Marjorie Pay Hinckley — Every bit his equal

Her sensible nature, devotion to family served her well

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

Their feet have slowed, but not their wit. In the preface of Sister Hinckley's biography, "Glimpses," Sheri Dew recalls a meeting in which President Hinckley began to address a group of missionaries by announcing, "I am going to exercise my prerogative and call on Sister Hinckley to talk with you. This is something for which I will pay a dear price, but so be it." Never at a loss for words, Sister Hinckley stepped to the microphone and said, "I like this man a lot, but I like him sometimes a lot more than others."

In another meeting, President Hinckley again began his talk by saying, "Sister Hinckley and I have been all over the world speaking to missionaries, and I don't know anyone who does a better job at this than she does. So I think I'd like for her to speak for a few minutes." Sister Hinckley leaned into the microphone and said, "I'll tell you exactly why I'm speaking. President Hinckley hasn't decided yet what he wants to say and he's stalling."

In my brief interview with Sister Hinckley, this was my impression: Maybe she is 91 years old, stands 5-foot nothing at best, has gray hair and is as sweet as the Relief Society president's Jell-O, but she is a strong personality. She is independent, knows what she wants, and she can take care of herself. Ask her if it was difficult during her husband's long absences early in their marriage, and she says matter-of-factly, "No, I liked to be in charge." She also added, "Then he'd come home and start running things, and I'd say, 'Wait a minute; I'm in charge here."'

"She's really tough and independent," says Virginia Pearce, another of the couple's three daughters. "But it's not a selfish independence. She was always willing to make herself available to Dad."

During the 1998 Governor's Marriage Enrichment Conference, Sister Hinckley told an audience, "I am very grateful for a husband who always lets me do my own thing. ... He never insists that I do anything his way, or any way for that matter. From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.

"What a man!"

There were times, of course, when they had differences of opinion, and she put her foot down and prevailed. He was always, for instance, tearing up the house with remodeling projects. When it got to be too much, she would say enough and stand her ground. He'd laugh or leave the room and let it go.

General authorities of the LDS Church have been heard to say, "She is every bit his equal intellectually, spiritually and socially."

But they are different. As Virginia notes, "They have complementary qualities, which makes them a good team."

The way Virginia describes it, her father is "focused, disciplined, overloaded. And she just had this remarkable ability not to push life. It made home a refuge for him."

President Hinckley tends to be in a hurry while his wife has always taken things slower, even when she was a young woman. He walks as fast as he can go while Sister Hinckley moseys along. "Hurry up, Marge," he'll say.

"Oh, slow down," she'll say pleasantly. She doesn't get upset, but she doesn't walk faster either. Once, when she was asked what she considered to be a good birthday present, she said, "Just to be alive, to be able to put my shoes on and go."

Sister Hinckley describes life with her husband these days this way: "We just get up in the morning, put on our shoes and go to work." He goes to work every morning, at the age of 92, coming home for lunch and dinner with his wife. She has frequent visitors: her siblings, children, grandkids.

Most of her longtime friends have either died or can't get out. Ask her what she does each day, she says, "That's not a problem. I'm just busy all day." Sister Hinckley has the normal aches and pains of her age, but any discussion of them doesn't get far. A conversation with her daughters will go something like this:

Daughters: "Do your knees hurt?"

Sister Hinckley: "Well, I'm old."

Daughters: "You never say anything."

Sister Hinckley: "What good would it do?"

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