Hinckley, Gordon B(itner) 1910-
HINCKLEY, Gordon B(itner) 1910-
PERSONAL: Born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, UT; son of Bryant S. and Ada (Bitner) Hinckley; married Marjorie Pay, April 29, 1937; children: Kathleen, Richard, Virginia, Clark, Jane. Education: University of Utah, B.A. (English), 1932.
ADDRESSES: Office—First Presidency LDS Church, 47 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-9701.
CAREER: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), member of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 1961-81, counselor in First Presidency, 1981-95; prophet, seer, revelator, and president, 1995—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named among most admired men in the world by Gallup polls, 1999, 2000; honored by National Conference of Community and Justice for contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world; Distinguished Service Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
What of the Mormons?: A Brief Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT), 1947.
From My Generation to Yours … with Love! (young adult), Deseret Book Co. (Salt Lake City, UT), 1973.
Be Thou an Example, Deseret Book Co. (Salt Lake City, UT), 1981.
Faith: The Essence of True Religion, Deseret Book Co. (Salt Lake City, UT), 1989.
(With others) Heroes of the Restoration, Bookcraft (Salt Lake City, UT), 1997.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book Co. (Salt Lake City, UT), 1997.
Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, foreword by Mike Wallace, Times Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Walking in the Light of the Lord: A Message for Mothers, Eagle Gate (Salt Lake City, UT), 2001.
Stand a Little Taller: Counsel and Inspiration for Each Day of the Year, Eagle Gate (Salt Lake City, UT), 2001.
Way to Be!: Nine Ways to be Happy and Make Something of Your Life (young adult), foreword by Steve Young, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of short histories and pamphlets about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
SIDELIGHTS: Gordon B. Hinckley's long service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) culminated with his appointment as president and prophet of the church worldwide. He succeeded Howard W. Hunter, the first Mormon leader born in the twentieth century, who was suffering from cancer and had served only nine months when he died at age eighty-seven. Hunter had replaced Ezra Taft Benton, who was mentally unsound during his eight-year presidency. Hinckley served as de facto head of the church during the terms of both men.
Hinckley worked for the church almost continually after completing his two-year mission in 1935, a requirement he fulfilled by serving in England. His mother died while he was in college, and it was her small savings that supported him when the bank holding the family's funds failed. He completed his mission and returned to take a job with the church. He married Marjorie Pay in 1937, and they began what would became a large family, with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hinckley began as a secretary with the church's Radio, Publicity, and Mission Committee and spent two decades adapting church historical materials. As the church's leader, he has been interviewed by media from around the world, including more than a dozen interviews conducted concurrent with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City.
When Hinckley was born, there were approximately 400,000 members of the LDS, and by 2000 that number had grown to eleven million. The number of temples exceeded one hundred, with more being built, and still more in the planning stages. This growth was due, in part, to Hinckley's commitment to international expansion, and to integrating the LDS church more closely with the greater Christian community.
On Easter Sunday 1996, Hinckley appeared on a 60 Minutes segment with Mike Wallace, who announced that the LDS Church was entering the mainstream. Jan Shipps wrote in Christian Century that Wallace then "described some of the many demands the church makes upon its members and declared that being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a lifestyle as well as religious choice. By placing the spotlight on Hinckley, who possesses awesome skill in dealing with the media, the program also made the point that the church is currently led by a vigorous, competent, and appealing administrator." Shipps noted that previous 60 Minutes stories about American Mormons had often been negative in slant, but that in this particular show, "the program emphasized the wholesome, even admirable qualities of being Mormon—and properly so."
Wallace, a veteran CBS journalist, provided the foreword for Hinckley's Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts. It is the first of Hinckley's books to be produced by a secular publisher, and is not so much a Mormon tome as it is book of traditional values. Hinckley uses personal anecdotes and quotes biblical verse to demonstrate the value of the discussed virtues, which include love, optimism, learning, morality, faith, thrift and industry, civility, honesty, gratitude, and forgiveness and mercy. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that Hinckley's "rigid stance against divorce, abortion, extramarital sex, and homosexuality may alienate those who disagree with his conservative vision of morality."
Los Angeles Times writer Ralph Frammolino said that Hinckley "isn't just the fire-and-brimstone type. His upbeat Zig Ziglaresque personality is amply evident, particularly in passages in which he counts his blessings and declares his love for America. … His message ultimately rings hollow, however, because the book lacks philosophical heft: it fails to engage in meaningful introspection and disclosure. Hinckley lays out cause and effect, but passes over the middle ground of personal struggle, where most of us live. Like his avoidance of the M-word, he seems unwilling to plumb his experience, position, or religious viewpoint to lend a depth to his moral argument."
New York Times contributor Gustav Niebuhr noted that the books's tone "is ecumenical—another distinction, given that the Mormon church has not historically been so inclined." Niebuhr said that Hinckley "speaks favorably of some of Pope John Paul II's statements and also of Baptist churches' work to promote premarital chastity."
Way to Be!: Nine Ways to Be Happy and Make Something of Your Life is similar to Standing for Something, but is directed at teens. Hinckley shares stories about his early life and expresses his beliefs about the virtues young people should embrace. He takes conservative positions on drugs, premarital sex, pornography, tattoos, and social issues. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Hinckley could have used more "gender-inclusive language. In all, however, this heartfelt homespun primer on spiritual values is well-crafted for its intended audience of young Christians, Mormon or otherwise."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dew, Sheri L., Go Forward with Faith: Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book Co. (Salt Lake City, UT), 1996.
McCune, George M., Gordon B. Hinckley: Shoulder for the Lord, United States Hawkes Publications (Salt Lake City, UT), 1996.
Religious Leaders of America, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Christian Century, August 14, 1996, Jan Shipps, "Mormon Metamorphosis: The Neglected Story," p. 784.
Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1997, Larry B. Stammer, "Leader of Mormon Church Looks to Future" (interview), p. B4; May 9, 1999, Teresa Watanabe, "Gordon B. Hinckley" (interview), p. M3; April 22, 2000, Ralph Frammolino, review of Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, p. A14.
Newsweek, March 27, 1995, Kenneth L. Woodward, "The Mantle of Prophecy Comes Only in Gray," p. 63.
New York Times, March 19, 1995, "A Fresh Style for New Head of Mormons: Rapid Growth Seen as Main Challenge," p. 15; July 23, 1995, Gustav Niebuhr, "Rapid Change in His Church Doesn't Faze Mormon Leader," p. 8; March 11, 2000, Gustav Niebuhr, review of Standing for Something, p. B6.
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 2000, review of Standing for Something, p. 100; July 22, 2002, review of Way to Be!: Nine Ways to Be Happy and Make Something of Your Life, p. 175.
Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 2002, Peggy Fletcher Stack, review of WaytoBe!
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Web site,http://www.lds.org/ (December 28, 2002).*