type of event. This matter of excellence is such a wonderful thing. The Olympics were designed to cultivate that. What a great thing that was. With all that, you had the fellowship, friendship, appreciation, respect and good feeling. I don’t know how we could have done any better.’

“One benefit of the Games, he said, was people getting to know Church members and tasting of their hospitality and service. ‘We’re a part of this community. We had so very many volunteers who gave unselfishly there. We’re friendly, hospitable and gracious. I think the whole world saw us as we are, and I think they came to appreciate and respect us.’ …

“Concluding, President Hinckley shared his love for all the world’s people—many of whom visited Utah during the Games. ‘I love people,’ he said. ‘I think I love all people. I recognize that all men and women are the sons and daughters of God and that as such all of us are brothers and sisters in a very real sense. You cannot have fatherhood without brotherhood. That’s the way I feel.’ …

“‘I’m glad it’s behind us, that it went so well, and I’m looking forward to new opportunities,’ he said” (Weaver, Church News, Mar. 2, 2002, 3).

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple Was Rebuilt [15.41]

President Hinckley at Nauvoo Illinois Temple

President Hinckley applying mortar on the Nauvoo Illinois Temple

Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, President Gordon B. Hinckley’s grandfather, lived in Nauvoo as a young man when the original temple was being built, and he was part of the exodus west to escape the persecution and destruction of Nauvoo.

President Hinckley chose to have the first dedicatory session of the Nauvoo Temple on the 158th anniversary of the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum at Carthage Jail. “The first service began at 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time, which President Hinckley noted would have been 5  p.m. in Joseph Smith’s day. ‘At this hour 158 years ago in Carthage the murderous mob climbed the stairs, fired their pistols, and forced the door to the jail room,’ said President Hinckley as he recounted events leading to the martyrdom. …

“President Hinckley said that he felt the presence of the Father and the Son, ‘who have revealed Themselves to the Prophet Joseph who gave his life for this work. I think he must rejoice.’

“President Hinckley said that he felt the presence also of his grandfather (Ira N. Hinckley) who lived in Nauvoo as a young man, and of his father, Bryant S. Hinckley, who served as president of the Northern States Mission, which included Nauvoo. He expressed confidence that ‘so many of you feel your forebears are with us.’ …

“He commented on the vast number of people attending the dedicatory service in person and in designated meetinghouses throughout the world. In attendance at the temple were 1,631 members; proceedings were carried via satellite to approximately 2,300 locations in 72 countries. Of the congregation in the temple, he said, ‘I am sure there is a great unseen audience looking upon us, those who passed to the other side and see in the structure which we dedicate today a fulfillment of their hopes, their dreams, and some compensation for their tears and their indescribable sacrifices. They must have a profound love for us who have found it possible to create this magnificent building which stands as a memorial to them’” (Gerry Avant, “‘Crowning Objective of Joseph’s Life,’” Church News, June 29, 2002, 3–4).

Nauvoo Temple

Finding and Retention of Converts [15.42]

In a landmark address to priesthood and Church auxiliary leaders across the globe, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke regarding the need for Church members to be more active in missionary work, both in finding people to teach and in fellowshipping new converts, topics he addressed frequently:

“The number of member referrals has declined in many areas because the matter does not receive attention. For instance, in the United States and Canada 42 percent of investigators came from member referrals in 1987. By 1997 that number had dropped to 20 percent. A similar decline is found across the world.

“Now, brothers and sisters, this downward trend must be reversed. We need again to give this important matter its proper priority. The Lord will bless those who assist in this all-important work. …

“Great is our work, tremendous is our responsibility in helping to find those to teach. The Lord has laid upon us a mandate to teach the gospel to every creature. …

“Having found and baptized a new convert, we have the challenge of fellowshipping him and strengthening his testimony of the truth of this work. We cannot have him walking in the front door and out the back. Joining the Church is a very serious thing. Each convert takes upon himself or herself the name of Christ with an implied promise to keep His commandments. But coming into the Church can be a perilous experience. Unless there are warm and strong hands to greet the convert, unless there is an outreach of love and concern, he will begin to wonder about the step he has taken. Unless there are friendly hands and welcome hearts to greet him and lead him along the way, he may drop by the side.

“There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort. The two must be inseparable. … It is an absolute imperative that we look after those who have become a part of us. To paraphrase the Savior, what shall it profit a missionary if he baptize the whole world unless those baptized remain in the Church? (Mark 8:36). …

“I have said before, and I repeat it, that every new convert needs three things:

“1. A friend in the Church to whom he can constantly turn, who will walk beside him, who will answer his questions, who will understand his problems.

“2. An assignment. Activity is the genius of this Church. It is the process by which we grow. Faith and love for the Lord are like the muscle of my arm. If I use them, they grow stronger. If I put them in a sling, they become weaker. Every convert deserves a responsibility. The bishop may feel that he is not qualified for responsibility. Take a chance on him. Think of the risk the Lord took when He called you. …

“3. Every convert must be ‘nourished by the good word of God’ (Moro. 6:4). It is imperative that he or she become affiliated with a priesthood quorum or the Relief Society, the Young Women, the Young Men, the Sunday School, or the Primary. He or she must be encouraged to come to sacrament meeting to partake of the sacrament, to renew the covenants made at the time of baptism. …

“I am convinced that we will lose but very, very few of those who come into the Church if we take better care of them” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 107–9).

His Testimony of the Savior [15.43]

President Hinckley reading scriptures

A love of the scriptures

President Gordon B. Hinckley bore the following testimony of Jesus Christ:

“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 this Sabbath morning.

Jesus is my friend. None other has given me so much. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). He gave His life for me. He opened the way to eternal life. Only a God could do this. I hope that I am deemed worthy of being a friend to Him.

He is my exemplar. His way of life, His absolutely selfless conduct, His outreach to those in need, His final sacrifice all stand as an example to me. I cannot measure up entirely, but I can try. …

He is my teacher. No other voice ever spoke such wondrous language as that of the Beatitudes:

“‘And seeing the multitudes, … he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. …

“‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 5:1–10).

“No other teacher has ever offered the matchless counsel given the multitude on the mount.

He is my healer. I stand in awe at His wondrous miracles. And yet I know they happened. I accept the truth of these things because I know that He is the Master of life and death. The miracles of His ministry bespeak compassion, love, and a sense of humanity wonderful to behold.

He is my leader. I am honored to be one in the long cavalcade of those who love Him and who have followed Him during the two millennia that have passed since His birth. …

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. He has provided something better—a sphere of light and understanding, growth and beauty where we may go forward on the road that leads to eternal life. My gratitude knows no bounds. My thanks to my Lord has no conclusion.

He is my God and my King. From everlasting to everlasting, He will reign and rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. To His dominion there will be no end. To His glory there will be no night.

“None other can take His place. None other ever will. Unblemished and without fault of any kind, He is the Lamb of God, to whom I bow and through whom I approach my Father in Heaven” (“My Testimony,” Ensign, May 2000, 71).

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley