Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1958, pp. 123-125
My dear brethren and sisters, I am reminded of a statement made by my first missionary companion when I received a letter of transfer to the European Mission office. After I had read it, I turned it over to him. He read it, and then said: "Well, you must have helped an old lady across the street in the preexistence. This recognition has not come because of anything you've done here."
Humbly, I seek the blessings of the Lord. I am overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy. I feel shaken, and if what I say is largely in the nature of personal testimony, I hope you will forgive me.
Since President McKay spoke with me late last evening I have been thinking about the road that led here. I know that I have not come that road alone, and I feel very grateful for the many men and women—the great and good men who are here today, and the small and obscure, but, wonderful people, many of whose names I do not remember—who have helped me. It is the same with each of us in the Church. No man proceeds alone. We grow according to the help given us by those who teach us and lead us.
I have been marvelously fortunate and greatly blessed. I have had a wonderful opportunity in working closely with the Brethren—all of those who are on this stand, and many who have sat here in years past and who are gone. I have had a sure conviction that President McKay is a prophet of the Lord since the day he was sustained as the President of this Church, and I have had many experiences which have confirmed that conviction.
I had the great opportunity of being with him at the Swiss Temple, and as I saw those people gathered from ten nations to participate in the temple ordinances; as I saw elderly people from behind the Iron Curtain who had lost their families in the wars that had washed over them, and witnessed the expressions of joy and tears of gladness which came from their hearts as a result of the opportunities that had been given them; as I saw young husbands and wives with their families—their bright and beautiful children—and saw those families united in an eternal relationship, I knew with a certainty even beyond what I had known before that this man was inspired and directed of the Lord to bring these priceless blessings into the lives of those men and women of faith gathered from the nations of Europe.
I do not know why under the blessing of Providence I have had the marvelous association which I have had with President Richards. In 1935 when I was released from my mission, Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve, who was my mission president, asked that I meet with the First Presidency to tell them of some conditions in the European missions. Following that interview President McKay assigned me to work under the supervision of Brother Richards, and for almost a quarter of a century I have worked under his direction and have been tutored by him. I have partaken of his wisdom—his great wisdom—and his kindness and graciousness. I shall ever be in his debt, and I want him to know of my love and appreciation for him.
President Clark has been my ever-ready friend and adviser. I do not know how to say thanks enough to him. And to all of these Brethren whom I have come to love, and who have been so generous and good to me, I am deeply grateful.
I have been touched by the mission presidents with whom I have worked. As I have known their stories, the great sacrifices which they have made to go into the world, the devotion with which they labor, the manner in which they give of themselves, I have been humbled. I have been inspired by the missionaries with whom I have had association. I have seen them as they have gone out in all kinds of weather, late and soon, doing their work and bearing testimony, often at great sacrifice, and bringing a marvelous harvest of souls into the kingdom of God. I have been touched by their parents, with many of whom I have talked. There are still many widows in this Church who wash and iron, who sweep and empty wastebaskets to keep sons and daughters in the mission field, and who would mortgage all they have to give whatever might be felt necessary to make more effective the work of a son or daughter in the mission field.
I have thought, as has Brother Tuttle, of my teachers of the Primary, the Sunday School, and the MIA, and of the Aaronic Priesthood leaders who helped me along when I was a noisy boy, and who exercised patience and forbearance. I do not remember many of the specific lessons they taught, but somehow there was born in my heart a conviction concerning the truth of this work.
I shall always be grateful to the bishop who recommended me for a mission, for my companions in the field, to the humble men and women of faith among whom I labored; to Brother George D. Pyper of the Sunday School, who invited me to serve on the general board; to my stake president who invited me to become his counselor. To Brother Harold B. Lee I feel particularly indebted for a blessing which he gave me when he set me apart as a stake president. I shall never forget the language and spirit of that blessing.
Now, in conclusion, I should like to express my appreciation to my father. He lies critically ill in the hospital. If I feel any selfish satisfaction in this honor, it is the satisfaction that comes from the realization that one of his sons has been found worthy of the confidence of the Brethren. And if I feel any regret, it is that, unless the Lord rules to the contrary, he will not know of this in mortality because of the condition in which he lies today.
No son ever had a better father. He was busy in the Church—for twenty-five years he was in the stake presidency and fulfilled many other responsibilities—but he never forced his views upon us and never compelled us to participate. He never touched one of his children. But by some inspired psychology he planted in us a faith, a love for the restored gospel, and, I think, a desire to do the right thing.
I would like also to express appreciation to my marvelous and faithful mother. She died three years before I went on a mission. I received my call in the days of depression, and money was scarce, and the mission to which I went was then the most costly in the Church. But we found that she, through the years, had banked some of her small change and set up, as it were, a trust fund so that her boys might go on missions regardless of any economic catastrophe that might hit the family.
I would also like to express appreciation for the wonderful women who have come into our home and for my own beloved companion and our five children.
I say these things for two reasons: first, because I am grateful to all who have helped me along the way, and secondly, because I would like to make the point that all of us, in our various situations, are the result, largely, of the lives that touch ours; and that as teachers and officers in the Church we affect for good or ill all who come under our direction according to our diligence in meeting our responsibilities.
It was Emerson, I think, who was asked what book had had the greatest influence upon his life, and he said he could no more remember the books he had read than he could remember the meals he had eaten, but they had made him. Likewise, all of us are largely the products of the lives which touch upon our lives, and today I feel profoundly grateful for all who have touched mine.
Now, in conclusion, on this sixth day of April, significant under the revelations of the Lord (D&C 20:1), I, too, would like to bear testimony that I know that God lives, that Jesus is our Redeemer, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, the Savior of mankind who gave his life to atone for our sins; that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, the prophet of this dispensation; that the Lord's work is here and is real and under his direction; and that President David O. McKay stands, as did the prophet of this dispensation, to lead the kingdom of God, as the stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands, which should roll forth and fill the earth (D&C 65:2).
God help us, you and me, to live up to the testimonies which we carry in our hearts, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.