SALT LAKE CITY — A new exhibit of photos from the life of Gordon Bitner Hinckley, 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be on display in the Conference Center and the North Visitors’ Center at Temple Square today through the end of September.
More than 90 photographs review the life of President Hinckley from his birth on 23 June 1910 to his 95th birthday last month. Personal and family photos show his parents, his brother and sisters, his growing-up years, his marriage and family life. Photos from the Church archives recount his more than 46 years as a general authority.
During nine and a half decades of life, President Hinckley has witnessed a lot of Church history. As both a Church employee and Church leader for most of his adult life, he has played a significant role in shaping much of that history for more than half a century. Photos in this new exhibit chronicle Gordon B. Hinckley’s lifetime of service.
When he became president of the Church in 1995, only 47 temples served the worldwide needs of Latter-day Saints. In 1997, President Hinckley, with a desire to bring temples closer to more Church members, announced the building of smaller temples to be located in areas where a larger temple most likely never would have been built. Eight years later, Latter-day Saints can attend 120 temples throughout the world, with another 11 temples in various stages of construction.
In 1995, President Hinckley, his counselors in the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” declaring the divine nature of the family unit and providing direction on how to nurture strong family relationships.
In 2001, President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund, a program to assist young adult members of the Church (mainly missionaries from developing countries who have successfully completed their service) in receiving career education and work-related training.
Concerned that the historic Tabernacle was not large enough to accommodate all the Latter-day Saints who wished to attend general conference, President Hinckley and other Church leaders broke ground on 24 July 1997 for the 21,000-seat Conference Center. Completed and dedicated in 2000, the building incorporates state-of-the-art translation and broadcast capabilities. The pulpit was made from a walnut tree President Hinckley had planted years earlier in the family’s backyard.
Also on display are photos of President Hinckley with U.S. President George W. Bush. The two leaders met in Washington, D.C., just two weeks after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and again in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. On 23 June 2004, President Hinckley’s 94th birthday, President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, during a White House ceremony.
Looking back on his 95 years during a media interview last month, President Hinckley remarked, “It’s been a long road and a wonderful experience, really, to live all these years and to have reasonably good health.”
At his side for nearly seven decades was his eternal companion, Marjorie Pay Hinckley. Reflecting on their marriage, President Hinckley said: “I had the good fortune of marrying a wonderful, a truly wonderful, woman with whom I lived for 67 years, and our marriage was idyllic. We didn’t always have a lot, but we had each other and we had our children and we had a good time.”
What keeps him moving and full of energy, President Hinckley says, is having a challenge each day. “Work, work, work is the best antidote for loneliness, for incapacity, for any other thing that happens to impede your progress. I’ve had a challenge all of these years, and that keeps me going. I’m so grateful to have something to do every morning when I wake up.”
Later this year and into early 2006, the photo exhibit will travel to other Church visitors’ centers in Laie, Hawaii; Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Mesa, Arizona; Idaho Falls, Idaho; St. George, Utah; Kirtland, Ohio; Palmyra, New York; and Washington, D.C. The Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vermont, will also host the exhibit.