Out of all the prophet biographies that I have read so far, President Hinckley’s is my favorite. I highlighted so much in his book and wanted to share my favorite quotes, stories, and takeaways here.
Characteristics to Strive For
I love writing down any characteristics or qualities mentioned about President Hinckley or others that I am hoping to work on and that I strive for. Here are a few:
“He was able and gifted as a communicator, but in addition to his prowess with language, he had a unique combination of candor and wisdom. His judgment in knowing how to handle delicate matters was impeccable.”
“He knows how to ask the right questions and how to make our guests feel that he is sincerely interested in them.”
Richard G. Scott about car rides in South America together: “I learned about doctrine, about how to interview missionaries when they had specific problems, about Church government and what counsel to give in various situations. He built me and made me feel that I had the capacity to do what was required of me.”
Characteristics of Marjorie
I loved a lot of what his biography had to say about his wife Marjorie. Here are the characteristics I wrote down about her that I am striving for:
“Marjorie is full of life and full of enthusiasm. She is the balance. Everyone feels comfortable around her.”
“Through the years Marjorie would often say that the only way to get through life was to laugh your way through it, and even as a young woman she had a buoyant, cheerful disposition that was like an elixir to Gordon…she had a light heart without being light-minded.”
“It was impossible to spend time with her and not leave feeling as though you’re the greatest person on earth. She makes everyone feel that way.”
“Marjorie was a unique blend of support and independence, a woman whose warmth and genuine friendliness drew people to her. With her there was no pretense, no maneuvering for power or position, no putting on airs. And she had the ability to make those with whom she interacted feel accepted and good about themselves.”
“Sister Hinckley would go out of her way to shake our hands and embrace us, and she always kissed my wife. She was so easy to be with, so caring and loving and concerned about our mutual friends as well as our own welfare.”
She has so much life and love and gladness. Everyone she knows seems to love her because she has a genuine interest in people. She is concerned with their problems and their needs.
Family and friends alike gravitated to her, as she had a way of helping people feel good about themselves.
About Sister Kimball – “Her loyalty to him, the evidence of her unflagging love for him, her tender care of him, have become as the threads of a beautiful tapestry. Her prayers in his behalf, her pleadings with the Lord, have been those of a woman of strength.”
Laugh Your Way through Life
They laughed at themselves and find humor in what happened. Somehow they avoided overreacting to all of our little daily crises. “We tried not to take ourselves too seriously. We learned that you get in trouble when you do that.”
Many women would have come unhinged at such indecision and inconvenient, but Marjorie had long since decided to dismiss temporary annoyances as just that: temporary.
Her tendency to see humor in many situations, her ability to find joy in everything from the mundane to the exotic, and her complete faith in the Lord suited her well to their peculiar routine, which she not only accepted but enjoyed immensely.
“The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.”
Majorie took this approach with her husband and family, refusing to take offense where none was intended and filtering daily events through an attitude of good humor.
“From Mother I learned so many things, including respect for womanhood, together with an appreciation for the tremendous strength which she carried within her, including a bright and happy zest for life.”
Great Marjorie Quotes
“Fifty was my favorite age. It takes about that long to learn to quit competing and settle down to living. It is the age I would like to be through all eternity.”
“I have a new project. One chapter a day from each of the standard works. I have been on it for four days and am only 3 days behind. Better to have tried and failed than never to have tried.”
Takeaways as a Wife
When he left for assignments away from home, rather than moan about his absence, Marjorie might say to the children, “Oh good, your father’s gone. Let’s order pizza” — something they rarely indulged in otherwise. Or she took the girls shopping. “Mother put no pressure on Dad. He was free to do what had been asked of him, without worrying that she was secretly resenting his time away. Mother made us feel it was a privilege for our father to do what he did.”
“Each of them were independent thinkers who were faithful and orthodox without being necessarily wedded to convention.”
“She always made him feel that he was equal to any challenge. Throughout their lives, in diverse settings and circumstances, she would tell others, “Gordon is amazing. There isn’t anything he can’t do. Not anything!”
“Everyone loves to be around Mother and Dad. They are so enthusiastic about life. They expect each day to bring a new adventure. None of us can resist their optimism and enthusiasm.”
“She could pour oil on troubled waters. There are little differences that occur in every family, in the very nature of family life, and she knew how to subdue those feelings. We’re a strong-willed, outspoken family. I never heard her, in all my experience, give an unkind retort to anything that was said.”
Takeaways as a Parent
You need heaven’s help in rearing heaven’s child
Four simple principles parents might consider in rearing their children: to love them, to teach them, to respect them, and to pray with and for them.
“Fathers and mothers are needed who will rise and stand upon their feet to make of their homes sanctuaries in which children will grow in a spirit of obedience, industry, and fidelity to tested standards of conduct. If our society is coming apart at the seams, it is because the tailor and the seamstress in the home are not producing the kind of stitching that will hold under stress.”
Parable of the Small Supple Tree — Bring Up a Child in the Way He Should Go
In one conference address he told of a thornless honey locust tree he had planted that was so supple he could have tied it in a knot. Then he had forgotten all about it. Some years later he noticed that the tree leaned far to one side, and with a block and tackle he tried without success to reshape the tree that was now more than a foot in diameter. With no other options, he cut off a large limb. The tree subsequently straightened somewhat, though it developed a scar where it had been cut. “Once it could have been kept straight with a string for an anchor. Now neither block and tackle nor pruning saw can make up for the neglect of its younger years. It is so with people. It takes only a string, as it were, to help children grow strong and straight in the Church.”
“Every child, with few possible exceptions, is the product of a home, be it good, bad, or indifferent. As children grow through the years, their lives, in large measure, become an extension and a reflection of family teaching.” He himself was the product of a home filled with love and based on a carefully defined set of values and a general sense of well-being and optimism.”
Being an Example & Showing Love
“Your example will do more than anything else in impressing upon [your children’s] minds a pattern of life.”
Mother and Dad taught us more by example than by preaching. We observed them adhering to principles, and then we followed.
“We didn’t openly speak about love for one another very much on those days. We didn’t have to. We felt that security, that peace, that quiet strength which comes to families who pray together, work together, and help one another. The children had the assurance that their parents loved them, believed in them, and regarded them as assets rather than liabilities.”
Their positive outlook permeated the family atmosphere.
Together they created an atmosphere of stability and love in their family, as much by how they interacted with each other as by what they expressed verbally. Because Gordon and Marjorie were content with their lives, the children had a sense that everything else was fine as well.
“We didn’t sit around the dinner table discussing gospel topics. But they were always totally immersed in the gospel. There was never a discussion about whether we were going to church. It was just the way we lived.”
Virginia explained one secret to maintaining family unity: “We don’t keep score. If we remember a birthday, it’s a bonus.”
“There is nothing you can’t do if you want to do it and are willing to work hard enough. You are bright and capable as anybody, and if you want to do something, then do it.” Though he didn’t necessarily see his sons and daughters are unusually gifted or talented, he wanted them to catch the vision of their own potential.
“I learned that I needed to trust my children so I tried to never say no if I could possibly say yes. When we were raising a family, it was a matter of getting through every day and having a little fun along the way. As I could see that I wasn’t going to be able to make all of my children’s decisions anyway, I tried not to worry about every little thing. I think that came from my parents, because they had absolute confidence in me and my siblings. As hard as it has been at times, Gordon and I tried to have the same confidence in our children.”
Ginny complained about going to church and asked to stay. Without hesitating, Marjorie responded calmly, “No, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to.” After a pause, she added, as though it were simply a logical arrangement; “But if you’re going to stay home, would you get dinner on for us? It would be wonderful to come home from church and have dinner ready.” Ginny agreed and Marjorie left worrying that she should have handled the situation differently. The family returned home to find a meal prepared and Ginny waiting for everyone on the front lawn. Ginny never stayed home again. In that situation, it helped to not make a federal case out of the issue.”
There were two stories of his children as teens where Gordon and Marjorie let them make their own decisions trusting they would make the right decisions for them. One was when their daughter’s classmates mother called about something going on between them and Gordon simply stated, “Oh, really? Well, I guess that’s her decision.” “Oh well, you’ve heard everything I have to say.” In a similar, a church teacher insisted the entire class to bear testimonies, when the daughter refused to and when that teacher told Gordon and Marjorie about it, feeling they would be embarrassed she wasn’t bearing her testimony as a daughter of a stake leader. They both declined to make an issue of the situation. I loved these instances because it is the kind of parent I would like to be. I will be there for support and a guide for my children, but I will not be making their decisions for them.
“They didn’t throw up fences, and so there was nothing to jump over. They let me test my wings and figure out things for myself, trusting that I would eventually come to the conclusions they hoped I would make in the first place.”
“Even as a young girl I recognized in Dad what I considered unusual wisdom and judgment. He always seemed to know and understand things beyond the obvious. He did not dictate to us, nor did he philosophize, but he asked us questions that inevitably led to a statement that was on target. He seemed to innately be able to see the big picture.”
When the children misbehaved, both parents had a way of communicating disappointment and letting them know that more was expected of them.
Neither Gordon nor Marjorie was inclined to impose on the children a lengthy list of rigid rules and regulations. He insisted that he did enough preaching elsewhere—he had no desire to come home and do more. Discipline was handled much the same way. They both believed that harsh corrective measures only created resentment “Mother and Dad taught us that there was a difference between principles and rules. There are never enough rules to tell you what to do in every situation. But they did put a few principles in place. We felt free to make decisions because we knew the fundamental principles against which everything could be measured.”
They communicated those principles—being responsible, working hard, doing what you say you’ll do, getting an education, being disciplined, finishing what you start, keeping the commandments, and so forth—to their offspring through example, the ultimate textbook.
“I can’t remember a day when we didn’t have family prayer. When it was his turn, Dad prayed very sincerely but never with a theatrical or emotional air. We learned much about the depth of his faith by listening to him pray. He addressed God with great reverence, as he would perhaps a wise and revered teacher or mentor, and he referred to the Savior with deep feeling.”
One phrase he used frequently may not have had its full effect while the children were young, but it stayed with them as adults: “We pray that we may live without regret.”
“Even though Gordon didn’t preach to them, they heard everything we wanted them to hear in family prayer.”
“I know of no single practice that will have a more salutary effect upon your lives than the practice of kneeling together as you begin and close each day. Somehow the little storms that seem to afflict every marriage are dissipated when, kneeling before the Lord, you thank him for one another…and then together invoke his blessings upon your lives, your home, your loved ones, and our dreams…[Through this practice] your children will know the security of a home wherein dwells the Spirit of the Lord.“
As a Church Leader
Gordon held no more meetings than were absolutely essential. He became known for his efficiency, his capacity for work, his compassion, and his sense of humor.
“He had a way of making you feel good. I never dreaded having to get up early Sunday morning for a meeting because I knew there was going to be some good activity, a lot of inspiration, and a lot of humor as well.”
Admonishing members to awaken to the powers of God available to them: “The forces against which we labor are tremendous. We need more than our own strength to cope with them. To all who hold positions of leadership, to the vast corps of teachers and missionaries, to heads of families, I should like to make a plea: In all you do, feed the spirit—nourish the soul…I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food.”
Criticism and Critique
“You can’t spread garbage without getting some of it on yourself.”
“There is a rampant among us a spirit of criticism. None of us is perfect; all of us occasionally make mistakes. Men and women who carry heavy responsibility do not need criticism, they need encouragement. Restrain your tongues in criticism of others. It is so easy to find fault. It is so much nobler to speak constructively.”
We recognize that our forebears were human. They doubtless made mistakes. But the mistakes were minor, when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight the mistakes and gloss over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest.
“Try a little harder to breathe a little more of the spirit of testimony into all that you teach.”
As a Christian
“If you center your life on the gospel, you’ll be okay.”
“I felt the shadow of my mind fade away, and I caught a glimpse of the great light of the gospel.”
“Get on your knees and ask for help, and then get up and go to work, and you’ll be able to find your way through almost any situation.”
“If you love people, they’ll love you also.”
Religion of Refinement
“‘Mormonism’ is a religion of refinement. It reasons that every man has within him God=possibilities, that salvation is essentially developmental. It argues that every man is potentially a great man. And through an inspired system, it offers the most extensive facilities in all the world for every man to discover himself and his possibilities, to so live that he can stand on the summit of his life and look back upon a trail of accomplishment and not a slough of wasted energies…God has generously blessed us all with talent…Catch the silent thrill of growth!”
“I know of but one way to rid the earth of strife and contention. That is to change men’s lives, to lift them to a higher plane of thought and endeavor…Mormonism is a world religion with a world vision.”
You are missing the lift that comes from living close to the Lord and of knowing that life is really purposeful, that it is a mission rather than just a career. There is something wonderful about having some concept of who you are as a daughter of God with a divine destiny, and that you can make more of your life than you may have been making of it.
Daily Living the Gospel
“We like to think of religion in terms of fine living, not as doctrine in cold storage. Religion can have very little significance when removed from life. In other words, a man’s religion isn’t worth much and it will never save him, if it does not carry over into the details of his daily life.”
Devotion to the Lord combined with hard work produces results.
A happy attitude and smiling countenance could boost one over almost any misfortune and that every individual was responsible for his own happiness.
“Cynics do not contribute; skeptics do not create; doubters do not achieve.”
“Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others. There is nothing that dulls a personality so much as a negative outlook.”
“I have watched with alarm the crumbling morals of our society. And yet I am an optimist. I have a simple and solemn faith that right will triumph and that truth will prevail.”
President Hinckley’s personal motto: “Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do. If you want to die at an early age, dwell on the negative. Accentuate the positive, and you’ll be around for a while.
“I am one who believes in celebrations. I am one who believes in commemorating great events of the past. When we do so, we bring to life men and women of history who did significant things which we need reminding.“
Ours is a multicultural organization with a common purpose, and that is to offer the individual an opportunity for growth, for happiness, and to give an encouraging upward reach to people wherever we find them. We believe in being happy. The gospel is the message of good news, and it’s a way to happiness, the Lord’s happiness.
“He focused on what could be done, rather than what couldn’t, looked for solutions to problems rather than resigned himself to them, and learned to be happy even when things weren’t going well. His was an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity, and he often reflected on the spirit of gladness his mother had cultivated in their home.”
Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old-time rail journey – delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Prayers, Trials & Sorrow
“I pray to the Lord earnestly for help, and then go to work.”
“He will be there to comfort and sustain you; and as the years pass, the sharpness of today’s pain will soften and a divine balm will heal your broken hearts.”
“It is better to lean into the stiff wind of opportunity than to simply hunker down and do nothing.”
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
“You have to stay on your feet and keep moving if you are going to have light in your life.”
“Dad has always been able to squeeze more into twenty-four hours than anyone I have ever known. He has never had patience with a lack of discipline, and has even less patience with those who waste time, particularly his.”
“He is a person of ability…He is a person of capacity.” He valued integrity, goodness, competence, and people who do what they say they’ll do.
Story of Filipino who lost all her friends after joining the church: “She had join the Church in sacrifice, and I realized how little I had sacrificed for the gospel, which was handed to me as on a silver platter. I vowed to do more and be better.”
“Whatever you choose to do, train for it. Qualify yourselves. Take advantage of the experience and learning of those who have gone before you in whatever field you choose. Education is a shortcut to proficiency. It makes it possible to leapfrog over the mistakes of the past.”
“None of us knows enough. The learning process is an endless process. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds. I believe in the evolution of the mind, the heart, and the soul of a man. I believe in improvement. I believe in growth.”
Motivated by Family History
During his mission in Europe: “As time passed, he came to better appreciate what the Brethren who had proselytized there a century earlier had accomplished — under much more difficult circumstances than he now faced. Their mission and sense of vision evoked within him a respect that bordered on awe. Despite their extreme poverty, they had come to England and converted a large congregation of Saints who subsequently infused the blood of Britain into the weakened body of the Church. As Gordon contemplated the faith and courage of Elder Heber C. Kimball and his Brethren, his own faith and spiritual stamina increased.
Having Heaven Bring Out the Best
What President Eyring said about him: “He makes you better. When I’m with him, I’m wiser. It is because he brings down the power of heaven into my life. He never says, ‘Hal, I think you’ll be inspired,’ he just acts as though I will be. I have had several experiences with him when I have thought ‘That’s an idea I’ve never had before. Why did I have it while I was with him? Why was I able to express something to him that I had never understood before?’ One great gift of a prophet is that he brings revelation to other people. I have had the experience of walking away from a meeting with him, knowing that I was given more than I had when I walked in, because I was in his presence. It is a wonderful gift. He doesn’t just bring out the best in me, he helps heaven being out the best in me.”