“President Hinckley Visits Hurricane Mitch Victims and Mid-Atlantic United States,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 74–76
Concerned by the damage caused in Central America by Hurricane Mitch, President Gordon B. Hinckley made a quickly arranged visit to Honduras and Nicaragua in November 1998 to “meet with our people there and give them encouragement and faith to carry on in the terrible catastrophe in which they have suffered.” Earlier in November he visited members in Greenville, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; and Baltimore, Maryland; received the International Executive of the Year award from BYU’s Marriott School of Management; spoke at a BYU devotional; and dedicated the new, Church-owned Gateway Tower West commercial office building in downtown Salt Lake City.
Nicaragua and Honduras
President Hinckley was accompanied to Central America by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and by Bishop H. David Burton of the Presiding Bishopric. In Nicaragua President Hinckley was joined by Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy, President of the Central America Area, and in Honduras he was joined by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, a counselor in the Area Presidency.
Speaking to about 1,300 listeners gathered on 19 November in an indoor arena in Managua, Nicaragua, President Hinckley expressed gratitude that out of an estimated 11,000 people who perished in Hurricane Mitch, only four Latter-day Saints were known to have died. “I bring to you, my brothers and sisters, the assurance, the comfort, the knowledge that as long as the Church has resources we will not let you go hungry or without clothing or without shelter,” he said. “We shall do all that we can to assist in the way that the Lord has designated that it should be done, and that is through the bishops and branch presidents. I want to honor them today, these great and good men who have been called to watch over you and look after you and help you in your times of trouble.”
The next day, 20 November, President Hinckley spoke in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to about 7,250 people gathered in a basketball arena. “We’ve been to the La Lima stake center, and people were there with shovels and brooms and water,” he said. “They will have that beautiful chapel restored and ready for you day after tomorrow, Sunday morning. I thank you, every one of you, for the way you have worked together to restore that which was lost. There is a great deal of work yet to be done. It will take a long time. May you be blessed in that which you do.”
He also said, “The Lord has spared you, my brothers and sisters, and how grateful you ought to be. We have been blessed. These will be hard and difficult days. There will be for many lean days with simple food. There will be used but good clothing. There will be medicine to stop the spread of disease. You will recover from all this. Eventually the mud will be moved. Eventually it will all be cleaned up and become only a memory of the past.”
On Saturday morning, 21 November, President Hinckley spoke to about 7,400 people in an outdoor soccer stadium in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. “We have come to see how helpless man is when nature goes on a rampage,” he said. “We’re really helpless. There isn’t much we can do. We come to realize that … when all is said and done we must put our trust in [God] and walk in obedience to His commandments. That is the only safety we have. We cannot tell where these things will strike—here at one time, there at another, across the earth. Let us, as a result of this experience, live near to the Lord and be more worthy of His blessings.”
The Church has shipped and airlifted hundreds of thousands of pounds of emergency supplies to storm-devastated areas of Central America. Members desiring to help are encouraged to volunteer their labor at Church welfare sites, donate items through Deseret Industries, make fast offering contributions, or donate money to the Church’s Humanitarian Aid Fund.
Mid-Atlantic United States
President Hinckley was accompanied to the mid-Atlantic United States by his wife, Marjorie; Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Barbara; and Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy, President of the North America East Area, and his wife, Shirley.
On 13 November President Hinckley spoke to about 8,600 members in Greenville, North Carolina. “There is nothing more important in this whole world than to know our Father and our Redeemer,” he said. “If you don’t have such a testimony, pray about it. Ask the Lord to bless you with that knowledge. Read the scriptures, do good works, and there will come into your heart a conviction of the truth of these things. The Savior said, ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself’ (John 7:17). That is the way to get a testimony of that great overriding truth, the very foundation of the gospel in which we believe.”
Janet Hales, a Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Durham Second Ward, Durham North Carolina Stake, said: “I walked into the building, and the Spirit was palpable. I am so grateful I came, not because I didn’t know President Hinckley was a prophet but because he is such a strength to all of us. I am also grateful that I decided to bring my small children. They too need to know how we feel about our prophet.”
The next day, 14 November, President Hinckley addressed about 7,000 members gathered in two sessions in Richmond, Virginia. “What a marvelous thing it is, really,” he said, “that in this Church of the Master every man who lives worthy of the priesthood of God carries that priesthood, has been ordained to it under the hands of those who hold it, and has received the power that he might speak in the name of the Lord with authority—and properly so, as a son of the living God.” He continued, “We are sort of garden-variety people whom the Lord picks up, one here and one there and another there, and makes a bishop or a stake president or a mission president or a temple president or whatever. The marvelous and wonderful thing is that the one called rises to that responsibility under the inspiration and power of the Lord.”
Reverend Jeffrey Spence, regional director of the National Conference for Community and Justice in Virginia, commented, “It was a privilege to be invited to hear from a man who is truly a servant of God and loves people throughout the world. He is a man of great honor and caring. It is good to know a leader that can make us laugh. It is wonderful to be in the presence of such wisdom.”
President Hinckley spoke to about 7,000 members in Baltimore, Maryland, on 15 November. “Have you ever stopped to wonder how fortunate you are, how blessed you are, to be a part of this great generation in the history of mankind?” he asked. “What a wonder it is to be alive.” He also commented, “I’m glad to look into the faces of men and women who pray.”
Stacey Davis, who was baptized on 1 November 1998 in the Baltimore University Branch, Baltimore Maryland Stake, said: “President Hinckley has a special spirit that you can sense. Without him even speaking, you can tell he cares. His talk at general conference is what got me into the Church.”
International Executive of the Year
President Hinckley was presented with the International Executive of the Year award by Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management on 6 November. “Critics of the Church complain that the Church has become a great business institution,” he said during the award program. “Let me say emphatically that the spiritual has never been overtaken by the temporal. In fact, the two go hand in hand, the temporal to provide the means and the way for the accomplishment of the spiritual. Actually, they are one and the same.” Discussing the many endeavors of the Church, President Hinckley pointed out that “we are building more than 350 to 400 new buildings a year, and we are getting behind. We must increase our efforts and will do so. Our people must be housed if they are to grow in the Church.”
Addressing some 22,000 students at a BYU devotional on 10 November, President Hinckley said: “We are of the family of God, with such a tremendous potential for excellence. The distance between mediocrity and excellence can be ever so small.” He continued, “The little extra effort we make becomes such a tremendous difference.”