17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Is Anyone Else Going to Miss President Hinckley?

(Note: This is not as timely as I was hoping: I wrote it the night I went into the hospital (two days after General Conference) to give birth to my first child, Astoria. So I got a little side-tracked.)

I have to admit that I cried all through President Hinckley’s talk in the Sunday morning session of General Conference. I was really glad he said that it wasn’t his obituary, because I was thinking throughout the whole thing: oh! this is the last we will hear from him; this is his farewell to the church; an era in church history is over. Ok, yes, I am in my last two weeks of pregnancy and a little prone to being over emotional, but I really am going to miss his presence at the head of this church.

When the conference session was over, I felt the urge to dwell on him and his life in some way, and I realized that I sill haven’t read his biography, written by Sheri Dew. So I got on Amazon.com to look into ordering it and came across this interesting outsider’s review of the book:

Gordon B. Hinckley will not be remembered as someone who made contributions in Mormon doctrine. Sometimes, in the book, you almost sense a Gordon B. Hinckley who doesn't really believe in anything other than the organization. After reading the book, I feel I understand Gordon B. Hinckley as a capable administrator, a loyal member of the organization, but anything but a dynamic leader who actually stands for anything. I cannot think of a single revelation
that Gordon B. Hinckley has made (other than some silly stuff about piercings and tattoos—how’s that for earth-shattering). He has spent millions on temples, and has worked tirelessly on public relations pursuits for the church, but an inspired leader? Even with the author’s best spin, I don't think so.

I’d love to hear people’s reactions to this, because I think this reviewer picked out the very things that represent President Hinckley’s inspiration: making temple work accessible and available to so many more members throughout the world and working to make the church a serious player on our modern global stage—or at least, a presence that people recognize, acknowledge, and lend credibility to like they never have before. Any thoughts?

On a personal note, he’s actually had close contact over the years with my family: my father and grandfather were his home teachers in Salt Lake City when my father was a young man and President Hinckley was an apostle; he sealed my parents in the Salt Lake Temple (apparently he came to the sealing late but entered the room with a huge smile and, knowing that my father had served his mission in Japan, said, "Konichiwa gozaimasu!" (which means something like, "Hello very much!"); he and Sister Hinckley visited Japan several times while my family was living over there, and my mother remembers Sister Hinckley asking her, "When are you going to bring your kids home and teach them the Star Spangled Banner?"; and he set my father apart as a mission president back in 1999. I was there in the Church Office building for the blessing, and I remember President Hinckley coming in, circling the room to shake hands with everyone who had come, and stopping at my grandfather, when my dad said, "President, you probably don’t remember, but my father and I were your home teachers . . ."

"Yes. I do remember," President Hinckley responded. "In the East Millcreek Ward. 1962." (or some date.)

How incredible that he remembered. The man must meet and know so many people every day. I was so amazed at his ability to be personal and real.

I have no fears for the future of the church once he’s gone (succession in this church is like clockwork), but I am sad that my daughter will never know him.

So here’s what I’m going to miss about President Hinckley:

his sense of humor—a story: the one time I actually attended conference in person, back in the Tabernacle, I got in line at 4:00am, waited outside until the afternoon session, finally got a seat behind one of the cameras (which meant I couldn’t see anything), and then promptly fell asleep when the session began—it was so hot and stuffy inside. But I remember President Hinckley getting up between speakers and saying something to the effect of, "I know it’s hot in here, but it’s going to be even hotter if you don’t repent!" How random!

His humor always gives me a sense that although the church and the gospel are serious things, there is room in our association with them—and therefore with the Lord?—for humor and down-to-earth-ness.

his direct speech—he’s not prone to speaking entirely in the passive voice like so many other general authorities; and this directness comes through (more importantly, of course) in content as well as style

his modern-ness—to me, he really does seem to have a sense for what is going on in the world around him, despite the fact that he was born, in what, 1910! Think of the history he has lived through and yet he speaks to us about raves and the internet and body piercings.

his energy—even at his age, he always seems so alive

his gratitude—I’d love to know the number of times he has thanked us as members of the church for our faith, service, commitment; I remember this really mattering to me when I was a missionary

There are other things I could list, but I want to know what everyone else is thinking.


  • I was thinking the same things you were as he was speaking! I was so glad to hear him say it wasn't his obituary.

    I don't know precisely what I'll miss about him. I'm just now really starting to pay attention to things like that. All I know is that he's been the leader of the church for basically all of my life. Back when Benson was Prophet, I'd look at Hinckley when he spoke and think "He's going to be prophet next." I don't know whether this came from any special insight or was just the impression I got because when Benson was ill, Hinckley took over so much he was like a Vice-Prophet anyway. But when I heard he'd become Prophet, I felt that all was progressing just as it should. He's been such a pillar; I'll miss his prescence, his gentle humor, his earnest way of talking... In a lot of ways I think he's been the perfect leader, leading with firmness but not harshness.
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 4/26/2006 09:07:00 AM  

  • Sunny,

    Ditto on your sentiments. Even though I have never had any close contact with Pres. Hinkley, I still feel this sense of connectedness. I think it is something that is unique to him and it is what I will really miss. I also love his sense of humor and his ability to inspire the members of the church as well as all others who come in contact with him.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/26/2006 09:25:00 AM  

  • I love his optimism. I go away from listening to him, resolved to be a better person not because I feel guilty for my sins (of which there are many) but because he helps me catch the vision of my divine potential. Which, by the way, is a much better motivator (for me anyway). Guilt leads to moping; his optimism makes me want to live up to his vision.
    posted by Blogger RCH at 4/26/2006 11:22:00 AM  

  • Thank you for your post. It seems to me like President Hinckley is a "do-er". Maybe this accounts for the reviewer's interesting take on his legacy. And you know, maybe the reviewer is right. Maybe he won't be remembered for his impact to doctrine. But which is a better prophet? A "thinker" or a "doer"? I don't think any of us can say. And really, it doesn't matter what we would say anyway.

    I am personally grateful for President Hinckley's style. I love the down to earth, humor-filled, perspective giving take on living the gospel in a modern world. I really respect and admire his ability as a "doer" because I, by nature, lean the other direction.
    posted by Blogger Maralise at 4/26/2006 11:39:00 AM  

  • Sunny,

    I have repeatedly expressed to Carrie how much I think Pres. Hinkley will be missed when he passes. In fact, it was a few years ago that tears welled up in my eyes at the recognition that Pres. Hinkley was getting older and that we would someday have to say goodbye to our beloved prophet.

    I agree with almost everything you said about him - particularly his sense of humor, his frankness, and his ability to convey the requisite sacredness of the gospel, without coming across as overly serious (I'll never forget the time he ended the priesthood session of conference a few minutes early so that the BYU football game could get started!).

    For me, the most impressive quality of Pres. Hinkley's presidency is the one mentioned by Carrie. Despite having never met the man, I feel an incredible sense of closeness to him. I can't tell whether this stems mostly from the length of his tenure or from the quality of his person. But it's real, and I'm sure I won't be the only one who sheds tears when he moves on from this life.

    As for Pres. Hinkely's impact on the church, I think we have to wait and see what history teaches us. That he never revealed any great or deep doctrine, to me simply means that God had other priorities. If I had to predict, I think we will look back on his presidency as a time when the church grew tremendously in its sensitivity to the individual needs of its members - whether they be single mothers, divorcees, members struggling with sin, recent converts, isolated members in foreign countries, etc. That's just my off-the-cuff opinion, though. People with other experiences in the church might have other impressions.
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 4/26/2006 05:39:00 PM  

  • Wasn't it the Nauvoo Temple dedication where President Hinckley's message seemed laced with sentiments that his life was nearing an end? That was 5 years ago, I believe.... I hope he is wrong this time as well because I adore him so much!

    The "outside commenter" seemed to measure leadership in terms of how much new doctrine he brought to us. Isn't leadership much more intangible? The great love of the members and their desire to follow him....isn't that a much greater measure of being a truly great leader?
    posted by Blogger Jen at 4/27/2006 06:59:00 AM  

  • Imagine knowing that millions of people who don't know you, feel close to you. That is a gift and a power all it's own. I am about half way through his biography...I'm ashamed to say I have been working on it for a few YEARS now....but it is so interesting and he is so well-traveled.

    I think one of my main misconcepetions growing up was that general authorities only interacted with the citizens of Salt Lake City. But after hearing them speak and reading their biographies I know that they have literally seen it all, and that is exciting. I know Prez H's perspective is well-rounded and true, and of course I will miss him.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 4/27/2006 07:22:00 AM  

  • I agree with Todd and Carrie and others about feeling a great closeness to President Hinckley despite never meeting him. I actually feel this way about Pres. Monson & Faust, too. Specifically, the decision to stay home with my son was an easy one in some ways, but I had things to let go of as well. I remember coming home one evening and wrestling with my thoughts regarding this, and I thought "What would it be like if I could just go to President Hinckley and tell him how I feel? What advice would he give me?". Then I had this overwhelming feeling of him being so proud and thankful and supportive about me taking this time to raise my son... of him putting his arms around me and giving me a great hug. It was so comforting. It confirmed in my heart what I needed to hear at that moment... that I was making the right choice. That might sound kind of random, but it really did help me that day.

    I will definitely miss his humility as well. Every talk he gives in conference is so humble. It is inspiring.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 4/27/2006 01:47:00 PM  

  • I love President Hinckley, but I confess that I HAVE also wondered at times about church revelation during his tenure. (Okay, now is one of those times you hope that by responding a little late, no one will actually read what you're saying because it seems to be too controversial:) All I mean by this is that with Pres. Hinckley, everything seems so practical, so common sense, almost, so that if you're waiting for a Joseph Smith-level of revelation (like this is how you know if a spirit is from God or satan--I just finished reading that section in the D&C), or even a E.T. Benson-type (we must flood the earth with the BofM or suffer a curse!), you aren't going to get it.

    But that's one of the things I love best about Pres. Hinckley: he's a prophet who makes doing God's work seems just like it's everyday stuff. Which it should be. For all of us. And I think he's very, very inspired. Sure, the build-more-temples thing seems like a logical plan now, but when I was a kid, you built huge, gorgeous temples occasionally in member-dense areas, and the very notion (I still remember when I first heard it) that there should be 5 times the number of temples, smaller, still gorgeous, and all over the world, well, it just seemed strange. And his mantra of "be a little better" totally inspires me to do just that and not get totally overwhelmed like I could easily do. In such a war-infested time, to continually tell members in simple faith that if they trust in God, they need not fear is really, really comforting.

    I will love and support the next prophet, I already know, but I will mourn the man who has made doing extraordinary things seem simple and possible.
    posted by Blogger newmom at 4/27/2006 03:06:00 PM  

  • Oh, yes, he will be missed! I love what was mentioned --about his quiet, yet firm, way of leading. He has always been about loving each other. About being kind to each other. I love that...I need that!! :)

    As far as earth-shattering new doctrine goes --I think he has done it. It's just earth-shattering in a silent way. Not only has he helped bring about prophecy (the stone rolling forth and all that), but he has raised the bar so high for missionaries, started the new missionary program, brought about the change in the Initiatory in the Temple, dotted the Earth with Temples, the Gospel and a Temple is now in China (thanks to Hong Kong and the short-term English contract...), Nauvoo is being restored, the Church has moved out of obscurity and he's been on national TV to bunk the myths the world has of our Church. Phew!! And I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg. Every Prophet has, as I've seen people talk about in Church and all, a job to do. President Kimball brough the Priesthood to all worthy men. Pres. Hunter boosted Temple attendance. Pres. Young brought us to SLC. Some of those things may seem "bigger" in terms of revelation, but are in no way more "important", you know?

    I will definitely miss him. (I already miss his wife terribly).
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 4/28/2006 09:14:00 AM  

  • newmom,

    you are afraid to stir up contreversy? Where's the fun in that?

    I think you make a very valid point - similar to the one in the review but done in a more "believing" way.

    I think mormons have grown accustomed to being the "peculiar people". Pres. Hinkely has shown to the world that this doesn't have to mean "strange people." And I am totally down with that.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/28/2006 02:40:00 PM  

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