“President Hinckley Maintains Busy Schedule, Visits Two Continents,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 74–77
In a month that saw him celebrate his 86th birthday and visit two continents, President Gordon B. Hinckley continued to make it a priority to visit the Saints, sharing his testimony and urging Church members to remain faithful.
From 11 to 16 June, President Hinckley visited five European countries, speaking to members and missionaries, meeting with press and government representatives, and breaking ground for a new temple.
Milestone Visit for Spain Members
President Hinckley arrived in Madrid, Spain, on 11 June, the first visit to this country by a Church President. While in Spain, he attended a luncheon of local priesthood leaders, talked to missionaries in the Spain Madrid Mission, and spoke at the ground breaking for the Madrid Spain Temple.
Accompanying President Hinckley were his wife, Marjorie; Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, June; Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Seventy, President of the Europe West Area at the time, and his wife, Geneal; and Elder Francisco J. Viñas, a new member of the Seventy and the first native of Spain to serve as a General Authority, and his wife, Cristina.
“The temple is invested with a particular sanctity,” President Hinckley told the approximately 2,000 people gathered at the site in Mortalez, an area west of Madrid. “I promise you and the officials of Madrid that what is built here will be beautiful. We will build a temple, a stake center, and missionary training center, and some other facilities to accommodate the needs of our people. The structure will be beautiful, and the ground will be beautiful. This will be a hallowed and sacred place.”
President Hinckley urged those in attendance, who came from all over Spain and parts of France and Portugal, to begin to “set their lives in order, to live the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully, to show an increase of love in our hearts, in our families, and in all our associations. … The measure of our faithfulness will be the degree to which we live the gospel.”
After the site dedication prayer, President Hinckley and others participated in the ceremonial ground breaking, inviting a young boy and girl to take a turn with the shovel as well. As President Hinckley left the ground-breaking site, many members were visibly moved, some openly weeping, by the emotions they felt from this first visit of a prophet of the Lord to their country.
Belgium Members Hear of Restoration
The Church leader and those accompanying him then traveled to Brussels, Belgium, where they were met and welcomed at the airport by Ambassador Robert E. Hunter, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, and Alan John Clinken, U.S. ambassador to Belgium.
While in Brussels, President Hinckley met with full-time missionaries on the afternoon of 12 June and with about 1,500 area members that evening. Many members had arrived more than three hours early so they would have good seats for the meeting.
During his remarks, President Hinckley talked of breaking ground for the temple the day before and praised members for their faithfulness and for their love and prayers. He urged them to remember their responsibilities as members and spoke about four purposes of the Restoration, which are outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants: (1) that all men might be able to speak in the name of the Lord of the marvelous blessings that have come through the priesthood, (2) that faith might increase in the earth, (3) that the Lord’s everlasting covenant might be established, and (4) that the fulness of the gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and simple throughout the earth. (See D&C 1.)
Holland Members Urged to Be Rooted in Gospel
On 13 June President Hinckley traveled to The Hague, Holland, where he spoke in two different gatherings, one with full-time missionaries and the other with some 2,000 members at an evening meeting. The latter group represented members from all over Holland, as well as Flemish-speaking Church members from Belgium.
President Hinckley spoke briefly to the parents, asking them to “be true and faithful to each other as husbands and wives. Be grateful for your children; keep them close to you and rooted in the gospel.” He counseled priesthood holders to “never stoop to mean and tawdry things, to live up to the priesthood that you hold.”
To the youth he said, “You are the hope of the future; keep your roots in the gospel.” In counseling the young people to each look for a mate among the members of the Church, he said, “Your chances for happiness are much greater.”
He told all in attendance to obtain learning by study and by faith. “Education is the key to success in this life, and it will be a blessing for us in the hereafter. … [We need to] educate our minds and our hands to be productive; … we will be rewarded for doing so.”
Danish Members Challenged to Do Missionary Work
The Church President and his group arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 14 June to hold two meetings with local members from all over the country, as well as a third meeting with full-time missionaries serving in the area.
In his remarks, President Hinckley challenged the members to double their numbers. The prophet summarized the history of the Church in the country, mentioning the first missionary, Peter O. Hansen, who preached in this Nordic country. During those first few years, more than 26,000 people joined the Church, but virtually all of them immigrated to the United States. Membership in the country hovers around 5,000 and has not seen significant growth since the creation of the first stake in 1974.
“I believe you could double the membership of the Church here in five years,” President Hinckley told the members, who had formed long lines around the Copenhagen stake center while waiting for the meeting to begin. “I really believe that—if you would work and pray and pray and work and concentrate on doing it at every opportunity and go forward in faith and without fear.”
President Hinckley also bore testimony to the members gathered together and expressed his love and concern for them.
During his one-day stay in Denmark, President Hinckley visited the Frederiksborg Castle, situated north of Copenhagen and home to the famous Carl Bloch paintings. He also visited the Church of Our Lady, where he viewed Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s original Christus statue and the statues of the original Twelve Apostles.
“Strengthen Families” Is Message to Germany
President Hinckley wrapped up his Europe trip with a regional conference in Berlin, Germany, where he spoke twice in one four-hour priesthood leadership training meeting, addressed the full-time missionaries from two missions in the area, met with representatives of two of Berlin’s major newspapers, and spoke at the regional conference meeting for the general membership.
While meeting with reporters, President Hinckley was asked what his message for Germany was. “I would say to return to God and look to Him for guidance. … The world’s standards are slipping everywhere. Family life is crumbling. My message to the people is to strengthen your families. Have families with a mother and father, and children who are loved—a family who prays together to achieve a common good. … No nation can rise higher than its family life.”
During his remarks at the regional conference, President Hinckley mentioned this interview. He noted that he explained to the reporters that among the Church’s distinguishing characteristics are the unpaid lay ministry and the belief in modern revelation.
President Hinckley urged the youth in attendance to stay morally clean despite the filth of the world and to be true to their heritage. He told them they were youth of great promise. “I want to say to each of you: Be true to the tradition of your families concerning this the work of the Lord.”
In the Footsteps of the Savior
Immediately following the European trip, President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, journeyed to Israel, where they spent a week in the land where the Savior walked. While there, the Church leader visited Caesarea, site of Paul’s defense before Festus and King Agrippa; Dan, ancient Israel’s northern boundary; the ancient area of Megiddo; the area of Nazareth, where Jesus was reared; the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum, sites of many miracles; the area of the Mount of Beatitudes, where the Sermon on the Mount was delivered; the River Jordan, where the Savior was baptized; Jericho, whose walls fell at the shout of Joshua’s army; Masada, an ancient Jewish fortress; the Dead Sea; and Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
In the Jerusalem area, President and Sister Hinckley visited the traditional places of the Savior’s birth in nearby Bethlehem, Shepherds’ Field outside Bethlehem, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Upper Room, the Garden of Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Garden Tomb.
President Hinckley also spoke at a 21 June fireside at The Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. “Jerusalem is celebrating its 3,000th year,” he observed. “This is a tremendously significant place. It is unique. I suppose there is more history in Jerusalem than perhaps any other place on earth. …
“When we were at Gethsemane today, we went across the street into that garden and sat in the shade and read the scriptures. I think of His plea to His Father, when He sweat drops of blood in His agony. …”
The Savior asked if it were possible that there could be some other way, President Hinckley recounted. “I think it was more than the certainty of the Crucifixion that weighed on Him,” he continued. “It was His place in the whole eternal plan of God concerning the immortality and eternal life of man. It was the whole matter and purpose of the Creation of the earth, of the peopling of the earth, of the divine plan. …
“His great message was a twofold message of love and peace in an atmosphere of hatred and conflict. … There is nothing we can do that is more important than to listen to that which He has said, and follow it. If we are disciples of His, there cannot be conflict in our hearts, there cannot be jealousy, there cannot be meanness, there cannot be any of those things. We must stand a little taller, a little higher, and walk in the direction that He pointed.”
The day after returning home from Israel, 23 June, President Hinckley celebrated his 86th birthday by addressing newly called mission presidents and their wives (see accompanying story). He also spoke to members of Kiwanis International in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and attended a birthday dinner hosted by his grandchildren.
On Monday, 24 June, President Hinckley visited Cove Fort, a structure in south central Utah that his grandfather built in 1867, to speak to more than 15,000 people attending a family home evening fireside. Just outside the fort area, President and Sister Hinckley climbed into a buggy and rode to Cove Fort, leading a mile-long, 75-wagon Centennial Wagon Train, which was moving across Utah in celebration of the state’s 100th birthday.
“I don’t know of anything else that compares with the coming of our people to the valleys of the mountains,” President Hinckley remarked. “The boldness of bringing thousands of people to this mountain country when they had never seen it, except in vision, was an act of tremendous courage.”
President Hinckley shared several pioneer stories of faith and hardship and also recounted the story of his grandfather’s being sent by President Brigham Young to the area to build a fort. President Hinckley said he carries in his heart a great love for pioneers like his grandfather. “How much I want to live worthy of the inheritance that has been handed to us without cost or price of any kind [on our part],” he concluded. “Let us never forget the cost of our faith.”
A few days later, on 29 June, President Hinckley continued his participation in Utah centennial celebrations by rededicating This Is the Place State Park. Accompanying President Hinckley was his wife, Marjorie; President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances; and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth.
“This is a strikingly beautiful monument which stands behind us,” said President Hinckley. “It honors great events in the history of our beloved state.” Recounting briefly the history of the state, President Hinckley explained many of the symbols on the statue and their significance. He also noted that many of those who came in the early days left the area, “but the Mormon pioneers came to stay. They broke the hard, sunbaked soil. They developed modern irrigation practices. They platted a city, built homes, schools, public buildings, places for cultural expression, the great Tabernacle, and the magnificent temple. They established this city and literally hundreds of other communities up and down what is now Utah, as well as the first Anglo-Saxon settlements in California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and Wyoming.”
Also rededicated and reopened was Old Deseret Village, a “living history” facility at This Is the Place State Park, designed to recapture the feel and setting of pioneer Utah. A dozen new buildings have expanded the village to 26 structures.
“Make Something of Your Lives”
After rededicating the monument and village, President Hinckley traveled north to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he was given a Golden Plate Award and honored by the American Academy of Achievement for “exceptional accomplishment in the area of public service.”
While in Sun Valley, President Hinckley spoke to some 700 members of the Hailey First and Second Wards and the Sun Valley First Branch, Carey Idaho Stake, during a combined 30 June sacrament meeting. In his remarks, President Hinckley commented on his previous evening at the awards ceremony and challenged the youth in attendance to “make something of your lives. It isn’t enough just to exist; you must equip yourselves so that you can make a contribution to the society of which we are a part. I want to urge our youth to be hungry for education. Sacrifice for it, work for it, plan for it, and do it.”
The Church President also encouraged the young men to go on missions, promising them, “You’ll do wonders for those you teach and [serving a mission] will do wonders for you.” He also urged older couples to serve missions. “You’re needed out there,” he said. “I know it’s hard; it’s difficult, but it’s wonderful.” He shared experiences from his recent overseas visits and spoke of how valuable couples are in serving the Saints and strengthening the Church throughout the world.