“Chapter Forty-Eight: The Church Comes Out of Obscurity,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 628–45
“Chapter Forty-Eight,” Church History in the Fulness of Times, 628–45
Perhaps no President1 of the Church came to the office with more Church administrative experience than Gordon B. Hinckley. Building on this preparation, President Hinckley helped the Church come out of obscurity as he met with the press and traveled extensively to visit the Saints worldwide. New developments in Church administration and temple building helped the Church meet the challenges of rapid growth as the gospel continued to spread around the globe.
Gordon Bitner Hinckley was born 23 June 1910 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In contrast to the stamina he would exhibit later in life, as a toddler he was quite frail; he had earaches, asthma, allergies, and other illnesses. The dense coal smoke that blanketed Salt Lake City during the winter was not good for him, so the family decided to move to the countryside. On the family farm near Salt Lake City, young Gordon learned to work hard and developed skills as a carpenter and handyman.
Soon after being ordained a deacon, twelve-year-old Gordon B. Hinckley attended a stake priesthood meeting and sat on the back row. He was touched when he heard the congregation stand and sing with power: “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! / Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.”2 He later reflected: “Something happened within me as I heard those men of faith sing. It touched my heart. It gave me a feeling that was difficult to describe. I felt a great moving power, both emotional and spiritual. I had never had it previously in terms of any Church experience. There came into my heart a conviction that the man of whom they sang was really a prophet of God.”3 Elder Boyd K. Packer later pointed out that “even today, … [President Hinckley] cannot tell of that experience without slipping a finger under his glasses to prevent a tear from rolling down his cheek.”4
In 1928 Gordon B. Hinckley began his studies in English at the University of Utah. As the Great Depression spread, so did an atmosphere of cynicism. He questioned many assumptions, even “perhaps in a slight measure the faith of my parents.” Nevertheless, he gratefully acknowledged the witness that had come during the stake priesthood meeting that “remained with me and became as a bulwark to which I could cling during those very difficult years.”5
Following graduation from the University of Utah, he planned to study journalism at Columbia University in New York City. These plans were changed, however, when he accepted a call to the British Mission. During the Depression relatively few could afford to serve a mission. Accepting this call represented a substantial sacrifice for himself and his family. When he arrived in England he was assigned to serve in the Preston area.
As a new missionary, Elder Hinckley had little success, so he wrote home and told his family that he didn’t want to waste his own time or his father’s money. His father responded: “Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: Forget yourself and go to work.” His father’s wise advice prompted Elder Hinckley to seek the solitude of his room and pour out his heart to the Lord. Years later he indicated: “That July day in 1933 was my day of decision. A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart. The fog of England seemed to lift, and I saw the sunlight. Everything good that has happened to me since then I can trace back to the decision I made that day in Preston.”6
Elder Hinckley was transferred to London, where he became the assistant to Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who at that time presided over all the missions of Europe. Working closely with this respected Church leader gave the young missionary valuable experience that strengthened his confidence. Addressing skeptical and even hostile crowds in Hyde Park also helped him develop his skills as a public speaker. Elder Hinckley was given responsibility for the mission’s publications and was assigned to develop a series of filmstrips for the missionaries to use in teaching the gospel.
In 1935, when Elder Hinckley was released from his mission, President Merrill assigned him to personally inform the First Presidency about the critical need for teaching materials in missionary work. Accordingly, on 20 August 1935, twenty-five-year-old Elder Hinckley met with President Heber J. Grant and his counselors, J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay. He was given fifteen minutes to present his message, but as the Presidency raised questions, the interview was lengthened an additional hour.
Even though he was reviving his interest in further studies at Columbia University, he once again chose to set aside his plans. Two days after his interview with the First Presidency, President McKay called and invited him to work with the newly constituted Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. As their executive secretary, the young returned missionary was to work closely with the committee, which consisted of six members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Brother Hinckley was assigned to work in an unfurnished office. A missionary associate gave him a dilapidated table with a warped and cracked top and one short leg. He brought his own typewriter from home and had to justify his request for a single ream of paper. From this humble beginning grew the Church’s extensive media and public affairs programs.
Brother Hinckley married his neighborhood sweetheart, Marjorie Pay, in 1937, the same year he was called as a member of the Sunday School general board. He and Marjorie had five children. In 1946 Brother Hinckley was called into the presidency of his stake, where he served for twelve years, the last two as stake president.
For over two decades as an employee at Church headquarters Brother Hinckley wrote scripts for radio programs and other presentations, produced filmstrips, and organized Church exhibits at World’s Fairs. As the Swiss Temple in Bern, Switzerland, was planned, President David O. McKay assigned Brother Hinckley to consider how the temple endowment could be presented in many languages. Meeting regularly with the prophet, Brother Hinckley developed a system that employed motion pictures in the temple ceremony.
In 1958 Gordon B. Hinckley was called as an Assistant to the Twelve. In this capacity he continued to supervise the Missionary Department. When the world was divided into “areas,” each supervised by one of the General Authorities, Elder Hinckley accepted the assignment to supervise the work in Asia. He also served under Elder Harold B. Lee on the General Priesthood Committee as it planned what later became Priesthood Correlation.
In 1961 Elder Hinckley was called to be one of the Lord’s “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (D&C 107:23) as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. As an Apostle, Elder Hinckley traveled many miles, including an around-the-world tour in 1964. Two years later he visited Saigon during the Vietnam conflict and dedicated that land for the preaching of the gospel. During his travels he met with world leaders, conducted conferences, dedicated chapels, visited missions, and in other ways worked “to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations” (D&C 107:33).
In 1981 President Spencer W. Kimball called Elder Hinckley to be a third counselor in the First Presidency. Because President Kimball and both of the other counselors were in poor health, a heavy load fell on President Hinckley’s capable shoulders. This situation was repeated during the next dozen years, requiring President Hinckley to provide much of the primary direction in the Church’s day-to-day affairs.
Even before becoming President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated more temples than anyone else in the present dispensation. At the October 1985 general conference he rejoiced in his experiences at temple dedications that year: “I have looked into the faces of tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints. Their skins are of varying colors and hues. But their hearts beat as one with testimony and conviction concerning the truth of this great restored work of God. I have heard their testimonies spoken with sincerity. I have listened to their prayers. I have heard them lift their voices in anthems of praise. I have seen their tears of gratitude. I have known of their sacrifices made in appreciation for the blessings that have come to them.”7
Saints around the world have been blessed with temples dedicated by President Hinckley. In 1984, when President Hinckley dedicated the Manila Philippines Temple, there were over 100,000 Saints in the Philippines. Only twenty-three years earlier, when Elder Hinckley had opened missionary work in the country, there had been only one native member. In South Africa President Hinckley contrasted the highly publicized racial tensions of that country with the harmony among various ethnic groups as the faithful Saints assembled within the temple. At the dedication of the Freiberg Germany Temple, the Saints rejoiced that a new day had dawned and the sun was shining both in the physical and political climates of their country.8
Then came an even greater responsibility for President Hinckley. On 12 March 1995, following the death of President Howard W. Hunter, he was set apart as the fifteenth President of the Church in this dispensation.
President Hinckley was concerned about the disintegration of families in the modern era. In the fall of 1995, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Noting that this was only the fifth such proclamation issued in the history of the Church (see following table), Elder Henry B. Eyring pointed out that it helped us as a Church “understand the importance our Heavenly Father places upon the family.”9
Subject of Proclamation
15 Jan. 1841
The progress of the kingdom of God on earth
6 Apr. 1845; 22 Oct. 1845
New York City; Liverpool, England
A warning voice to the rulers and people of all nations
21 Oct. 1865
Salt Lake City, Utah
The right of the First Presidency to declare and clarify doctrine
6 Apr. 1980
Fayette, New York
Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the organization of the Church
25 Sept. 1995
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Data from Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1151–57
At a time when the necessity of formal marriage commitment was being questioned, the proclamation affirmed that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” The proclamation outlined keys to family success: “faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
In contrast to the erosion of moral standards in the world, the proclamation declared, “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” The proclamation warned that those who violate sacred covenants or do not fulfill family responsibilities “will one day stand accountable before God.”10
In the October 1996 general conference, President Hinckley lamented that there are some who in anger mistreat their wives and children: “No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. … If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance.”11
The proclamation on the family concluded by calling upon government officials everywhere to promote measures to strengthen the home and family. On 13 November, about two months after the proclamation was issued, President Hinckley met with William Jefferson Clinton, the president of the United States, at the White House in Washington, D.C. The prophet presented him with a copy of the proclamation, which led to a discussion on the family. “It is our feeling that if you’re going to fix the nation,” counseled President Hinckley, “you need to start by fixing families. That’s the place to begin.” The leaders discussed “the need for parents to be actively involved in their children’s lives.” After giving him bound copies of his and his wife’s family histories and describing the Church’s family home evening program, President Hinckley suggested that the nation’s leader get his family together and “sit down with those books and have a family home evening.”12
To better help the world understand that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church, President Hinckley directed that a new Church logo be adopted in December 1995. It was designed so that the name of Jesus Christ was the most prominent feature in the Church’s official name.
With his many years of experience in working with the media, President Hinckley was well aware of the importance of communicating the Church’s message clearly. An unusual opportunity came to him when he was invited to be the subject of a profile on the television magazine program 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace, the show’s host, came to Salt Lake City to interview President Hinckley. For several hours, Wallace asked difficult and probing questions, and President Hinckley responded freely. In response to a question about women’s roles, the President explained: “My wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals in this life in a great enterprise.” When asked how he received revelation, President Hinckley referred to Elijah’s experience with the “still, small voice.” He then added that “the things of God are understood by the Spirit of God, and one must have and seek and cultivate that Spirit, and there comes understanding and it is real.”13
Mike Wallace commented: “Frankly, nearly everything about this assignment surprised me. … I was surprised by Gordon Hinckley’s humor and his candor, neither of which I expected. We raised the issues that were on the minds of the skeptics, he was willing to answer every question, and his answers were reasonable.”14 He later added: “My 60 Minutes colleagues and I learned, from the time we spent with Gordon Hinckley and his wife, from his staff, and from other Mormons who talked to us, that this warm and thoughtful and decent and optimistic leader of the Mormon Church fully deserves the almost universal admiration that he gets.”15
The telecast aired on Easter Sunday, 7 April 1996. As President Hinckley closed general conference earlier that afternoon, he shared some of his feelings about the experience: “I recognized that if I were to appear, critics and detractors of the Church would also be invited to participate. I knew we could not expect that the program would be entirely positive for us.
“On the other hand, I felt that it offered the opportunity to present some affirmative aspects of our culture and message to many millions of people. I concluded that it was better to lean into the stiff wind of opportunity than to simply hunker down and do nothing.”16 The program was received well and generated a great deal of positive recognition for the Church.
With this experience behind him, President Hinckley was more willing to accept other invitations to tell the world about the restored Church. In March 1997 he addressed 2,300 listeners at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Then in September he appeared before the annual convention of the Religion Newswriters Association.
On 8 September 1998, President Hinckley had an opportunity to reach an international cable television audience by appearing on the Larry King Live television show. During the live show, President Hinckley told Larry King and the world: “My role is to declare doctrine. … My role is to stand as an example before the people. My role is to be a voice in defense of the truth. My role is to stand as a conservator of those values which are important in our civilization and our society. My role is to lead people.”17 President Gordon B. Hinckley successfully used the media on these occasions to help make the name of the Church more familiar to people around the world.
At a general conference early in his administration, President Gordon B. Hinckley expressed, “I have a desire to get out with the Latter-day Saints across the world, to look into your faces, to shake your hands wherever possible, to share with you in a more personal and intimate way my feelings concerning this sacred work, and to feel of your spirit and your love of the Lord and His mighty cause.”18
During his first three years as President of the Church, President Hinckley did just that. He visited Latter-day Saints on every continent except Antarctica. He traveled to western Europe twice, to the Holy Land, to Mexico four times, to Central America, to South America twice, to Asia, to Australia and New Zealand, to the islands of Polynesia, and to Africa. These international travels were made more convenient when a Utah industrialist placed a personal jet at President Hinckley’s disposal. No other President of the Church had traveled so far during a comparable period. He visited some fifty countries, conducted at least 350 meetings, and addressed 1.5 million people in person.
In mid-May 1996, President Hinckley went on a two-week trip to Asia. While there he visited people with whom he had been closely associated since his assignment to the Orient nearly four decades earlier.
After brief visits to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, President Hinckley arrived in Hong Kong, China, where he dedicated the Church’s forty-eighth temple. The timing was important; it was just over one year before the British colony of Hong Kong reverted to Chinese jurisdiction. In the dedicatory prayer President Hinckley petitioned, “May the blessings of freedom continue to be enjoyed by those who live here and, in a particular way, we pray that future events may be conducive to the growth and strengthening of Thy work.”19
President Gordon B. Hinckley was also the first President of the Church to visit mainland China. The day following the Hong Kong China Temple dedication, he and his party traveled over the border to Shenzhen to visit a cultural center with re-creations of villages from various regions of China. The idea for this center had come from the Church’s Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Hawaii, and personnel at the PCC had helped their Chinese counterparts develop this similar center.
That afternoon President Hinckley flew to Cambodia, where in the evening at Phnom Penh he addressed a fireside attended by 439 people, more than half of whom were investigators. The next morning, standing on a hillside overlooking the Mekong River, he dedicated Cambodia for the preaching of the gospel. That same day he traveled to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Hanoi, Vietnam. In Hanoi President Hinckley offered an “addendum” to his 1966 dedicatory prayer, now dedicating the entire country of Vietnam for the preaching of the gospel.20
In February 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley became the first President of the Church to visit Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. At his first stop, Nigeria, he addressed over a thousand priesthood bearers in one meeting and 12,417 people in a regional conference. During the meeting in Accra, Ghana, his announcement that the first temple in west Africa would be built there was received with joyous applause. He also visited South Africa, where he told his listeners that they should not emigrate because of the difficulties in their land, but that “the Church is spreading forth over the earth, to build Zion wherever it goes for the people who live there.”21 President Hinckley traveled a total of 24,700 miles on the trip, nearly the distance around the world.
During 1996 and 1997 the Saints celebrated the sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of the exodus of the Mormon pioneers from Nauvoo with the theme “faith in every footstep. On 4 February 1996 a group of Saints braved below-zero temperatures in Illinois to commemorate the exodus. Then on 13 July, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the reconstructed Kanesville Tabernacle. It was there on 27 December 1847 that the newly reorganized First Presidency, with Brigham Young as the second President of the Church, had first been sustained by the Saints. President Hinckley also addressed a group gathered for the reenactment of the Mormon Battalion’s enlistment and departure.
On 18 April 1997 President Hinckley dedicated the new Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters. He expressed the deep emotion he felt looking at Avard Fairbanks’ statue of a pioneer family burying their baby (located in the Winter Quarters cemetery): “I think it is ingrained very deeply in me a respect and love and appreciation for those who 150 years ago moved over this trail.”22 The following day a sesquicentennial wagon train left the Omaha area to reenact the thousand-mile trek to the Salt Lake Valley. During the next three months hundreds of individuals joined the train, riding in covered wagons, pushing handcarts, and walking along the 1847 trail. Along the way the participants were honored by state and local officials who paid tribute to the achievements of the early Mormon pioneers.
Not all of the sesquicentennial celebrations were held in the United States, however. The one hundred Latter-day Saints living in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, constructed two traditional pioneer handcarts of their own. On a frigid Saturday in February 1997, the members took turns pulling the carts through the main streets of their city. The carts were transported by train from one major city to another across Russia and Ukraine. Finally, one of the carts was flown to the United States, where it joined the wagon train for the last leg of its journey into the Salt Lake Valley.
Some 8,500 people converged on the grounds of the Mexico City D.F. Mexico Temple to commemorate the accomplishments of the Utah pioneers and the pioneers of Mexico. During the summer of 1997 there were also pioneer parades in such diverse places as Rome, Italy, and Charleroi, Belgium.
An estimated fifty thousand people gathered around the “This Is the Place” monument to greet the wagon train as it emerged from Emigration Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley on 22 July 1997. Looking over these “pioneers,” President Hinckley quipped, “You look as if you’ve come a thousand miles.”23
The media, both print and electronic, showed great interest in the pioneer sesquicentennial. They were particularly eager to follow the day-by-day experiences of the wagon train that re-created the early pioneers’ trek. “In 1997, the Church received more national and international media coverage than all the other years in Church history combined,” remarked Elder M. Russell Ballard, chairman of the sesquicentennial celebration.24
“Is there a lesson in the pioneer experience for us today?” asked Elder Ballard. “I believe there is. The faith that motivated the pioneers of 1847 as well as pioneers in other lands was a simple faith centered in the basic doctrines of the restored gospel, which they knew to be true. That’s all that mattered to them, and I believe that is all that should matter to us.”25
In February 1996, for the first time more Church members lived outside the United States than in it. The Church was adding about a million new members every three years, passing the ten million mark early in November 1997. President Hinckley continued to emphasize that these new converts needed fellowshipping to remain strong and faithful.
The first stake in Papua New Guinea was organized on 22 October 1995. In February 1996 eighty brethren were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood in Kiribati, and the Tarawa Stake was organized there in August of that same year. In November 1997 Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit Vladivostok on the Pacific coast of Russia.
To assist in leading and administering this growing membership, refinements were made in the organization of the Church’s leadership. In 1995 President Hinckley announced the appointment of Area Authorities as intermediate officers between General Authorities and stake presidencies. President Hinckley explained that Area Authorities would continue in their careers and live in their own homes. These new leaders, called by the First Presidency and working under the direction of Area Presidencies, could preside at stake conferences, reorganize stake presidencies, serve as counselors in Area Presidencies, and train mission presidents. Area Authorities were to serve in a Church-service, or voluntary, capacity for a flexible term, generally about six years.26 They replaced the regional representatives of the Twelve, who were all released at that time.
Two years later President Hinckley announced that these Area Authorities were being ordained to the office of Seventy. This gave them “a quorum relationship presided over by the Presidents of the Seventy. They would be known as Area Authority Seventies.” He also announced the formation of three new Quorums of the Seventy: the Third Quorum for those living in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific; the Fourth Quorum for those in Central and South America; and the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy for those in the United States and Canada.27
Another response to the rapid growth of the Church was announced at the opening of the April 1996 general conference. President Hinckley lamented that the Salt Lake Tabernacle was no longer able to accommodate the ever-larger throngs wanting to attend general conference. He announced plans to build on the block north of Temple Square an assembly building that would seat twenty-one thousand people and would accommodate general conferences as well as other large meetings and activities. Ground was broken for the new facility on 24 July 1997 as part of the pioneer sesquicentennial celebration.
During the last session of the October 1999 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced, “This is the last time we will meet in this Tabernacle for general conference.” The Tabernacle, first used for general conference in October 1867, “has grown too small for our needs,” President Hinckley explained. He went on to say, “We anticipate that next April we will meet in a new hall as we usher in a new century and a new millennium,” adding, “May the blessings of God rest upon this sacred and wonderful hall.”28
At the April 2000 general conference, President Hinckley greeted the Saints attending the first conference session in the new Conference Center, “My dearly beloved brethren and sisters, what a magnificent sight you are, this vast congregation of Latter-day Saints gathered together in this new and wonderful hall.”29 President Hinckley told the congregation that the present building was anticipated as early as 1924 by Elder James E. Talmage and perhaps by President Brigham Young in 1853.
President Hinckley added a personal touch to the conference as he told the Saints about the pulpit of the new building: “Some 36 years ago I planted a black walnut [tree]. … A year ago, for some reason it died. But walnut is a precious furniture wood. I called Brother Ben Banks of the Seventy, who, before giving his full time to the Church, was in the business of hardwood lumber. He brought his two sons, … who now run the business, to look at the tree. From all they could tell it was solid, good, and beautiful wood. One of them suggested that it would make a pulpit for this hall. The idea excited me. … [At] Fetzer’s woodworking plant … expert craftsmen designed and built this magnificent pulpit with that wood.
“… And here I am speaking to you from the tree I grew in my backyard, where my children played and also grew.”30
All five sessions of the conference were held in the new building. During the final session on Sunday afternoon President Hinckley said, “There is something wonderfully significant about all of this. It is a time of new beginnings. …
“… This building has been filled to capacity. I don’t see an empty seat anywhere. It is a miracle! It is a tremendous and wonderful thing, for which we thank the Lord with all our hearts.”31
On 23 June 2000 the Conference Center accommodated 21,000 guests who attended a celebration of President Hinckley’s ninetieth birthday. “President Hinckley hosted ‘An Evening of Celebration,’ featuring distinguished musicians, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square. His counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, offered the invocation and benediction, respectively.
“President Hinckley explained the party was not for him, but instead was his gift to those who have touched his life. ‘Tonight,’ he said, ‘is my opportunity to give something back to the community in which I have spent most of my life, and to the many wonderful people here and throughout the world who, for all of these years, have shown me kindness and touched me with their goodness.’” The celebration was broadcast over satellite to LDS meetinghouses throughout the world.32
In October 1997 President Gordon B. Hinckley affirmed: “I believe that no member of the Church has received the ultimate which this Church has to give until he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the Lord. …
“But there are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances?” The answer, he announced at general conference, was to build smaller temples in these areas. The smaller temples were to be built to temple standards and would accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment, sealings, and all other necessary ordinances.
President Hinckley explained that the smaller temples were to be presided over and staffed by local Saints. Where possible, they were to be located adjacent to stake centers in order to share facilities, such as parking lots. The temples were designed to be constructed economically in just a few months. One small temple could be built for about the same cost as maintaining a larger temple for one year. President Hinckley announced that the construction of these small temples would begin in Monticello, Utah; the Mormon Colonies in northern Mexico; and Anchorage, Alaska.33
A month after the announcement, ground was broken for the Monticello Utah Temple, the first of this new generation of temples. The temple was completed in less than eight months, the fastest construction of any temple in the history of the Church. The seven-thousand-square-foot building was the fifty-third operating temple of the Church and the eleventh in Utah. The Monticello Utah Temple was dedicated 26 July 1998.34
The 100th temple announced now stands on what was the eastern side of the Smith family’s farm in Palmyra, New York, near the Smith’s frame home and the Sacred Grove, where the Prophet Joseph Smith experienced the First Vision. It stands “on a gently-sloping hilltop—known as a drumlin. … Portions of a rock hedge, built by Joseph and his brothers as they cleared the land for farming, line the temple grounds to the north and to the east.”35 President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Palmyra New York Temple on 6 April 2000. Television and satellite facilities broadcasted the event to stake centers in the United States and Canada. This event coincided with the 170th anniversary of the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Nauvoo Temple—the second temple built in the Church, wherein the first baptisms for the dead were performed and the first endowments given in a temple—will be rebuilt. The Nauvoo Temple was destroyed by fire and a tornado after the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846. President Hinckley announced: “I feel impressed to announce that among all of the temples we are constructing, we plan to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple. A member of the Church and his family have provided a very substantial contribution to make this possible. We are grateful to him. … The new building will stand as a memorial to those who built the first such structure there on the banks of the Mississippi.”36
The new working temple will be built on the same grounds as the original historic temple and will have the same appearance and dimensions: 88 feet wide, 128 feet long and 165 feet from the ground to the spire.
President Gordon B. Hinckley initiated changes in the design of the curriculum of the Church. In 1996 he assigned Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to oversee the development of a new curriculum for the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society. The objective was to promote spirituality, service, and leadership and “to help members and leaders put gospel truths to work more effectively in their lives.”37
The resulting curriculum gave a new structure to the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society lessons for each Sunday of the month. On the first Sunday, Melchizedek Priesthood quorums were to focus on learning more about their priesthood duties and Relief Society presidencies were to teach about the duties of women and the work of the Relief Society. On the second and third Sundays of each month, lessons came from the teachings of latter-day prophets. The fourth-Sunday lessons, titled “Teachings for Our Time,” considered topics outlined by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles based primarily on current teachings from these General Authorities. Both the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and the Relief Society used the same study manual.
In addition, two lessons each year were outlined by stake or mission leaders. Occasional fifth-Sunday lessons were taught by members of bishoprics or branch presidencies. The curriculum enabled leaders at both the general and local level to direct attention to matters of current concern.
Practical application was the theme of the lessons in the new curriculum. “When teaching is effective and leaders show the way,” Elders Oaks and Holland emphasized, “members are motivated to action.”38 The new curriculum helped the Saints focus on what they needed to do to help the Church achieve its prophesied destiny.
The Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus performed their final concert on 22 May 1999. After thirty years of performing, the groups were dissolved to make way for a new choir named the Temple Square Chorale, a training choir for the Tabernacle Choir. Auditions were held for a new orchestra named the Orchestra at Temple Square. The three performing groups were “united under one Church-service president, assisted by a full-time administrator.”39 The groups perform both individually and in combination as assigned.
On 13 June 2000 President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Ricks College, a two-year college, would become a four-year university with the name Brigham Young University–Idaho. He stated: “This change of status is consistent with the ongoing tradition of the evaluation and progress that has brought Ricks College from infant beginnings to its present position as the largest privately owned two-year institution of higher education in America.” He explained that “the school will continue to be teaching-oriented, with effective teaching and advising students the primary responsibility of its faculty, ‘who are committed to academic excellence.’ The institution will emphasize under-graduate education and will award baccalaureate degrees.”40
President Gordon B. Hinckley’s enthusiasm, wit, and stamina led the Church as it reached out through the media, made temples more available, and helped members apply gospel principles.