On March 12, 1995, at the age of 84, Gordon Bitner Hinckley was ordained and set apart as the 15th President of the Church. He was called in 1958 as an Assistant to the Twelve and three years later, on October 5, 1961, he was sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve. In 1981 he was called as counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball, in 1985 as first counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson, and in 1994 as first counselor to President Howard W. Hunter.
As a deacon he attended stake conference with his father. When the brethren began singing “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer,” the Spirit testified to him of the truthfulness of the gospel and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.
When he returned from his mission in Great Britain, he was asked to meet with the First Presidency and report on the needs of the European Mission. A few days later, President David O. McKay offered him a position as secretary to the Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. He has consequently had an office in the Church Office Building continuously since 1935. — Excerpts from Church News, March 18, 1995
This church does not belong to its President. Its head is the Lord Jesus Christ, whose name each of us has taken upon ourselves. We are all in this great endeavor together. We are here to assist our Father in His work and His glory, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1995, p. 71
The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1995, p. 71
My beloved associates, far more of us need to awake and arouse our faculties to an awareness of the great everlasting truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can put behind us our weaknesses of the past, and go forth with new energy and increased resolution to improve the world about us, in our homes, in our places of employment, in our social activities.
We have work to do, you and I, so very much of it. Let us roll up our sleeves and get at it, with a new commitment, putting our trust in the Lord. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1995, p. 88
I am fully aware that I am not a young man as I shoulder the responsibilities of this sacred office. Sister Hinckley and I are learning that the so-called golden years are laced with lead. But I think I can honestly say that I do not feel old. I cannot repudiate my birth certificate, but I can still experience a great, almost youthful exuberance in my enthusiasm for this precious work of the Almighty. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “This Is the Work of the Master,” Ensign, May 1995, p. 70[Three years later, President Hinckley added:]
Now, my dear friends, I pray for the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is three years now since you sustained me as President of the Church. May I say a few words of a personal nature? From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your love and support, for your prayers and faith. I am no longer a young man filled with energy and vitality. I am an old man trying to catch up with Brother Haight! [Elder David B. Haight will be 94 in September 2000.] I’m given to meditation and prayer. I would enjoy sitting in a rocker, swallowing prescriptions, listening to soft music, and contemplating the things of the universe. But such activity offers no challenge and makes no contribution.
I wish to be up and doing. I wish to face each day with resolution and purpose. I wish to use every waking hour to give encouragement, to bless those whose burdens are heavy, to build faith and strength of testimony. Through the great kindness of a generous friend, I have been permitted to travel over the earth during these three years, visiting among our people in scores of nations. They have gathered by the thousands and tens of thousands. In one place there were more than 200 buses which brought them to the stadium.
I have been among the affluent but more so among the poor, the poor of the earth and the poor of the Church. Some of their eyes are of a slightly different tilt than mine and their skin of a different color, but all of this disappears and becomes meaningless when I am among them. They all become our Father’s sons and daughters, children with a divine birthright. We speak various languages, but we all understand the common tongue of brotherhood.
It is wearisome to travel far to reach them. But it is difficult to leave them after being with them. Every place we go is only for a brief visit, a meeting scheduled to fit with other meetings. I wish we could stay longer. At the conclusion of the meeting we spontaneously sing “God Be with You Till We Meet Again’ (Hymns, no. 152). Handkerchiefs come out to dry tears and then are waved in affectionate farewell. Most recently we held 11 large meetings in different cities in Mexico in just seven days.
It is the presence of wonderful people which stimulates the adrenaline. It is the look of love in their eyes which gives me energy.
I could spend all day in my office, doing so year after year, dealing with mountains of problems, many of them of small consequence. I do spend a good deal of time there. But I feel a greater mission, a higher responsibility to be out among the people. These thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions now, all have one thing in common. They have an individual and personal testimony that this is the work of the Almighty, our Heavenly Father; that Jesus, the Lord, who died on the cross of Calvary and was resurrected, lives, a distinct and real and individual personality; that this is their work, restored in this last, wonderful dispensation of time; that the ancient priesthood has been restored with all of its keys and powers; that the Book of Mormon has spoken from the dust in testimony of the Redeemer of the world. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Testimony,” April 1998 Conference; see Ensign, May 1998
Life is like that – ups and downs, a bump on the head, and a crack on the shins. It was ever thus. Hamlet went about crying, “To be or not to be,” but that didn’t solve any of his problems. There is something of a tendency among us to think that everything must be lovely and rosy and beautiful without realizing that even adversity has some sweet uses. One of my favorite newspaper columnists is Jenkins Lloyd Jones. In a recent article published in the News, he commented:
“There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.”
Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .
Life is like an old-time rail journey – delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, BYU Speeches, 1973, pp. 106-7
President Gordon B. Hinckley was cited Feb. 25 for his “sterling example for truth, honesty, and love to the men and women of the Untied States Army Reserve.”
President Hinckley [referring to the motto inscribed on U.S. currency and coinage: “In God We Trust”] noted how the people of this nation once gathered their families together for prayer. “They remembered before Deity this nation and its leaders. That practice is largely disappearing from our society. Are we forgetting the Almighty, who in times of last resort is our greatest strength?
“When we fail to acknowledge Deity, when we fail to recognize the Almighty as the ruling power of the universe, the all-important element of personal and national accountability shrivels and dies. I am confident that this is one of the reasons for the great host of social problems with which we deal these days. Teen pregnancy, abandoned families, failure to recognize the property and rights of others, general incivility have resulted in large measure, I am satisfied, from failure to recognize that there is a God to whom someday each of us must give an accounting.”
“We are secularizing America. We are closing the door on the Almighty. I plead with each of you to add your strength to the enhancement of our trust in God. This is the foundation upon which our national strength is laid.” — President Hinckley speaking at Area Conference in Ogden, Utah, Feb. 23, 1997; Church News, March 1, 1997, pp. 4, 10
Now, brothers and sisters, I feel like saying shape up. We can do better than we are doing; we must do better than we are doing. The world is crowding in on us now. Utah has been discovered. People are coming from all over the nation to live here and we must stand tall and be Latter-day Saints in very deed. There is no place for fence straddlers. — President Hinckley speaking at Area Conference in Ogden, Utah, Feb. 23, 1997; Church News, March 1, 1997, p. 10
Reflecting on their courtship and marriage in an interview with the Church News on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary, President Hinckley noted that at the time they were about to get married, he was earning only $185 a month. “Those were very lean times; very lean times,” he repeated, emphasizing the point.
“I remember him calling me one day before we were married,” reflected Sister Hinckley, “and saying, ‘We have got to call this off. I’ve only got $150 to my name.’ And I said, “I get a husband plus $150. We are in good shape!” — Church News, April 19, 1997, p. 3
President Hinckley explained the media have been kind to the Church, with extensive and favorable press coverage in this year of pioneer celebrations.
“I personally have been much quoted, and in a few instances misquoted and misunderstood. I think that is to be expected. None of you need to worry because you read something that was incompletely reported. You need not worry that I do not understand some matters of doctrine,” he said, drawing laughter from the congregation. “I think I understand them thoroughly, and it is unfortunate that the reporting may not make this clear. I hope you will never look to the public press as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” — Church News report on General Conference, October 11, 1997, p. 6
President Hinckley spoke of a recent magazine article that praised the Church as a well-run institution of great financial wealth. “It grossly exaggerated the figures. The money the Church receives from faithful members is consecrated. It is the Lord’s purse. Our Church facilities are money-consuming and not money-producing. We are not a financial institution. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. The funds for which we are responsible involve a sacred trust to be handled with absolute honesty and integrity and with great prudence as the dedicated consecrations of the people. We feel a tremendous responsibility to you who make these contributions. We feel an even greater responsibility to the Lord whose money this is.” — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Drawing Nearer to the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1997
President Merrill J. Bateman made a few opening remarks at the Brigham Young Symposium in which he compared President Hinckley to President Young. They were both progressive and ready to move the church forward in a major way. At the time of the dedication of the Mt. Timpanogos Temple, President Hinckley met with the General Authorities and said, “Brethren, before I die I want 100 temples.” Mt. Timpanogos was the 50th temple in 150 years – and now this 87-year-old man wanted to see 100 temples dotting the earth before he died!!
President Hinckley also told the group of two revelations he had gotten since becoming the prophet of the church. The first was in re-naming the Hotel Utah after refurbishing it. They were apparently going to call it the Utah Building, but he had a dream one night in which it was pointed out to him that there was not a building bearing the name of Joseph Smith. At that time the name of the new building became the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The second revelation came as President Hinckley was driving the long road to the colonies in Mexico. He realized that over half the mission presidents in the church had come out of those colonies. Those people had to drive hundreds of miles to get to a temple. That’s when the thought came to build small temples, and the Mexican colonies was to have the first. — Brigham Young Symposium, BYU, March 20, 1998
Now the curtains are gradually closing on this notable and exceptional century. In one respect it has been a shameful period in the history of the world. It has been the worst of all centuries with more of war, more of man’s inhumanity to man, more of conflict and trouble than any other century in the history of the world. It has been the bloodiest of all seasons. It has been a time when the adversary of truth has brought his evil influence of destruction and misery and pain to millions upon millions of our Father’s children, as witness what is going on in Yugoslavia. The Father of us all must weep as He looks down upon His quarrelsome children.
But in a larger sense this has been the best of all centuries. In the long history of the earth there has been nothing like it. The life expectancy of man has been extended by more than 25 years. Think of it. It is a miracle. The fruits of science have been manifest everywhere. By and large we live longer, we live better. This is an age of greater understanding and knowledge. We live in a world of great diversity. As we learn more of one another, our appreciation grows. This has been an age of enlightenment. The miracles of modern medicine, of travel, of communication are almost beyond belief. All of this has opened new opportunities for us which we must grasp and use for the advancement of the Lord’s work. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, April 1999 General Conference Address
The eternal salvation of the world . . . rests upon the shoulders of this Church. . . . No other people in the history of the world have received . . . [a] more compelling mandate. . . , and we’d better be getting at it (“Church Is Really Doing Well,” Church News, 3 July 1999, 3). — Sheri L. Dew, “We Are Women of God,” General Relief Society Meeting, Oct. 1999
I am overwhelmed with a grand and solemn sense of history as I contemplate this period. We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed. . . . My brethren and sisters, do you realize what we have? Do you recognize our place in the great drama of human history? . . .
For some reason unknown to us, but in the wisdom of God, we have been privileged to come to earth in this glorious age. There has been a great flowering of science. There has been a veritable explosion of learning. This is the greatest of all ages of human endeavor and human accomplishment. And more importantly, it is the season when God has spoken, when His Beloved Son has appeared, when the divine priesthood has been restored, when we hold in our hand another testament of the Son of God. What a glorious and wonderful day this is.
God be thanked for His generous bestowal upon us. We thank Him for this wondrous gospel, whose power and authority reach even beyond the veil of death.
Given what we have and what we know, we ought to be a better people than we are. We ought to be more Christlike, more forgiving, more helpful and considerate to all around us.
We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed. I bear testimony and witness of the reality and truth of these things. I pray that every one of us may sense the awesome wonder of it all as we look forward shortly to the passing of a century and the death of a millennium.
Let the old year go. Let the new year come. Let another century pass. Let a new one take its place. Say good-bye to a millennium. Greet the beginning of another thousand years.
And so we shall go forward on a continuing path of growth and progress and enlargement, touching for good the lives of people everywhere for as long as the earth shall last.
At some stage in all of this onward rolling, Jesus Christ will appear to reign in splendor upon the earth. No one knows when that will be. Not even the angels in heaven will know of the time of His return. But it will be a welcome day.
May God bless us with a sense of our place in history and, having been given that sense, with our need to stand tall and walk with resolution in a manner becoming the Saints of the Most High. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, Nov. 1999
Church News: What would you say to the members of the Church as we embark on this new, exciting century and millennium?
President Hinckley: We’re all in this together. Every man, woman and child who belongs to this church is a part of this movement. Every man and woman has a responsibility, just as serious in terms of their responsibility as mine in terms of my responsibility, to move this work forward. Now, let’s go to it. Roll up our sleeves and work and accomplish it and become as a city set upon a hill whose light cannot be hid from this world. I have great confidence in the common people, and they’re doing heroic things. . . .
Our job is to just keep moving forward. As I have said again and again, to go forward with faith in the ultimate destiny of this work. What we’ve seen in the past just indicates something remarkable and glorious and wonderful for the future. I think nobody living today can comprehend what it will become. I believe we don’t actually realize the magnitude of what’s happening. It’s really tremendous. Oh, it’s a wonderful time to be here! — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, December 11, 1999, p. 5
I hope that we shall ponder with subdued feelings the talks to which we have listened. I hope that we will quietly reflect on the wonderful things we’ve heard. I hope that we will feel a little more contrite and humble. All of us have been edified; the test will come in the application of the teachings given. If hereafter, we are a little more kind, if we are a little more neighborly, if we’ve drawn nearer to the Savior with a more firm resolution to follow his teachings and his example, then this conference will have been a wonderful success. If, on the other hand, there is no improvement in our lives, then those who have spoken will have in large measure failed.
Those changes may not be measurable in a day or a week or a month; resolutions are quickly made and quickly forgotten. But in a year from now, if we’re doing better than we’ve done in the past, then the efforts of these days will not have been in vain. We will not remember all that has been said, but there will arise from all of this a spiritual uplift. It may be indefinable, but it will be real. . . .
And perhaps out of all we have heard, there may be a phrase or a paragraph that will stand out and possess our attention. If this occurs, I hope we will write it down and reflect on it, until we savor the depths of its meaning, and have made it a part of our own lives.
In our Family Home Evenings, I hope we will discuss with our children these things and let them taste the sweetness of the truths we have enjoyed. And when the Ensign magazine comes out in November with all of the conference messages, please don’t just throw it aside with the comment that you’ve heard it all, but read and ponder the various messages. You will find many things that you missed when you listened to the speakers. . . .
Tomorrow morning we will be back at our jobs, back to our studies, back to whatever constitutes the busy regimen of our lives. But we can have the memories of this great occasion to sustain us. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, closing address at October 2000 General Conference
And so I speak to you today as an old man talking to those whose lives are ahead of you. . . . I have observed that it is not the geniuses that make the difference in this world. In fact, many of them are in jail for trying to find shortcuts to wealth and opportunity. I have observed that the work of the world is done largely by men and women of ordinary talent who have worked in an extraordinary manner. . . .
I hope for you the very best that life has to offer, but I hope even more for a few simple things – things that come of the heart, things that come of the spirit, things that come of the divine in each of us. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Address at commencement service for Utah Valley State College, April 28, 2001
This morning I can scarcely restrain my emotions as I think of what the Lord has done for us.
I do not know what we did in the preexistence to merit the wonderful blessings we enjoy. We have come to earth in this great season in the long history of mankind. It is a marvelous age, the best of all. As we reflect on the plodding course of mankind, from the time of our first parents, we cannot help feeling grateful.
The era in which we live is the fulness of times spoken of in the scriptures, when God has brought together all of the elements of previous dispensations. From the day that He and His Beloved Son manifested themselves to the boy Joseph, there has been a tremendous cascade of enlightenment poured out upon the world. The hearts of men have turned to their fathers in fulfillment of the words of Malachi. The vision of Joel has been fulfilled. . . . (Joel 2:28-32). . . .
There has been more of scientific discovery during these years than during all of the previous history of mankind. Transportation, communication, medicine, public hygiene, the unlocking of the atom, the miracle of the computer, with all of its ramifications, have blossomed forth, particularly in our own era. During my own lifetime, I have witnessed miracle after wondrous miracle come to pass. We take it for granted. . . .
We have seen only the foreshadowing of the mighty force for good that this Church will become. And yet I marvel at what has been accomplished. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Living in the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, p. 5
As a young boy, President Hinckley would lay on his back and look up at the North Star. Known as the Lodestar because of its constancy, the North Star “is as the God of Heaven Himself, fixed and immovable, certain, sure, unchanging.”
He visited St. George, Utah, and again looked at the stars. “The breadth of the sky enthralled me. The innumerable quantity of stars amazed me. I watched in utter wonder, marveling at what I could see. How could anyone doubt that there is a great Creator who brought all of this together and who governs it? How marvelous and grand His design. How infinite His works. How marvelous His creations.”
The heavens tell the glory of God, the wonder and majesty of His firmament and the vastness of the universe over which He presides, said President Hinckley.
“And yet His great concern is with His children, His sons and daughters, of whom we are a few who worship together tonight. It is a thing of wonder to me that He can listen to us when we pray and that He answers those prayers. . . .
“I cannot look at the pristine beauty of the earth without marveling at His creations. I cannot think of the eternal journey of man and of that which He has prepared for them that love Him without saying thanks be to God, for Him who has redeemed and purchased us with His blood.
“May we ever walk in remembrance of Him, paying homage to Him by the goodness of our lives and the outreach of our service.” — First Presidency Christmas Devotional, Dec. 1, 2002; Church News, 12/7/02, p. 3
Noted Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough visited with President Gordon B. Hinckley in Salt Lake City, Utah, presenting him with a copy of his book, John Adams. President Hinckley presented Mr. McCullough with a special edition of The Book of Mormon. When asked by Mr. McCullough one thing about this country he would change, President Hinckley responded with, “I would try to bring about the great fundamental virtues of the Founding Fathers – honesty, integrity and hard work.” — Church News, November 18, 2006, p. 14