“President Hinckley Addresses Venezuelan Members,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 75–76
President Gordon B. Hinckley recently addressed members in Maracaibo, Venezuela; rededicated a stake center he helped build during the 1950s; and was honored with a university endowment named after him.
After the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple dedication, President Hinckley traveled to Maracaibo, Venezuela, where he spoke to about 5,300 members gathered in a convention center on 3 August.
“Let us grow the Church in Venezuela,” President Hinckley said. “Let us add to the membership. Let us hold on to every convert. I plead with you people that you will put your arms around those who come into the Church and be friends to them and make them feel welcome and comfort them.” He continued: “Most of you here are converts to the Church. You know something of the loneliness that you felt when you came into this Church. Now, will you please accept that challenge to warm up and be friendly to every man, woman, and child who is baptized into the Church? It all depends on you.”
President Hinckley also said: “There is no doubt in my mind that this Church will grow. It will grow through all of South America. Where there are now hundreds of thousands, there will be millions, and our people will be recognized for the goodness of their lives, and they will be respected and honored and upheld, and we shall build meetinghouses, more and more of them to accommodate their needs, and we shall build temples in which they may receive their sacred ordinances and extend those blessings to those who have gone beyond the veil of death. There is no doubt about the future of this Church.”
Stake Center Homecoming
As a stake president during the 1950s in Salt Lake City, President Hinckley oversaw construction of the East Millcreek Stake Center. Forty years later, on 27 June 1999, he rededicated the stake center, which now houses the Salt Lake East Millcreek and Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stakes. Presiding Bishop H. David Burton also gave remarks at the rededication.
“We had terrible financial worries,” President Hinckley recalled. The stake center was urgently needed then, he said, because the stake had five wards but only one building. “We needed a lot of money, a million dollars,” he said. “We needed to pay 50 percent of the cost of the ground and construction.” Yet, he noted, “the stake was composed, for the most part, of young married people who had young families, big mortgages, and high doctor bills.” President Hinckley went on to recall the members’ dedication, faithfulness, and commitment in raising the funds.
Before construction was completed, President Hinckley was sustained on 6 April 1958 as an Assistant to the Twelve. “I served simultaneously for five months as stake president and also as a General Authority,” he recalled. “I just about ran myself ragged trying to keep up with those things.” He dedicated the new stake center on 17 May 1959.
“The Church has moved a long way from what it was 40 years ago,” President Hinckley said. “We are spread across the earth. We have more people outside the United States than we have in the United States. We are in 160 nations.” He continued: “We have to provide meetinghouses for people everywhere, and we are building about 400 new buildings a year. None of you, I think, can appreciate the magnitude of this program, but it is happening and it is going forward, and we are building temples. We are dedicating 12 new temples in the remainder of this year and about another 30 next year. Things are happening in a marvelous and wonderful way.”
The University of Utah’s English Department recently honored President Hinckley by establishing the Gordon B. Hinckley Endowment for British Studies. In a prepared statement, President Hinckley said: “I feel deeply honored that the University of Utah would establish this endowment for the promotion of British studies. I developed a special fondness for the people and the history of this wonderful land when serving as a missionary there some 66 years ago. Prior to that, during my years at the university, I had read many of the great works of the British writers and appreciate the important influence in my life of some of these literary classics. British history becomes, in an essential way, American history. The study of matters British will always be important in gaining an understanding of and an appreciation for the history of mankind.”