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President Gordon B. Hinckley, world leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was ordained and set apart as the 15th President of the Church on Sunday, March 12, 1995.
He had earlier served 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, the top governing body of the Church, and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 20 years prior to that.
His Church service has been extensive. He was called as a member of the Sunday School General Board in 1937, two years after returning home from missionary service in Great Britain. For 20 years, he directed all Church public communications. In 1951 he was named executive secretary of the General Missionary Committee, managing the entire missionary program of the Church, and served in this capacity for seven years. He was president of the East Millcreek Stake in Salt Lake City when he was called as a General Authority in the capacity of an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 6, 1958.
President Hinckley was named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 5, 1961. On July 23, 1981, he was called into the First Presidency to serve as Counselor and on December 2, 1982, was named Second Counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball. He served as First Counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson from November 1985 to May 30, 1994. On June 5, 1994, he was called as the First Counselor to President Howard W. Hunter. He was also ordained and set apart as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
As a member of the First Presidency, he has had a major role in administering both the ecclesiastical and temporal affairs of the Church, whose more than 10 million members are spread over some 160 nations and territories. His Church assignments have taken him around the world many times, and he has dedicated more temples than any other leader in the history of the Church. He is the first Church President ever to travel to Spain, where in 1996 he broke ground for a temple in Madrid, and to Africa, where he met with thousands of Latter-day Saints in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
He has given numerous interviews to major news media, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the CBS 60 Minutes television news magazine, which featured him and the Church in 1996 on an Easter Sunday show seen by more than 20 million. In September of 1998 he was the guest on the popular CNN cable television program Larry King Live.
President Hinckley was born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah, a son of Bryant Strigham and Ada Bitner Hinckley. One of his forebears, Stephen Hopkins, came to America on the Mayflower. Another, Thomas Hinckley, served as governor of the Plymouth Colony from 1680 to 1692.
His first job was as a newspaper carrier for the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City daily. After attending public schools in Salt Lake City, the future Church leader earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Utah and then accepted a call from the Church to spend two years as a full-time missionary in Great Britain. He served with distinction and ultimately was called to be an assistant to the Church Apostle who presided over all the European missions.
Upon being released from missionary service in the mid-1930s, he was called by then Church President Heber J. Grant to organize what has become the Church's public affairs program.
President Hinckley's major assignments during two decades of service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles included the supervision of Church units in Asia, Europe, and South America. His Church committee assignments as a general officer have been in such areas as temples, missionary work, welfare services, priesthood, and members in the military service. He also served as chairman of the executive committee for the observance of the Church's 150th anniversary in 1980.
In addition to his Church duties, President Hinckley has been active in community and business affairs, serving as chairman and board member of a number of business corporations. In 2004, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award, by President George W. Bush. He has been the recipient of a number of educational honors including: the Distinguished Citizen Award, from Southern Utah University; Distinguished Alumni Award, from the University of Utah; and honorary doctorates from Westminster College, Utah State University, University of Utah, Brigham Young University, and Southern Utah University. He has received the Silver Buffalo Award of the Boy Scouts of America and has been honored by the National Conference (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) for his contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world.
He has served as chairman of the executive committees of the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University and of the Church Board of Education. The Church Educational System includes not only Brigham Young University's Utah and Hawaii campuses, but Brigham Young University - Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho, LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, elementary and secondary schools in developing countries, and hundreds of seminaries and institutes of religion serving several hundred thousand high school- and college-age youth.
The Church leader is known for his writing and speaking skills, which he began developing as a young boy growing up in the Church. He honed those talents as a missionary preaching regularly from a portable stand in London's Hyde Park and further refined them as a Church authority. He has written and edited several books and numerous manuals, pamphlets, and scripts.
President Hinckley married Marjorie Pay in the Salt Lake Temple in 1937. They have five children. Sister Hinckley passed away 6 April 2004.