“Elder Gordon B. Hinckley Called to First Presidency, Elder Neal A. Maxwell to Quorum of Twelve,” Ensign, Sept. 1981, 71–73
Within hours of their setting apart and ordination on Thursday, July 23, President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency and Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve stood before a press conference in the First Presidency’s conference room. They spoke in subdued tones of their love for the gospel and their dedication to the work of the kingdom.
On the day before July 24, when the state of Utah celebrates the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers, it was announced that Elder Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve had been appointed a counselor in the First Presidency. Elder Maxwell of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy had been called to fill the resulting vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve.
President Hinckley, 71, who has served in the Quorum of the Twelve since October 1961, joins President N. Eldon Tanner, first Counselor, and President Marion G. Romney, second counselor, in the First Presidency. Previously, President Hinckley had served as an Assistant to the Twelve from 6 April 1958 until his call to the Twelve. Elder Maxwell, 55, has been a member of the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy since its reorganization in 1976. Earlier he had served two and a half years as an Assistant to the Twelve.
“It is a privilege and an opportunity to be closely associated with President Kimball and his able counselors, President Tanner and President Romney,” said President Hinckley in response to his call. “I feel in my heart a great love for them, and if I can do anything to assist them in any way with the tremendous responsibility they carry, I will be pleased to be of help.”
He emphasized the broad scope of the gospel message. “The great work in which we are engaged is the work of God. Its mission and responsibilities are worldwide. Our message is the gospel of peace, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The dissemination of that message and bringing the power of that message into the lives of people everywhere is our charge and our responsibility—and to that task we devote ourselves.”
With President Hinckley’s call as a counselor in the First Presidency, that governing Quorum becomes the largest it has been since the late 1960s, when there were as many as six members at one time. In addition to President Hinckley, there have been twelve other men called as counselors in the First Presidency—beyond the traditional first and second counselors—since the Church was organized in 1830.
President Hinckley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, 23 June 1910, a son of Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley. He graduated in 1932 from the University of Utah, then served as a missionary in the British Isles from 1933 to 1935.
He was appointed in 1935 by President Heber J. Grant to serve as secretary of the Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee of the Church (a forerunner of today’s Public Communications Department of the Church). In this capacity he pioneered the use of filmstrips, moving pictures, and other audiovisual materials for Church use. He also wrote and directed numerous radio programs, world’s fair exhibits, and other related activities.
He married Marjorie Pay 29 April 1937 in the Salt Lake Temple. They are the parents of five children and twenty-one grandchildren.
Elder Hinckley was called to the Sunday School General Board less than two years after returning from his mission. He served in this capacity until 1946, when he was called as a counselor in the East Mill Creek Stake Presidency, later serving as president of that stake until called as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve.
In 1954 Elder Hinckley was assigned to prepare materials in various languages and methods of presentation for the Swiss Temple, which was dedicated in 1955. He set up this work in the Swiss, London, New Zealand, and Los Angeles temples, utilizing the procedures now employed in most temples of the Church.
During President David O. McKay’s administration, Elder Hinckley was given responsibility for the operation of the Missionary Department of the Church. In 1960, while serving as as an Assistant to the Twelve, he administered the work of the Church in Asia, serving in that capacity until 1967 when he was assigned the work in South America. After three years of supervising the work in South America, he was given responsibility for the work in Europe, then was reassigned supervision of Asia for an additional three years.
President and Sister Hinckley have traveled widely in fulfilling numerous assignments. In 1980 they accompanied the BYU Young Ambassadors on a tour of Mainland China; in May of 1981, again with BYU performing groups they visited Yugoslavia, Romania, and Russia.
In addition to his Church service, President Hinckley has served in numerous business and civic capacities.
Responding to his call as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Maxwell spoke quietly of commitment and fulfillment of prophecy. There is no way,” he said, “that one can feel any sense of adequacy about this calling. All one can do is to be willing to be tutored and trained; I certainly am willing to do that. I responded to this call immediately; I am pleased to play a small part in the kingdom.
“I take note of the fact that the Church, in this part of this dispensation, exists in a time when one of President Brigham Young’s prophecies is being fulfilled, in which he said as the Church grows and expands in the nation and the world, so also, in direct proportion, will the power of the adversary rise. So the high adventure that lies before us as a people and as a kingdom is difficult to assess. I hope in some small way that I can make a contribution.”
Elder Maxwell’s service as a General Authority began in April of 1974 when he was called to be an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. When the First Quorum of the Seventy was reorganized in 1976, he was called to the presidency of that body.
Prior to his Church callings, Elder Maxwell held a variety of administrative and teaching positions with the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, including executive vice president of the University. He had earlier served as a legislative assistant to United States Senator Wallace F. Bennett of Utah. He has served as director of several business firms and has been active in public service.
He has written a number of books and has authored many articles dealing with politics and government for national, professional, and Church publications.
A political science graduate of the University of Utah, Elder Maxwell also earned a master’s degree from that university. He was later awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Westminister College in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young University, and Utah State University in Logan.
Prior to his 1970 appointment as Church Commissioner of Education, Elder Maxwell had served the Church in a variety of positions, including bishop of Salt Lake City’s University Sixth Ward, member of the General Board of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, member of the Adult Correlation Committee, and Regional Representative. As a young man he served a two-year mission to Canada.
Born 6 July 1926, he is married to the former Colleen Hinckley. They are the parents of four children.