President Hinckley grew up putting that love of language and literature to good use. His early academic intentions were toward a degree in journalism, so he went to the University of Utah to prepare.
Then came another opportunity.
"I was most fortunate," he said, "in the happenstance events that formed my early university education. I went to enroll in a freshman English class, and all the sections were filled.
"Because there were several of us still trying to register, they had to open up a new section, and apparently there was no one to teach it but the able and gifted head of the department. I had a wonderful introduction to the English language at his hand. ... I loved him and all my instructors.
"I read Carlyle and Emerson, Milton and Longfellow, Shakespeare and all the others. And from there I went on to study Latin and Greek.
"I couldn't do it now, but once I could have read you the 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey' in the original Greek. I finished up my work at the university with a minor in ancient languages."
He had a memorable speaking opportunity when he was about age 20 and a college student. His bishop had scheduled apostle and U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot as a speaker. At the last minute, the speaker was called away, so the bishop called on Gordon Hinckley and Robert Sonntag to substitute and address an overflow congregation.
"When Gordon Hinckley had finished speaking, the people had forgotten all about Sen. Smoot's absence," Sonntag recalled. "The boy really stirred them," a 1961 Improvement Era article said.
"President Hinckley is a master orator," the late Wendell J. Ashton, former missionary companion, Deseret News publisher and a longtime friend, once said. "I'll never forget Lord Thompson of Fleet saying privately to his son a few years ago: 'This Hinckley is a great speaker. He knows how to move people."'
He also devoted some preparation days during his mission to England to visiting historical sites and attending cultural events.
He was the author of one hymn in the current LDS hymnal No. 135, "My Redeemer Lives" with music by Elder G. Homer Durham, another former mission companion and former member of the Seventy. And even more recently, when people met President Hinckley, they commented on his facility with the language, as it gave expression to the breadth and grasp of his intellect.President Hinckley's love of language was recognized in 1999. When the University of Utah began raising funds to create an endowment for British studies in its English department, the project was named in his honor.
The complete text of President Hinckley's address can be found at "Seek Ye the Kingdom of God".
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