She Was One of Us

The following are excerpts from the book Letters by Marjorie Pay Hinckley and are used by permission of Deseret Book Company. 

Sister Marjorie Hinckley had a remarkable ability, through all of her amazing life, to be normal.  Perhaps that is why we loved her.  “Of all the things that she left behind when she passed away at the age of ninety-two,” write her five children in the introduction of the book, “we treasure nothing more than her letters and postcards.  We hear her voice; she returns to our circle and helps us remember earlier times.  In the touch of the paper and the tidy, small handwriting we are tangibly connected again.”

We hope that for these brief moments you spend reading these letters from Sister Hinckley to her family, you will feel connected again-connected to this grand lady whom we all loved so much.


Kathleen, Clark’s wife, was two classes short of finishing her university degree when they got married. Now, with one child born and another on the way, she was trying to complete those last classes.

March 26, 1976
Friday morning

Dear Kathy,

While Holly is asleep I’ll dash off a line. Kathleen has gone to the library to study this morning. It’s much easier to discipline oneself there than at home. She is to have a test in anatomy tonight. On Wednesday, Clark had to drive her over to the hospital emergency in the middle of the night where they gave her a shot and that gave her almost immediate relief. But in the meantime they were so excited about checking her in and getting her breathing that they locked the keys in the car. Then they walked home carrying Holly in the cold night air only to find that the house keys were with the car keys. They broke the front door glass to get in. It could have been ­worse-­a policeman could have come along and arrested them for breaking into a house at 3 a.m. I think when she gets this school bit over it will help the asthma. She has been under a lot of pressure.

The material for my dining chairs came yesterday and it is a total disaster. Won’t do, at all. I needed you to pick it out. Now to find something that is available locally so we can get it on for conference is going to be wild.

I ­wouldn’t worry about conference, except that we will have the Asian Saints here again and it is a little tricky to have 40 people without chairs. We discovered on our last trip that they look forward to food at the Hinckley home after the last session of conference.

I am enclosing Ginny’s diet. Misery likes company. I stayed on it for 10 days and ended up with divertic. Too much roughage for my delicate insides. The melba toast you can buy in the package is only 16 calories, compared to 68 calories for a slice of toast and will sometimes suffice when one is bread hungry.

Your letter came yesterday.  Dad got it first and we were in literal physical combat to see who would read it first.  Glad your garage sale was a success and that the project is behind you.  I was horrified over the estimate of $5,000 for your bed and bath addition.  I was thinking in terms of 1,200, but Dad reminded me that a bathroom alone can cost $3,000 or $4,000.  Hope you get started soon and that the handy man stays on ’til the bitter end.

What is with this boy thing with your girl? Utterly disgusting at the 6th grade level. Maybe you had better paint some freckles on her face and black out a front tooth. Glad to hear you are involved in the school again. This should make the girls feel like the good old days are returning.

Best move right along now while Holly is sleeping.



click to enlarge
Sister Marjorie Hinckley with her daughter, Kathy, at Nauvoo, June 27, 2002.

June 3, 1976

Dear ones,

I have spent 11 hours during the past two days pulling, yanking, digging, jerking, spading to get rid of all the glorious mint we planted in our front yard the first summer. It has become an obnoxious weed in an ugly purple color and is choking out all other more worthy shrubs and ground coverings. My hands are so swollen I cannot wear my rings and my back feels like a ­worn-­out rubber band. As a result of all of this tremendous physical exercising I have not had the strength to write you a letter. But today is my day of R and R. I put on my nylons at 7:30 this morning and went to the hairdresser and for a load of groceries, and will be on my way to Wives’ Luncheon as soon as I put a little polish on my ­broken-­down finger­nails.

Last Friday night we attended the 50th LDS High School reunion. What a hoot! They took over the entire hotel. People came from Florida to California as it included all those who had ever attended LDS High until it was closed in 1931. The boys who sat at the head table were announced as they entered the ballroom with all spotlights turned on them while they took their places. Dad was right up there with George Romney and the old ­student-­body presidents. In fact, they invited him to give the opening prayer. Dinner was served to 840 ­bald-­headed men and fat women. There was one couple from the class of 1905. I sat next to the ­student-­body president from 1924, who was the master of ceremonies, and never have I sat by such an adorable, charming dinner partner. The dinner commenced at 7:30 and the program did not end until midnight. The later the hour got, the happier and noisier everyone became. It was a gala affair. Dad, who ­didn’t want to go in the first place, had the time of his life. He was the little bashful boy who had made good.

Saturday night we went to the Bicentennial performance of the Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony. First time they had appeared together. It was mostly original music. We were both exhausted from working outside, and those benches get mighty hard by 10:15.

Sunday we had a nice quiet day. Went to our little own fast meeting in Capitol Hill 2nd Ward and it was lovely. Such a variety of interesting people who live on Capitol Hill.

Dad and K. have a couple of projects up their sleeves. One is to brick both of our driveways and the other is to glass in the decks for a greenhouse. But right now I will settle for getting the yard squared away. We still have a lot of planting to do, but it won’t get done for a couple or more days, as tonight Dad has to prepare a talk for LDS Business School graduation. Friday he has to give the talk and Saturday is a funeral. E. C.’s widow died unexpectedly in her sleep. When I saw her a few weeks ago she was perking right along so I was surprised to hear she had gone. She was one adorable lady whom I will miss. It has only been six months since Brother C. died, so I guess you could say it is quite nice.

Dad keeps saying that I am going to Washington, D.C., with him on the 4th, but Jane is really nervous about it, so if it looks like she is close to delivery I will not go. I would be so happy to have Celia come as soon as she can. She could be a big help in tending Holly and Jennie and Michael, and it would be so great just to have her lovely person with us for awhile. Kathleen and the Pearces are excited at the prospect also. If she would not be too homesick and if you could function without her I hope you will consider it.

More later,


Kathleen gave birth to a healthy daughter nine days after this letter was written.

June 20, 1976

Dear Kathy,

And here we are at the end of another week! Your letter written last Sunday arrived on Thursday. The service is not improving noticeably.

Have the art lessons or scuba diving become a reality? My, how history repeats itself! Funny. I’m so glad it is you and not me. I’m much too tired to try and motivate anyone to make something of his life. Good luck and all my blessings!

Kathleen and Holly moved in with us on Wednesday. She was so lonely lying in bed at home with Holly being farmed out that she took up residency on our kitchen sofa so at least she could be where she could see Holly. She has to stay flat on her back and she gets so miserably uncomfortable that she can hardly stand it. Clark took her home over the weekend, but will bring her back Monday morning after she has been to the hospital for more tests. We are hoping that they will not keep her up there as the cost would be horrendous. She is feeling quite discouraged tonight, as she has gained 5 lbs. in the last two days which means more ­water-­retention and that is what causes a lot of the problem with toxemia. We will know more tomorrow. Holly has just been a little dream. It is as if she fully understands that her mother is sick and that she must cooperate in every way. She does not whine for her mother, but lets me do everything for her. She is such a happy little personality and so cooperative.

Thursday Rosie and Amy arrived and stayed until Saturday night. Amy clung to Rosie like a leech until Rosie was worn to a frazzle. Ginny went to Logan, as I told you, to attend the 2-day seminar on magazine writing. They had exciting speakers with panel discussions by members of Reader’s Digest and National Geographic. Well, we are on our way to another budding career! She was on a ­fast-­talking binge tonight as she gave us the full report of how to become a success overnight.

The kids all came up tonight after church (except, of course, C & K) and brought their weird Father’s Day presents. A Tupperware full of home grown alfalfa sprouts, a plastic bag of home grown and cleaned radishes, a brown paper sack of green peas from someone’s Logan garden. After all, what can you give the man who has everything? Actually, they had planned to give him an electric hand cultivator, but Clark was assigned to make the purchase and of course he is laboring under too many burdens and just flubbed it. Saturday just about did him in, taking care of the house and Holly and Kathleen. He came over after Sunday School today because he heard I had fried 4 chicken breasts for 2 people and he could not think of anything to buy when he did his Saturday shopping except milk and cheese. So we sent the chicken breasts back with him and a few frozen peas.

It is the mission presidents’ seminar this week and we will have 20 people here for dinner Thursday night. I don’t understand it. We got this place all slicked up for the Windsors not too long ago and here we are again in a frantic mess with a party coming up. They are working on the back deck, with lumber and rubbish all over the backyard. The topsoil delivered more than a week ago is still in the front driveway. The nursery had a sale and there are about 15 cans of various trees and shrubs waiting to be planted. The driveway is in the process of being formed up for the brick and once again it looks like the Hinckleys just moved in. The neighbors look over here and scratch their heads. I think we are out of our element among these manicured yards with husbands and fathers who are home every Saturday. Dad worked half a day on Saturday on Jane’s shower. I think Roger can finish it up now, but it will be a real push to get it done before the stork arrives. Jane has been very uncomfortable this past week with leg problems caused by pressure. We are all getting ready to get this baby show on the road. And are we glad that Celia is coming! I only wish she were here now. I am missing your ­grown-­up girls desperately. I need them to help with the dinner Thursday night, as we are setting up tables downstairs and I need some good runners. Also, I will have Holly and possibly Kathleen if she can stay out of the hospital that long. I find I am not so swift at putting on three meals a day anymore. Completely out of the habit and it is a real chore. Don’t laugh. I took it for granted too when I was your age.

It was 96 degrees today. Hot and muggy, if you know what I mean.

By the way, the Father’s Day card you sent was a hit. Just the super perfect card.

Dad has gone to bed so I must follow.


P.S. I should keep carbons of these letters so I will know what I have told you and what I just think I have told you. In case I did not tell ­you-­I tore up the check for $7 that you sent home with me. I think it was for lunches we had when Grandma was there.


Kathleen is back on our kitchen sofa and climbing the walls. They will induce labor sometime this week, but have not decided when, so we are all in a holding pattern. You may get a phone call before this letter.


Jennie had gone to England to live with a mission president’s family and help with their children.

May 13, 1989

Dear Jennie,

We absolutely loved your letter. I read it three times to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. Sounds like you are coping well and all your concerns about the cooking etc. have been overcome, although a little challenge every day is a good thing. Your descriptions of England are so vivid I can see and smell the ­place-­the rain, the green, and the picture postcard scenes everywhere one looks. How I love that place! Maybe I love it because all, and I mean all, of my ancestors came from there and it gives me a sense of “home.” They came from all over the ­place-­Liverpool, London, Cambridge, Brighton, the Cliffs of Dover.

I am enclosing a more detailed life of Sarah Jarrold than you have perhaps read or heard. Since she came from Cambridge, I thought it might hold a little interest for you at this particular time. She was the first on my matriarchal line to join the Church.

I might mention that “Reader’s Digest” last month had a wonderful article on Margaret Thatcher. If you did not see it let me know and I will send it to you as you certainly should read it now that you are an Englishman.

We are in Lovell, Wyoming, this weekend for an area conference. This is Buffalo Bill territory. The people are wonderful! It is so good for Grandpa to get out with the people where there is faith and commitment and testimony.

The twins had their 20th birthday in April, and right on the heels of that, Rosemary turned 22, so we have been to some great birthday dinners at the Pearces.

Your mother went all out for your dad’s birthday and had a delicious dinner on the deck. Jodi was a doll the way she was buzzing around serving everyone and clearing away dishes.

Rosemary is taking 20 hours this quarter and working ­part-­time on campus. She is pushing hard endeavoring to finish this August, but is wondering what she is going to do with her ­hard-­earned political science major once she gets it.

Heidi has decided to go to Ricks. She has an excellent scholarship there and seems to want a smaller school.

Grandpa’s prayers have been modified slightly. He used to say “Bless all of our loved ones, particularly Celia in Argentina.” Now he says “Bless our loved ones, particularly Celia in Argentina and Jennie in England.” We love you and miss you more than you can imagine, but are thrilled that you are where you are, doing what you are doing.

May 18, 1989

One more addition to this ­packet-­your Mother’s Day letter written on the 10th and mailed on the 12th arrived in today’s mail. One week, which is quite wonderful service all the way from Coventry.

This was a letter to warm my heart. This was a letter to make any rough roads we might have traveled to reach age 77 worth it all. You gave me a Mother’s Day supreme. A wonderful letter and a phone call.

I ask myself what I ever could have done to deserve such a remarkable and beautiful and wonderful granddaughter. I sometimes think you are too good to be true. When I hear the sad stories from some of my friends of their grandchildren and the anxious days and nights of parents and grandparents I look at you and marvel. If only everyone in the world could have a granddaughter like you, what joy there would be in the world.

I don’t know what to say except “I love you,” and that seems so inadequate. Thank you for being what you are and for bringing so much joy into our lives.


Since writing this letter in the hotel room in Lovell, Wyoming, last weekend, we have talked to you on the phone. My heart leaped when I heard your voice. I could scarcely believe it! And then to have your family here was a stroke of luck. What a Mother’s Day for all of us! The connection was so clear it was as if you were right here. It was reassuring to realize that you are as near as the telephone.

Apparently you have not seen too much of England yet, but as time goes on you will see more and more of it. Just to be there and “feel” it is wonderful. Now you are finding out how it is to be making speeches here and speeches there. Not exactly a picnic, but a tremendous “growing” experience, and I know people love to listen to you, and not just for your Yankee accent alone. You are a great girl, and people can learn a lot from just observing you.

Grandpa is going to Phoenix this weekend for a leadership meeting. The Church used to bring all the stake presidents from around the world to General Conference, but it got to be too much, so now they have leadership training for them in their area. Three hours on Friday night and four hours on Saturday. He will be home Saturday night and it is a good thing, because he is speaking in the Tabernacle Sunday night to all the institute students.

Laura is still looking for a summer job. It is not easy. Rosemary called me from the hospital this morning where she was waiting for Richard to get a cast on his broken elbow. He broke it playing basketball last night. Fortunately it is his left arm, as he will be going into finals in another week.

A letter from Celia yesterday said she had received the class schedule book from BYU but could hardly stand to look at it, as the thought of getting back into the real world was sickening. However, it is time for her to get home. She has worked her heart out and seems very tired. She has had some unbelievable experiences and has simply loved it. Seven more weeks to go and she is finishing up.



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