After serving as a counselor to three Church presidents, President Gordon B. Hinckley was ordained and set apart Sunday, March 12 as the 15th president of the Church.
He succeeds President Howard W. Hunter, who died March 3.President Hinckley, 84, has served as a General Authority for nearly 37 years. He was first called in 1958 as an Assistant to the Twelve. Three years later, he was sustained to the Council of the Twelve where he served until 1981 when he was called as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball. In 1985, he was called as first counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson and in 1994 was named first counselor to President Hunter.
Announcement of President Hinckley being the new prophet and president of the Church was made Monday, March 13 at a news conference in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Also announced at the news conference was the call of President Thomas S. Monson as first counselor in the First Presidency, President James E. Faust as second counselor in the First Presidency, and President Boyd K. Packer as acting president of the Council of the Twelve.
President Monson has served in the First Presidency since 1985. He served as second counselor to both President Hunter and President Benson after serving 22 years in the Council of the Twelve. President Faust was called to the Twelve in 1978. Before that, he served six years as an Assistant to the Twelve and in the Presidency of the Seventy.
President Monson was also set apart as president of the Council of the Twelve. Because President Monson is serving in the First Presidency, President Packer will continue as acting president of the Twelve, the position he held under President Hunter.
Members of the newly organized First Presidency, seated in front of a bigger-than-life statue of Joseph Smith, each made a statement to the news media. Seated to the sides of the First Presidency were the 11 members of the Council of the Twelve.
"One cannot come to this sacred office without almost overwhelming feelings of inadequacy," President Hinckley said. "Strengthened resolution to go forward comes from the knowledge that this is the work of God, that He is watching over it, that He will direct us in our efforts if we will be true and faithful, and that our accountability is to Him." (Please see full text of President Hinckley's statement beginning on this page.)
President Monson said: "It is a privilege for me to be serving with President Gordon B. Hinckley. We have served together in one capacity or another for many, many years. He is a man of enormous talent and one who has the capacity for reaching out and lifting up. He is a man also of great spirituality as well as capability.
"I believe that we're poised on the edge of a great new movement of spirituality and expansion of the work of the Lord under his leadership.
"I assure each of you," President Monson continued, "that my heart is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, and I likewise have a great feeling of love and respect for the leaders of other religious faiths in our area and in this marvelous community which headquarters The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
President Faust said he was "greatly humbled and honored" to serve as one of President Hinckley's counselors and pledged his "complete and total devotion to this work."
He spoke of his association with President Hinckley which goes back for more than 40 years, before either was a General Authority. "I know of his heart and know of his soul," President Faust said of the prophet. "I know of his commitment. I know of his faith. I know of his capacity."
After members of the First Presidency addressed the media, reporters asked questions of them for 30 minutes, ranging from President Hinckley's health to a theme for his presidency, from the expansion of the Church to the most serious challenge facing the Church today. It was the first time since 1973, when President Kimball became president of the Church, that members of the First Presidency responded to questions from the media.
Concerning his health, President Hinckley said he has spent only one night in the hospital in his life. "I was past 75 when that occurred. That doesn't mean that I am ready to run a 100-yard dash."
Answering a question about the focus of his presidency, President Hinckley responded: "Carry on. Yes, our theme will be to carry on the great work which has been furthered by our predecessors who have served so admirably, so faithfully and so well. Building family values, yes. Fostering education, yes. Building a spirit of tolerance and forebearance among people everywhere, yes. And proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's His name which becomes the name of this Church and whose teachings and ideals we seek to emulate and promote and will continue to do so."
Concerning the greatest challenge facing the Church today, President Hinckley said: "The most serious challenge we face and the most wonderful challenge is the challenge that comes of growth. Accommodating the tremendous growth of the Church presents many problems. It entails the construction of houses of worship and other facilities. But what a remarkable and wonderful challenge that is. And I am grateful to be able to say that because of the faithfulness of our people in the payment of their tithes and offerings, the Church has had the means to provide that which is needed to accommodate this growth."
Speaking of expansion of the Church into areas of the world where it is not now formally recognized, the prophet declared: "We go where we're permitted to go, when we're permitted to go. We will be alert to every opportunity that becomes available to us. As we expand, we always go in the front door with full knowlege of government officials and with their encouragement and blessing. That has been our pattern, that's the pattern which we will continue to pursue in the future."
Of traveling to meet with members of the Church, President Hinckley said: "We want to get out with the people. It is important for us to meet with the people and feel of their pulse, out across the world. And they do great things for us. And we hope that it will be of some benefit to them."
Concerning the influence of the Church in Utah, President Hinckley exclaimed: "We try to follow a very strict course in political matters. We observe the principle of the separation of church and state. We do concern ourselves with matters which we consider of moral consequence and things which might directly affect the Church or our fellow churches. We try to work unitedly with other people of other faiths in a constructive way. We hope we can use our influence for the maintenance and cultivation of the good environment in which we live as a people in these communities."
Concerning the rapid pace of temple building, the prophet declared: "This is the greatest era in the history of the Church for temple building. Never has the construction of temples gone forward with the momentum that is now being carried forward. We have 47 operating temples. We have 13 other temples in some course of construction reaching back to the drawing board. We will continue to build temples.
The templesT are busier than they have ever been. We will reach out wherever the need exists to construct these sacred houses of the Lord to accommodate the needs of the people."
Answering a question about whether Brigham Young would be pleased about what's happened in the Church and of the state that he founded, President Hinckley commented: "Yes and no. I think he would be tremendously happy and proud as he has seen the growth of the Church here and the strengthening of this state. This was once an isolated wilderness. It has become a great metropolitan center. It has become a place of tremendous productivity. I think all of these things would be very pleasing to Brigham Young. I think he would be saddened over some of the things he sees in terms of crime, youth delinquency and youth gangs. But I think on balance he would be very happy and very proud. On a dark and winter day in 1849 in the old tabernacle which stood in the block west of us, when the people were hungry and cold, he said the day would come when this [state] would become the great highway of the nations and people from over the earth would visit us here. We are witnessing that day and the fulfillment of that remarkable prophecy."
Concerning homes and families, President Hinckley said: "The family is the basic element of society. It is so important. Good homes produce good people. Good homes become the foundation for the strength of any nation. Good homes are certainly the rock bottom need of our nation and every nation. Homes in which there is a father who stands at the head of the home in love and kindness and who assumes the basic responsibility to provide for his family. And a mother who stands as the queen of that home, equally beside her husband, and children whom they love and cherish and nourish and who love them in return."
In answering a question about what his message would be to women who, because of economic reasons, must go outside the home and work, the prophet exclaimed: "Do the best you can, and remember the greatest asset that you have in this world is those children who you have brought into the world and whose nuturing care you are responsible for."
After being asked what the key for success for young people is to be able to succeed as they enter a fast-paced world and face its challenges, President Hinckley declared: "Education. We live in a very challenging world. It isn't likely to become less challenging, but more challenging. We encourage our young people to educate their minds and their hands and qualify themselves to take places of responsibility in society in which they will become a part. And in the process of so doing, remaining faithful and true in the Church which they love and in which they are members."
Answering a question concerning the growth of the Church internationally, in such areas as Mexico, the prophet said: "It's a remarkable thing to observe that there never appears to be any dearth of leadership. This Church trains local leaders wherever it goes. Wherever there is a need for development of organization, we find capable men and women who are ready to take over the reins. We haven't the slightest worry or concern really about finding leadership as the Church grows in Mexico, South America, Central America, anywhere in the world. It always works out."