I can’t tell you how sad I was to hear this. He was called as a prophet right before I began my mission. My mission was a critical time for me. I gained a testimony while in the MTC (Missionary Training Center) and really started to understand the power the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to change lives.
President Hinckley was instrumental in helping me understand that. It seemed like every talk he gave had specific and powerful meaning in my life.
For example, in April of 1997, I was serving as a missionary in Prunedale, CA (pop. 10,000 at the time). One of the things we do as missionaries is work with people who have stopped coming to church. I remember this talk, given in General Conference in April 1997. In it, President Hinckley discusses a failure he had in keeping in contact with one of the people he baptized who subsequently went inactive and died without coming back to the Church. Here’s a quote:
“He died a few months ago. His wife wrote me to inform me of this. She said, “You were the best friend he ever had.”
Tears coursed my cheeks when I read that letter. I knew I had failed. Perhaps if I had been there to pick him up when he was first knocked down, he might have made a different thing of his life. I think I could have helped him then. I think I could have dressed the wound from which he suffered. I have only one comfort: I tried. I have only one sorrow: I failed.”
Read the whole talk. It’s amazing. What came out of that talk? This:
“Every [convert] needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things.”
I can tell you that is still quoted by every ward mission leader in this Church today.
It’s the same with just about every aspect of my life. Whether I’m thinking about church or work or my family or any number of things, I’m surprised (even now as I type this) how much he’s influenced me.
If I’ve lost my temper with Heidi or been more overbearing than I should be, I always remember Sis. Hinckley talking about how President Hinckley never raised his voice to her and always made sure she felt free to do what she wanted to do. In her own words:
“I am very grateful for a husband who always lets me do my own thing. . . . He never insists that I do anything his way, or any way for that matter. From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly. What a man!“
I wish the same could be said about me.
I’m currently studying for the GMAT because I’d like to get an MBA, starting this fall. Why did I decide this? My brother-in-law had said he was going to. He has a great job and already provides well for his family. I had criticized his goal for a while saying it would take him out of the home unnecessarily. Why did I change my mind? I remembered this quote from President Hinckley:
“It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can. The Lord has said very plainly that His people are to gain knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say all it took was remembering that quote for me to realize I was wrong, apologize to my brother-in-law and put my efforts towards grad school.
Those are just a few of the ways President Hinckley has influenced me throughout my life. He once said:
“Each of us has a small field to cultivate. While so doing, we must never lose sight of the greater picture, the large composite of the divine destiny of this work. It was given us by God our Eternal Father, and each of us has a part to play in the weaving of its magnificent tapestry.“
As I ponder the past 13 years that he’s presided over this Church, I realize he’s played a huge role in how I weave the tapestry of my life. Because of his influence, my life is sweeter, my tapestry, more beautiful.
President Hinckley, you have truly shown me how to faithfully live the gospel of Jesus Christ. thanks so much for working so hard to be that influence in my life.