First Person

Stories of a Prophet

As BYU prepares to break ground for the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center, donors share stories of the building’s namesake.

One in a Billion

By King Husein (BS ’71), Pebble Beach, Calif.

Of the billion-plus people from India, I am one of the fortunate ones to have met the prophet of God on the earth, President Gordon B. Hinckley.

During a visit in his office, I was touched by his interest and concern for me and my family. President Hinckley took the time to ask about my wife and each of our four children. He asked the names of our children and then repeated each of their Indian names. I felt like I had had a personal priesthood interview with the prophet. It was an experience never to be forgotten.

It is a great honor for me to contribute to and be involved in the actual construction of the building bearing the name of President Gordon B. Hinckley on the BYU campus. I consider myself blessed to be a part of this unique opportunity.

Translating Love

By Lewis A. Hassell (BS ’78), Winterport, Maine

President and Sister Hinckley

President and Sister Hinckley take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Howard W. hunter Law Library in May 1995, one month after President Hinckley became the prophet. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

After returning from a mission in Vietnam and Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to serve for a season in a small Vietnamese branch in Salt Lake City. The Saints in the branch knew of the love that Elder Gordon B. Hinckley had for Asia and, in particular, Vietnam. The missionaries and branch members read and reread the dedicatory prayer he had offered for Vietnam.

So when Elder Hinckley responded to an invitation to visit the branch for one of their sacrament meetings, it was a very special occasion. Although there were other branch members whose Vietnamese-speaking skills were greater than mine and who often translated for speakers, none felt comfortable translating for an Apostle. So I was asked to stand at Elder Hinckley’s side and translate his remarks. Sensing my anxiety and yet also wanting to communicate with these souls he clearly loved, he smiled and said to me, “Now, whatever I say, you be sure to give a good talk!” We laughed, and I felt at ease as he proceeded to teach and bear testimony. His purpose to communicate the Savior’s love for these people was clear, and the needed words came to my recollection with an unusual facility.

A Trek to Nauvoo

By Susan Sims (BA ’86), Cedar Falls, Iowa

It was sunny on Nov. 5, 2000. Church meetings had been cancelled at nearly the last minute so members could attend the Nauvoo Illinois Temple cornerstone-laying ceremony, presided over by the prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. Attending meant a three-hour drive with five young children, but it also meant the chance to answer the call of a prophet of God and witness a rebirth in Church history. And so my husband, our children, and I eagerly set out on the drive.

As smaller roads merged into one main thoroughfare, we noticed other minivans and cars full of people dressed for church. Having only recently moved to our new town of Cedar Falls, Iowa, we didn’t know people well, but we recognized CTR stickers in windows and suits on young men. Soon, it seemed the entire road was full of modern pioneers crossing ground made sacred by those who walked before. This road, which will eventually connect St. Louis, Mo., with St. Paul, Minn., is called the Avenue of the Saints. How apt that on this day, at least, it really was that—an avenue for the Saints to return to Nauvoo.

When we arrived in Nauvoo, we snapped a quick photograph of the prophet; we lifted our children onto shoulders so they could see the Lord’s servant with their own eyes. When we now drive to Nauvoo, our thoughts of the Savior and of Joseph Smith are often mingled with deep gratitude to President Gordon B. Hinckley for this temple on the Mississippi.

The Growth and Development of a Prophet

By Ray H. Barton, Salt Lake City, Utah

In September 1989 I was ordained bishop of the ward in which President Hinckley lives. At that time I became very actively engaged with him and was able to talk with him in his office and also at home. President Hinckley was very happy but very concerned about the great issues of his calling.

President Hinkley and Christie Lee

President Hinckley greets Christie Lee on May 12, 1989, the day her father, Rex E. Lee (BA ’60) was announced as the 10th president of Brigham Young University. Photo by Mark Philbrick

Another brother in the ward invited us out to his home several times. President Hinckley and his wife were usually there. We would have wonderful meals and then discuss life and the circumstances relating to his position. He was always very careful about what he said, but I could tell that the world was expanding to him, and I could recognize his growth and development as it was taking place.

I am grateful to be able to contribute to the Gordon B. Hinckley Building. Anything that has to do with honoring President Hinckley has my complete cooperation because he is a man who has donated his life to the Church in every way possible.

A Birthday Challenge

By Carol Hawker Malone (BS ’71), Fort Worth, Texas

In March 1996 my family and I attended a regional conference in north central Texas. The Sunday general session of the conference happened to be on my birthday. Several Church leaders, including President Hinckley, were in attendance.

I went to this conference committed to follow any counsel President Hinckley gave us. One thing he asked us to do was read and finish the Book of Mormon during the next year. I had become so busy with my children’s activities, Church callings, and trying to support my husband in his calling as bishop that I’d let my own scripture reading slide. 

During the next year, I didn’t read the Book of Mormon, but I listened to the whole thing on tape. I finished by my next birthday, and I listened to the tapes for many years after that, always finishing by my birthday. Of course, I read it again in 2005, when President Hinckley asked all Church members to read the Book of Mormon by year’s end. These experiences with the Book of Mormon have been priceless, and my testimony of its truthfulness is rock solid—thanks to following President Hinckley’s counsel.

Gardener at Heart

By Paul D. Eddington (BA ’91), Pleasant Grove, Utah

At a previous job with Thanksgiving Point, in Lehi, Utah, my family and I had the privilege of escorting President Hinckley and his wife on a private two-hour tour of our new facility, which then included a 10-acre plot dedicated to vegetable gardening and gardening classes that would soon open to the general public. As we toured the grounds in a golf cart, President Hinckley the businessman asked about the operation of the facility. He wanted to know about the numbers—projections, revenue, and profits. He wanted to know how many people would be reached with the new garden programs and how much of the food from the garden would help the poor. But mostly he commented about the beauty of the gardens and how much he loved being outdoors.

As we concluded our rounds, President Hinckley lingered for a while so he and Sister Hinckley could inspect the rows of tomatoes and cucumbers on foot. When he bent down to remove a small weed from one of the rows, I sensed he didn’t want to leave. When they finally returned to their car for the trip back to Salt Lake City, he turned to us and wistfully asked for an application for employment. “When I’m finished with what I am doing now,” he said, “I would love to work in a garden.”

Pressing Forward

By Martha Pettijohn Morrise (B ’50), Roy, Utah

In a BYU devotional speech given almost 10 years ago, President Hinckley told the students, “We must never cease to learn. We believe in eternal progression and that this life is a part of eternity to be profitably lived until the very end.” He spoke of the “BYU experience” and how it must leave an everlasting impression upon students and become an inseparable part of their very natures, how they should cultivate it in their lives, holding on to its very essence until they grow old and gray.

Some days when I feel age leaning heavily upon me, I think of President Hinckley’s grace and courage, his sterling example of one who continues to press forward to garner, in his words, “an increased knowledge and understanding of the sweet and marvelous things of the Lord.” His example inspires me to get up and keep moving, working, serving, and learning. How fitting it is that the new BYU alumni house and visitors center be named for this great leader and prophet.