Lesson 44: Gordon B. Hinckley: Making Correct Choices

, "Lesson 44: Gordon B. Hinckley: Making Correct Choices," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


To help class members understand the importance of making correct choices while they are young.


Note: Assignments should be made in advance before this lesson.

  1. 1.

    Assign class members to report on the following nine stories. Small classes may need to have class members report on more than one story; large classes may have class members give reports together. Try to involve everyone.

    • Report 1: In the Tabernacle

    • Report 2: The North Star

    • Report 3: As a Missionary

    • Report 4: The Lessons at Home

    • Report 5: Signs of Danger

    • Report 6: Lessons from School

    • Report 7: A Lesson from Louie

    • Report 8: The Seventh-Grade Strike

    • Report 9: Father’s Model T

    If you think that assigning reports to class members will not work for your class, tell the stories yourself. Assign different class members to think about each story and then explain the lesson they learned from it and how they can apply the lesson in their lives.

  2. 2.

    If you decide to use the concentration game, prepare the board according to the example shown at the end of the lesson.

  3. 3.

    If it is available in your area, you may want to show selected portions of the videocassette Gordon B. Hinckley: Man of Integrity, 15th President of the Church (53503) before teaching this lesson. If you choose to show the videocassette, plan on using two weeks to teach this lesson about President Hinckley.

  4. 4.

    Prepare to show the picture of President Hinckley in the color section.

Suggested Lesson Development



Show the picture of President Gordon B. Hinckley. Share the following background information with the class members.

On 12 March 1995, ten days after President Howard W. Hunter’s death, President Gordon B. Hinckley was ordained and set apart as the fifteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Hinckley came to the Presidency of the Church well prepared. Correct choices made in his youth helped prepare him for this great responsibility. As a young man he had resolved to try to do what the Lord had commanded. This commitment helped him throughout his life to follow the pathway of obedience and service to his Heavenly Father.


  • Why was it so important for Gordon B. Hinckley to make these commitments when he was young?

  • As we begin a long trip why is the direction we first take so important?

  • How can this be compared to the counsel Alma gave to his son Helaman? (See Alma 37:35.)

Making Correct Choices While We Are Young

Ask the class members assigned to give reports 1, 2, and 3 to present them at this time (be sure to help those class members who need it). During the reports, list the example titles on the chalkboard. After each report discuss what we can learn from the story and how we can apply it to our own lives.

You may wish to summarize responses on the chalkboard as illustrated.

  1. 1.
  2. 2.
  3. 3.

Continue listing the main points of each story on the chalkboard.

In the Tabernacle

Report 1

President Hinckley said: “I recall sitting in the Salt Lake Tabernacle when I was fourteen or fifteen—up in the balcony right behind the clock—and hearing President Heber J. Grant tell of his experience in reading the Book of Mormon when he was a boy. He spoke of Nephi and of the great influence he had upon his life. And then, with a voice ringing with a conviction that I shall never forget, he quoted those great words of Nephi: ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them’ (1 Nephi 3:7).

“There came into my young heart on that occasion a resolution to try to do what the Lord has commanded. What marvelous things happen when men and women walk with faith in obedience to that which is required of them!” (“If Ye Be Willing and Obedient,” Ensign, July 1995, p. 2).


  • What is a resolution?

  • How can a righteous resolve help you make correct choices?

The North Star

Report 2

As a young man, President Hinckley worked on a farm during summers and on weekends and holidays. On that farm he grew healthy and learned to work. And there near the soil and close to nature his confidence in God grew like the hundreds of fruit trees and vegetable seeds he planted, tended, and harvested.

“‘After a day of good, hard labor, my younger brother Sherm and I would sleep out under the stars in the box of an old farm wagon,’ President Hinckley [recalled]. ‘On those clear, clean summer nights, we would lie on our backs in that old wagon box and look at the myriads of stars in the heavens. We could identify some of the constellations and other stars as they were illustrated in the encyclopedia which was always available in our family library. We identified some of the more visible patterns in the heavens, but our favorite was the North Star. Each night, like many generations of boys before us, we would trace the Big Dipper, down the handle and out past the cup, to find the North Star.

“‘We came to know of the constancy of that star. … As the earth turned, the others appeared to move through the night. But the North Star held its position in line with the axis of the earth. Because of those boyhood musings, the polar star came to mean something to me. I recognized it as a constant in the midst of change. It was something that could always be counted on, something that was dependable, an anchor in what otherwise appeared to me a moving and unstable firmament’” (“President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Ensign, June 1995, p. 5).

In his youth, Gordon B. Hinckley patterned his life after the constancy of the North Star. He wanted to be a young man that the Lord and others could depend on.


  • What was there about the North Star that President Hinckley wanted to imitate?

  • What are some of the standards of the gospel that will never change no matter what others may say or do?

As a Missionary

Report 3

Because Gordon B. Hinckley had determined to follow the Lord, his course led him to many experiences that prepared him for even greater things. As a missionary in England he faced some very challenging times. He was concerned about the money being spent to support him on his mission. He knew the sacrifice his father was making to help sustain him. He also remembered the little savings account his mother so faithfully kept before her death. This account had helped him be able to go on a mission. Somewhat discouraged, “Gordon wrote a letter to his father, saying: ‘I am wasting my time and your money. I don’t see any point in my staying here.’ In due course a gentle but terse reply came from his father. That letter read: ‘Dear Gordon. I have your letter [of such and such a date]. I have only one suggestion. Forget yourself and go to work. With love, Your Father.’

“President Hinckley says of that moment, ‘I pondered his response and then 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)’” (Ensign, June 1995, p. 8).


Perhaps you could stop at this point in the report and explain to the class that Christ was telling his disciples to forget themselves and think of others and bringing others the gospel.

Report 3 continued

“‘That simple statement, that promise, touched me. I got on my knees and made 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’” (Ensign, June 1995, p. 8).


  • In what ways can the decision to forget yourself and go to work help you at school? at home? in a job? as a missionary?

Learning Lessons While We Are Young

President Hinckley, who has always had a particular love for the youth of the Church, related the following experiences in a talk he gave on 3 April 1993.

Ask the assigned class members to give reports 4 through 9, discussing each one in turn.

The Lessons at Home

Report 4

“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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 68; or Ensign, May 1993, p. 52).


  • What lessons do we learn from hard work?

Report 4 continued

President Hinckley continued: “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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 68; or Ensign, May 1993, p. 52).


  • In what ways have you learned to work at your home?

Signs of Danger

Report 5

President Hinckley said: “[In my youth] we got sick … just as people get sick now. In fact, I think we did more so. In those early years the milk we drank was not pasteurized. We, of course, did not have an automatic dishwasher, except that it was our automatic duty to wash the dishes. When we were diagnosed as having chicken pox or measles, the doctor would advise the city health department, and a man would be sent to put a sign on the front window. This was a warning to any who might wish to come to our house that they did so at their own peril.

“If the disease was smallpox or diphtheria, the sign was bright orange with black letters. It said, in effect, ‘Stay away from this place.’

“I learned something I have always remembered—to watch for signs of danger and evil and stay away” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, pp. 68–69; or Ensign, May 1993, p. 52).


  • What are some of the danger signs we should observe today?

Lessons from School

Report 6

President Hinckley continued: “I attended the Hamilton School, which was a big three-story building. The structure was old and poor by today’s standards, but I learned that it was not the building that made a difference; it was the teachers. When the weather would permit, we assembled in front of the school in the morning, pledged allegiance to the flag, and marched in an orderly fashion to our rooms.

“We dressed neatly for school, and no unkempt appearance was tolerated. The boys wore a shirt and a tie and short trousers. We wore long black stockings that reached from the foot to above the knee. They were made of cotton and wore out quickly, so they had to be darned frequently. We learned how to darn because it was unthinkable to go to school with a hole in your stocking.

“We learned a lesson on the importance of personal neatness and tidiness, and that has blessed my life ever since” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 69; or Ensign, May 1993, pp. 52–53).


  • How can personal neatness and tidiness be a blessing to us?

  • Why do you suppose missionaries are asked to be well groomed and neatly dressed?

A Lesson from Louie

Report 7

President Hinckley told about one of his childhood friends. “The bane of my first-grade teacher’s life was my friend Louie. He had what psychologists today might call some kind of an obsessive fixation. He would sit in class and chew his tie until it became wet and stringy. The teacher would scold him.

“Louie eventually became a man of substance, and I have learned never to underestimate the potential of a boy to make something of his life even if he chews his tie” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 69; or Ensign, May 1993, p. 53).


  • Why should we be careful about judging others?

The Seventh-Grade Strike

Report 8

Another important memory for President Hinckley was the first day of seventh grade. “The next year we enrolled in junior high school. But the building could not accommodate all the students, so our class of the seventh grade was sent back to the Hamilton 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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, pp. 69–70; or Ensign, May 1993, p. 53).


  • What are the dangers of following the crowd and basing our decisions on what others do?

Father’s Model T


Display the picture of a Model T Ford as the report is being given.

Report 9

President Hinckley continued sharing his memories: “My father had a horse and buggy when I was a boy. Then one summer day in 1916 a wonderful thing happened. It was an unforgettable thing. When he came home that evening he arrived in a shining black, brand-new Model T Ford. It was a wonderful machine, but by today’s standards it was a crude and temperamental sort of thing. For instance, it did not have a self-starter. It had to be cranked. You learned something very quickly about cranking that car. You retarded the spark, or the crank would kick back and break your hand. When it rained, the coils would get wet, and then it would not start at all. From that car I learned a few simple things about making preparation to save trouble. A little canvas over the cowl would keep the coils dry. A little care in retarding the spark would make it possible to crank without breaking your hand.

“But the most interesting thing was the lights. The car had no storage battery. The only electricity came from what was called a magneto. The output of the magneto was determined by the speed of the engine. If the engine was running fast, the lights were bright. If the engine slowed, the lights became a sickly yellow. I learned that if you wanted to see ahead as you were going down the road, you had to keep the engine running at a fast clip.

“So, just as I’d discovered, it is with our lives. Industry, enthusiasm, and hard work lead to enlightened progress. You have to stay on your feet and keep moving if you are going to have light in your life. I still have the radiator cap of that old 1916 Model T. … It is a reminder of lessons I learned seventy-seven years ago” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 70; or Ensign, May 1993, pp. 53–54).


  • How did President Hinckley suggest we can have light in our lives?

Testimony and Challenge

Share your testimony of the role of the prophet and how blessed we are when we follow his righteous example by making correct choices when we are young.

Invite class members to also participate in expressing their feelings.

Additional Help

Concentration game and discussion

Prepare a concentration board by dividing the chalkboard into twenty-five squares. Write the following matching phrases in the squares. Cover them with numbered pieces of paper. (Each paper must be able to be lifted up to reveal the phrase written underneath it.) Divide the class into two teams. Have each team work together. Taking turns, the teams should try to find the matching phrases by uncovering two boxes at a time. If the phrases match, they are left uncovered and the team gets an extra turn. Discuss with class members how each phrase in the concentration game applies in their lives.