"How can the world ever measure the good, the blessings, the benefits bestowed on the people of the world by you?" asked Howard L. Edwards as he presented the LDS Hospital-Deseret Foundation's Legacy of Life Award to President Gordon B. Hinckley April 15.
"Your unique contribution cannot be adequately summed up in this brief moment," said the foundation's chairman of the Community Advisory Council as he presented the award to President Hinckley before a gathering of about 1,000 people in the banquet hall of Salt Lake City's Little America hotel."But suffice it to say, your lifetime of dedicated service; your contributions to local, national and world communities; your ability and penchant to teach and to lead; your demeanor; your willingness now in the ninth decade of your life to travel the world over to bless, to teach and to inspire the Saints; your good humor; your vision; the love that emanates from you; and your example to all of us qualify you for the award we bestow upon you this night."
The Legacy of Life Award recognizes eminent leaders with local Utah ties for their contribution to the well-being of mankind. In its eighth year, the award banquet serves as a fund-raiser for LDS Hospital-Deseret Foundation's Heart and Lung Research Foundation.
President Hinckley's wife, Marjorie Hinckley, their two sons and three daughters, several grandchildren and other family members attended the banquet. President Hinckley's counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust and their wives, Frances Monson and Ruth Faust, also attended, as did many members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the Seventy with their wives. Community and business leaders, members of Utah's medical professions, and others gathered to pay tribute to President Hinckley.
Mark H. Willes, a nephew of President Hinckley's, served as master of ceremonies. He is a Sunday School teacher in the La Canada 1st Ward, La Crescenta California Stake.
Brother Willes, chairman of Times Mirror Company and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, showed slides of photographs of two young people and a blind widow in Africa's Sudan, and read excerpts from a series of articles that ran in the Baltimore Sun about slavery today. He showed also a photograph of a 10-year-old girl, Ashley, who was featured in a Los Angeles Times series, "Orphans of Addiction." Because her father is addicted to alcohol and drugs, she prayed for "a new father, someone kind. Give me something good. Please make my life get better."
The newspaper executive said: "There are things in the world that are broken. There are people's lives in the world that need healing and help. I believe, as Ashley does, that there is a God in heaven. I also believe that He expects us to be the answer to most of those prayers.
"That's why we're here tonight. We're here to honor a man who understands better than anyone else I have ever known or seen that God will do His part if we will do ours, a man who tirelessly travels the world to fix things that are broken, a man who is willing to lend his every ounce of energy and being to making the world a better place. He understands that if we present a broken heart and a contrite spirit to the Savior, He will heal our hearts. He also understands that we must, here, in this life, reach out to touch and heal and nurture the hearts and lives of others. That's why it's so appropriate on this night to honor this man, in order to help provide the funding for those who literally heal broken worldly hearts and lungs."
A video donated by Bonneville International, "Life in Review," presented comments from many who have known President Hinckley well through the years. In the video presentation, President Monson said: "As I've thought of his life, I realize how long it has been since we first met, long before either one of us was a General Authority of the Church. As I analyze some of the virtues of President Hinckley I would like to say that he is a man of capacity – enormous capacity."
President Monson spoke of President Hinckley's work ethic, and "his driving need to accomplish what he sees as his mission. That's exemplary for the whole Church to follow."
President Faust said: "It's been a great joy and satisfaction to me to have had an association with President Hinckley for years. He's a great human being, with a down-to-earth approach, a wonderful sense of humor. Everybody is conscious of his great mind. But in addition, he has a capacity for far-seeing vision, which is really quite extraordinary. . . .
"This recognition is well deserved. . . . President Hinckley is not only one of the outstanding men of our community, of our state, our nation, and even the world, he is a world figure in his own right. Justifiably and deservedly so."
Mike Wallace, who interviewed President Hinckley several times for an in-depth report on CBS' 60-Minutes, which aired in April 1996, joined in paying tribute to President Hinckley through the video presentation. He expressed admiration for the sharpness of President Hinckley's mind, and for his good humor and willingness to open himself up to the interviews. "You're bound to admire him," Mr. Wallace said.
Further, Mr. Wallace said: "He has proven his devotion to his church, to his family, to his ideals, to his convictions. Any honor that is conferred upon President Hinckley is an appropriate honor."
Some of the most endearing comments in the video came from President Hinckley's family. Sister Hinckley, in speaking of his pace of life, said, "I just go along. What else can I do? I just try to keep up with him. It isn't easy, I'll tell you!"
The banquet hall audience particularly enjoyed one of her anecdotes: "He was going on a trip to South America. He had told me what he was doing and so on, but he never said anything about whether he expected me to go with him or not. The night before [he was to leave], I said,
Am I going with you in the morning?' He said,Well, we don't have to decide that tonight.' That's the way I've lived with him. You don't plan ahead, you just be prepared to do whatever needs to be done on the spur of the moment."
Sister Hinckley said: "I had great admiration for him before I fell in love with him because of his integrity and because of his industry. . . . His absolute goodness was very attractive to me. One thing I loved about him was his sense of humor. Nothing was ever too serious. It was serious, but it always had a light touch to it so that you didn't feel overwhelmed with life. He always had a project going. He always made things better."
Kathleen Barnes, a daughter, described President Hinckley as "always working." A son, Richard G. Hinckley, remembered, "We were always doing something." Another daughter, Virginia Pearce, said that President Hinckley is "a problem solver. One of the things he always said was, `You just say your prayers and go to work.' I think that's kind of a formula of the way he approaches life." Another son, Clark B. Hinckley, said that the family always had dinner together. "There was always a grammar lesson, . . ." Jane Dudley said: "It was a very important thing to him that his family knelt in prayer every night."
Rodney H. Brady, president and chief executive officer of Deseret Management Corp., the holding company for Church-owned commercial businesses, and Utah industrialists and businessmen Joseph Rosenblatt and Jon M. Huntsman Sr. also paid tribute to President Hinckley through messages on the video.
Brother Brady, a member of the Federal Heights Ward, Salt Lake Emigration Stake and sealer in the Salt Lake Temple, spoke of President Hinckley's humor. He told of President Hinckley saying that he did not have an exercise routine, that he did not run, jog or swim, but that he got his exercise by attending and speaking at funerals of friends who did.
Mr. Rosenblatt, a prominent member of Salt Lake's Jewish community, said that no one will find President Hinckley sitting around just reading the paper or playing golf, but that one would find him busy at work.
Elder Huntsman, an Area Authority Seventy, said of President Hinckley: "We could really refer to this award tonight as his legacy because if we, indeed, follow what he has taught us, what he has stood for . . . , the qualities of life that he has represented in service, in kindness, in graciousness, in vision, in love, then this award will truly have meaning for all of us."
President Hinckley's signature blend of wit and wisdom came through as he accepted the award. Noting the date of the award banquet – April 15 – he commented that the event would soon end and that audience members would "still be able to get your tax returns in the mail."
He congratulated those associated with the Heart and Lung Research Foundation for the work they do to extend human life and comfort.
"Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer in the nation," he said, "but how far we have come in handling this problem as well as many other problems of medicine. When I was born in 1910 the life expectancy in the United States was 50 years. It is now 75 years-plus. This represents a miracle. To think that 25 years of life have been added in less than one century of time is a most remarkable thing. I would think that there has been greater progress in the last hundred years than in all the previous centuries of recorded human history."
He said further: "I never get over feeling grateful for life in this season of the world's history. Surely, it is the best of all times. No previous generation has ever enjoyed anything like what we enjoy. There is less of sickness, there is more of life. There is less of pain, there is more of happiness."