“President Hinckley Continues to Share Pioneer Message,” Ensign, July 1997, 74–77
In recent addresses to students, business leaders, members, and history buffs, President Gordon B. Hinckley continues to focus on the legacy of the Latter-day Saint pioneers.
Weber State University Institute Devotional
On 15 April, President Hinckley spoke to institute students at Utah’s Weber State University.
In answer to a question about the experience that had the greatest effect on the Church leader’s spiritual life, President Hinckley related this story from his mission: “I was not well and I got a little discouraged and I wrote home to my father and said, ‘I am just wasting your money and my time. I think I might as well come home and do vicarious baptisms.’
“He wrote me back a very short letter in which he said, … ‘I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’ About the same day I received that letter, we were reading in the scriptures and I read these great words: ‘He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ (Matt. 10:39). Between my father’s letter and that statement, I made a resolution which changed my whole attitude and outlook on life, and everything that has happened to me since then that is good I can trace back to that decision.”
BYU Management Society
On 17 April, President Hinckley addressed the BYU Management Society, Salt Lake Chapter, and talked about Church growth, training leaders in areas of Church growth, and Brigham Young as a great example of an effective leader.
“Brigham Young, of course, was never compensated as are chief executive officers today,” President Hinckley said as he outlined many of the pioneer prophet’s accomplishments. “But I do not know of any chief executive officer of these days whose reach covers as much as did that of Brigham Young in the establishment and development of these western communities. He was, as I have said, CEO extraordinaire.
“I stand in reverence as I contemplate the breadth of his interests. I think of the tremendous mark that he left behind as pioneer, organizer, statesman, and chief executive officer in moving forward a tremendous enterprise and above all as prophet of the Lord.”
Nauvoo, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska
In a flurry of activity in the Midwest, President Hinckley traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska, to participate in a variety of sesquicentennial events.
On 18 April, President Hinckley dedicated the Nauvoo Pioneer Memorial Park, an area on Parley Street from the Seventies Hall to the ferry along the Mississippi River, where the early Saints began their exodus west. Included in the park area is a memorial to approximately 2,000 Church members who died along the Mormon Trail between 1846 and 1868.
During his remarks, President Hinckley talked about what had been accomplished in Nauvoo during the seven years the Saints lived there, including draining swamps, platting streets, building homes, chartering a university, forming a military legion, and building a temple.
The Church leader then talked of the long journey west and the communities the early pioneers established along the way. “There is no other pilgrimage certainly in the history of this nation to compare with it,” said President Hinckley. “The remarkable thing to me is that they went to a place where no plow had ever previously broken the ground. … The miracle they accomplished is something I never quite get over.”
Just a few hours later, President Hinckley was in Omaha, Nebraska, where he met with media representatives and then dedicated the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters.
Again speaking of the early pioneers, President Hinckley remarked: “These were great people in whose footsteps we walk. They were men and women of courage and faith, of enterprise and great capacity to do what they set out to do.
“How thankful I am, how deeply grateful I am, how profoundly I feel a sense of gratitude for the pioneers who left here 150 years ago and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, and all those who followed them. … God be thanked for their faith.
“We come of great people, and whether we are of that stock or whether we have just come into the Church, we are all a part of that legacy of greatness, that exodus to greatness which occurred at the base of Parleys Street, where the first wagons moved down and crossed the Mississippi.”
The next morning, 19 April, President Hinckley bid farewell to the participants of a modern wagon train leaving to retrace the steps of the pioneers of 1847.
“That which you are doing is not going to be easy,” President Hinckley told participants, many dressed as the early-day pioneers might have been. “You have more than three months of long and difficult travel ahead of you.”
He urged these modern-day pioneers to “pray together and work together and be respectful of the desires and comforts of each other.”
Elko Nevada Regional Conference
On 20 April, President Hinckley spoke to more than 4,000 members gathered for the Elko Nevada regional conference. Again, his remarks focused on the sesquicentennial.
“That little handful that left Nauvoo 151 years ago has become a vast concourse that has spread over the nations,” he said. “We are now approaching a membership of 10 million people in about 160 nations. We are doing some wonderful things. I hope and believe we are doing the right things.”
President Hinckley briefly mentioned the Church’s emphasis on education, its family history library, the missionary program and missionaries, and the building of 350 new meetinghouses every year.
“There has come down to us a remarkable and wonderful inheritance of courage, of loyalty, of sacrifice, of love, of faith in the living God from those who have gone before us. As our past was great, let our future be even greater, brothers and sisters. … We must live above the cheap and tawdry things of the world. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have taken upon ourselves the name of the Redeemer of the world, and it becomes us to stand tall with a smile on our face and march forward into the future.”
Salt Lake Rotary Club Address
On 22 April, President Hinckley spoke at a luncheon for the Rotary Club of Salt Lake, where the Church was honored for its contributions to help eradicate polio around the world.
A letter, read during the meeting and signed by Rotary leaders from India and Argentina, said the Church’s donations were “the largest of any charitable organization in the world. … The support offered by your organization has moved us much closer to a polio-free world.”
“I don’t know of a better thing we could do than assist in this cause,” President Hinckley said. After accepting the honor, President Hinckley spoke on the pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley a century and a half ago. “This is a time of great celebration for all of us, members of the Church and those who are not members of the Church,” he observed. “All of us are the beneficiaries of what they did in laying the foundations of this city 150 years ago.”
President Hinckley mentioned the story of his grandfather, whose wife died on the westward trek, and then noted the difference in traveling today compared with 150 years ago. He also talked about the pioneer wagon train that is reenacting the three-month trek west and the celebrations that are scheduled for 24 July. “In more than a thousand communities across the world there will be celebrations commemorating this event,” he said. “Hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada will memorialize this great occasion. There will be parades in Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America, Mexico, even Hong Kong.”
“As we enter this great year of celebration,” he concluded, “I hope that we will all carry in our hearts some deep and sincere respect for Brigham Young and those who came with him to lay the foundations of this community. Regardless of our religious faith, regardless of where we come from, we owe them a very deep and solemn debt of gratitude.”
Potomac Virginia Regional Conference
On 27 April, President Hinckley addressed nearly 14,000 Church members from the eight stakes in the Potomac Virginia region. “We are the greatest society of friends on earth,” said President Hinckley, referring to the camaraderie of Saints around the world. “Wherever you go, if you are a Latter-day Saint you walk into a meeting and introduce yourself and you have friends. It is a wonderful thing.”
President Hinckley talked of the importance of gratitude for the many blessings of the Lord, including the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, priesthood authority, temple work, the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, the growth of the Church, and prayer. “I hope that never a day passes that you do not get on your knees and thank the Lord for his goodness to you,” the Church leader said.
On 26 April, President Hinckley spoke at a leadership training session for the stake leaders, where he focused his remarks on three areas: building the kingdom, blessing the people, and living the gospel.
President Hinckley spoke to more than 13,000 people at the 1997 BYU Women’s Conference fireside. He focused on pioneers, speaking of early women in the Church and honoring them for their courage and faith.
President Hinckley also spoke to today’s mothers: “Most of you and your associates who are married are now employed outside the home. That is a statistical fact. You feel you must do this if you are to provide a home, music lessons, and other costly and consuming things. … I wish it were otherwise. I wish every mother could be at home. I recognize that this is not possible.
“But I warn you against too fancy a home and too large a mortgage, perhaps with a boat and such costly things in the driveway,” the Church leader continued. “I simply say that there is nothing in all this world which will bring you greater satisfaction, as the years pass ever so quickly, than seeing your children grow in faith, confidence, freedom from the enslavements around us, and accomplishment in the world. You will be a very important part of what happens to them. None can adequately substitute for you as mothers.”
Cedar City, Utah
President Hinckley joined former U.S. president George Bush and Utah governor Michael Leavitt on 2 May for Southern Utah University’s Centennial Convocation.
In his remarks, President Hinckley talked of the contributions of Utah’s pioneers to the settlement of the Cedar City area. “They were a people who fought to tame the wilderness,” he said. “They were people of the frontier in a very real sense. They struggled to bring water to the parched land. They wrestled with the vagaries of the weather. They were men of the soil, most of them. They were poor by today’s standards. … But they were also people who carried in their lives a love for the artistic and beautiful, for education and refinement, for the more subtle things of the soul. They recognized that education is the key to achievement and economic opportunity.”
Sun Ranch in Wyoming
On 3 May, President Hinckley dedicated the Mormon Handcart Visitors’ Center at Sun Ranch in Wyoming. The center commemorates the rescue of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies.
“Legion are the stories of the suffering of those who lived and died on this long journey,” said President Hinckley during his address. “They traveled from Liverpool. They traveled from Boston and New York. They went through New Orleans and came up the river, then up the Missouri, and then came west. They suffered untold suffering. Thank the Lord we live in a better time. This is a new season. There is greater understanding and respect. This once small Church has grown into a mighty congregation of nearly 10 million people scattered across the earth. Today there is more of tolerance, forbearance, love, respect, and appreciation.”