In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior identified one way to recognize a true prophet, saying, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16.)
In his lifetime, President Gordon B. Hinckley has brought forth much good fruit in the areas of historical preservation, accomplishments, personal appearances, communication and moving forward the work of the Kingdom.
Under the leadership of President Hinckley the Church has moved forward, reaching numerous milestones and influencing both members and others worldwide.
"We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history," said President Hinckley at the October 1999 general conference. "I pray that every one of us may sense the awesome wonder of it all." Under President Hinckley's leadership:
- A new position, Area Authority Seventy, was created in April 1995 to assist area presidencies in administering area affairs.
- The Proclamation on the Family, read Sept. 23, 1995, by President Hinckley during General Relief Society Meeting, declared that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."
- For the first time in Church history, around Feb. 28, 1999, the number of members living outside the United States exceeded the number of members living within.
- Plans were announced in October 1997 general conference to accelerate construction of temples by building scaled-downed versions. Within six months, sites for 24 temples were announced. Before the end of the year 2000, more than 100 temples are expected to be dedicated.
- Indicative of sustained Church growth, 13 new missions were created in July 1998. Also, five new areas were organized in August 1998.
- The 100 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon was printed and distributed sometime between late February and early March in the year 2000. The book was also printed in its 100th language, although seven of the languages are no longer in print.
A tireless traveler
From his mission to the British Isles in 1933-35 to his most recent journey earlier this month to dedicate temples in Japan, Australia and Fiji, President Hinckley has traveled extensively to further the work of the Lord.
"I have determined that for so long as I have the strength to do so, I will get out and meet with the Saints I love, both the youth and the adults," he said during the October 1996 general conference.
Throughout his presidency he has done that by traveling hundreds of thousands of miles around the world. His ability to do so has been facilitated by a private jet aircraft made available to him by a member of the Church so he is not restricted to the schedules and service of commercial airlines.
Following are some notes about his travels:
- Since becoming president of the Church, he has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.
- As a General Authority, he has made repeat visits to many countries, including more than 40 trips to Japan.
- He has traveled to 35 states in the United States as president of the Church.
- Prior to becoming president of the Church, President Hinckley traveled extensively in Asia and South America. Much of that travel came when he supervised those areas as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve.
- Before he was a General Authority, he often traveled on Church-related matters including trips to the dedications of the Swiss and London temples.
A main force in bringing the Church "out of obscurity" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30) during the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries has been the ability of President Hinckley to communicate with peoples of all walks of life. The Church president has set an unprecedented standard of openness to the media. And the media have responded. The following is a list of major interviews and other forms of positive publicity the Church president has engendered:
- Interviews with Mike Wallace, aired in a segment of "60 Minutes" April 7, 1996.
- Two interviews with Larry King on his CNN radio and television network broadcasts, "Larry King Live," Sept. 8, 1998, and Christmas Eve 1999.
- Address at a sold-out National Press Club Newsmakers Luncheon March 8, 2000, speaking to journalists and government leaders.
- Numerous interviews with local media during international travels.
- Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, published by Times Books, a division of Random House, earlier this year. Since the book went on sale throughout the nation on Feb. 22, some 479,000 copies in 11 printings have been produced.
A preserver of history
From his days as a missionary in Great Britain through his early employment as secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity and Mission Literature Committee to now, President Hinckley has revered the historical legacy that pervades the Church.
On Oct. 17, 1962, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he told a BYU student body: "What a tremendous thing it is to be part of a Church that has a great heritage, . . . that speaks of faith and courage and sacrifice and giving. If we ever lose it, we had better close up shop."
President Hinckley has done a number of things to help ensure that the heritage is not lost. Here are some highlights:
- He carried on the dream of his father, Bryant S. Hinckley, to restore historic Nauvoo, Ill., and dedicated a number of historic sites there, including the temple block after the Church obtained title to it. This culminated with his breaking ground on Oct. 24, 1999, for a reconstruction of the Nauvoo Temple.
- Two other locations with historic significance in the Church were chosen under his presidency as sites for temples. The Palmyra New York Temple was dedicated on April 6, 2000. And the Winter Quarters Temple at Omaha, Neb., is under construction.
- Under his presidency, plans were announced April 17, 2000, to restore or reconstruct six facilities in Kirtland, Ohio.
- He dedicated the recreated log tabernacle at Kanesville (present-day Council Bluffs), Iowa, on July 13, 1996.
- He dedicated the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters on April 18, 1997.
- Under his leadership, the Church acquired the Sun Ranch in Wyoming which afforded access to the federal land that includes Martin's Cove, where he dedicated a visitors center May 3, 1997.
- In Utah in recent years, he has dedicated or re-dedicated a number of sites commemorating the courage and sacrifice of Latter-day Saint pioneers.
- He authored a concise treatise on Church history, called Truth Restored, that has been used by missionaries in the Church for many years.
A builder of the Kingdom
Like many of his prophetic predecessors, President Hinckley is a leader firmly rooted in the faith's past yet keenly focused on its future.
Recent Church milestones are emblematic of President Hinckley's progressive mission as he leads the work into a new millennium.
- In April 2000, the new 21,000-seat Conference Center hosted the largest general conference gathering of the 170-year history of the Church.
- At that same conference, President Hinckley reconfirmed the Church's dedication to future temple building across the globe with the announcement of new temples in countries such as Nigeria, Paraguay and Finland. He has become synonymous with temple work and the Church's ongoing commitment to redeem the dead following a record period of temple construction in recent years.
- Under President Hinckley's watch, the Church is also looking to developing technology to further the gospel. The Church's remarkably popular FamilySearch Internet site demonstrates President Hinckley's ongoing commitment to enlist invention to communicate, educate and proliferate the eternal message of the Church. In less than one year, 3 billion hits were recorded. FamilySearch receives as many as 8 million hits daily from an average of 130,000 visitors.