Footprints on the Sands of Time

“Footprints on the Sands of Time,” Liahona, Apr. 2008, 22–23

Footprints on the Sands of Time

I am grateful for this invitation to speak and pray that the Spirit will convey my testimony and words to your hearts.

As I ponder the life of our beloved prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, I am reminded of the following verse from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time.1

Today I hope that as we honor his legacy, we ponder the “footprints on the sands of time” left by President Hinckley. Think about what comes to your mind when I speak of the President Gordon B. Hinckley era. In the short time we have together, I can mention only a few footprints of the many that have made an impression on me.

Gordon B. Hinckley was the great communicator. He opened the doors to the world’s media and defined the Church to a worldwide audience. Commencing as a young returned missionary, more than 70 years ago, he pioneered the use of filmstrips, movies, colored pictures, pamphlets, and missionary literature to tell the story of our Church. These same techniques, continually being improved, are still used today.

The Hinckley era evokes the image of missionary work to all the world. In the almost 13 years of President Hinckley’s presidency, over 400,000 missionaries have been called, representing over 40 percent of all missionaries ever called since the Church was organized. Almost one-third of all members today were baptized since President Hinckley became our prophet. President Hinckley’s challenge to increase our missionary efforts and our retention of new converts remains a charge we are still working to achieve.

Perhaps the most recognizable and eternal of all of the “footprints on the sands” of President Gordon B. Hinckley is the construction of approximately 75 new temples since he became our President. Every ordinance performed in these temples becomes a witness to the prophetic foresight and wisdom of President Hinckley to bring temples closer to the people. How grateful we are as individuals and as a Church for this remarkable legacy.

Another wonderful and likeable of President Hinckley’s “footprints on the sands” is his warm sense of humor. Everyone who associated with him or heard him speak remembers an incident in which his unique sense of humor was evident.

I remember an occasion several years ago after he began to use a cane. I arrived at the Church Administration Building about 7:00 in the morning, and as I approached the elevator, I saw President Hinckley and a security officer coming toward the elevator. I pushed the button, the elevator door opened, and I stepped inside, holding the door open. I could hear President Hinckley, with his cane, approaching. As he came to the opened door, President Hinckley looked at me, kept walking, and said, “Earl, go ahead and ride the elevator. I’m taking the stairs.” The elevator door closed. I felt about that high. I comfortably rode up to my floor, while the prophet of the Lord climbed the stairs to his office.

On another occasion, as the General Authorities—dressed in their dark suits, white shirts, and conservative ties—entered a meeting with the First Presidency, President Hinckley, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, said, “You all look like a bunch of penguins.”

We will miss his sense of humor.

President Hinckley was truly a Renaissance man. He had wide interests and was an expert in many areas. With the construction of the Conference Center, which itself is one of the great legacies of President Hinckley, we have witnessed the further development and expansion of musical and theatrical performances in the Church. Our lives are better because these cultural opportunities are now available to us.

One of the most expansive of all of the legacies of President Hinckley and truly one of his “footprints on the sands” is Church education. The magnificence of Brigham Young University and the expanded BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii, LDS Business College campuses, and seminaries and institutes of religion are evidence of his love of education and of students. The establishment of the Perpetual Education Fund, seven years ago, enhances this legacy. Nearly 30,000 students throughout much of the world are now improving their lives through the remarkable opportunities of education.

Lesser understood, but of significant importance in Church administration, is President Hinckley’s establishment of the Quorums of the Seventy as one of the presiding quorums in the Church. Increasing the number of quorums and the members of the Seventy fourfold accommodates the growth and administration of the Church and fulfills the scriptural mandate that the Twelve may now “call upon the Seventy, when they need assistance, to fill the several calls for preaching and administering the gospel, instead of any others.”2

Perhaps the most personal and long-remembered “footprint” of President Hinckley may be his love of people. Probably each of us in this vast worldwide audience has a special memory of President Hinckley. I hope my remarks may represent a few of your thoughts—should you have had the opportunity to express them here today.

For each Primary child, youth, young adult, member, and friend, may I say, thank you, President Hinckley. Thank you for your valiant life of service to the Lord. Thank you for your example of integrity and steadfastness. Thank you for your wisdom and judgment. Thank you for your talks, writings, and inspired counsel.

Thank you for your unwavering witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thank you for your testimony and teachings concerning our Heavenly Father and our relationship, as spirit sons and daughters, to Him. Thank you for your testimony of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the “footprints on the sands of time” you have left behind. Thank you for letting us know that you loved us. We are better because of you. May I also say thank you to the Hinckley family for sharing your father and grandfather with us.

Dear President Hinckley, we have watched you grow old on stage. May you now enjoy eternal companionship with your beloved Marjorie, other family members, and prior leaders of the Church.

President Hinckley, we love you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. “A Psalm of Life,” in John Bartlett, ed., Familiar Quotations (1968), 620.

  2. D&C 107:38.

Mourners bid farewell to President Hinckley at the viewing, held in the Conference Center.

Photograph of footprint © Corbis