President Gordon Bitner Hinckley
June 23, 1910 - January 27, 2008
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints passed away on January 27, 2008. He died in his sleep from complications due to age.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, had served as world leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was ordained and set apart as the 15th President of the Church on Sunday, March 12, 1995.
He had earlier served 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, the top governing body of the Church, and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 20 years prior to that.
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 more than 13 million in 160 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 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.
In recent years, a number of major developments in the Church reflected President Hinckley's personal drive and direction. In calling for 100 temples to be in operation before the end of the year 2000, the president committed the Church to a massive temple building program.
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 have taken him around the world many times to meet with Latter-day Saints in more than 60 countries. He is 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.
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 in nations where they would otherwise likely never receive it.
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 messages to the world, broadcast in 54 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 for 20 years before that, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
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 then Church President Heber J. Grant to organize what has become the Church's Public Affairs Department.
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.
President Hinckley has received a number of educational honors including the Distinguished Citizen Award from Southern Utah University; 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 of 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 March 2000 President Hinckley addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He also has addressed the Religion Newswriters Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and twice has addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
President Hinckley has written 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 champions the virtues of love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness, mercy, thrift and industry, gratitude, optimism and faith. He also testifies of what he calls the "guardians of virtue," namely traditional marriage and family.
His Church service has been extensive. He was called 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. He was president of the East Millcreek Stake in Salt Lake City when he was called as a General Authority in the capacity of an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 6, 1958.
President Hinckley was named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 5, 1961. On July 23, 1981, he was called into the First Presidency to serve as Counselor and on December 2, 1982, was named Second Counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball. He served as First Counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson from November 1985 to May 30, 1994. On June 5, 1994, he was called as the First Counselor to President Howard W. Hunter. He was also ordained and set apart as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
As a member of the First Presidency, he had a major role in administering both the ecclesiastical and temporal affairs of the Church, whose more than 10 million members are spread over some 160 nations and territories. His Church assignments have taken him around the world many times, and he has dedicated more temples than any other leader in the history of the Church. He is the first Church President ever to travel to Spain, where in 1996 he broke ground for a temple in Madrid, and to Africa, where he met with thousands of Latter-day Saints in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
He had given numerous interviews to major news media, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the CBS 60 Minutes television news magazine, which featured him and the Church in 1996 on an Easter Sunday show seen by more than 20 million. In September of 1998 he was the guest on the popular CNN cable television program Larry King Live.
President Hinckley was born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah, a son of Bryant Strigham 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.
His first job was as a newspaper carrier for the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City daily. After attending public schools in Salt Lake City, the future Church leader earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Utah and then accepted a call from the Church to spend two years as a full-time missionary in Great Britain. He served with distinction and ultimately was called to be an assistant to the Church Apostle who presided over all the European missions.
Upon being released from missionary service in the mid-1930s, he was called by then Church President Heber J. Grant to organize what has become the Church's public affairs program.
President Hinckley's major assignments during two decades of service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles included the supervision of Church units in Asia, Europe, and South America. His Church committee assignments as a general officer have been in such areas as temples, missionary work, welfare services, priesthood, and members in the military service. He also served as chairman of the executive committee for the observance of the Church's 150th anniversary in 1980.
In addition to his Church duties, President Hinckley had been active in community and business affairs, serving as chairman and board member of a number of business corporations. In 2004, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award, by President George W. Bush. He has been the recipient of a number of educational honors including: the Distinguished Citizen Award, from Southern Utah University; Distinguished Alumni Award, from the University of Utah; and honorary doctorates from Westminster College, Utah State University, University of Utah, Brigham Young University, and Southern Utah University. He has received the Silver Buffalo Award of the Boy Scouts of America and has been honored by the National Conference (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) for his contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world.
He has served as chairman of the executive committees of the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University and of the Church Board of Education. The Church Educational System includes not only Brigham Young University's Utah and Hawaii campuses, but Brigham Young University - Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho, LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, elementary and secondary schools in developing countries, and hundreds of seminaries and institutes of religion serving several hundred thousand high school- and college-age youth.
Hinckley was known for his writing and speaking skills, which he began developing as a young boy growing up in the Church. He honed those talents as a missionary preaching regularly from a portable stand in London's Hyde Park and further refined them as a Church authority. He has written and edited several books and numerous manuals, pamphlets, and scripts.
President Hinckley married Marjorie Pay in the Salt Lake Temple in 1937. They are survived by five children and numerous grandchildren. Sister Hinckley passed away 6 April 2004.