LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley dies at age 97
LDS president met call with humility, vigor
He was the first church president ever to provide wide access to the media, garnering unprecedented publicity and goodwill for the church. He met with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the White House and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom the nation's highest civilian honor by President Bush on his 94th birthday in 2004.
His interview with TV journalist Mike Wallace was shown on the CBS news program "60 Minutes" in 1996, and his ease with questions and the humor he brought to bear with reporters made him a sought-after interview, particularly leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
The Book of Mormon also gained a wider public profile during his tenure, after top church leaders allowed Doubleday to publish it in hardbound form to be distributed through secular book outlets in 2004. The following year, President Hinckley urged church members to read the book from cover to cover, and he noted in December 2005 that more people were then reading it than at any time in history.
Notable policy changes included:
• The replacement of regional representatives with area authorities in August 1995. Then in the April 1997 general conference, he announced that the area authorities would become Area Authority Seventies divided into the Third Quorum (Europe, Africa, Asia, Pacific), Fourth Quorum (Mexico, Central America, South America) and the Fifth Quorum (United States and Canada.) Creation of the Sixth Quorum as a division of the Fifth Quorum was announced in April 2004.
He said further that although members of these quorums would not be general authorities, they would function in the leadership ranks between local and general church authorities, such as creating and reorganizing stakes, touring missions and serving in area presidencies.
• The announcement that, with the exception of Deseret Management Corp., general authorities would no longer serve on corporate boards.
• The First Presidency Proclamation on the Family at the September 1995 General Women's Conference reaffirming the divinity of marriage and the family. This was a theme he continued to emphasize.
• A new church logo.
• Creation of Latter-day Saint Charities to distribute surplus goods worldwide to people in need.
• Construction of the Conference Center on the block north of Temple Square for general conferences, other church gatherings and community events. As a result, the Deseret Gym, a longtime Salt Lake landmark, was demolished. This construction also came during the renovation of I-15 in the Salt Lake Valley and the completion of the Salt Lake-Sandy TRAX light-rail line in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Conference Center was dedicated at the October 2000 general conference.
• The announcements in the October 1997 general conference of the plan to build smaller temples, the need to fellowship new converts and that women were not obligated to serve full-time missions. The announcement of 30 more small temples in various parts of the world came in the next conference.
• The transition of Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, from a two-year college to a four-year institution on Aug. 10, 2001, renaming it BYU-Idaho and eliminating the school's intercollegiate athletic program.
• The introduction in fall 1998 of a new two-volume Church Handbook of Instructions, the first volume for unit administration and the second for priesthood and auxiliary leaders.
• Distribution of packets of LDS materials to libraries in the United States and Canada.
• Newly designed temple recommends and inclusion of a field for humanitarian donations on donation slips.
• Change of Relief Society homemaking night to a night for home, family and personal enrichment.
• Continued reconstruction and, in some cases, replacement of meetinghouses. Also, at his request, free-standing steeples alongside many meetinghouses were replaced by steeples atop meetinghouses.
• Introduction of the teacher improvement plan.
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