He traveled the world during his tenure, which was marked by a number of significant milestones, including the “Proclamation to the World on the Family,” construction of dozens of small temples and the creation of several new quorums of the Seventy. He called for increased fellowshipping of new converts and reaching out to other faiths. Church membership has grown from 9 million to more than 13 million members during his administration.
His ministry was characterized by a strong desire to be out among the people. He traveled more than half a million miles and spoke to hundreds of thousands of members in more than 60 nations, employing his mastery of electronic media to bring unprecedented press attention to the church.
Under his leadership, the 21,000-seat Conference Center, north of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, was built and dedicated, and the portion of Main Street between Temple Square and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building was turned into a plaza. Online computer access to church information as well as online and CD access to family history resources grew exponentially.
A young man of 25 and just home from his mission when he went to work for the church in 1935, he remained an employee, administrator and general authority for almost seven decades, an eyewitness â€” and key contributor â€” to what he called, with the approach of the 21st century, “a great season in the history of the world and a great season in the history of the church.”
His proposal to build small temples launched what some have termed the most ambitious temple-building program in world history. Some 122 temples are now in use and nine more have been announced, or are under construction. His goal of having at least 100 temples in use, authorized or under construction by Jan. 1, 2000, was accomplished with the dedication of the church’s 100th temple in Boston on Oct. 1, 2000.
Three of the temples were at major sites in church history. The Nauvoo Temple was rebuilt to 21st-century standards, a temple was dedicated at Palmyra, N.Y., and another was dedicated at Winter Quarters, Neb.
Area Authority Seventies, essentially replacing regional representatives, were called in the late 1990s to help handle the church’s growing leadership burden at the local level. The First and Second Quorums of the Seventy also grew.
At the 171st Annual General Conference in the spring of 2001, he announced creation of the Perpetual Education Fund, a loan program to help young Latter-day Saints in Third World countries.
President Hinckley, who spent nearly 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, was set apart as 15th church president on March 12, 1995, three months before his 85th birthday. He was sustained in solemn assembly at the 165th Annual General Conference that April 1.
He then set out to visit as many church members as possible in their homelands. He continued an ambitious travel schedule throughout his stewardship, urged the members to get their houses in order and warned against pornography and maltreatment of spouses and children. The “Proclamation to the World on the Family,” that he announced in September 1995 gave Latter-day Saints a ready reference for their beliefs on family life, and has been used as a model by international organizations seeking to preserve the traditional family.
With the death of President Hinckley, the First Presidency was dissolved and the Quorum of the Twelve became the governing body of the church. President Hinckley’s counselors, Presidents Thomas S. Monson and Henry B. Eyring, took their places â€” first and 11th â€” within the 14-member quorum. Until his death in August 2007, President James E. Faust served as President Hinckley’s second counselor for 12 years.
Sometime soon, following President Hinckley’s funeral, quorum members will sustain a new church president. If historical precedent holds, the quorum’s senior apostle and president, President Monson, will succeed President Hinckley.
President Hinckley’s initial call to the First Presidency came July 23, 1981, as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball. He was set apart as second counselor to President Kimball on Dec. 2, 1982, following the death of President N. Eldon Tanner. In November 1985, following the death of President Kimball, he was called as first counselor in the First Presidency, serving with President Ezra Taft Benson and President Monson, the second counselor. Presidents Hinckley and Monson continued in those positions under President Howard W. Hunter.
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In the NYT, Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon Leader, Is Dead at 97, by Laurie Goodstein (subscription required) From the article, quoting President Hinckley: The best thing you can do is just keep busy, keep working hard, so you’re not dwelling on it all the time. Work is the best antidote for sorrow.
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