“Chapter 15: Gordon B. Hinckley: Fifteenth President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (2004), 253–77
“Chapter 15,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual, 253–77
He was born 23 June 1910 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley.
He was baptized by his father (28 April 1919).
His mother died (9 Nov. 1930).
He graduated from the University of Utah (June 1932).
He served a mission to the British Isles (1933–35).
He was appointed executive secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee (1935).
He married Marjorie Pay (29 Apr. 1937).
He accepted a position at the Union Depot and Railroad Company in Salt Lake City (1943).
He was appointed general secretary of the General Missionary Committee (1951).
He was asked by President David O. McKay to prepare the temple presentations in non-English languages (1953).
He was called as president of the East Millcreek Stake (28 Oct. 1956).
He was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve (6 Apr. 1958).
He was ordained an Apostle (5 Oct. 1961).
He spoke on the CBS network television program Church of the Air (6 Oct. 1963).
Under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, he read a proclamation from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commemorating the Church’s 150th anniversary, broadcast by satellite from Fayette, New York (6 Apr. 1980).
He was called as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball (23 July 1981).
He was called as a counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson (10 Nov. 1985).
He was called as a counselor to President Howard W. Hunter (5 June 1994).
He became President of the Church (12 Mar. 1995).
He read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” at the General Relief Society meeting (23 Sept. 1995).
He represented the Church on the television news show 60 Minutes (broadcast Apr. 1996); he organized additional Quorums of Seventy (increased to five quorums on 5 Apr. 1997).
He announced that smaller temples would be built throughout the world (Oct. 1997).
He addressed, by satellite, what may have been the largest gathering of missionaries ever convened to that date (21 Feb. 1999).
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued the document “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” (1 Jan. 2000); he dedicated the Palmyra New York Temple (6 Apr. 2000).
He dedicated the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah (8 Oct. 2000); he traveled 250,000 miles, visited 58 countries, spoke to 2.2 million members and dedicated 24 temples (2000); he published his book Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes (2000); he announced the Perpetual Education Fund to assist young Church members worldwide with their education (Apr. 2001).
He dedicated the Nauvoo Illinois Temple (27 June 2002); he published his book Way to Be!: Nine Ways to Be Happy and Make Something of Your Life (2002).
“President Hinckley’s forebear, Thomas Hinckley, served as governor of Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, from 1681 to 1692. His grandfather, Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, lost his parents and, with his brother, traveled from Michigan to Springfield, Illinois, to live with his grandparents. As a teenager he walked to Nauvoo and met the Prophet Joseph Smith” (Boyd K. Packer, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: First Counselor,” Ensign, Feb. 1986, 3).
In 1843, at the age of fourteen, Ira Nathaniel Hinckley joined the Church, and in 1850 he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. After settling in Salt Lake City with his family, he went back East on trips to help other Saints migrate west. In 1862 he enlisted in the army to guard the transcontinental telegraph line during the Civil War. In 1867 President Brigham Young sent Ira a letter, asking him to accept a new assignment:
“‘We wish to get a good and suitable person to settle on and take charge of the Church Ranch at Cove Creek, Millard County. Your name has been suggested for this position. As it is some distance from any other settlement, a man of sound practical judgment and experience is needed to fill the place. Cove Creek is on the main road to our Dixie, Pahranagat, and Lower California, some 42 miles south of Fillmore and some 22 miles north of Beaver. If you think you can take this mission, you should endeavor to go south with us. We expect to start a week from next Monday. It is not wisdom for you to take your family there until the fort is built. … Should you conclude to go, let us know by the bearer of this letter, and when you start, come with conveyance to accompany us.’
“… Ira sent the courier back with a simple reply: ‘Say to the President I will be there on the appointed day with conveyance prepared to go’” (Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley , 12).
Ira Nathaniel Hinckley left his family in Coalville, Utah, until the fort at Cove Creek was ready to be occupied. While he was away, his wife Angeline Wilcox Noble Hinckley gave birth to a son, Bryant Stringham Hinckley (Gordon B. Hinkley’s father), on 9 July 1867. Ira moved his family to Cove Fort in November of 1867, and for the next seventeen years they helped travelers passing through the area find shelter, food, and safety.
“Bryant Hinckley’s earliest memories were of life at Cove Fort, where he and his brothers learned to ride almost as soon as they learned to walk. Many an afternoon found them atop the fort wall, their field glasses in hand, watching cowboys on fleet-footed ponies corral the wild horses and cattle that roamed the hills to the east. …
“In 1883, when Bryant was sixteen, Angeline moved to Provo so that Ira’s five oldest sons … could attend the Brigham Young Academy. Bryant was at an impressionable age, and the academy opened up a whole new world for the boy from rural Utah. …
“Upon graduation, Bryant was offered a teaching position at the academy on the condition that he obtain further training, so he later traveled east to Poughkeepsie, New York, and attended Eastman Business College, from which he graduated in December 1892. He also completed several months of graduate work at Rochester Business University before returning home in the spring of 1893 to teach at the BY Academy and, in June 1893, to marry Christine Johnson” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 16–18).
In early 1900 Bryant was offered and accepted the position of principal at the new LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. “His instincts for business as well as his skill as a teacher and communicator served the college well. … By the time he left after ten years of service, the school was considered one of the best business colleges in the country” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 18).
Bryant and Christine Hinckley became the parents of nine children. Tragically, on the same day their fifth child was born, their two-year-old daughter died with a severe fever, and in July 1908, after fifteen years of marriage, Christine suddenly became violently ill and was rushed into emergency surgery. All efforts to treat her were futile and she died shortly thereafter. Bryant was overwhelmed. His wife was gone and he was left alone with eight children to care for.
In time after the death of his wife, Bryant Hinckley felt that his children needed a mother and he needed a companion. At that time he was the principal of the LDS Business College, and on the faculty was a talented teacher named Ada Bitner who taught English and shorthand. After a short courtship, Bryant and Ada were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 4 August 1909.
“Bryant had been promised in a patriarchal blessing almost fifteen years earlier: ‘You shall not only become great yourself but your posterity will become great, from your loins shall come forth statesmen, prophets, priests and Kings to the most High God. The Priesthood will never depart from your family, no never. To your posterity there shall be no end … and the name of Hinckley shall be honored in every nation under heaven.’
“The day Bryant and Ada rejoiced in the arrival of their first son, they couldn’t have foreseen that he would in great measure fulfill that prophecy. Born on June 23, 1910, and given his mother’s maiden name, he would be known as Gordon Bitner Hinckley” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 22).
“A spindly, frail boy susceptible to earaches and other illnesses, Gordon was a constant worry to his mother. In the evening it was common to find Ada warming two small bags of salt, which she would hold against his aching ears. …
“Gordon also suffered from allergies, asthma, and hay fever, and the living conditions of the day exacerbated his problems. Nearly everyone in Salt Lake City burned coal in stoves or furnaces, and the resultant soot hung over the city, particularly in the dead of winter, like a suffocating blanket. …
“The heavy concentration of soot and other pollutants was Gordon’s nemesis. At age two he contracted a severe case of whooping cough, threatening enough that a doctor told Ada the only remedy was clear, country air. Bryant responded by purchasing a five-acre farm in the rural East Millcreek area of the Salt Lake Valley and building a small summer home” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 24–25).
Recalling some lessons he learned during his childhood, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“I grew up here in Salt Lake City, a very ordinary kind of freckle-faced boy. … My father was a man of education and talent. He was respected in the community. He had a love for the Church and for its leaders. President Joseph F. Smith, who was President in my childhood, was one of his heroes. He loved President Heber J. Grant, who became President of the Church in 1918.
“My mother was a gifted and wonderful woman. She was an educator; but when she married, she left her employment to become a housewife and mother. In our minds she was a great success.
“We lived in what I thought was a large home in the First Ward. It had four rooms on the main floor—a kitchen, a dining room, a parlor, and a library. There were four bedrooms upstairs. The house stood on the corner on a large lot. There was a big lawn, with many trees that shed millions of leaves, and there was an immense amount of work to be done constantly.
“In my early childhood, we had a stove in the kitchen and a stove in the dining room. A furnace was later installed, and what a wonderful thing that was. But it had a voracious appetite for coal, and there was no automatic stoker. The coal had to be shoveled into the furnace and carefully banked each night.
“I learned a great lesson from that monster of a furnace: if you wanted to keep warm, you had to work the shovel.
“My father had an idea that his boys ought to learn to work, in the summer as well as in the winter, and so he bought a five-acre farm, which eventually grew to include more than thirty acres. We lived there in the summer and returned to the city when school started.
“We had a large orchard, and the trees had to be pruned each spring. Father took us to pruning demonstrations put on by experts from the agriculture college. We learned a great truth—that you could pretty well determine the kind of fruit you would pick in September by the way you pruned in February. The idea was to space the branches so that the fruit would be exposed to sunlight and air. Further, we learned that new, young wood produces the best fruit. That has had many applications in life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 68; or Ensign, May 1993, 52).
President Gordon B. Hinckley shared the following insights into his childhood:
“In 1915 President Joseph F. Smith asked the people of the Church to have family home evening. My father said we would do so, that we would warm up the parlor where Mother’s grand piano stood and do what the President of the Church had asked.
“We were miserable performers as children. We could do all kinds of things together while playing, but for one of us to try to sing a solo before the others was like asking ice cream to stay hard on the kitchen stove. In the beginning we would laugh and make cute remarks about one another’s performance. But our parents persisted. We sang together. We prayed together. We listened quietly while Mother read Bible and Book of Mormon stories. Father told us stories out of his memory. …
“Out of those simple little meetings, held in the parlor of our old home, came something indescribable and wonderful. Our love for our parents was strengthened. Our love for brothers and sisters was enhanced. Our love for the Lord was increased. An appreciation for simple goodness grew in our hearts. These wonderful things came about because our parents followed the counsel of the President of the Church. I have learned something tremendously significant out of that.
“In that old home we knew that our father loved our mother. That was another of the great lessons of my boyhood. I have no recollection of ever hearing him speak unkindly to her or of her. He encouraged her in her individual Church activities and in neighborhood and civic responsibilities. She had much of native talent, and he encouraged her to use it. Her comfort was his constant concern. We looked upon them as equals, companions who worked together and loved and appreciated one another as they loved us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 71–72; or Ensign, May 1993, 54).
Both of Gordon B. Hinckley’s parents were educators, and they wanted to give their children the best opportunities to learn. “As a former English teacher, Ada was well-read and a purist as far as grammar was concerned. She would not tolerate sloppy language, and her children learned to speak with precision and care. To say nothin’, or use slang of any kind, was almost unforgivable.
“Ada had been an exceptional student, and she expected the same of her children. For years Gordon treasured a small Webster’s Handy Dictionary that carried the inscription, ‘Ada Bitner Reward for Excellence, 1889.’ Books and education were important to Bryant as well, and he had converted one of the large rooms in their home to a library that could be closed off for studying. Its bookshelves were filled with more than a thousand volumes” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 30).
Years later, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke fondly of the family home library:
“When I was a boy we lived in a large old house. One room was called the library. It had a solid table and a good lamp, three or four comfortable chairs with good light, and books in cases that lined the walls. There were many volumes—the acquisitions of my father and mother over a period of many years.
“We were never forced to read them, but they were placed where they were handy and where we could get at them whenever we wished.
“There was quiet in that room. It was understood that it was a place to study.
“There were also magazines—the Church magazines and two or three other good magazines. There were books of history and literature, books on technical subjects, dictionaries, a set of encyclopedias, and an atlas of the world. There was no television, of course, at that time. Radio came along while I was growing up. But there was an environment, an environment of learning. I would not have you believe that we were great scholars. But we were exposed to great literature, great ideas from great thinkers, and the language of men and women who thought deeply and wrote beautifully” (“The Environment of Our Homes,” Ensign, June 1985, 4).
“Ironically, for all the emphasis among the Hinckleys on literature and learning, as a young boy Gordon did not like school. At age six, when he should have started first grade, he hid from his parents on the first day of school. Because he was a small child with delicate health, Bryant and Ada decided he might do better the following year attending with his [younger brother] Sherman.
“When the first day of school arrived a year later, Gordon ran laps around the house in an attempt to avoid his mother, but Ada prevailed. … It wasn’t long before Gordon joined his age group in the second grade” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 30–31). It wasn’t until high school that Gordon’s attitude changed dramatically.
His parents always encouraged him and the other children to do their best and certain standards and behavior were always expected. They were not strict disciplinarians, but they had a way of communicating what was expected. If needed, they assigned extra chores to those children who needed encouragement. On one occasion, in the first grade, “after a particularly rough day at school, Gordon returned home, threw his books on the table as he walked through the kitchen, and let out an expletive. Ada, shocked at his language, explained that under no circumstances would those words ever come out of his mouth again and led Gordon to the bathroom, where she generously coated a clean washcloth with soap and rubbed it around his tongue and teeth. He sputtered and fumed and felt like swearing again, but resisted the urge” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 33). He later said: “The lesson was worthwhile. I think I can say that I have tried to avoid using the name of the Lord in vain since that day. I am grateful for that lesson” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 57; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 46).
In 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of his patriarchal blessing:
“I had a patriarchal blessing when I was a little boy, eleven years of age. A convert to the Church [Thomas E. Callister] who had come from England, who was our patriarch, laid his hands upon my head and gave me a blessing. I think I never read that blessing until I was on the boat coming over to England in 1933. I took it out of my trunk and read it carefully, and I read it every now and again while I was on my mission in England.
“I don’t want to tell you everything in that blessing, but that man spoke with a prophetic voice. He said, among other things, that I would lift my voice in testimony of the truth in the nations of the earth. When I was released from my mission, I spoke in London in a testimony meeting in the Battersea Town Hall. The next Sunday I spoke in Berlin. The next Sunday I spoke in Paris. The next Sunday I spoke in Washington, D. C. I came home tired and weak and thin and weary, … and I said, ‘I’ve had it. I’ve traveled as far as I want to travel. I never want to travel again.’ And I thought I had fulfilled that blessing. I had spoken in four of the great capitals of the world—London, Berlin, Paris, and Washington, D. C. I thought I had fulfilled that part of that blessing.
“I say with gratitude and in a spirit of testimony … that it has since been my privilege, out of the providence and goodness of the Lord, to bear testimony of this work and of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith in all of the lands of Asia—nearly, at least—Japan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, what have you. I have testified in Australia, New Zealand, the islands of the Pacific, the nations of Europe, all of the nations of South America, and all of the nations of the Orient in testimony of the divinity of this work” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 422–23).
President Hinckley shared an experience he had as a young boy, when he came to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet:
“Many years ago when at the age of twelve I was ordained a deacon, my father, who was president of our stake, took me to my first stake priesthood meeting. In those days these meetings were held on a week night. I recall that we went to the Tenth Ward building in Salt Lake City, Utah. He walked up to the stand, and I sat on the back row, feeling a little alone and uncomfortable in that hall filled with strong men who had been ordained to the priesthood of God. The meeting was called to order, the opening song was announced, and—as was then the custom—we all stood to sing. There were perhaps as many as four hundred there. Together these men lifted their strong voices, some with the accents of the European lands from which they had come as converts, all singing these words with a great spirit of conviction and testimony:
Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
(Hymns,No. 147 [currently no. 27].)
“They were singing of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and as they did so there came into my heart a great surge of love for and belief in the mighty Prophet of this dispensation. In my childhood I had been taught much of him in meetings and classes in our ward as well as in our home; but my experience in that stake priesthood meeting was different. I knew then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God.
“It is true that during the years which followed there were times when that testimony wavered somewhat, particularly in the seasons of my undergraduate university work. However, that conviction never left me entirely; and it has grown stronger through the years, partly because of the challenges of those days which compelled me to read and study and make certain for myself” (“‘Praise to the Man,’” Ensign, Aug. 1983, 2).
President Gordon B. Hinckley shared the following experience from when he entered junior high school:
“The [junior high school] building could not accommodate all the students, so our class of the seventh grade was sent back to the [elementary school].
“We were insulted. We were furious. We’d spent six unhappy years in that building, and we felt we deserved something better. The boys of the class all met after school. We decided we wouldn’t tolerate this kind of treatment. We were determined we’d go on strike.
“The next day we did not show up. But we had no place to go. We couldn’t stay home because our mothers would ask questions. We didn’t think of going downtown to a show. We had no money for that. We didn’t think of going to the park. We were afraid we might be seen by Mr. Clayton, the truant officer. We didn’t think of going out behind the school fence and telling shady stories because we didn’t know any. We’d never heard of such things as drugs or anything of the kind. We just wandered about and wasted the day.
“The next morning, the principal, Mr. Stearns, was at the front door of the school to greet us. His demeanor matched his name. He said some pretty straightforward things and then told us that we could not come back to school until we brought a note from our parents. That was my first experience with a lockout. Striking, he said, was not the way to settle a problem. We were expected to be responsible citizens, and if we had a complaint, we could come to the principal’s office and discuss it.
“There was only one thing to do, and that was to go home and get the note.
“I remember walking sheepishly into the house. My mother asked what was wrong. I told her. I said that I needed a note. She wrote a note. It was very brief. It was the most stinging rebuke she ever gave me. It read as follows:
“‘Dear Mr. Stearns,
“‘Please excuse Gordon’s absence yesterday. His action was simply an impulse to follow the crowd.’
“She signed it and handed it to me.
“I walked back over to school and got there about the same time a few other boys did. We all handed our notes to Mr. Stearns. I do not know whether he read them, but I have never forgotten my mother’s note. Though I had been an active party to the action we had taken, I resolved then and there that I would never do anything on the basis of simply following the crowd. I determined then and there that I would make my own decisions on the basis of their merits and my standards and not be pushed in one direction or another by those around me.
“That decision has blessed my life many times, sometimes in very uncomfortable circumstances. It has kept me from doing some things which, if indulged in, could at worst have resulted in serious injury and trouble, and at the best would have cost me my self-respect” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 69–70; or Ensign, May 1993, 53).
“Gordon graduated from LDS High School in 1928 and enrolled in the University of Utah that fall, just a year before the onset of the Depression. …
“As Gordon worked his way through the university and made the transition from dependence upon his parents to personal responsibility, he, like many of his peers, began to question assumptions about life, the world, and even the Church. His concerns were compounded by the cynicism of the times. …
“Fortunately, he was able to discuss some of his concerns with his father, and together they explored the questions he raised: the fallibility of the Brethren, why difficult things happen to people who are living the gospel, why God allows some of His children to suffer, and so on. The environment of faith that permeated Gordon’s home was vital during this period of searching, as he later explained: ‘My father and mother were absolutely solid in their faith. They didn’t try to push the gospel down my throat or compel me to participate, but they didn’t back away from expressing their feelings either. My father was wise and judicious and was not dogmatic. He had taught university students and appreciated young people along with their points of view and difficulties. He had a tolerant, understanding attitude and was willing to talk about anything I had on my mind.’
“Underneath Gordon’s questions and critical attitude lay a thread of faith that had been long in the weaving. Little by little, despite his questions and doubts, he realized that he had a testimony he could not deny. And though he began to understand that there wasn’t always a clear-cut or easy answer for every difficult question, he also found that his faith in God transcended his doubts. Since that evening many years earlier when he had attended his first stake priesthood meeting, he had known that Joseph Smith was a prophet: ‘The testimony which had come to me as a boy remained with me and became as a bulwark to which I could cling during those very difficult years,’ he said” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 45–47).
Gordon B. Hinckley’s mother, Ada Bitner Hinckley died on 9 November 1930, when he was twenty years old. Speaking of his mother’s death, he said:
“At the age of fifty she developed cancer. [My father] was solicitous of her every need. I recall our family prayers, with his tearful pleadings and our tearful pleadings.
“Of course there was no medical insurance then. He would have spent every dollar he owned to help her. He did, in fact, spend very much. He took her to Los Angeles in search of better medical care. But it was to no avail.
“That was sixty-two years ago, but I remember with clarity my brokenhearted father as he stepped off the train and greeted his grief-stricken children. We walked solemnly down the station platform to the baggage car, where the casket was unloaded and taken by the mortician. We came to know even more about the tenderness of our father’s heart. This has had an effect on me all of my life.
“I also came to know something of death—the absolute devastation of children losing their mother—but also of peace without pain and the certainty that death cannot be the end of the soul” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 72; or Ensign, May 1993, 54).
After graduating from the University of Utah in 1932, Gordon B. Hinckley intended to enroll at the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City, but the Lord had other plans for him. “On a Sunday afternoon not long before his twenty-third birthday, Gordon was invited to Bishop Duncan’s home. The bishop got right to the point: Had he thought of serving a mission? He was shocked. In those days of depression, missionary service was the exception rather than the rule. The distressing financial future had made the burden of supporting a missionary virtually impossible for most families; indeed, few missionaries were even being called. Nevertheless, as soon as his bishop raised the subject, he knew what his answer must be: he told Bishop Duncan he would go.
“The reality of financing the mission loomed, however. Bryant assured his son they would find a way, and Sherman [Gordon’s younger brother] volunteered to help. Gordon planned to devote the modest savings he had accumulated for graduate school. Unfortunately, not long after he committed to go, the bank where he had established his savings account failed and he lost everything. But some time later the family discovered that for years Ada had nurtured a small savings account with the coins she received in change when buying groceries and had earmarked the fund for her sons’ missionary service. Gordon was overwhelmed with his mother’s years of quiet sacrifice and prescient foresight. Even after her death she continued to support and sustain him. More important was his mother’s example of consecration, and he considered sacred the money he received from her savings” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 56).
He received his mission call to the European Mission, with headquarters in London, England. Elder Hinckley traveled to England on a ship that docked at Plymouth the night of 1 July 1933. The next day he was assigned to go to Preston, Lancashire.
As with many missionaries, he had his discouraging moments. His allergies bothered him from all of the June grasses that were pollinating at the time he arrived. Tears from hay fever were constant, and his energy and stamina were at an all-time low. Later he recalled:
“I was not well when I arrived. Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged. I wrote a letter home to my good father and said that I felt I was wasting my time and his money. He was my father and my stake president, and he was a wise and inspired man. He wrote a very short letter to me which said, ‘Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’ Earlier that morning in our scripture class my companion and I had read these words of the Lord: ‘Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.’ (Mark 8:35.)
“Those words of the Master, followed by my father’s letter with his counsel to forget myself and go to work, went into my very being. With my father’s letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service.
“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. I had a rich and wonderful mission experience, for which I shall ever be grateful, laboring in Preston where the work began and in other places where it had moved forward, including the great city of London, where I served the larger part of my mission” (“Taking the Gospel to Britain: A Declaration of Vision, Faith, Courage, and Truth,” Ensign, July 1987, 7).
“No sooner had young Elder Hinckley thrown himself into the work in Lancashire than he received a letter calling him to London as a special assistant to Elder Joseph F. Merrill, a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and president of the European Mission.
“‘We didn’t baptize many people in London in those days,’ recalls mission companion Wendell J. Ashton, ‘but Elder Hinckley was a knockout in those street meetings on Hyde Park corner. I can promise you we learned to speak quickly on our feet. And Elder Hinckley was the best of the bunch. I have always thought that he gained tremendous firsthand experience there in London’s Hyde Park doing what he would so skillfully do for the rest of his life—defend the Church and speak up courageously of its truths. He was good at it then and he is good at it now.’
“Soon enough young Elder Hinckley was back in Salt Lake City, weary, underweight, and (with grand irony in light of what lay ahead in his life) with a desire ‘never to travel anywhere again’” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Ensign, June 1995, 8).
After Gordon B. Hinckley’s mission, his mission president, Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve, asked him to report to President Heber J. Grant and the First Presidency concerning the publication of missionary materials. “A new committee of the Twelve was organized to bring to missionary work the power of the latest means of communication. Brother Hinckley was to serve as producer and secretary for the Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. This was, in fact, the beginning of the Public Communications Office in the Church. His plans to go to Columbia University would be put aside. His career as a seminary teacher, for he taught half-time when he returned from his mission, would be replaced. The committee included six members of the Twelve, with Elder Stephen L Richards as chairman” (Packer, Ensign, Feb. 1986, 5).
Gordon B. Hinckley and Marjorie Pay had been courting each other before his mission and had become good friends. She was excited to hear of his call and encouraged him to serve. “‘Marjorie was “the girl next door” when we were growing up,’ recalls President Hinckley’s younger sister Ramona H. Sullivan, ‘only in this case it was the girl across the street. And she was very pretty. The thing I remember most about Marge in those early years is how polished and impressive she was, even as a young girl, in giving readings and performances in the meetings and activities of our old First Ward. All the other kids would just sort of stand up and mumble through something, but Marjorie was downright professional. She had all of the elocution and all of the movements. I still remember those readings she gave.’
“Although they didn’t start dating seriously until after he was home from his mission, it was one of those very youthful readings Marjorie Pay gave which first caught his attention. ‘I saw her first in Primary,’ President Hinckley says with a laugh. ‘She gave a reading. I don’t know what it did to me, but I never forgot it. Then she grew older into a beautiful young woman, and I had the good sense to marry her.’
“The Hinckleys were married on 29 April 1937 and have had born to them three daughters and two sons. … To this extremely close-knit family have since been added twenty-five grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren” (Holland, Ensign, June 1995, 10–11).
“While he continued to learn more about the administration of the Church, Gordon was also finding there was plenty to keep him occupied at home as he and Marjorie adjusted to living with each other. And there were adjustments. Shortly after they had announced their engagement, Emma Marr Petersen, Mark E. Petersen’s wife, had warned Marjorie that the first ten years of marriage would be the hardest. Her comment both puzzled and shocked Marjorie, who later admitted: ‘I was just sure the first ten years would be bliss. But during our first year together I discovered she was dead right! There were a lot of adjustments. Of course, they weren’t the kind of thing you ran home to mother about. But I cried into my pillow now and again. The problems were almost always related to learning to live on someone else’s schedule and to do things someone else’s way. We loved each other, there was no doubt about that. But we also had to get used to each other. I think every couple has to get used to each other’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 118).
“Shortly after he married, [Gordon B. Hinckley] tackled the formidable task of building a small home, designing it to be added upon as the family grew. Son Clark says, ‘Dad always had a plan for the future. In the house he built, he left areas for doors within walls, under the theory that as he remodeled and expanded, the doors would be needed as part of the plan.’ Eldest son Dick adds, ‘It seems our home was always a year or two behind the family growth, and Mother constantly had to deal with some unfinished aspect of home or yard. When they moved into a condominium years later,’ Mother said, ‘At last, brick walls that Dad cannot knock out or change!’” (M. Russell Ballard, “Gordon B. Hinckley: An Anchor of Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 1994, 8).
For twenty-three years Gordon B. Hinckley had worked at the Church headquarters and had nurtured a close relationship with many General Authorities. In 1958 he was called to serve as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Early in the morning of 30 September 1961 he received a phone call from President David O. McKay asking him to come to his office as soon as possible.
“Less than an hour later the two men sat knee to knee and President McKay explained the reason for this early visit prior to that morning’s session of general conference: ‘I have felt to nominate you to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,’ he told Elder Hinckley simply, ‘and we would like to sustain you today in conference.’ The words took Gordon’s breath away, and he searched without success for a response. How could it be, that such a call would come to him? He had known, of course, of the vacancy in the Quorum. But never for a moment had he—or would he have—thought he would be called to fill it.
“President McKay continued: ‘Your grandfather was worthy of this, as was your father. And so are you.’ With these words, Elder Hinckley’s composure crumbled, for there was no compliment the prophet could have paid him that would have meant more. ‘Tears began to fill my eyes as President McKay looked at me with those piercing eyes of his and spoke to me of my forebears,’ he remembered. ‘My father was a better man than I have ever been, but he didn’t have the opportunities I have had. The Lord has blessed me with tremendous opportunities.’ …
“In a letter he pecked out on his own Underwood manual typewriter, he wrote his missionary son serving in Duisburg, Germany. ‘I thought I would let you know that I have been called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,’ he told Dick. ‘I don’t know why I have been called to such a position. I have done nothing extraordinary but have tried only to do the best I could with the tasks I’ve been given without worrying about who got the credit.’ Dick said later, ‘I could tell from the letter that Dad was overwhelmed with it all. I myself was surprised with the news. The thought had never crossed my mind that he might be called into the Twelve’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 234, 236).
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley taught:
“No member of this Church must ever forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer who gave his life that all men might live—the agony of Gethsemane, the bitter mockery of his trial, the vicious crown of thorns tearing at his flesh, the blood cry of the mob before Pilate, the lonely burden of his heavy walk along the way to Calvary, the terrifying pain as great nails pierced his hands and feet, the fevered torture of his body as he hung that tragic day, the Son of God crying out, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34.)
“This was the cross, the instrument of his torture, the terrible device designed to destroy the Man of Peace, the evil recompense for his miraculous work of healing the sick, of causing the blind to see, of raising the dead. This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit.
“We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 137; or Ensign, May 1975, 93).
“Surely one of the most challenging moments came to the life of Gordon B. Hinckley when, in the summer of 1981, President Spencer W. Kimball called Elder Hinckley to serve as a counselor in the First Presidency. Although they were experiencing varying degrees of declining health, the First Presidency was ‘complete’ with President Kimball, President N. Eldon Tanner, and President Marion G. Romney still serving. Nevertheless, in a moment of clear revelatory inspiration and good health, President Kimball asked Elder Hinckley to join the First Presidency as ‘Counselor in the First Presidency’—an additional counselor, for which there was ample precedent in Church history.
“‘When I accepted President Kimball’s call to join them, I did not know exactly how I would function or fit in, and perhaps they did not at the time,’ says President Hinckley. ‘But the circumstances called for additional help, and I was more than willing to give it. I did not know whether it would be for a few days or a few months.’
“As it turned out, President Gordon B. Hinckley would never again leave the First Presidency of the Church. In 1982 President Tanner passed away, with President Romney moving to First Counselor and President Hinckley being sustained as Second Counselor.
“‘That was a very heavy and overwhelming responsibility,’ he recalls. ‘It was an almost terrifying load at times. Of course, I consulted with our brethren of the Twelve.
“‘I recall on one particular occasion getting on my knees before the Lord and asking for help in the midst of that very difficult situation. And there came into my mind those reassuring words, “Be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16). I knew again that this was His work, that He would not let it fail, that all I had to do was work at it and do our very best, and that the work would move forward without let or hindrance of any kind’” (Holland, Ensign, June 1995, 12).
While serving as counselor to Presidents Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra T. Benson, and Howard W. Hunter, President Hinckley observed the physical burdens they experienced in the latter part of their lives. There were times when he presided at meetings when the President or the other counselors could not attend because of poor health. The responsibility of leadership fell upon him for many decisions that kept the Church moving forward. He accepted the overwhelming workload humbly and prayerfully.
“Elder Thomas S. Monson reflected on President Hinckley’s role during this unique period in the Church’s history: ‘President Hinckley found himself in a most challenging situation, because President Kimball was still the prophet. Even though a man may be impaired physically, he might not be impaired mentally or spiritually. President Hinckley had the unenviable task of not going too far too fast, but of going far enough. He always had the rounded ability and common sense to do what a counselor should do—that of never intruding on what belonged solely to the President’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 401).
President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote:
“The Lord has given us counsel and commandment on so many things that no member of this church need ever equivocate. He has established our guidelines concerning personal virtue, neighborliness, obedience to law, loyalty to government, observance of the Sabbath day, sobriety and abstinence from liquor and tobacco, the payment of tithes and offerings, the care of the poor, the cultivation of home and family, the sharing of the gospel, to mention only a few.
“There need be nothing of argument or contention in any of them. If we will pursue a steady course in the implementation of our religion in our own lives, we shall advance the cause more effectively than by any other means.
“There may be those who will seek to tempt us away. There may be those who will try to bait us. We may be disparaged. We may be belittled. We may be inveighed against. We may be caricatured before the world. There are those, both in the Church and out, who would compel us to change our position on some matters, as if it were our prerogative to usurp authority which belongs to God alone.
“We have no desire to quarrel with others. We teach the gospel of peace. But we cannot forsake the word of the Lord as it has come to us through men whom we have sustained as prophets” (Be Thou an Example , 13).
President Gordon B. Hinckley testified of the miracle of the Book of Mormon: “If there are miracles among us, certainly one of them is [the Book of Mormon]. Unbelievers may doubt the First Vision and say there were not witnesses to prove it. Critics may scorn every divine manifestation incident to the coming forth of this work as being of such an intangible nature as to be unprovable to the pragmatic mind, as if the things of God could be understood other than by the Spirit of God. They may discount our theology. But they cannot in honesty dismiss the Book of Mormon. It is here. They can feel it. They can read it. They can weigh its substance and its content. They can witness its influence” (Be Thou an Example, 103–4).
Addressing a group of young people, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“It would be a beautiful world if every girl had the privilege of marriage to a good young man whom she could look upon with pride and gladness as her companion in time and eternity, hers alone to love and cherish, to respect and help. What a wonderful world it would be if every young man were married to a wife in the house of the Lord, one at whose side he would stand as protector, provider, husband, and companion.
“But it doesn’t work out that way in every case. There are some, who for reasons unexplainable, do not have the opportunity of marriage. To you I should like to say a word or two. Don’t waste your time and wear out your lives wandering about in the wasteland of self-pity. God has given you talents of one kind or another. God has given you the capacity to serve the needs of others and bless their lives with your kindness and concern. Reach out to someone in need. There are so very many out there.
“Add knowledge to knowledge. Refine your mind and skills in a chosen field of discipline. Never in the history of the world have women been afforded such opportunities in the professions, in business, in education, and in all of the honorable vocations of life. Do not feel that because you are single God has forsaken you. I repeat his promise quoted earlier, ‘Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers’ [D&C 112:10].
“The world needs you. The Church needs you. So very many people and causes need your strength and wisdom and talents” (“If I Were You, What Would I Do?” Brigham Young University 1983–84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches , 11).
In the September 1983 general women’s meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“To you women who find it necessary to work when you would rather be at home, may I speak briefly. I know that there are many of you who find yourselves in this situation. Some of you have been abandoned and are divorced, with children to care for. Some of you are widows with dependent families. I honor you and respect you for your integrity and spirit of self-reliance. I pray that the Lord will bless you with strength and great capacity, for you need both. You have the responsibilities of both breadwinner and homemaker. I know that it is difficult. I know that it is discouraging. I pray that the Lord will bless you with a special wisdom and the remarkable talent needed to provide your children with time and companionship and love and with that special direction which only a mother can give. I pray also that he will bless you with help, unstintingly given, from family, friends, and the Church, which will lift some of the burden from your shoulders and help you in your times of extremity.
“We sense, at least in some small degree, the loneliness you must occasionally feel and the frustrations you must experience as you try to cope with problems that sometimes seem beyond your capacity to handle. …
“Now to others who work when it is not necessary and who, while doing so, leave children to the care of those who often are only poor substitutes, I offer a word of caution. Do not follow a practice which will bring you later regret. If the purpose of your daily employment is simply to get money for a boat or a fancy automobile or some other desirable but unnecessary thing, and in the process you lose the companionship of your children and the opportunity to rear them, you may find that you have lost the substance while grasping at the shadow. …
“… I am satisfied that [our Father in Heaven] loves his daughters as much as he loves his sons. President Harold B. Lee once remarked that priesthood is the power by which God works through us as men. I should like to add that motherhood is the means by which God carries forward his grand design of continuity of the race. Both priesthood and motherhood are essentials of the plan of the Lord.
“Each complements the other. Each is needed by the other. God has created us male and female, each unique in his or her individual capacities and potential. The woman is the bearer and the nurturer of children. The man is the provider and protector. No legislation can alter the sexes. Legislation should provide equality of opportunity, equality of compensation, equality of political privilege. But any legislation which is designed to create neuter gender of that which God created male and female will bring more problems than benefits. Of that I am convinced.
“I wish with all my heart we would spend less of our time talking about rights and more talking about responsibilities. God has given the women of this Church a work to do in building his kingdom. That concerns all aspects of our great triad of responsibility—which is, first, to teach the gospel to the world; second, to strengthen the faith and build the happiness of the membership of the Church; and, third, to carry forward the great work of salvation for the dead. …
“Put on thy beautiful garments, O daughters of Zion. Live up to the great and magnificent inheritance which the Lord God, your Father in Heaven, has provided for you. Rise above the dust of the world. Know that you are daughters of God, children with a divine birthright. Walk in the sun with your heads high, knowing that you are loved and honored, that you are a part of his kingdom, and that there is for you a great work to be done which cannot be left to others” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 114–15; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 83–84).
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:
“Why all of these broken homes? What happens to marriages that begin with sincere love and a desire to be loyal and faithful and true one to another?
“There is no simple answer. I acknowledge that. But it appears to me that there are some obvious reasons that account for a very high percentage of these problems. I say this out of experience in dealing with such tragedies. I find selfishness to be the root cause of most of it.
“I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.
“Selfishness so often is the basis of money problems, which are a very serious and real factor affecting the stability of family life. Selfishness is at the root of adultery, the breaking of solemn and sacred covenants to satisfy selfish lust. Selfishness is the antithesis of love. It is a cankering expression of greed. It destroys self-discipline. It obliterates loyalty. It tears up sacred covenants. It afflicts both men and women.
“Too many who come to marriage have been coddled and spoiled and somehow led to feel that everything must be precisely right at all times, that life is a series of entertainments, that appetites are to be satisfied without regard to principle. How tragic the consequences of such hollow and unreasonable thinking! …
“There is a remedy for all of this. It is not found in divorce. It is found in the gospel of the Son of God. He it was who said, ‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder’ (Matthew 19:6). The remedy for most marriage stress is not in divorce. It is in repentance. It is not in separation. It is in simple integrity that leads a man to square up his shoulders and meet his obligations. It is found in the Golden Rule. …
“There may be now and again a legitimate cause for divorce. I am not one to say that it is never justified. But I say without hesitation that this plague among us, which seems to be growing everywhere, is not of God, but rather is the work of the adversary of righteousness and peace and truth” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 96–98; or Ensign, May 1991, 73–74).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“I am satisfied that God our Eternal Father does not love His daughters less than He loves His sons. Under the gospel plan the wife walks neither ahead nor behind her husband, but at his side in a true companionship before the Lord.
“I see my own companion of fifty-two years. Is her contribution less acceptable before the Lord than is mine? I am satisfied it is not. She has walked quietly at my side, sustained me in my responsibilities, reared and blessed our children, served in many capacities in the Church, and spread an unmitigated measure of cheer and goodness wherever she has gone. The older I grow the more I appreciate—yes, the more I love—this little woman with whom I knelt at the altar in the house of the Lord more than half a century ago.
“I wish with all of my heart that every marriage might be a happy marriage. I wish that every marriage might be an eternal partnership. I believe that wish can be realized if there is a willingness to make the effort to bring it to pass” (“Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 97).
“I believe in the family where there is a husband who regards his companion as his greatest asset and treats her accordingly; where there is a wife who looks upon her husband as her anchor and strength, her comfort and security; where there are children who look to mother and father with respect and gratitude; where there are parents who look upon those children as blessings and find a great and serious and wonderful challenge in their nurture and rearing. The cultivation of such a home requires effort and energy, forgiveness and patience, love and endurance and sacrifice; but it is worth all of these and more (“This I Believe,” Brigham Young University 1991–92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches , 80).
On 3 March 1995 President Howard W. Hunter passed away. President Gordon B. Hinckley, knowing the mantle would now fall upon him to preside over the Church, needed the Lord’s assurance and confirmation. He went to the Salt Lake Temple to seek the Lord’s will. There in the meeting room of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, behind locked doors, he read from the scriptures and reflected upon the Savior’s Atonement. He studied the portraits of the prophets of this dispensation and felt that they were encouraging him and that he would be blessed and sustained in his ministry. He wrote:
“‘They seemed to say to me that they had spoken on my behalf in a council held in the heavens, that I had no need to fear, that I would be blessed and sustained in my ministry.
“‘I got on my knees and pleaded with the Lord. I spoke with Him at length in prayer. … I am confident that by the power of the Spirit, I heard the word of the Lord, not vocally, but as a warmth that was felt within my heart concerning the questions I had raised in prayer.’
“After his time in the temple, President Hinckley felt a measure of peace about what lay ahead. ‘I feel better, and I have a much firmer assurance in my heart that the Lord is working His will with reference to His cause and kingdom, that I will be sustained as President of the Church and prophet, seer, and revelator, and so serve for such time as the Lord wills,’ he wrote afterward. ‘With the confirmation of the Spirit in my heart, I am now ready to go forward to do the very best work I know how to do. It is difficult for me to believe that the Lord is placing me in this most high and sacred responsibility. … I hope that the Lord has trained me to do what He expects of me. I will give Him total loyalty, and I will certainly seek His direction.’ …
“President James E. Faust voiced a sentiment shared by many General Authorities: ‘I don’t know of any man who has come to the Presidency of this Church who has been so well prepared for the responsibility. President Hinckley has known and worked with every Church President from Heber J. Grant to Howard W. Hunter, and has been tutored by all of the great leaders of our time one-on-one in a very personal way’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 508, 510–11).
President Gordon B. Hinckley’s early assignments in public relations gave him much experience with the media. His willingness to interact with the media has given the Church unprecedented opportunities to share the message of the Restoration with the world and his interviews on radio and television have offered some people exposure to the Church for the first time.
“‘President Hinckley is helping to lead the Church out of obscurity,’ Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated. ‘The Church can’t move forward as it needs to if we are hidden under a bushel. Someone has to step out, and President Hinckley is willing to do so. He is a man of history and modernity at the same time, and he has marvelous gifts of expression that enable him to present our message in a way that appeals to people everywhere.’ …
“‘President Hinckley respects the media, but he is not afraid of them,’ explained Elder Maxwell, who witnessed his performance in similar settings. ‘And he has such a solid grasp of both Church history and facts about the Church today that he is not likely to be thrown by a question that he hasn’t already thought about or processed in his own mind. He is able to give answers of sound-bite length that are important. He is quick mentally and equal to the engagements that come up. And he doesn’t feel compelled to gloss over any of our shortcomings as a people. He doesn’t put forward any gilding or veneer. As a result, reporters respond to his genuineness. He has the capacity to connect with people from all stations and in that respect is eminently prepared to tell our story to the world’” (Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 536, 546–47).
During a 1995 radio interview, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained: “We are Christians. No church in the world speaks up with a stronger witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world than does this Church, which carries His name—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And His gospel is the gospel we teach. And the spirit of love which we exemplify is the spirit in which we try to work” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 278).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Somebody asked Brother Widtsoe once, ‘When are we going to have another revelation? How is it that we haven’t had any revelations since the Doctrine and Covenants was compiled? How long has it been since we’ve had a revelation?’ Brother Widtsoe replied, ‘Oh, about last Thursday.’ Now, that’s the way it goes. Each Thursday, when we are at home, the First Presidency and the Twelve meet in the temple, in those sacred hallowed precincts, and we pray together and discuss certain matters together, and the spirit of revelation comes upon those present. I know. I have seen it. I was there that June day in 1978 when President Kimball received revelation, surrounded by members of the Twelve, of whom I was one at the time. This is the work of God. This is His almighty work. No man can stop or hinder it. It will go on and continue to grow and bless the lives of people across the earth” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 555).
In September 1995, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It was first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting. Before he read it, he said: “With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history” (“Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 100).
At a media luncheon and press conference in May 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley offered more insight on the need for the proclamation: “Why do we have this proclamation on the family now? Because the family is under attack. All across the world families are falling apart. The place to begin to improve society is in the home. Children do, for the most part, what they are taught. We are trying to make the world better by making the family stronger” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 209).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“The true strength of any nation, society, or family lies in those qualities of character that have been acquired for the most part by children taught in the quiet, simple, everyday manner of mothers. What Jean Paul Richter once declared of fathers is even more true of mothers—and I paraphrase it just a little to make a point—‘What a mother says to her children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity.’ …
“… I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass. …
“God bless you, mothers! When all the victories and defeats of men’s efforts are tallied, when the dust of life’s battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race. Its quality will depend on you” (Motherhood: A Heritage of Faith [pamphlet, 1995], 6, 9, 13).
Addressing his remarks to single mothers, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“Whatever the cause of your present situation, our hearts reach out to you. We know that many of you live in loneliness, insecurity, worry, and fear. For most of you there is never enough money. Your constant, brooding worry is anxiety for your children and their futures. Many of you find yourselves in circumstances where you have to work and leave your children largely to their own devices. But if when they are very small there is much of affection, there is shown much of love, there is prayer together, then there will more likely be peace in the hearts and strength in the character of your children. Teach them the ways of the Lord. Declared Isaiah, ‘All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children’ (Isa. 54:13).
“The more surely you rear your children in the ways of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with love and high expectation, the more likely that there will be peace in their lives” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 99).
Speaking to the Young Women of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I urge each of you young women to get all of the schooling you can get. You will need it for the world into which you will move. Life is becoming so exceedingly competitive. Experts say that the average man or woman, during his or her working career, can expect to have at least five different jobs. The world is changing, and it is so very important that we equip ourselves to move with that change. But there is a bright side to all of this. No other generation in all of history has offered women so many opportunities. Your first objective should be a happy marriage, sealed in the temple of the Lord, and followed by the rearing of a good family. Education can better equip you for the realization of those ideals” (“Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, 92).
President Gordon B. Hinckley often spoke of the importance of temples:
“Temple building and the dedication of temples have gone on at such a pace in the last few years that some pay little attention and feel it is of small significance.
“But the adversary has not been unmindful of it. The building and dedication of these sacred edifices have been accompanied by a surge of opposition from a few enemies of the Church as well as criticism from a few within. This has brought to mind a statement of Brigham Young in 1861 while the Salt Lake Temple was under construction. Evidently when someone with previous experience was asked to work on the Salt Lake Temple, he responded, ‘I do not like to do it, for we never began to build a Temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring.’
“To which Brigham Young replied, ‘I want to hear them ring again …’ (in Journal of Discourses, 8:355–56)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 71; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 54).
“It has been my consuming desire to have a temple wherever needed so that our people, wherever they might be, could, without too great a sacrifice, come to the House of the Lord for their own ordinances and for the opportunity of doing vicarious work for the dead. …
“The Church is not complete without temples. The doctrine is not fulfilled without these sacred ordinances. People cannot have a fulness of that to which they are entitled as members of this Church without the House of the Lord.
“The Lord has blessed us with the means, through the faithful consecrations of the Saints, to do that which we ought to do and must do. This is the greatest era of temple building in all the history of the world. But it is not enough. We must continue to pursue it until we have a dedicated temple within reach of our faithful people everywhere” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 629).
President Gordon B. Hinckley has had the opportunity to dedicate more temples than all of the other leaders of this dispensation combined. Under his direction the Church increased its number of operating temples beyond 100. During the April 1998 general conference, President Hinckley announced the building of smaller temples and shared the plan to have 100 working temples by the year 2000:
“In recent months we have traveled far out among the membership of the Church. I have been with many who have very little of this world’s goods. But they have in their hearts a great burning faith concerning this latter-day work. They love the Church. They love the gospel. They love the Lord and want to do His will. They are paying their tithing, modest as it is. They make tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples. They travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats. They save their money and do without to make it all possible.
“They need nearby temples—small, beautiful, serviceable temples.
“Accordingly, I take this opportunity to announce to the entire Church a program to construct some 30 smaller temples immediately. … They will have all the necessary facilities to provide the ordinances of the Lord’s house.
“This will be a tremendous undertaking. Nothing even approaching it has ever been tried before. … This will make a total of 47 new temples in addition to the 51 now in operation. I think we had better add 2 more to make it an even 100 by the end of this century, being 2,000 years ‘since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh’ (D&C 20:1). In this program we are moving on a scale the like of which we have never seen before. …
“If temple ordinances are an essential part of the restored gospel, and I testify that they are, then we must provide the means by which they can be accomplished. All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it. The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the Church has to offer” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 115–16; or Ensign, May 1998, 87–88).
The 100th temple announced (though it was the 77th dedicated) was built in Palmyra, New York, near the Sacred Grove and the Smith family farm where Joseph experienced the First Vison. The Palmyra New York Temple was dedicated on 6 April 2000, the 170th anniversary of the organization of the Church. It also commemorated the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Savior. Approximately 1,400 members attended the four dedicatory services and an estimated 1.3 million members participated in the dedication by means of a satellite broadcast to stake centers in the United States and Canada (see Shaun D. Stahle, “A Day of Sacred Significance,” Church News, 15 Apr. 2000, 3, 6).
During the April 1996 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that the Church would build a new assembly building. The new building would be much larger than the Tabernacle, which seats about 6,000 people, and would better accommodate more of those who wanted to attend general conference. The groundbreaking ceremony for the facility was 24 July 1997, and the enormous building was completed in three years. The newly constructed Conference Center was designed to seat more than 21,000 people and is used for many other Church and community events.
During the first general conference held in the newly completed Conference Center, in April 2000, President Hinckley said:
“We are grateful for the enthusiasm of the Latter-day Saints concerning this new meeting place. I hope that enthusiasm will continue and that we shall have a full house at every conference in the future.
“This is the newest in a series of meeting places constructed by our people. When first they came to this valley, they built a bowery. It shaded them from the sun but provided no warmth and very little comfort. Then they built the old Tabernacle. That was followed by the new Tabernacle, which has served us so very well for more than 130 years.
“Now in this historic season, when we mark the birth of a new century and the beginning of a new millennium, we have built this new and wonderful Conference Center.
“Each of the undertakings of the past was a bold venture, and particularly the Tabernacle. It was unique in its design. No one had constructed a building like that before. It is still unique. What a wonderful hall it has been and will continue to be. It will go on living, for I believe that buildings have lives of their own. It will go on serving long into the unforeseeable future.
“The building of this structure has been a bold undertaking. We worried about it. We prayed about it. We listened for the whisperings of the Spirit concerning it. And only when we felt the confirming voice of the Lord did we determine to go forward” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2000, 3; or Ensign, May 2000, 4–5).
Among President Gordon B. Hinckley’s warnings about pornography, he wrote:
“Pornography, which is a seedbed for more blatant immorality, is no longer regarded as back-alley fare. In too many homes and lives, it is now regarded as a legitimate slice of entertainment. Pornography robs its victims of self-respect and of an appreciation of the beauties of life. It tears down those who indulge and pulls them into a slough of evil thoughts and possibly evil deeds. It seduces, destroys, and distorts the truth about love and intimacy. It is more deadly than a foul disease. Pornography is as addictive and self-destructive as illicit drugs, and it literally destroys the personal relationships of those who become its slaves.
“Not one of us can afford to partake of this rubbish. We cannot risk the damage it does to the most precious of relationships—marriage—and to other interactions within the family. We cannot risk the effect it will have on our spirit and soul. Salacious videotapes, 900 telephone numbers, the filth found on the Internet, sensual magazines and movies—all are traps to be avoided like the deadliest of plagues” (Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes , 36–37).
During a worldwide satellite broadcast, President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled the youth of the Church to do six things:
At the conclusion of his address, President Hinckley offered the following prayer and blessing upon the youth of the Church:
“O God, our Eternal Father, as Thy servant I bow before Thee in prayer in behalf of these young people scattered over the earth who are gathered tonight in assemblies everywhere. Please smile with favor upon them. Please listen to them as they lift their voices in prayer unto Thee. Please lead them gently by the hand in the direction they should follow.
“Please help them to walk in paths of truth and righteousness and keep them from the evils of the world. Bless them that they shall be happy at times and serious at times, that they may enjoy life and drink of its fulness. Bless them that they may walk acceptably before Thee as Thy cherished sons and daughters. Each is Thy child with capacity to do great and noble things. Keep them on the high road that leads to achievement. Save them from the mistakes that could destroy them. If they have erred, forgive their trespasses and lead them back to ways of peace and progress. For these blessings I humbly pray with gratitude for them and invoke Thy blessings upon them with love and affection, in the name of Him who carries the burdens of our sins, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 11).
From 8–24 February, Salt Lake City welcomed the world by hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. It was a much anticipated event, with more than seven years of planning going into it. Thousands of volunteers gave the world exposure to the hospitality of Utah residents and did much to build relationships with nations of the world. It was “a time when people of all nations came to Salt Lake City, some with suspicions and prejudices, and left with appreciation and respect” (Sarah Jane Weaver, “Olympics Earn Friends and Respect for Church,” Church News, 2 Mar. 2002, 3).
Afterward, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “‘I think we will be pleased and benefit from [the Olympics] not only abroad but right here at home in the great relationships we’ve had in this season putting on these world games.’ …
“The Olympics, he said, bring out excellence in athletics and people. ‘It’s a wonderful thing that someone becomes the best in the entire world in that particular type of event. This matter of excellence is such a wonderful thing. The Olympics were designed to cultivate that. What a great thing that was. With all that, you had the fellowship, friendship, appreciation, respect and good feeling. I don’t know how we could have done any better.’
“One benefit of the Games, he said, was people getting to know Church members and tasting of their hospitality and service. ‘We’re a part of this community. We had so very many volunteers who gave unselfishly there. We’re friendly, hospitable and gracious. I think the whole world saw us as we are, and I think they came to appreciate and respect us.’ …
“Concluding, President Hinckley shared his love for all the world’s people—many of whom visited Utah during the Games. ‘I love people,’ he said. ‘I think I love all people. I recognize that all men and women are the sons and daughters of God and that as such all of us are brothers and sisters in a very real sense. You cannot have fatherhood without brotherhood. That’s the way I feel.’ …
“‘I’m glad it’s behind us, that it went so well, and I’m looking forward to new opportunities,’ he said” (Weaver, Church News, 2 Mar. 2002, 3).
Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, President Gordon B. Hinckley’s grandfather, lived in Nauvoo as a young man when the original temple was being built, and he was part of the exodus west to escape the persecution and destruction of Nauvoo. In 1938, nearly one hundred years after the settlement of Nauvoo by the Latter-day Saints, Ira Hinckley’s son Bryant S. Hinckley, President Gordon B. Hinckley’s father, then president of the Northern States Mission, wrote in the Improvement Era of his vision of restoring Nauvoo. The year before, the Church had begun acquiring land and buildings where the Saints had lived in Nauvoo. He knew the time was right to begin the restoration of Nauvoo. He stated: “The completion of this extraordinary project will be a matter of far-reaching significance. It will bring into relief one of the most heroic, dramatic, and fascinating pioneer achievements ever enacted upon American soil. It will reveal a record of fortitude and self-reliance; of patriotic and courageous endeavor, that should stimulate faith in the hearts of all men, in a day when the strongest hesitate and falter” (“The Nauvoo Memorial,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1938, 511).
At the close of the April 1999 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple.
“In historic, sacred services held on Thursday, June 27, 2002—marking the158th anniversary of the martyrdoms of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum—President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
“After an absence of more than a century and a half, a house of the Lord, with all the sacred ordinances administered therein, is once again majestically gracing an elevated site in Nauvoo, Ill., overlooking a bend in the Mississippi River. The present meets the past as the newly constructed temple, which replicates the design and structure of the original temple as far as possible, becomes the latest in an unprecedented era of temple building” (“A Temple, Again, in Nauvoo,” Church News, 29 June 2002, 24).
President Hinckley chose to have the first dedicatory session on the 158th anniversary of the martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum at Carthage Jail. “The first service began at 6 p.m. Centralp.m.light Time, which President Hinckley noted would have been 5 p.m. in Joseph Smith’s day. ‘At this hour 158 years ago in Carthage the murderous mob climbed the stairs, fired their pistols, and forced the door to the jail room,’ said President Hinckley as he recounted events leading to the martyrdom. …
“President Hinckley said that he felt the presence of the Father and the Son, ‘who have revealed Themselves to the Prophet Joseph who gave his life for this work. I think he must rejoice.’
“President Hinckley said that he felt the presence also of his grandfather (Ira N. Hinckley) who lived in Nauvoo as a young man, and of his father, Bryant S. Hinckley, who served as president of the Northern States Mission, which included Nauvoo. He expressed confidence that ‘so many of you feel your forebears are with us.’ …
“He commented on the vast number of people attending the dedicatory service in person and in designated meetinghouses throughout the world. In attendance at the temple were 1,631 members; proceedings were carried via satellite to approximately 2,300 locations in 72 countries. Of the congregation in the temple, he said, ‘I am sure there is a great unseen audience looking upon us, those who passed to the other side and see in the structure which we dedicate today a fulfillment of their hopes, their dreams, and some compensation for their tears and their indescribable sacrifices. They must have a profound love for us who have found it possible to create this magnificent building which stands as a memorial to them’” (Gerry Avant, “‘Crowning Objective of Joseph’s Life,’” Church News, 29 June 2002, 3–4).
There were twelve additional dedicatory sessions on 28–30 June. The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is the Church’s 113th temple in operation.
“I Know …”
President Gordon B. Hinckley shared the following testimony:
“This is my opportunity to leave you my testimony of the gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ and God, my Eternal Father. Do I know that they live? Of course I do, and I think most of you do. I hope you do. I know with a certainty that God is my Eternal Father. … I do not know how He hears all of our prayers, I don’t know that. I just know He does because I have my prayers answered. So do you. When you think about it, I think you would say that you have had yours answered. He is my Eternal Father and I know also that the day will come when I will have to make an accounting to Him of my life and what I have done with it, how I have used it, what I have accomplished, what good I have done in this world. The books will be opened and the record will be clear and we will be judged out of the record of our lives, of that I know. I know that He is merciful. I know that He is kind. I know that He loves His sons and daughters. I know that He wants us all to be happy. I know that He wants us to make something good of our lives. I am sure of that, I am confident of that, I know that.
“I know that His Only Begotten in the flesh, His Beloved Son, is my Redeemer and my Savior and my Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, once the great Jehovah, who came to earth, born in a manger in a vassal state among a people where there was so much of hatred and meanness. He was the great Prince of Peace who taught love and kindness and forbearance, who went about doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the blind to see. He was my Savior who bled at every pore as He spoke to His Father in Gethsemane and died upon the cross for each of us and then came forth again the third day to become the first fruits of them that slept. He is my Savior and my Redeemer.
“God the Father and the risen Lord appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the grove of his father’s farm and there told him to join none of the churches and to be patient and that the Lord would use him according to His way to accomplish His purposes. Then came the Book of Mormon under the hands of Moroni, a resurrected being. Then came the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist. Then the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of Peter, James, and John. Other keys of the priesthood were restored under the hands of Moses, Elias, and Elijah. These things are true. They are true. God bless us to be faithful to the great knowledge that we have to cultivate within our hearts a spirit of testimony and to shape our lives accordingly and draw from our lives that great happiness which will be the blessing of each of us is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 650–51).