In a tender moment in the Relief Society Building on Oct. 19, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented a unique and beautiful Hawaiian quilt in memory of his wife, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley, to the Relief Society organization.
Accepting the gift, which now hangs on a wall in the stairwell of the venerable building just across from the Salt Lake Temple, was Relief Society General President Bonnie D. Parkin, who called the moment "a very sweet and tender time" as the life of the beloved wife of the Church president was remembered. President and Sister Hinckley were nearing their 67th wedding anniversary when she died on April 6 of this year.
"It's a great opportunity and an honor to present this beautiful quilt to the Relief Society," President Hinckley told a small gathering of auxiliary leaders and general board members in the second floor foyer of the building. "It was really a remarkable piece of work."
In accepting the quilt, Sister Parkin said: "May I just accept this work as a treasure to the Relief Society Building in memory of Sister Hinckley."
A message on the wall beside the quilt reads: "Presented to the Relief Society on Oct. 19, 2004, by President Gordon B. Hinckley in memory of his beloved wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who served long and faithfully in this organization. This quilt was created from a traditional Hawaiian breadfruit quilt pattern by Teri Lee Lehman Kanahele, Lucy Wilson Unga, and Barbara Burt Hawkes and was presented to President Hinckley by the Polynesian Cultural Center, Laie, Hawaii, on Oct. 10, 1997."
In his remarks, President Hinckley noted the presence of Lester B. Moore, who was president of the Polynesian Cultural Center in 1997 when the quilt was made on the occasion of the Pioneers in the Pacific celebration. The Church president spoke at the dedication of a statue honoring early Hawaiian convert Jonathan Napela and missionary George Q. Cannon and it was during this trip that the quilt was presented.
Speaking of the three women who made and presented him with the quilt, the Church president added, "I was going to Hawaii and they were asked to do something nice for me when I got there. They set to work to make this quilt.
"They selected the breadfruit design because in Hawaii there's a tradition that if you have breadfruit in your home you will never go hungry. We hope with (the quilt) hanging here that no Relief Society member will ever go hungry."
President Hinckley also spoke of the Hawaiian Relief Society sister, Mary Keli'i, who created the breadfruit pattern and who died in 1978. Sister Keli'i was the Sister Kanahele's husband's grandmother. President Hinckley called Sister Keli'i a "great and faithful and wonderful woman."
Sister Kanahele, in a personal record of making the quilt, wrote that, ordinarily, creating such an intricate quilt would take nine months working 40 hours a week. Seeking the Lord's guidance, the three women finished it in eight weeks, working 12 hours a day. Of the experience, she wrote, "Through it we learned and grew in ways that were totally unexpected and were blessed with a beautiful faith-promoting experience."
An emotional moment during the presentation came when President Hinckley read aloud the words of the message that is on the wall beside the quilt. When he read the phrase, "beloved wife," President Hinckley could not continue speaking for several moments. Many in the room wiped away tears.
Accompanying President Hinckley to the presentation was one of his daughters, Jane H. Dudley, whom Sister Parkin said "represents the continuing chain of this wonderful Hinckley family."
President Hinckley said three matching pillows came with the quilt, which is teal colored with a white field. He said his three daughters, including Kathleen H. Barnes Walker and Virginia H. Pearce, each received a pillow in memory of their mother.
At the conclusion of his remarks, President Hinckley said: "I hope (the quilt) will be here for a long time. I don't know of a better place to put it nor do I know of a more fitting thing to present the Relief Society."
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