As you may have heard, Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died last week. He was 97. His funeral was on Saturday
I got a phone call a couple of Sundays ago from my mother who was calling to share the news of his passing. When I got off the phone, I told my wife and son Seth what I had just learned. Now Seth, who is almost nine, has always been a tender-hearted soul, one who feels deeply the suffering of others (including, or perhaps especially, all types of animals). Upon learning of President Hinckley’s death, Seth began to sob. We held him close, of course, and asked him to tell us what he thought of our dear prophet. Through his tears, Seth said simply: “He was a really nice man.”
As you might guess, Seth has never met Gordon B. Hinckley, but such was the power of this aged man that even a child such as Seth could feel the warmth of his love and sense the true Christian spirit which he possessed. The thing that I always admired about him was that he was so good and making people feel good even as he was admonishing them to try harder, stand taller, do more, be better. He was not the sort to shame you into changing your ways. Rather he made you want to be better than you are.
As it turns out, I was privileged to hear one of his last sermons. On Sunday, January 13, just two weeks before his death, he spoke via satellite to all Church members throughout Southern California. I sat with my family as he counseled us regarding our relationships with one another. He identified four cornerstones which should secure the foundation of each family:
1. Mutual Respect
He reminded couples to respect one another’s differences, which are not necessarily undesirable. Those differences make our companionships more interesting. He pointed out that we would all be better off if we expressed an “anxious concern” for one another. He encouraged us to look for virtues rather than faults. He said: “Love sees more, but chooses to see less.”
2. The Soft Answer
We are told in Proverbs that “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). President Hinckley reminded us that when we talk to one another quietly we are speaking the language of God. God spoke to Elijah in “a still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) We should follow that example.
3. Financial Honesty
The Prophet reported that money causes more trouble in marriage than all other causes combined. He encouraged us all to pay an honest tithe so that God might open up the windows of heaven. Couples, he said, should provide one another freedom and independence on most day-to-day expenses but come to an agreement before making any large expenditures.
4. Family Prayer
When we pray together, President Hinckley told us, we will have peace in our hearts and joy in our lives. Family prayer in particular will strengthen our love for each other while providing our children with a greater sense of security.
After that meeting concluded, Dana and I typed those four cornerstones onto a piece of paper and gathered our kids to discuss their importance. We have a long way to go before we can pretend to live true to President Hinckley’s good counsel, but we’re now trying harder than before. As I said, he was always the sort of person that had a way to make you want to be a better person.
We will miss him.