For the year 2017, Church members around the globe will be studying the life and teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Church’s 15th latter-day prophet.

His nearly 13-year tenure as prophet included much growth in the Church — both in membership and construction to fit the needs of the members. Experiences in his life — even from a young age — and his strong faith helped him in his Church leadership later on.

“When I was a boy, 12 years of age, my father took me to a meeting of the priesthood of the stake in which we lived,” he said. “I sat on the back row while he, as president of the stake, sat on the stand. At the opening of that meeting, the first of its kind I had ever attended, 300 or 400 men stood. They were men from varied backgrounds and many vocations, but each had in his heart the same conviction, out of which together they sang these great words:

“ ‘Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer. Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere’ (“Praise to the Man,” Hymns, No. 27).

“Something happened within me as I heard those men of faith sing. There came into my boyish heart a knowledge, placed there by the Holy Spirit, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of the Almighty.

“In the many years that have since passed, years in which I have read much of his words and works, that knowledge has grown stronger and ever more certain. Mine has been the privilege of bearing witness on continents north and south, east and west, that he was and is a prophet of God, a mighty servant and testifier of the Lord Jesus Christ” (“Joseph the Seer,” April 1977 general conference).

President Hinckley’s testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith strengthened him as he was a missionary, a husband and father, and in his Church service.

“I am grateful that the Lord has sustained that witness through more than 70 years since then. I am happy that my faith has not been shaken by the writings of critics who never seem to recognize that knowledge of things divine comes by the power of the Spirit and not the wisdom of men. ...

“I thank my Father in Heaven for the testimony I have of the reality of the First Vision. I have stood among the trees where Joseph knelt as a boy, and heard the whisperings of the Spirit that it happened as he said it happened” (“My Testimony,” October 1993 general conference). — Marianne Holman Prescott

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