“‘Grab Life by the Horns,’ President Hinckley Tells Saints in Southern States,” Ensign, June 2003, 74–75
A century and a half ago, the lower Mississippi River in the southern United States was the pathway to Zion for hundreds of converts who traveled the waterway on their journey to Nauvoo and later to the Salt Lake Valley.
Faithful members again descended on two of the river’s prominent cities in March to listen to the counsel of President Gordon B. Hinckley. He spoke to more than 10,000 people during a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
With a free weekend coming up, President Hinckley had asked his secretary where he hadn’t been before. “And he said, ‘You have not been to Memphis.’” The congregation gathered outside Memphis in Southaven, Mississippi, near the borders of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
President Hinckley was accompanied by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy, President of the North America Southeast Area; and Elder Jon M. Huntsman, an Area Authority Seventy, who also spoke at the meeting.
Referring to 1 Peter 2:9 as his theme, President Hinckley told the congregation to “live up to the great and wonderful opportunity that is yours.” He mentioned an advertising sign outside the arena and said, “I would like to suggest to you that you ‘grab life by the horns’ and do not let life grab you by the horns. You take control of your lives. … Do not let life control you. … Take charge. Rise to the divinity that is within you.”
Lee Palmer of the Hot Springs Ward, Little Rock Arkansas Stake, who left home at 11:00 A.M. to attend the 6:00 P.M. meeting, said: “This will be a significant memory for us. President Hinckley is a wonderful man.”
Down river in New Orleans, Louisiana—while revelers filled the streets for Mardi Gras—members of the Church enjoyed the peace and serenity of a meeting with the prophet.
Arriving in cars, vans, and buses on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, nearly 5,000 people poured into the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain to hear President Hinckley.
The prophet told them the story of the resurrected Savior’s encounter with the Apostle Thomas as recorded in John 20:24–29, including His charge to “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). “My brothers and sisters, I’d like to leave with you those great words of the Lord spoken on that occasion: ‘Be not faithless, but believing.’ … Be not faithless, but believing in yourselves, in your capacity as a son or daughter of God, to do great and good things.”
Freddie Lee Brown of the La Place Ward, New Orleans Louisiana Stake, was happy to hear the prophet speak. While growing up as a member of another faith, she said, “I often wondered why the Lord loved people in the olden days more than He loved us, because He gave them prophets.” When missionaries knocked on her door, she invited them in. “They asked me if I knew there was a prophet on the earth today. … I just knew it and believed.”
While in Mississippi and Louisiana, President Hinckley and those he was traveling with made a detour to visit the grave site of Parley P. Pratt, an early Apostle of this gospel dispensation. Elder Pratt was assassinated on 13 May 1857 near Van Buren, Arkansas, and buried there while serving a mission. President Hinckley characterized his visit to the grave site as a “significant event.”
The day after the meeting in Louisiana, New Orleans Louisiana Stake president Scott N. Conlin showed Elder Gene R. Cook some of the Church historical sites in the city where early pioneers landed by ship from Britain and Europe to make their way up the Mississippi River. They discussed the growth of the Church in the area and the impact of the meeting with President Hinckley. “Who knows the number of souls that were touched,” Elder Cook commented, “not only by what was taught, but by who was teaching it.”
Church News contributed to this report.