He traveled the world during his tenure, which was marked by a number of significant milestones, including the “Proclamation to the World on the Family,” construction of dozens of small temples and the creation of several new quorums of the Seventy. He called for increased fellowshipping of new converts and reaching out to other faiths. LDS Church membership has grown from 9 million to more than 13 million members during his administration.
His ministry was characterized by a strong desire to be out among the people. He traveled nearly a million miles and spoke to hundreds of thousands of members in at least 160 nations, employing his mastery of electronic media to bring unprecedented press attention to the church.
His proposal to build small temples launched what some have termed the most ambitious temple-building program in world history. Some 124 temples are now in use. His goal of having at least 100 temples in use, authorized or under construction by Jan. 1, 2000, was accomplished with the dedication of the church’s 100th temple in Boston on Oct. 1, 2000.
Three of the temples were at major sites in church history. The Nauvoo Temple was rebuilt to 21st-century standards, a temple was dedicated at Palmyra, N.Y., and another was dedicated at Winter Quarters, Neb.
In his first address to the general membership during the 165th Annual General Conference on April 2, 1995, he urged LDS faithful to move forward and become more Christlike.
“The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This is a time to be strong.
“It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth and the importance of our mission.
“It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow.
“It is a time to be found keeping the commandments.
“It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain.
“It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.”
President Hinckley also presided over the biggest construction undertaking in church history. In the early 1990s, the church was building a chapel a day; 10 years later it was averaging almost two a day. There were also 18 missionary training centers, 434 seminary buildings and 313 Institutes of Religion.
He married Marjorie Pay on April 29, 1937, in the Salt Lake Temple, and, in the busy years that followed, they reared five children: Kathleen H. Barnes; Richard Gordon Hinckley; Virginia H. Pearce, who served in the Young Women general presidency; Clark Bryant Hinckley; and Jane H. Dudley.
Sister Hinckley died at age 92 on April 6, 2004, two days after President Hinckley announced at the Sunday afternoon session of general conference that she had been stricken with weariness en route home from the dedication of the Accra Ghana Temple. Her death came on the 174th anniversary of the restoration of the church.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley reflected on his wife’s 90th birthday in late 2001, both were still in relatively good health. Even so, he shared a wish not surprising for longtime spouses: “That we might live together for as long as the Lord wills and that when the time comes for us to move on, that we might go together or very close together, without one lingering a long time after the other. We’ve lived together for a long time. I hope we’ll continue to move on together.”