With a characteristic display of humor and humility, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley accepted the 1998 Legacy of Life Award presented by the LDS Hospital-Deseret Foundation's Heart and Lung Research Foundation Community Advisory Council Wednesday.
"I'm deeply grateful and immensely moved by what you have given me tonight," President Hinckley said. "Thank you for your great and thoughtful kindness. I'm greatly complimented to have my name added to the names of past recipients."More than 900 friends, relatives, community dignitaries and fellow church general authorities packed the Little America ballroom for the award banquet, which was emceed by President Hinckley's nephew, Mark H. Willes, CEO of the Times Mirror Company and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
Despite being a little under the weather with a cold, President Hinckley did not abandon his trademark sense of humor. Upon receiving the large obelisk-shape award from foundation chairman Howard L. Edwards, President Hinckley said: "If that were a little lighter, it'd be easier to get out of here."
"My observation is that the enjoyment of these dinners is inversely proportional to the length of the program. I think we'll make it tonight," President Hinckley said with regards to keeping the presentation brief and on time.
"And if any have forgotten, you'll still be able to get your tax returns in the mail," he quipped, referring to Wednesday's tax day midnight deadline.
Taking a more serious tone, President Hinckley congratulated the foundation for the "tremendous" work it does to extend human life and comfort. He pointed out that when he was born in 1910, life expectancy in the United States was 50 years. But today, Americans are expected to live more than 75 years.
"This represents a miracle," President Hinckley said. "Not only have the years increased, but the quality of life has been enhanced and enriched. All of us are so deeply indebted to you men and women who engage in the art of healing and of research concerning healing, for this tremendous blessing of which we all become the beneficiaries.
"To me, it is a thing almost beyond belief that smallpox, which was once the scourge of the Earth and took hundreds of thousands of lives, has now been totally eradicated. What a marvelous thing all of this represents.
"I have just one suggestion. And that is that somebody work a little more on a cure for the common cold. I have tried chicken broth, as recommended by the Harvard medical school. It doesn't work, and it isn't very good."
President Hinckley also expressed gratitude for living in "the best of all times."
"There is less of sickness; there is more of life. There is less of pain; there is more of happiness."
In his many travels, he has had the "privilege and opportunity to walk among the poor of the Earth," he said.
"My heart reaches out to those who do not have the blessings which we enjoy. But I'm grateful every time we come home to the land of which each of us is a part. For citizenship in this good nation. We can live and enjoy the benefits of life.
"I thank the God of heaven for the great and eternal concept of human dignity, which underlies the spirit of this nation; for the precious boon of liberty; for the freedom to worship, to speak, to assemble, and to work in one's chosen field which I believe are the inalienable gifts of a beneficent providence codified in the language of our national charter."