Meridian readers who rubbed shoulders with President Hinckley during the Prophet’s ministry recall their encounters with this great man. Here are their stories:

Thanks for all you do to keep the Latter-Day Saints throughout the world informed of the important news in our day. It is very much appreciated.  I knew that I could turn to Meridian for accurate, timely, loving information as soon as I heard about President Hinckley’s death, and I have not been disappointed.

My husband is in Utah right now and heard an exceptionally tender story about President Hinckley today on KSL radio.  I don’t have a reference for it, but possibly you could find one and include it in Meridian so that more people can draw strength from it also.

A woman called in and said that she and her husband have been personal friends of the Hinckleys for many years, and that her husband always said that he wouldn’t pass away before the prophet did.  Her husband has been in a coma for some time, and when she heard of President Hinckley’s death, she leaned over her husband and quietly told him the news.  Tears flowed from her husband’s eyes, and he died a few minutes later. 

What a great example of “following the prophet!”  I think it’s a story worth sharing for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a great way to remember a quiet and faithful man’s passing during this week where so many will be focused (rightly so) on the death of a more well-known man.  I think President Hinckley would want this man’s story told, rather than focusing on just his own well-publicized death. 

I think of the story Shari Dew tells about writing President Hinckley’s biography.  She had given him some manuscript pages to review, and when they met, he set them down forcefully on the table and said, “I am sick, sick, sick of reading about Gordon B. Hinckley!”  She said she had to resist the urge to ask him who else she should be writing about in his biography!  I believe the story is in the foreword of her book.  He was a very humble man.

As for my own memories, we have been blessed to see him in person a couple of different times.  Some that stand out are: 

  • We stopped by the Lubbock Texas Temple the evening before the dedication to show our kids the temple, and we saw a group of missionaries in the parking lot.  They told us that the prophet and his wife were inside taking a tour.  We waited with about 20 people in the parking lot, and sang, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” as they came out the door.  He spoke briefly with us, and smiled and waved.  It was a powerful experience that we will always remember.

     

  • The year my son turned 12, we took him to Salt Lake so that he could attend his first General Priesthood meeting in the conference center with an army of the priesthood.  As President Hinckley entered the Sunday morning session, he bopped one of the security men on the head with his cane.  The security guy just stood there with a smile on his face.  We watched carefully as President Hinckley left, and we saw him do it again!  The guy just smiled.

     

  • We attended church in Salt Lake a few months ago, and were able to see President Hinckley in his home ward.  There was no big commotion at his entrance, and he didn’t have to sit on the stand, which was nice to see.  As he entered and left, the congregation came to its feet in total silence.  It was a wonderful, wordless tribute to a great man, which brought tears to our eyes.

Sunday night we were imagining the reunion between him and his loved ones — Marjorie, of course — the “girl of his dreams” — his parents, and many others.  We also thought of him and the Prophet Joseph, whom he has loved and honored so vocally, as well as the other leaders who have gone before him.  We will miss him, but our goal now is to make sure that we continue to follow him and our other leaders, so that we too, can have a reunion with him someday.  Thanks for showing the way, President Hinckley!

Cindy Olive
Amarillo, Texas

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Most of all as I think of President Hinckley I think of acceptance.  He was so approachable and full of loving kindness.  I felt surrounded by his loving arms as he led this great church forward.

It rarely snows in Hurricane, Utah.  The day after he died a beautiful snow covered our city.  My granddaughter, with a sincere desire to pay tribute to our prophet, went outside in what she called “the first snow, being the most pure,” and made an amazing likeness of President Hinckley sitting on our bench, glasses and all.  Later my granddaughters laid their heads on my shoulder as they watched the tribute to our prophet on TV while tears fell at the loss of their prophet.

T. Maxine Haws
Hurricane, Utah

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President Hinckley had a profound effect on me when he (as Elder Hinckley — he hadn’t been called to the First Presidency yet) visited my mission in Germany.  We had a special mission conference that began with a short sacrament service.  I had never experienced having the sacrament on a weekday. I will never forget the feeling as he and my mission president offered the sacrament prayers.  Elder Hinckley closed the conference with a blessing on our mission, which resulted in conversions in our mission going from two baptisms to a high of 54 per month. 

During a break Elder Hinckley shook my hand and asked the soul-searching question, “Are you as good of a missionary as your parents think you are?” 

Elder Hinckley changed my life while I was a missionary, and then profoundly affected me for good during the time he served as our beloved prophet.

John Nielson
Germany

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I had the opportunity to shake President Hinckley’s hand as he was passing through the Marriot center at BYU, soon after he was called to be the prophet. My family and I were in the games center and he shook all of our hands. He was very friendly. If I remember correctly, he asked my younger brother if he was preparing to go to BYU (at the time he was about ten years old).

When I was a missionary at the Provo MTC, President Hinckley came and gave a talk in which he said that today’s missionaries’ handwriting is less legible than chicken-scratch — especially when compared to the handwriting of his day and age. I thought that that was a funny remark, but President Hinckley was quite sincere when he said it. Afterward we lined up alongside the sidewalk outside the MTC while he and Sister Hinckley drove by in a golf cart. When I saw them go by it seemed as though he was literally radiating light like when you see paintings of the Savior.

I have read his talks and even attended the Conference Center when he gave them and know that he was an inspired and humble servant of the Savior.

I’m happy that he’s in a better place with his cherished wife.


Kevin Leinbach

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More than any other, President Hinckley has been “my” Prophet.  I joined the Church in 1981 at the age of 17, and went inactive 3 years later — due largely to peer and family pressure.  When I returned to full activity more than five years later, President Benson had lost the ability to speak, so President Hinckley often spoke for him, reading his talks during General Conference. When I returned from a year in Ireland, Howard W. Hunter was just being confirmed as Prophet — and then before we knew it, he too was gone, leaving the post to President Hinckley.
 
I was blessed to hear President Hinckley speak in person twice, the first time in the company of his dear wife, Marjorie.  I was way toward the back of the cultural hall behind three very tall Air Force cadets, and couldn’t even see him enter the chapel, but felt both his love and his spirit as though I were standing in the front row.  It was amazing! 

It was the first time I heard the 6 B’s, and I was touched and inspired by his words, but even more so by Sister Hinckley’s.  She spoke of him not only with love, but with the kind of respect and awe I had never seen first-hand. She told how she had known him since childhood and had never known him to do an unkind thing, how he respected her abilities and thoughts, and how his honoring of his Priesthood had blessed her and their family. They as a couple shaped my image of the man I wanted to marry more than any other influence in my life. 

Years later, I still remember their words about each other and their expressions of love and concern for us — “It’s cold and the roads are icy. Please be careful. We love you and want you all to be safe!” — and still think that it was probably one of the truest reflections of the love our Heavenly Parents feel for each other and us that I have ever witnessed.
 
President Hinckley, I’ll miss your loving guidance and your humor, but I am so grateful to know you are back in Marjorie’s arms. We love you and are glad you are safe!
 
Marie Wright

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We are an Australian family who are members of the Church in a small branch of 15 in Warrnambool, Victoria.

On hearing the sad news on our dear Prophet’s passing, we reflected on a very special occasion back in 2000, when the Melbourne Temple was dedicated by President Hinckley. At that time our eldest son Curtis was eight years old and was able to attend with us in the temple. President Hinckley paused and gave us all a wonderful smile and wave as he progressed to where he needed to go.

We are very grateful for this experience and will always have fond memories of this special occasion, our love and deepest condolences go to all of the Hinckley family.

Malcolm, Jill, Curtis, Dallin and Jemima Sonnet.
Camperdown, Victoria, Australia

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I remember the day President Hinckley was in a stadium in Santiago de Chile, greeting all the saints reunited that day. I never felt so much love from someone who was not related to me, and I knew I was before a prophet of the Lord.

Domingo Carrasco G.
Santiago, Chile

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I first met President Hinckley when he, as Elder Hinckley, visited the Calgary Stampede in 1965. I had been a member of the Church less than a year, and with the mission office being located in Calgary, it was natural for the missionaries to have a booth in the area of the Stampede’s commercial exhibits. The missionaries were almost breathless in their excitement that Elder Hinckley was coming, and I really had no idea who “this guy” was. He was pleasant, affable, and the first General Authority I was to meet in the next 40+ years.

At the time of the dedication of the Columbia South Carolina Temple, it was my privilege to park myself in with the media folks, and get the attached picture [see below]. I recall that just after I took the picture President Hinckley said, “I wonder what the neighbors are thinking!”

Shortly thereafter I had 100 small copies of the picture made and distributed them as an insert into the sacrament program.

Dave Birley’s picture of President Gordon B. Hinckley. Elder Dallin H. Oaks is in the background.

Dave Birley
Rock Hill, South Carolina

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This won’t be front page exciting, but I have a happy thought to share.

I’ve been a Sunbeam teacher in my ward since last August. I was teaching the lesson from the manual about prophets, when I had an idea. I had earlier purchased a small, inexpensive digital voice recorder. I thought it might be fun for the children to hear President Hinckley’s voice in class after the lesson had been taught. So I went to the Church’s website, held the recorder to my computer’s speaker, and recorded about two minutes of his comments from October 2007 conference.

To my delight, as I placed the small device on the table and played the recording, my Sunbeams became wide-eyed and still, stared at the recorder and said, “It’s President Hink-eee!” They looked as though they thought the Prophet was inside that little recorder, talking to them! It will always warm my heart, and I have already played it for my new class.

Thanks for letting us share.

Lisa Coffey
Lake Oswego, Oregon

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Dear President Hinckley,

Every time you visited cold Scandinavia our hearts melted. We hope you felt our love as we felt yours. Thank you for being such a wonderful President.

Jane Hansen
Randers, Denmark