President Gordon B. Hinckley's love of trees and one tree in particular became part of the new Conference Center. He told the story during the Saturday morning session of LDS general conference on April 1, 2000.
I love trees.
When I was a boy, we lived on a farm in the summer, a fruit farm. Every year at this season we planted trees.... I think I have never missed a spring since I was married, except for two or three years when we were absent from the city, that I have not planted trees, at least one or two fruit trees, shade trees, ornamental trees, and spruce, fir and pine among the conifers. I love trees.
Well, some 36 years ago, I planted a black walnut. It was in a crowded area where it grew straight and tall to get the sunlight. A year ago, for some reason it died. But walnut is a precious furniture wood. I called Brother Ben Banks of the Seventy, who, before giving his full time to the church, was in the business of hardwood lumber. He brought his two sons ... , one a bishop and the other recently released as a bishop and who now run the business, to look at the tree.
From all they could tell it was solid, good and beautiful wood. One of them suggested that it would make a pulpit for this hall. The idea excited me. The tree was cut down and then cut into two heavy logs. Then followed the long process of drying. ... , first naturally and then kiln drying. The logs were cut into boards at a sawmill in Salem, Utah. The boards were then taken to Fetzer's woodworking plant, where expert craftsmen designed and built this magnificent pulpit. ... with that wood.
The end product is beautiful. I wish all of you could examine it closely.... It represents superb workmanship, and here I am speaking to you from the tree I grew in my back yard, where my children played and also grew.
It is an emotional thing for me.Comment on this story
I have planted another black walnut or two. I will be long gone before they mature. When that day comes and this beautiful pulpit has grown old, perhaps one of them will do to make a replacement. To Elder Banks and his sons, Ben and Bradley, and to the skilled workers who have designed and built this, I offer my profound thanks for making it possible to have a small touch of mine in this great hall where the voices of prophets will go out to all the world in testimony of the Redeemer of mankind.
Subsequently, "The Story of the Walnut Tree" whose central character was simply called "the kindly man" was the basis for a book written by Don H. Staheli and illustrated by Robert T. Barrett.