With love for the Lord and all people, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) dedicated his life to building up the kingdom of God on earth. Millions will miss and remember him. He charmed listeners with his sense of humor. He taught Church members to “be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful, a little more courteous.”1 He was inspired to build smaller temples throughout the world, bringing them closer to the members. During his presidency 125 temples were built. He participated in 95 temple dedications or rededications.
He served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 20 years, 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, and nearly 13 years (since March 1995) as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His prophetic voice guided a worldwide Church with more than 13 million members in 171 nations. But his testimony started simply.
Gordon B. Hinckley was born on June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of the first spiritual experiences he remembered happened when he was five. He had an earache that made him cry from the pain. To comfort him, his father gave him a priesthood blessing. The pain lessened and went away.
As a boy, he started the habit of praying next to his bed before going to sleep. He remembered “thinking of what I had just done in speaking to my Father in Heaven in the name of His Son. I did not have a great knowledge of the gospel. But there was some kind of lingering peace and security in communing with the heavens in and through the Lord Jesus.”2
After graduating from high school, Gordon went to the University of Utah, just as the Great Depression struck the U.S. economy. Factories and businesses closed; many people lost their jobs. Despite limited finances, Gordon continued his university studies. He studied journalism, English, Greek, and Latin.
After graduating from college, he had to decide if he would go on a mission. He and his parents knew it was important for him to serve, but during the Depression most young men couldn’t afford a mission. Fortunately, Gordon’s mother had started a savings account for his mission. She died before he got his mission call, but the money she had saved started him on his way.
Shortly after Elder Hinckley arrived in England, he got sick, and “it seemed that everyone was prejudiced against us,” he recalled. “Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged.” During this difficult time, he wrote a letter to his father, saying that he felt he was wasting his time and money.
His father sent back a short note: “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.”3 Elder Hinckley did just that: he stayed and worked hard.
During his mission, his testimony grew as he read the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. “That knowledge became the foundation of my life, standing on the footings of the answered prayers of my childhood.”4
Many years after his mission, President Hinckley testified, “Everything good that has happened to me since then is the result of having served a mission. That had greater effect upon my life in terms of giving me direction than any other experience of my life.”5 A few years ago, he said, “How grateful I am for the mission which I was on more than 60 years ago. … Going on a mission did something for me … that has value every day of my life. I would like to see every boy have the opportunity of a mission.”6
Two years after returning home from England, he married Marjorie Pay, who grew up living across the street from him. They were married in 1937 and had five children, 25 grandchildren, and 62 great-grandchildren. Sister Hinckley passed away in April 2004.
Let us remember what President Hinckley taught and stood for. He was a special witness for the Savior, His gospel, and His Church. President Hinckley taught us to be faithful, to stand a little taller, to be kinder family members. He taught us to help new members by being a friend, giving them a responsibility in the Church, and nurturing them with the Lord’s word. He encouraged us to follow the Savior’s commandment: “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? … Even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).