“President Hinckley Visits U.S. President, Others during Busy Period,” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 74–75
President Gordon B. Hinckley recently met with U.S. president Bill Clinton at the White House in Washington, D.C. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles accompanied President Hinckley. U.S. vice president Al Gore was present. During the visit, ways to strengthen families were discussed.
“It is our feeling that if you are going to fix the nation, you need to start by fixing families,” President Hinckley explained to the media after the November 13 visit. “That’s the place to begin.”
During the thirty-minute White House visit, President Hinckley presented the president with a copy of the Church’s recent proclamation on the family, which calls for “responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102).
President Hinckley said that President Clinton was respectful and appreciative. “President Clinton has spoken a good deal about family values recently, and we discussed that and expressed our appreciation for what he has said,” President Hinckley observed.
As the two leaders talked, President Hinckley explained that “we advocate a program we call family home evening, reserving one night a week where father, mother, and children sit down together and talk, talk about the family and about one another and study some together,” President Hinckley noted.
President Hinckley also presented President Clinton with one volume containing six generations of his family history and several volumes containing the family history of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. A copy of each history was also prepared for the couple’s daughter, Chelsea.
The visit, which came at the invitation of President Clinton, renewed an acquaintance dating back to 1992 when Mr. Clinton, then a presidential candidate, visited Salt Lake City and met with the First Presidency. The last visit of a Church President to the White House was in 1986 when President Ezra Taft Benson called on President Ronald Reagan.
The evening before his White House visit, President Hinckley met with the full-time missionaries serving in the Washington D.C. North and South Missions.
“If each of you is the kind of missionary your mother thinks you are, then you are all right,” President Hinckley told the 347 missionaries assembled in the Oakton, Virginia, meetinghouse. He noted the often unseen results of missionary work and told the missionaries that “you never can foretell the consequences of your service. Don’t get discouraged.”
He also encouraged missionaries not to think in terms of how many people they baptize, but to focus instead on “the fact that I have had the opportunity of putting someone on a way of life that will bring happiness to him or her and that will have eternal consequences in his or her life and the lives of his or her posterity.”
Commenting on the large diplomatic community in the nation’s capital, President Hinckley told the missionaries that they are ambassadors for the Church. “Do you know what an ambassador plenipotentiary is?” he asked. “One with full powers and authority granted by his government to act in its behalf. That’s what you are. Each of us is an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ with authority given by Him to represent Him in this work of teaching the gospel to others.”
After the missionary meeting, President Hinckley hosted an informal reception with the Latter-day Saint members of Congress and their spouses. President Hinckley told those in attendance that his visit to the White House was “to express to President Clinton the fact that we pray for him as we do for all our elected representatives.” Those in attendance also received a copy of the proclamation on the family.
Following the White House visit, President Hinckley traveled to New York City, where he met and spoke to a group of corporate executives, media representatives, and heads of charitable organizations at a Harvard Club luncheon.
During his remarks, President Hinckley highlighted the growth of the Church, noting that only 17 percent of the Church’s membership now lives in Utah and that the Church is growing at a rate of approximately one million members every three and a half years.
President Hinckley also spoke about the Church’s welfare and disaster relief efforts. “We try to teach our people to be self-reliant and when they can’t take care of their own needs to enlist the help of their families and when those needs can’t be met by the families, then the Church moves in to help them.
“We have a great program that involves farm properties, ranching properties, and field properties where people can work and grow that which they eat,” he continued. “We have flour mills, grain storage, meat-processing plants. We operate ninety-nine storehouses, more than one hundred employment centers, forty-six thrift stores. In 1994 members donated the equivalent of 150,000 days of labor in such facilities to help those who are in distress and need. During the past ten years, the Church has provided disaster relief and reliance development in 109 countries. The value has exceeded $30 million per year in humanitarian gifts to those not of our faith in many parts of the world.”
President Hinckley also noted the Church’s emphasis on education and family relationships. He explained the Church’s seminary and institute programs and told of the Church’s extensive building program, in which about 375 buildings are under construction at any one time.
Memorial Service for Yitzhak Rabin
Earlier in the month, President Hinckley and his two counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, attended a memorial service held in Salt Lake City for Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated on 4 November 1995 during a peace rally in Tel-Aviv.
“We mourn with the people of Israel,” President Hinckley said in his remarks, which were made at the invitation of Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger of the Congregation Kol Ami. “We mourn with Jewish people throughout the world. We mourn with all who deplore murder, violence, and terrorism. … What an unnecessary and tragic thing this has been, and how great has been the loss, not only to Israel but to the entire world.”
Honor from the Railroad
Representatives from the Southern Pacific Lines Railroad company visited President Hinckley recently and presented him with a polished brass bell from a locomotive in gratitude for service rendered by President Hinckley during World War II for the line’s predecessors, the Denver & Rio Grande and Western Pacific Railroads.
From 1943 to 1945, President Hinckley worked first as assistant superintendent of the Salt Lake City Union Depot & Railroad Company and then as assistant manager of the mail, baggage, and express traffic department in Denver. “I think I can say I worked hard when I worked for the railroad,” President Hinckley said during the meeting with railroad officials. “I was fascinated with the transportation business. I was treated well by my supervisors and peers. It was a wonderful experience for me for which I have been grateful ever since. The D&RG has a warm spot in my heart.”
Jocelyn Mann Denyer, public affairs specialist, North America Northeast Area, and Michael R. Leonard, public affairs specialist, New York Office Public Affairs Department, reported on President Hinckley’s Washington-New York assignment.