“President Hinckley Meets Members in Maine and Europe,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 75–78
In addition to celebrating his 88th birthday on 23 June, President Gordon B. Hinckley kept busy throughout the month by going on an eight-day trip to five countries on two continents, giving the commencement address at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and addressing mission presidents and missionaries at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
On his way to Europe to address members in Paris, France; Frankfurt, Germany; and Geneva, Switzerland, and dedicate the Preston England Temple, President Hinckley stopped on 2 June in Portland, Maine, where he addressed about 3,000 members from stakes in Maine and New Hampshire in a downtown civic center. Also in attendance was Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, then President of the North America Northeast Area. President Hinckley’s wife, Marjorie, accompanied her husband on the trip.
“Not more than 25 years ago, 55 percent of the total membership of the Church lived in the state of Utah,” President Hinckley remarked. “And there were some in California and Arizona and Idaho and just a little scattered group here and a little scattered group there. Now I don’t think there is a city of any consequence in the entire United States that does not have a strong Church organization in that city. We have spread out into 160 nations across the earth. We have become one great family of 10 million people, all worshiping together, as it were, the Lord Jesus Christ. Twenty-four thousand congregations meet every Sunday and study the same lessons and learn the same truths in many, many languages.”
Speaking of the Church as a “great social organization,” President Hinckley said:”We are friends. We love one another. In fact, we love one another so much that we can’t be very reverent in sacrament meeting. We are always talking to one another in sacrament meeting. It’s all right to talk with one another out in the foyer, but when we are in the chapel we ought to be quiet, reverent, and respectful and not irreverent. … Let’s be a little more reverent in our sacrament meetings so that those who come as strangers may feel of the spirit of this work and of the spirit of love among our people.”
Jaime Rivera, president of the Lawrence (Spanish) Branch, Exeter New Hampshire Stake, said: “It is an honor being here. There is a humbling spirit here. It is a privilege from the Lord for us to be here.”
President Hinckley crossed the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Paris, France, on 4 June. In the afternoon he spoke to missionaries gathered in the Versailles meetinghouse, and that evening he addressed about 2,400 members from two Paris stakes and three outlying districts. Observing that it was a weeknight, President Hinckley said, “Thank you very, very much for coming here. Some of you have come a long distance, and I want to thank you.” He was accompanied in Europe by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, President of the Europe West Area.
After commenting about France’s beautiful countryside and city of Paris, President Hinckley said: “But the most beautiful thing in all of this great nation is those who have in their hearts a conviction that this work is true. If you do not have that conviction, then you are missing the very best part of it, and each of you has the opportunity and the responsibility of gaining that conviction. How? Well, by service in the Church, by doing what you are asked to do. The Lord will never ask you to do anything that you cannot accomplish. You may feel weak and unable to do it. Get on your knees and plead with the Lord for help, and He will bless you. Read His sacred word, and He will bless you.”
Later in his address, President Hinckley brought up the subject of a temple in France. “When I came here after the war, there were so few members of the Church, and now there are 30,000 of you,” he said. “I don’t want to build up your hopes, but the time has come when you deserve to have a temple among you, and we’ll look for a place to build one. I don’t know how long it will take to find a suitable site. I invite every one of you, my brethren and sisters, to plead with the Lord individually in your prayers to lead us to a property in this great city, or its environs, where we can build a house of the Lord so that you won’t have to travel five hours to Frankfurt or six hours to Zollikofen [Switzerland]. Please unite your prayers with ours, and the time will come, and I hope that it will be quick in coming, when we can construct somewhere in this area a house of the Lord, a sacred temple, into which you can go and do that work which is found only in the temples of the Lord.”
On 5 June, President Hinckley traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, where he spoke to about 8,000 members who filled a large sports hall.
“I want to say a word to the parents,” President Hinckley said. “This is the commandment which the Lord has given: ‘All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children’ (Isa. 54:13). You are their parents. You are their fathers and mothers. You are their trainers and teachers. Yours is the great opportunity and the great responsibility to bring up your children in faith and truth. I promise you that when they are gone and on their way, you will get on your knees and thank the Lord for His goodness to you. I could not wish for you a greater thing. There will be no greater thing than for you to look upon your children and see goodness, and peace, and virtue, and kindness, and love, as well as accomplishment.”
Local member Margaret Ann Drummond handed President Hinckley some flowers as he entered a meetinghouse to speak with full-time missionaries in the afternoon, and she sang in a chorus of 200 people at that evening’s member conference. “This is an experience not to be taken lightly,” she said. “I’m so excited about his coming here.”
Before President Hinckley flew to England for the Preston temple dedication (see article, p. 74), his final stop on the European mainland was Geneva, Switzerland, where he spoke to about 4,200 members from stakes in Nice and Lyon, France, and Geneva, Zurich, and Bern, Switzerland.
“I feel blessed to be here in Geneva, which harbored the reformers, gave asylum to those who spoke with a different voice,” said President Hinckley. “I believe that the Reformation was inspired by God to lay the foundation for another time when an angel would come to preach the gospel. I salute the men of the Reformation, such as Luther. They knew loneliness, but they stood up. Some gave their lives. Joseph Smith knew loneliness, even at 14 years of age. He was reviled and persecuted. We can see his loneliness when he said: ‘Why persecute me for telling the truth?’” (JS—H 1:25).
Concluding his remarks, President Hinckley said: “Brothers and sisters, I remind you that when you have embraced the gospel, you need to stand even if it means loneliness for you. The world may scowl at you, friends may ridicule you, but your testimony must thrive in your life. Walk boldly, quietly, but with confidence and assurance.”
Commenting about President Hinckley’s visits in Europe, Elder Uchtdorf said: “These glorious days will mark a new beginning in establishing the Church in Europe. After each meeting, visitors embraced each other and bore testimony of a living prophet. Many tears were shed because prayers had been answered.”
University of Utah Commencement
On 12 June President Hinckley returned Salt Lake City to the University of Utah, where he graduated in 1932 and received an honorary doctorate in 1992, to address about 6,000 graduates of the class of 1998.
“Like the man on the flying trapeze, we fly through the sky with the greatest of ease,” said President Hinckley. “Computers have changed the way of our lives. Books will continue to be printed, but the future opportunity lies in electronic publishing. In our hands, if used properly, is the wonderful tool of the Internet with which we can pick knowledge from across the globe. The atom has been harnessed for good or for ill. The creations of science are endless and almost too great to even dream of. Now here you are, as university graduates, set down in the midst of this world of miracles. These tools will be your tools. This world will be your world. You will marry and rear families, and I hope that you will be strong and loving parents. The family is falling apart all across the world. Please, my dear young friends, do not add to this catastrophe, but rather do your part to diminish it. Nothing will be of greater importance in your lives than the role you play as parents.”
President Hinckley asked the graduates to “resolve to dedicate a part of your time as you map out your life’s work to those in distress and need, with no consideration of recompense. Your skills are needed, whatever they may be. Your helping hands will lift someone out of the mire of distress. Your steady voice will give encouragement to some who might otherwise simply give up. Your skills can change the lives, in a remarkable and wonderful way, of those who walk in need. If not now, when? If not you, who? It is not enough that you get a job, that you get married, that you feverishly work to produce the kind of income which will make possible the luxuries of the world. You may gain some recompense in all of this, but you will not gain the ultimate satisfaction.”