The life of President Gordon B. Hinckley

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

"I spent one night in the hospital in my life. I was past 75 when that occurred," he replied. "That doesn't mean I'm ready to run a 100-yard dash."

In the Tabernacle Choir performance at the Tuacahn outdoor amphitheater on a cold Sunday morning, April 9, 1995, he warmed the members of the Ivins, Washington County, audience, many under blankets, by dubbing the event "Music and the Frozen Word."

It was a quality he shared with his wife of nearly 67 years, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley. Following her death the Office of the First Presidency released a statement in which President Hinckley described his wife as "the lodestar of their family (who) gently guided her children with faith, intelligence and humor. Her happiest role was that of a supportive wife and mother (who) made good use of humor to settle many of life's difficulties. She was often heard to say, 'The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it."'

President Hinckley's first address as a general authority poked fun at himself. He spoke at general conference the day he was sustained as an assistant to the Twelve, on April 6, 1958.

"My dear brethren and sisters," he said. "I don't know whether it's these new bifocals or the circumstances that make you look foggy. I'm reminded of a statement made by my first missionary companion when I received a letter of transfer to the European Mission office.

"After I'd read it, I turned it over to him. He read it and said: 'Well, you must have helped an old lady across the street in the pre-existence. It isn't anything you've done here."'

Family members spoke of a man who loved laughter.

"He loves to tell stories that make people laugh," said granddaughter Ann Hinckley in an April 1997 New Era article. "He doesn't tell jokes that are at the expense of others. He laughs at himself and helps us laugh at ourselves."

"I love it when he tells a story," said granddaughter Katie Barnes. "He can hardly get through it because he's laughing so hard. He can't breathe because he's laughing, which makes us laugh."

Fellow church leaders also spoke of President Hinckley's humor.

"He has kept a highly developed sense of humor, seeing good cheer as a vital message of life," the now-deceased Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said of President Hinckley.

The late G. Homer Durham, a high school classmate and later a missionary companion and general authority, once described how humor fit into President Hinckley's overall character: "His judgment stands up in every situation. His insight into human character and situations is rich and meaningful. He knows when silence is better than utterance. He has a sense of humor that endears him to all."

SPEAKER — Love for language led to skills in speaking, writing

As a writer and speaker, President Gordon B. Hinckley was noted for his love of the English language. Several influences during his early years helped create this lifelong love.

One influence was his parents' background. Both were professional educators. This was reflected in the layout of their home, which featured a library of more than a 1,000 books.

His mother also was a musician, and his father was a skilled writer of history. The library featured a large oak table, a good lamp and several comfortable chairs in addition to the books.

In an Ensign magazine interview just after President Hinckley was sustained as prophet, President Hinckley's son Clark noted that his father had often spoken to his children about what a quiet, inviting place it was.

"Apparently it was a wonderful place to study," Clark Hinckley said, "and it reflected a love for good books and learning in that home. Now, I don't think that as a boy Dad spent all his time reading, but there is no question he was exposed to great literature and that it had an impact on him."

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere