“President Hinckley Visits New Zealand, Australia, and Mexico,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 75–77
During 10–18 May, President Gordon B. Hinckley traveled to the land “down under,” the first visit in 21 years by a Church President to the area.
Accompanying President Hinckley on the trip were his wife, Marjorie; Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Kathleen; Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Pacific Area Presidency, and his wife, Marie; and Sister Virginia H. Pearce, first counselor in the general Young Women presidency. All spoke at various times during the numerous meetings.
Hamilton, New Zealand
Following his arrival on Saturday, 10 May, President Hinckley attended the last portion of a priesthood leadership meeting for brethren from 13 stakes and five districts in Hamilton and southern parts of the country.
The next day, 9,700 members attended two sessions of the Hamilton New Zealand regional conference. “To be living in this time of the world is a marvelous thing,” said President Hinckley in both sessions. “When I was born in 1910, a man’s average lifespan was 50 years. Today it is 75 years. Beyond this, there’s the marvelous blessing of the restored gospel. God has spoken again. This Church is a miracle—it’s the greatest success story.”
“The Church is now in over 160 nations,” he continued. “We build 375 buildings each year, we have more than 50,000 missionaries, and the family history program draws the interest of people from all over the world. These are some of the consequences of the early pioneers’ efforts. The days of persecution are behind us, and we live in an era of peace when we are looked up to and respected by those who know us.”
Auckland, New Zealand
For the remainder of President Hinckley’s visit to the South Pacific, firesides were conducted in each city, including one in Auckland on 10 May, where 12,000 members from 12 stakes, undeterred by intermittent showers and a blustery wind, came to hear him speak.
In addressing some of his remarks to young people, he said: “You are the future of the Church in New Zealand. You must live the gospel; you must do what is right. You young men, I emphasize strongly that it is your obligation and opportunity to go forth and serve as missionaries.”
He encouraged the youth to follow the five Bs: be true, be smart, be humble, be clean, be prayerful. “The leadership of the Church in New Zealand will soon be the responsibility of you young people. You must be prepared, for the gospel requires a righteous generation. With the five Bs, there is no need for anyone to be so close to the edge as to jeopardize one’s spiritual progress.”
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
On 11 May the Church leader arrived in Australia, where almost 7,000 members gathered to hear him speak in Melbourne. The next morning, an ABC Radio national network breakfast program broadcasted an excerpt from the meeting, where President Hinckley said: “I know that God lives, and you know that God lives. That’s the strength of this Church. [Its strength] doesn’t lie in all the meetinghouses across the world. It doesn’t lie in the temples. It does not lie on the BYU campus. It lies in the hearts of the people, the personal conviction that God our Eternal Father lives and that Jesus is the Christ.”
The next morning, prior to his departure for Adelaide, President Hinckley was interviewed by a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald. The journalist, who had attended the Melbourne fireside in preparation for the interview, wrote two feature articles on the Church leader’s visit.
Adelaide, South Australia
Next, President Hinckley traveled to Adelaide, where 2,800 members from three stakes who had taken off time from work or school gathered to hear him speak on 13 May. To these members, the Church leader spoke of faith and temple work. “I hope every man in this congregation has taken his wife to the house of the Lord. Work for the temple and the sealing ordinances,” he said. “Take your companion and your children if you can, there to be joined under a covenant that time cannot destroy and death cannot break.”
Perth, Western Australia
Approximately 3,800 members listened to President Hinckley speak at his next stop in Perth, the first recorded visit of a Church President to the area. President Hinckley encouraged those in attendance to strengthen their families and hold regular family home evening.
“It’s very important what you do,” he said. “You may be the only Latter-day Saints others know, and they form a judgment of this work as to what you say and do.”
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
On Wednesday, 14 May, members from eight stakes and four districts met in Sydney to hear the Church leader. Referring to the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints,” President Hinckley spoke about the great legacy that Church members have as a result of the sacrifices of the pioneers. “That great hymn,” he said, “is as applicable to us today, to the Saints all across the world, as it was to those who made that great and treacherous journey. None of us today can really appreciate what they went through.
“What a marvelous thing it is, my brethren and sisters, to have such a great legacy. Now those days are past. There is no more serious persecution; there is no more gathering to Zion. Not too many years ago, more than half of the Church membership lived in Utah. Now just 17 percent of the membership of the Church lives in that state. We’ve expanded over this earth, and we are helping to bring blessings to the people of those nations.”
While in Sydney, President Hinckley was the principal speaker at a ceremony at the Australian National Maritime Museum, where personal diaries and records held by the Church’s Archive Department were presented as a loan to the museum by the Church. The records were associated with two emigrant voyages of the ship Julia Ann from New South Wales to American soil in the 1850s as part of the Mormon pioneer exodus.
Immediately following the presentation at the National Maritime Museum, President Hinckley was interviewed on a live nationwide telecast of the Nine Television Network’s breakfast program, The Today Show. Then, after a ferry ride across Sydney Harbour, he was interviewed extensively for ABC-TV’s Compass television program. The interview will be telecast nationally in August.
President Hinckley then attended a meeting with 400 missionaries from the Australia Sydney South and North Missions. His remarks were recorded by the Seven Television Network’s Witness current affairs program for a feature story on the missionary effort of the Church, which aired nationally in late May.
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
In his final stop on this vigorous trip to the Pacific, President Hinckley spoke on 15 May in Brisbane to 8,200 members from six stakes and four districts. The day was stormy, and in an earlier meeting with the full-time missionaries, President Hinckley had requested those in attendance to remember the elements in their prayers. Those prayers were answered. A balmy evening greeted the members attending, with rain appearing again shortly after the meeting finished.
Featured at the Brisbane meeting were giant video screens on either side of the podium, signing for the hearing-impaired, and translation facilities for members speaking Samoan, Tongan, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean.
VIP guests at the meeting included ministers and members of the Queensland parliament, educational leaders, executives of the Australian Family Association, and local government leaders.
In his address, President Hinckley said reporters continually ask him: “Why is it that you’re growing when some of the other churches are fading?”
His answer: “We’re growing because this Church offers a solid anchor of faith and doctrine and performance in a world of shifting values.
“The family is falling apart across the world, but it is not falling apart in this Church. We’re growing because this Church expects things of its members. It is a demanding thing, but people respond to that kind of doctrine. They want something solid and affirmative to which they can tie their lives, and they find it in this Church.”
President Hinckley told the gathering: “You ought to be the very best people in all the world because you are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You’ve taken upon yourselves the name of the Lord. You have covenanted to keep His commandments. He has said that He will bless you and that His Spirit will be with you if you do so.”—Alan Wakeley, Pacific Area director of public affairs, Sydney, Australia
Colonia Juárez, Mexico
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Church’s Juárez Academy, President Hinckley addressed an audience of about 5,000 at the academy’s commencement ceremony on Friday, 6 June 1997. After his address, he rededicated a number of academy buildings that had been recently renovated.
In his commencement talk, President Hinckley counseled the school’s graduates to “keep the faith.” “No knowledge is of greater worth than the knowledge you have gained here in the things of the Spirit,” he said. “I challenge you to never forget that the schooling of the spirit is as important, if not more so, than the schooling of the mind.”
President Hinckley also urged graduates to serve the Lord, plan for and nourish a good marriage and home, and continue to pursue knowledge.
The day before the commencement ceremony, on Thursday, 5 June 1997, President Hinckley spoke at a fireside for members of the Colonia Juárez and Colonia Dublan Mexico Stakes. About 5,500 people were in attendance.