Gordon B. Hinckley

“For some unknown reason there is constantly appearing the false rationalization
that at one time in the long-ago, virtue was easy and that now it is difficult.”

Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1964, pp. 116-119

Gordon B. Hinckley, June 23, 1910 - January 27, 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/mj7g9r2)

Gordon B. Hinckley, June 23, 1910 – January 27, 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/mj7g9r2)

Gordon B. Hinckley was called as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1958, as an Apostle in September 1961, and then served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from March 12, 1995 until his death on January 27, 2008. He is often remembered for his efforts in expanding the building of temples throughout the world so that members of the Church had better access to the spiritual uplift and fortification that they offer. During his tenure as President of the Church, the number of temples worldwide increased from 47 to 124 with 14 others announced or under construction — a very rapid surge in temple building during his 13 years as President.

The Church also built the Conference Center in Salt Lake City under his direction, and he presided over the renovation and rededication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He was an astute, media-savvy leader, adept at public relations, and tireless in his care and interest for the well-being and progress of the Church as a whole and its individual members. The Psalmist wrote “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4), a description aptly applied to President Hinckley’s stewardship, despite being the oldest man to have ever served as President of the Church (as of November 2, 2006 when he surpassed David O. McKay on this count). It could be accurately observed that the affairs of the Church have never been better managed than under the care of President Hinckley.

The Resource Center for the Genevan Psalter, Psalm 121

But President Hinckley also left a legacy of magnificent sermons that spoke candidly and directly to numerous moral issues relevant then as now. He was uniquely able to do this without politicizing the subject of his focus.[1] In these sermons he frequently directly rebuked specific immoral actions, exemplifying in the process the pattern set out for such prophetic counsel in the Doctrine and Covenants — “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” (D&C 121:43). No one could doubt that, even in such calls to repentance, President Hinckley’s “faithfulness” to the Latter-day Saint so reproved “[was] stronger than the cords of death” (D&C 121:44).

This posture of pure, Christlike love for his flock, even in rebuke, was vital given the seriousness of the issues that he addressed to the open membership of the Church during General Conferences. His sermons did not appear to create and then castigate a marginalized “other”, a convenient scapegoat for the ills of society; instead, he brought accountability home to the saints in a very direct way. These instances are far too numerous to catalog exhaustively given his penchant for this type of involved leadership and the length of his service as an Apostle and then Church President. But a few examples include his famous rebukes, from the General Conference pulpit, of child abusers, including those perpetrating child sexual abuse[2], spousal abuse[3] and deadbeat fathers[4], racism within the Church[5], and people immodestly living outside their means[6], to name a few.

In the end, however, President Hinckley might best be remembered by his efforts presiding over the preparation and presentation of The Family: A Proclamation to the World at the Church’s General Relief Society Meeting on September 23, 1995 and for his direction in presiding over the millennial Apostolic statement The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles, both of which were historic joint statements of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Family Proclamation crystallized the nuclear family (some would say in the Victorian model) as a fundamental tenet of our faith as Latter-day Saints, possibly following only a conviction that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Only Begotten Son of God in importance. The Family as a teaching has thus become virtually on par with a belief in the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel (that is, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands by those who are in authority for the Gift of the Holy Ghost). The Proclamation also boldly identified a belief in an entitlement ranking with the entitlements to inalienable natural rights incorporated into American founding documents from the English and Scottish Enlightenments and frequently celebrated in the Church as inspired: “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony” to parents who “have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live” and who “honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” In another bold statement, the Proclamation declares that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” and warns “that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” Finally, the Proclamation urged “responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

Five years after the Family Proclamation was presented to the Relief Society, on the occasion of the year 2000 commemoration of Christ’s birth, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles under President Hinckley’s direction jointly reaffirmed the primacy of our core belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and in his Atonement in The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles:

We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world. . . .

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles — that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

President Hinckley’s strong but compassionate leadership has shaped the direction of the Church’s missions for the foreseeable future. His rich legacy will always inspire.

“My Redeemer Lives,” Hymn # 135, Text by Gordon B. Hinckley, Music by G. Homer Durham

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MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2008

Genesis 41:17-32, Psalm 121, Isaiah 54:11-16, Matthew 18:1-6, 1 Timothy 5:8, Jacob 2:31 & 35, 3 Nephi 17:11-24, Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-44

The Collect: Heavenly Father, whose commandments have ever served as our moral guideposts, we thank thee for the long and dedicated service of President Gordon B. Hinckley and for his direct, loving leadership during a time of social and economic uncertainty at the end of a century of violence and a millennium of horror, and at the beginning of the new millennium; let us remember his legacy, submitting our will to thine through our obedience to thy commandments and our adherence to the fundamental principles of our faith as taught by President Hinckley, following his example in our own devotions to Jesus Christ, Triumphant Savior, Son of God, one God with Thee and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

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[1] In fact, far from idealizing a past golden age whose purity society is permanently deprived of, which had become the standard practice of other social commentators and religious leaders, President Hinckley was willing to reject that “false rationalization,” as noted in the introductory quote, and to criticize precisely that past as creating or contributing to the problems of the present: “It is so obvious that the great good and the terrible evil in the world today are the sweet and the bitter fruits of the rearing of yesterday’s children. As we train a new generation, so will the world be in a few years. . . . In large measure the harshness that characterizes so much of our society is an outgrowth of harshness imposed on children years ago” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Behold Your Little Ones,” Oct. 1978).

[2] As noted in the previous footnote, in 1978 (and at numerous other times throughout his leadership), President Hinckley lamented the regrettable treatment of children under the harshly disciplinarian child rearing philosophies of the recently passed decades:

When I met one of my childhood friends the other day, there came a train of memories of the neighborhood in which we grew up. It was a microcosm of the world, with many varieties of people. They were a close-knit group, and I think we knew them all. I think, also, we loved them all—that is, except for one man. I must make a confession: I detested that man. I have since repented of that emotion, but as I look back, I can sense again the intensity of my feeling. His young boys were our friends, but he was my enemy. Why this strong antipathy? Because he whipped his children with strap or stick or whatever came to hand as his vicious anger flared on the slightest provocation. . . .

I have seen the fruits of that neighbor’s temper come alive again in the troubled lives of his children. I have since discovered that he was one of that very substantial body of parents who seem incapable of anything but harshness toward those for whose coming into the world they are responsible. I have also come to realize that this man, who walks in the memories of my childhood, is but an example of tens of thousands in this land and uncounted thousands across the world who are known as child abusers. Every social worker, every duty officer in the emergency room of a large hospital, every policeman and judge in a large city can tell you of them. The whole tragic picture is one of beatings, kicking, slamming, and even of sexual assault on small children. And akin to these are those vicious men and women who exploit children for pornographic purposes. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Behold Your Little Ones,” Oct. 1978).

[3] Many will remember witnessing the forceful rebuke President Hinckley offered to spousal and child abusers, and to those who lost their tempers easily in interacting with their spouse or children:

Unfortunately a few of you may be married to men who are abusive. Some of them put on a fine face before the world during the day and come home in the evening, set aside their self-discipline, and on the slightest provocation fly into outbursts of anger.

No man who engages in such evil and unbecoming behavior is worthy of the priesthood of God. No man who so conducts himself is worthy of the privileges of the house of the Lord. I regret that there are some men undeserving of the love of their wives and children. There are children who fear their fathers, and wives who fear their husbands. If there be any such men within the hearing of my voice, as a servant of the Lord I rebuke you and call you to repentance. Discipline yourselves. Master your temper. Most of the things that make you angry are of very small consequence. And what a terrible price you are paying for your anger. Ask the Lord to forgive you. Ask your wife to forgive you. Apologize to your children. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Women of the Church,” October 1996.)

[4] Substantively related to his denunciation of spousal and child abusers, President Hinckley made it clear that “the physical and verbal abuse of women is INEXCUSABLE, NEVER ACCEPTABLE, AND A COWARDLY WAY OF DEALING WITH DIFFERENCES, especially and particularly despicable if the abuser is a priesthood holder” in addressing deadbeat dads:

Who can calculate the wounds inflicted, their depth and pain, by harsh and mean words spoken in anger? How pitiful a sight is a man who is strong in many ways but who loses all control of himself when some little thing, usually of no significant consequence, disturbs his equanimity. In every marriage there are, of course, occasional differences. But I find no justification for tempers that explode on the slightest provocation. . . .

A violent temper is such a terrible, corrosive thing. And the tragedy is that it accomplishes no good; it only feeds evil with resentment and rebellion and pain. To any man or boy within the sound of my voice who has trouble controlling his tongue, may I suggest that you plead with the Lord for the strength to overcome your weakness, that you apologize to those you have offended, and that you marshal within yourselves the power to discipline your tongue. . . .

You may think it is the macho thing to flare up in anger and swear and profane the name of the Lord. It is not the macho thing. It is an indication of weakness. Anger is not an expression of strength. It is an indication of one’s inability to control his thoughts, words, his emotions. Of course it is easy to get angry. When the weakness of anger takes over, the strength of reason leaves. Cultivate within yourselves the mighty power of self-discipline. . . .

The tragedy is that some men are ensnared by their own foolishness and their own weakness. They throw to the wind the most sacred and solemn of covenants, entered into in the house of the Lord and sealed under the authority of the holy priesthood. They set aside their wives who have been faithful, who have loved and cared for them, who have struggled with them in times of poverty only to be discarded in times of affluence. They have left their children fatherless. They have avoided with every kind of artifice the payment of court-mandated alimony and child support.

Do I sound harsh and negative? Yes, I feel that way as I deal with case after case and have done so over a period of time. . . .

A husband who domineers his wife, who demeans and humiliates her, and who makes officious demands upon her not only injures her, but he also belittles himself. And in many cases, he plants a pattern of future similar behavior in his sons. . . .

Some men who are evidently unable to gain respect by the goodness of their lives, use as justification for their actions the statement that Eve was told that Adam should rule over her. How much sadness, how much tragedy, how much heartbreak has been caused through centuries of time by weak men who have used that as a scriptural warrant for atrocious behavior! . . .

What I have spoken, I have said with a desire to be helpful and, in some cases, in the spirit of a rebuke followed by an increase of love toward those whom I may have rebuked. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Solemn Responsibilities,” October 1991, all caps in original.)

[5] Many felt the quickening of the Spirit when President Hinckley openly addressed the lingering racism among our people and his admonition to make greater efforts to accommodate diversity:

I have wondered why there is so much hatred in the world. . . .

Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. . . .

Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” April 2006.)

[6] In an address during a Priesthood Session of Conference, President Hinckley recounted the tale of Joseph interpreting Pharoah’s dream (Genesis 41:17-32), explaining that it had been of concern to him as applied to our times:

Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.

I hope with all my heart that we shall never slip into a depression. I am a child of the Great Depression of the thirties. I finished the university in 1932, when unemployment in this area exceeded 33 percent. . . .

I repeat, I hope we will never again see such a depression. But I am troubled by the huge consumer installment debt which hangs over the people of the nation, including our own people. . . .

Everyone knows that every dollar borrowed carries with it the penalty of paying interest. When money cannot be repaid, then bankruptcy follows. . . .

We are beguiled by seductive advertising. Television carries the enticing invitation to borrow up to 125 percent of the value of one’s home. But no mention is made of interest. . . .

I recognize that it may be necessary to borrow to get a home, of course. But let us buy a home that we can afford and thus ease the payments which will constantly hang over our heads without mercy or respite for as long as 30 years.

No one knows when emergencies will strike. I am somewhat familiar with the case of a man who was highly successful in his profession. He lived in comfort. He built a large home. Then one day he was suddenly involved in a serious accident. Instantly, without warning, he almost lost his life. He was left a cripple. Destroyed was his earning power. He faced huge medical bills. He had other payments to make. He was helpless before his creditors. One moment he was rich, the next he was broke. . . .

I urge you, brethren, to look to the condition of your finances. I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Boys and to the Men, October 1998.)

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, John. I love President Hinckley!

  2. Nice, John. Thanks.

  3. He sharply condemned mistreatment of others, many times. I will remember that most about him.

  4. I loved the endless supply of good will and humor he brought to everything he did. Thanks for this John. It was a great way to start my day.

  5. He

  6. Sorry; hit return accidentally. Hinckley was our great transitional prophet, the man who truly exemplified our turn from the 19th century (which, given the longevity of church leaders, was still a real formative presence in the minds and outlooks of those who shaped and trained all those apostles before him) and into the 20th. All praise to him.

  7. Thanks for this. I miss President Hinckley. It was on my second visit to a Mormon church that I heard him deliver a conference talk; though I never met him he played a large role in my conversion.

  8. I missed seeing President Hinckley twice. In the Spring of 1997 he spoke to five missions in So. Cal and I was here at that time, in Aug. of 1998 he came here to Canada and I was in So. Cal.!!!! Dangit I missed seeing him twice!!!!

  9. i don’t know if this is a good place to post or not, but I just saw the amazing YW cards for each of the values and I love them so much! For some reason I couldn’t comment on that post, but I really want to print them (and I’m totally technology ignorant) but there is a tiny typo on the Knowledge card by Belle Spafford (needs a space between two words). I know that’s a minor deal, but I’m wondering if you can fix it and repost before I print them? Sorry if that’s a lame request! Thanks!!

  10. paging Tracy. . . .!

  11. I sure miss him

  12. I miss him. He was very inspiring to me.

  13. J. Stapley says:

    This is a really moving piece, John. It looks like it was a tremendous amount of work. Thank you for doing it. Reading through those sermon excerpts in the notes was particularly wonderful. I remember watching those sermons so vividly.

  14. Me too — a real walk down memory lane to dig into this material to prepare this post. I really miss him too.

  15. Thanks John. He was a remarkable and visionary man.

  16. Thanks for this. Hinckley was the prophet during much of my life and will always be “my prophet.”

  17. I also miss him, his humor, his ability to connect with his audience, his ability to be firm yet loving. President Kimball seemed to have that same connection with many people in the church. And it’s common to meet many Spencers in the church who were born during his time. I can’t say that I’ve met, seen or heard of any Gordons that were born during President Hinckley’s time.

  18. Last testimony in England. It’s the perfect snapshot of the man.

  19. thank you for contributing that, Ronan.