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Sunday, January 27, 2008

honestly, what can be said?

SALT LAKE CITY 27 January 2008 President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through twelve years of global expansion, has died at the age of 97.
President Hinckley was the 15th president in the 177-year history of the Church and had served as its president since 12 March 1995.
The Church president died at his apartment in downtown Salt Lake City at 7:00 p.m. Sunday night from causes incident to age. Members of his family were at his bedside. A successor is not expected to be formally chosen by the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until after President Hinckley’s funeral within the next few days.

April, 1996. That's when I first got to be in the same room as the prophet. It was in Pittsburgh at a regional conference. I remember loving listening to Sister Hinckley's talk, hearing her recall how, when her husband had been called as the prophet, she thought, "How did a nice girl like me end up in a mess like this?" And I remember President Hinckley's talk; I remember it vividly because I had just, the previous week, given my own sort of 'farewell' talk in my home ward, as I was to, that day of regional conference, move to Chicago directly following the meeting. I chose to talk to the youth of that ward, few in number, and my announcement that I'd be talking to the youth resulted in many eyerolls and yawns. President Hinckley, after greeting all in that huge convention center, made a similar announcement: "Today, I'd like to direct my remarks to the youth."

President Hinckley was known, even at the age of 97, as a tireless leader who always put in a full day at the office and traveled extensively around the world to mix with Church members, now numbering 13 million in 171 nations.
His quick wit and humor, combined with an eloquent style at the pulpit, made him one of the most loved of modern Church leaders. A profoundly spiritual man, he had a great fondness for history and often peppered his sermons with stories from the Church’s pioneer past.
He was a popular interview subject with journalists, appearing on 60 Minutes with Mike Wallace and on CNN’s Larry King Live, as well as being quoted and featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines over the years. During the Salt Lake Olympics of 2002, his request that the Church refrain from proselytizing visitors was credited by media with generating much of the goodwill that flowed to the Church from the international event.

Like I said, this was in 1996. I had just turned 19. The talk given by President Hinckley? I like to refer to it, as do you, as The 6 "B"s. I loved that instruction. What I remember the most is the following counsel: "Do not reach into the gutter for words."

In 1999 — 169 years after the Church was organized by its founder, Joseph Smith — the Church had 56 operating temples. Three years later that number had doubled, largely because of a smaller, highly practical temple architectural plan that delivered these sacred buildings to Church members in far-flung parts of the world. Many more Church members can now experience the sacred ceremonies that occur only in temples, including marriages for eternity and the sealing of families in eternal units.
President Hinckley was the most traveled president in the Church’s history. His duties took him around the world many times to meet with Latter-day Saints in more than 60 countries. He was the first Church president to travel to Spain, where in 1996 he broke ground for a temple in Madrid; and to the African nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cape Verde, where he met with thousands of Latter-day Saints in 1998. In 2005, he traveled nearly 25,000 miles on a seven-nation, nine-day tour to Russia, South Korea, China, Taiwan, India, Kenya, and Nigeria

My time in Chicago was short-lived, and I returned to New York for the summer before I moved to Utah. In July of that year, I saw President Hinckley again, this time at the Hill Cumorah Pageant. He was surrounded by security dressed in their black coats, yet President Hinckley was wearing a bright red jacket and happily waving to everyone.

At a general conference of Church members in April 2001, President Hinckley initiated the Perpetual Education Fund — an ambitious program to help young members of the Church (mainly returning missionaries from developing countries) receive higher education and work-related training that they would otherwise likely never receive.
Closer to his Salt Lake City home, President Hinckley announced the construction of a new Conference Center in 1996 and dedicated it four years later. Seating 21,000 people, it is believed to be the largest religious and theater auditorium in the world and has become the hub for the Church’s general conference messages to the world, broadcast in 91 languages.
Even before his term as president, President Hinckley’s extensive Church service included 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, the highest presiding body in the government of the Church, and 20 years before that as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The next time I got to see President Hinckley was in February of 1997. It was at a fireside on BYU's campus. I remember it being very, very crowded. I also remember all the camera flashes. I have a few photos of that evening in a photo album. Something else happened that evening: after our ward prayer, I asked the elder's quorum president in our singles' ward if he knew of anyone who might have the Alice In Chains Unplugged CD; he told me that he had it. The next day he brought it by, along with some other CDs, yaddayaddayadda, now we're married.

President Hinckley was born 23 June 1910 in Salt Lake City, a son of Bryant Stringham and Ada Bitner Hinckley. One of his forebears, Stephen Hopkins, came to America on the Mayflower. Another, Thomas Hinckley, served as governor of the Plymouth Colony from 1680 to 1692.
President Hinckley’s first job was as a newspaper carrier for the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City daily. After attending public schools in Salt Lake City, he earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Utah and then served two years as a full-time missionary for the Church in Great Britain. He served with distinction and ultimately was appointed as an assistant to the Church apostle who presided over all the European missions.
Upon successfully completing his missionary service in the mid-1930s, he was asked by Heber J. Grant, then president of the Church, to organize what has become the Church's Public Affairs Department.

Again in '97, in April of that year, Darin and I and some of our friends wanted to attend General Conference (semiannual worldwide church meeting). This was back in the days when you had to camp out to get into the tabernacle. We did get seats in the Assembly Hall, but at five minutes before the meeting was to start, ushers informed us that there was room in the tabernacle. We got to be in the tabernacle for that meeting, and I also have a picture of that event (taken right before I was told I wasn't allowed to take pictures).

President Hinckley began serving as a member of the Sunday School general board in 1937, two years after returning home from missionary service in Great Britain. For 20 years he directed all Church public communications. In 1951 he was named executive secretary of the General Missionary Committee, managing the entire missionary program of the Church, and served in this capacity for seven years.
On 6 April 1958, while serving as president of the East Millcreek Stake in Salt Lake City (a stake is similar to a diocese), President Hinckley was appointed as a general authority, or senior full-time leader of the Church. In this capacity he served as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before being appointed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 5 October 1961.

I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember specifics after that. I know that there were a few years when I went to each Young Woman and Relief Society General Meeting (the ones held the weekend before conference), and that last year I attended the Saturday morning session of Conference with li'l ~j. and suedonym and her princess. Maybe it's the curse of living here and taking these things for granted.

President Hinckley received a number of educational honors, including the Distinguished Citizen Award from Southern Utah University; the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah; and honorary doctorates from Westminster College, Utah State University, University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Southern Utah University, Utah Valley State College and Salt Lake Community College. The Gordon B. Hinckley Endowment for British Studies, a program focused on the arts, literature and history of the United Kingdom, was established at the University of Utah.
President Hinckley was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America; was honored by the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) for his contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world; and received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 2004, President Hinckley was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in the White House.
In March 2000 President Hinckley addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He also addressed the Religion Newswriters Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors and twice addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

Tonight when a neighbor sent me a text message to tell me that President Hinckley had passed away, I phoned her; she lamented that he's gone, and he is her kids' prophet. It's true. And as I thought about it, I realized that he's been the prophet for the whole time I've been the most active in my religion in my life. My prophet, too. But I'm not sad. I mean, I'm sad because death is a sad thing. He is beloved and will be mourned by thousands of people around the world. But he had been so sick, and has been without his sweetheart for almost two years. Now they get to be together. How is that sad?

President Hinckley wrote and edited several books and numerous manuals, pamphlets and scripts, including a best-selling book, Standing for Something, aimed at a general audience. In it he championed the virtues of love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness, mercy, thrift and industry, gratitude, optimism and faith. He also testified of what he called the “guardians of virtue,” namely traditional marriage and family.
President Hinckley married Marjorie Pay in the Salt Lake Temple in 1937. They have five children and 25 grandchildren. Sister Hinckley passed away 6 April 2004.

Here's the link for the article above.

What are your memories of President Hinckley?
(Doug Wright, if you're reading this, you don't get to answer that question -- I heard all about your 'commenting on the model train in his office' on the radio tonight. Can't wait to hear what treasures you and Amanda share tomorrow.)


Carina said...

I will always remember his plea that we forgive each other, even when the circumstances are grievous. I loved his messages to the sisters: get an education. I don't think a prophet in living memory was as big a proponent of women and their special missions in this life. I felt especially buoyed knowing the prophet understood modern situations, his repeated kind counsels, and overriding optimism; his ministry was a salve for the soul.

How sweet to know that he and Marjorie are together again.

dalene said...

I remember sitting in the beautiful Conference Center during a General Relief Society Meeting and listening to him speak to all the thousands of us sisters as if we were a group of friends sitting together in someone's living room.

As always his message was loving, encouraging and positive--full of admiration. Just his acknowledgment made one want to be even better.

Christi said...

President Hinckley, as noted, was called in spring 1995. Shortly before we left Utah I remember thinking how blessed I had been to be able to hear him speak in person every year until the time that I left (Dec 2003). I loved his advocacy of women's education, etc also. I loved his love of temples. I think what I will remember most is being able to meet him in 1997 and feeling like I needed to repent just to be in his presence. Is that some sort of indicator of my life? Also I will always remember his birthday celebration that was held in the conference center in 2000. A friend of mine was related to "somebody" and he had tickets and gave me two. Wasn't that nice of him? I love President Hinckley. I think I love most his humility. He never thought he was somebody to make a fuss over. He was just doing what the Lord wanted him to do. Shouldn't we all?

Anonymous said...

I remember that regional conference in Pittsburgh. I also remember when Mom had a party at her house... I think it was a book party. And there was a picture of the First Presidency on the piano. One of the guests leaned over and asked me if that was a picture of Dave's dad and his brothers. Wouldn't that be cool?

Tori :) said...

His sense of humor was my favorite!! He was just so human, so real.

Sister Pottymouth said...

I loved the way he and his wife interacted. They so obviously adored each other. I still have that Ensign when the two of them gave an interview about marriage (October 2003). The question to President Hinckley that struck me: "President, you have said: 'Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works.' How have you avoided doing this with Sister Hinckley?"

I've never forgotten his response: "I've tried to recognize my wife's individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does."

Excuse me now, while I go wipe my eyes....

Geo said...

This one may sound silly but it's the one that comes most strongly to my mind right now. It hasn't been long since, during an intensely difficult period of my life, I had a series of remarkable Dreams -- you know, of the soul-rocking variety. In those dreams I had several unusual, personal, and important interactions with President Hinckley. I won't detail out the dreams, but they were sacred to me. After the first one I felt I should share it with President Hinckley. Yeah, I know, another crazy woman writes the Prophet. But I did write to him, and not because I expected an answer from probably the busiest man on earth; I just wanted to share the experience, to tell him how the Dream and he had helped me, and to express my love and thanks. So not totally crazy. A short time later I received a letter that he'd asked his assistant to write for him. It made me tremble to my bones to read the prophet's love and greetings, receive his comforting counsel and empathy, and be told that he would pray for me. Me! To think that he would name my name in prayer, even once -- ! It stunned and humbled me. I don't know if all crazy women get responses to the letters they write to prophets, but this one sure did, and I loved him even more for his kindness.

sue-donym said...

I'm so glad we got to share that conference together.

And i am really glad that Pres. E had that Alice in Chains cd.

Rynell said...

I've also loved his advocacy for women, his praise of the talents and gifts specific to women. He made me feel like what I am doing as a wife and mother are important. I loved his humor, his cane-waving, his great use of literary references. I loved his admonition (on many occasions) to "try a little harder to be a little better."

I will miss him, but I am so happy that he and his sweet wife can be together again.