The Prophetic Accomplishments of President Gordon B. Hinckley

Jeff SpectorMormon 29 Comments

“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7

In the scriptures and throughout the history of the church, it has been somewhat easy to determine revelation from the Lord given to the people by one of His servants, a prophet. As examples, here are some declarations which make it pretty clear that it is coming from the Lord. 

"And God said..."
"For thus saith the Lord..."
"And it shall come to pass in the last days..."
"And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth..."
"For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory..."
"The Word and Will of the Lord..."

There are many other examples, but this is a few.

In the modern church, we seldom, if ever, hear words such as these from our Prophets, Seers and Revelators.  In fact, we have even heard President Hinckley say that he was NOT prophesying.

“Now, brethren, I want to make it very clear that I am not prophesying, that I am not predicting years of famine in the future.  But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.”. President Gordon B. Hinckley, “To the Boys and To the Men,” General Conference, October 1998

It was but a few short years after this talk that the Internet bubble burst and many people were thrown out of work.

So do we, in fact, receive revelations from our Leaders?  With the passing of President Hinckley, I look back at a few of the most important revelatory accomplishments received by the church through him.  This is by no means a complete list, but a few that seem to me to be most important.

  • “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” – While this Proclamation was in the works for about two years before, it’s issuance was under the President Hinckley’s administration. According to Elder Holland, the document was worked on by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles off and on over that period until they felt it was right. Both Elder Ballard and Elder Packer have called it “prophesy.” It was read by President Hinckley at the Relief Society General Meeting on September 23, 1995. It has engendered both positive and negative response from church members as it touches issues of marriage between man and woman, parental responsibility, gender identity, women as nurturers, husbands as chief providers, the sin of abuse and the consequences of failure to fulfill family responsibilities. It has become the topic of many talks in General Conference, Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society lessons and many family home evenings.
  • Construction of the Conference Center – To accommodate those who wish to view General Conference in person and to have a place where other church and community events could be held. In April 1996, President Hinckley said this, “About a year ago I suggested to the Brethren that perhaps the time has come when we should study the feasibility of constructing another dedicated house of worship on a much larger scale that would accommodate three or four times the number who can be seated in this building. The vision of a new hall was clearly in mind. Various architectural schemes were studied. One was finally selected. It included a massive structure to seat 21,000 with a theater accommodating another thousand. There would be no interior pillars to obstruct the view of the speaker. There would be trees and running water on the roof. Ground was broken July 24, 1997, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first pioneers in this valley. That was an historic event.

We did not know it at the time, but in 1853 Brigham Young, in speaking of temples, said, “The time will come when … we shall build … on the top, groves and fish ponds” (Deseret News Weekly, 30 Apr. 1853, 46).

In 1924 Elder James E. Talmage of the Council of the Twelve wrote, “I have long seen the possible erection of a great pavilion on the north side of the Tabernacle, seating perhaps twenty thousand people or even double that number, with amplifiers capable of making all hear the addresses given from the Tabernacle stands, and in addition to this a connection with the broadcasting system, with receivers in the several chapels or other meeting houses throughout the intermountain region” (journal of James E. Talmage, 29 Aug. 1924, Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah).

In 1940 the First Presidency and the Twelve had their architect draw up a plan of a building that would seat 19,000 and would stand where this building stands. That was 60 years ago. They thought about it, they talked about it, but finally they dropped the idea entirely.

These statements and actions were wonderfully prophetic. We knew nothing about them. All of them have come to our attention since we began this construction.” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 88-89; or Ensign, May 1996, 65.

Those who have seen the building and been inside would agree it is a magnificent structure.

  • Building Smaller Temples Round the World –On October 4, 1997, President Hinckley announced the construction of smaller temples to accommodate members in remote areas. “…there are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe, came bright and clear. We will construct small temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances. They would be built to temple standards, which are much higher than meetinghouse standards. They would accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings, and all other ordinances to be had in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead.”

It started with three Temples, Anchorage, Alaska; in the LDS colonies in northern Mexico; and in Monticello, Utah and quickly spread all over the world. President Hinckley set a goal of having 100 Temples by the end of 2000. With the dedication of the Boston Temple, he met that goal. There are now 125 operating temples with 12 in planning or construction. When President Hinckley was born, there were only 4 operating Temples, all in Utah.

  • Rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple – On April 4th, 2000, at the closing session of General Conference, President Hinckley made this surprise and almost off-handed announcement, “In closing now, I feel impressed to announce that among all of the temples we are constructing, we plan to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple. A member of the Church and his family have provided a very substantial contribution to make this possible. We are grateful to him. It will be a while before it happens, but the architects have begun their work. This temple will not be busy much of the time; it will be somewhat isolated. But during the summer months, we anticipate it will be very busy. And the new building will stand as a memorial to those who built the first such structure there on the banks of the Mississippi.”

The member referred to was James Sorenson, who recently passed away. He and his family donated $30 million to the construction. When it was complete, more than 200,000 people had come to that isolated community to the open house. When it was dedicated on June 27,2002, it was witness by church members all over the word via satellite broadcast. It is an impressive and breath-taking sight to see the Temple, having been built by the blood, sweat and tears of members who eventually had to leave it, once again stand on the banks of the Mississippi.

The idea of rebuilding the temple is not a new one. President Hinckley said that his father, while president of the mission that included Nauvoo in 1939, suggested to the First Presidency that the Nauvoo Temple be rebuilt. But the idea wasn’t accepted at that time when the country was just coming out of the Depression and the Church didn’t have a lot of money. His father was disappointed at that time, President Hinckley said, adding, “But I count it something of a strange and wonderful coincidence that I’ve had a part in the determination of rebuilding this temple.” (www.ldstemples,com/nauvoo)

  • Perpetual Education Fund – At April Conference, 2001, President Hinckley announced the fund, patterned after the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which made funds available for 30,000 early Church members journey to the Salt Lake Valley from Europe in the mid to late 1800s.

He said this, “Now, my brethren, we face another problem in the Church. We have many missionaries, both young men and young women, who are called locally and who serve with honor in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Philippines, and other places. They have very little money, but they make a contribution with what they have. They are largely supported from the General Missionary Fund to which many of you contribute, and for these contributions we are very deeply grateful. Then comes the day of their release. They return to their homes. Their hopes are high. But many of them have great difficulty finding employment because they have no skills. They sink right back into the pit of poverty from which they came. Because of limited abilities, they are not likely to become leaders in the Church. They are more likely to find themselves in need of welfare help. They will marry and rear families who will continue in the same cycle that they have known.

In an effort to remedy this situation, we propose a plan-a plan which we believe is inspired by the Lord. The Church is establishing a fund largely from the contributions of faithful Latter-day Saints who have and will contribute for this purpose. We are deeply grateful to them. Based on similar principles to those underlying the Perpetual Emigration Fund, we shall call it the Perpetual Education Fund.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Perpetual Education Fund,” CR, April 2001)

To date, the fund has helped More than 26,000 members from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico,Peru, and the Philippines.

These seem to me to be the most significant accomplishments. I suspect, if I went back and reviewed all the many talks he gave over the 12 plus years he was President of the Church, I would find significant things he told us that are of a prophetic nature even if a “thus saith the Lord” did not accompany it.

Comments 29

  1. Why do you think we don’t hear things prefaced with “Thus saith the Lord” anymore?
    -Maybe we’re not getting the same caliber of revelations anymore–i.e. the Book of Mormon, D&C, etc. The teachings may be “prophetic in nature” but they certainly don’t have the immediate impact of “The Will of The Lord”.
    -Maybe we have need to use the revelations we have already (D&C 84:57).
    -Maybe the early leaders used those phrases to sound more authoritative in a new religion, and it’s not as necessary now when active members now will take out their extra pair of earrings just because the prophet asked them too. Maybe he didn’t need to say “Thus saith the Lord.”

  2. Great post Jeff…It is amazing to look back with hindsight and see how much GBH influenced the direction of the church. I compare him to David O’ Mckay. You have shown him to be a pragmatic and sensible with tremendous foresight.

  3. Another very important thing that Pres Hinkley spoke about was his challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the Joseph Smith’s birthday. Many, many people took this challenge and were greatly blessed. I am one of those. Soon after competing the Book of Mormon with my wife and daughter we were blessed to be able to move to a place where I had a better job, our daughter had a better school (she is autistic and her school was bad), and we now have an awesome ward that is very accepting of our daughter.

    As to AdamF’s response, I believe that we are always receiving prophesy from the GA’s and it does not need to be prefaced with “Thus saith the Lord” to be prophesy. I also believe that we as a people will not receive more prophesy until we more fully obey the prophesy that we have been given. For instance Doctrine and Covenants 84 says that the church is under condemnation until we remember the new covenant of the Book of Mormon.

  4. In the comments here I think we are seeing the great dilemma emerge. When do you know something is prophecy? Faithful folks will say we should treat counsel from GA’s as scripture without them speaking authoritatively, but as soon as someone identifies something negative in the counsel it will be said that they didn’t say “thus saith the Lord” so it doesn’t count.

    Not only do modern prophets not speaking in prophetic language anymore, they don’t prophesy in the sense of foretelling future events, either. Perhaps they don’t want to take the chance that they are wrong, in which case what does that say about their confidence in inspiration? Or perhaps they aren’t being inspired with visions of the future anymore, which would be a massive change from our early charismatic roots.

    As an interesting research task, who can tell us the last time a prophet actually did say something like “thus saith the Lord”?

  5. Another very important thing that Pres Hinkley spoke about was his challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the Joseph Smith’s birthday.

    First of all, Hinckley didn’t “challenge” anyone to do any such thing. He issued an invitation, by saying “I invite you to” do this thing. Before you know it, people turned it into a “challenge,” and some even decided it was a “commandment.” I managed an LDS bookstore at the time, and I can tell you Deseret Book and its competitors certainly used it as a massive marketing campaign for Book of Mormon associated products (study guides, cd’s, etc.). My bishop at the time reacted to the invitation-turned-commandment so strongly that he required every home teacher at the end of 2005 to obtain a specific report from every single ward member, regardless of age or circumstances, as to whether they had read The Book of Mormon by the deadline (and no, it didn’t come down from the stake president, since I was serving as the stake executive secretary at the time).

    Soon after competing the Book of Mormon with my wife and daughter we were blessed to be able to move to a place where I had a better job, our daughter had a better school (she is autistic and her school was bad), and we now have an awesome ward that is very accepting of our daughter.

    So, you actually believe that these things happened as a direct result of you reading The Book of Mormon during a specially-designated six month period? Other than timing of “soon after,” what makes you associate the two events? More importantly, what about all those poor LDS members who were a little slow, and finished reading in mid-January of 2006? Since they didn’t meet the Hinckley deadline, did they fail to receive blessings for their reading? If so, would that make deity just a tad bit capricious?

    I might just as reliably say that I was “blessed” for not following Hinckley’s invitation. “Soon after” the expiration of Hinckley’s deadline, I found the courage to divorce a truly vicious, mean-spirited, domineering woman, and to begin living my life with integrity. Of course, she no doubt has a few friends who believe she was blessed for accepting Hinckley’s invitation, because I left–ha!

  6. The challenge to know what is a doctrine or commandment is always puzzling to me. I recall a prophecy of Brigham Young that the United States would collapse if a black man was ever to become president. I am pretty sure that was a “Thus saith the Lord” saying too. I could be wrong on this and encourage someone to disabuse my mind on that quote.

    I have thrown up my hands on this matter and resolved to do what I believe is right. That is more guaranteed to uplift than trying to sort through what is prophecy / commandment, et cetera.

      1. I made the unintended prophecy of stating to a co-worker that it would take the second coming of Christ to fix this nation after that election.


  7. Call me a skeptic, because, well, I am one. The problem with these examples is that all the things that he spoke about that came true get touted as prophesy or the work of the lord’s annointed. But we could dig through hundreds of talks and find things that he has mentioned that never happened. What does that mean?

    I have kept a journal for 6+ years now. Someone could dig through the thing and find all kinds of ‘prophesy’ if they wanted. And they’d find a lot of things that I have said and written that are just plain junk.

    I’m not saying he wasn’t a good person, or that his god didn’t use him in some way, but it’s the law of averages, isn’t it? And as long as no one is using those magic ‘thus saith the lord’ phrases, we can all pick and choose in hindsight and make history to be what we want.

  8. From the title of this post, I was expecting more traditional prophetic accomplishments. Like…”thus sayeth the Lord, flees will infest your cattle” and then the cattle get infested. Like when a prophet makes a claim about the future and it happens.

    You should rename the post “administration accomplishments of GBH” or “construction accomplishments of GBH.”

    Since when does being a good CEO make you a prophet?

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    Dear TiredMormon:

    If you read through the items carefully, you will see there was a measure of Prophesy associated with each one. Whether it was building the conference center or the Nauvoo. you may be right that I mistitled it, but still it is in reference to a revelator experience that the thing happened.

    BTW, how many tires do you have?

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  11. Thanks for sharing. President Hinckley was the prophet during my volatile years and I think there was something very calm and reassuring about the man. You could tell he was thoughtful and secure in his statements whenever you listened to him. I use the word “you” generally, for all those nitpicky bloggers out there.

    As far as actually using Old Testament type language to announce a prophesy…I don’t really think that matters nowadays. I think that we as a people have been told to pray often, read our scriptures daily, hold FHE meetings, etc. The list goes on. We’ve been told we would be blessed for doing so. Now, are we being blessed due to our obedience, or being blessed because we were told that we would be?

    Personally, I think that is an academic question that could be debated over until it was dusty and dried out, but ultimately any blessings we receive, we receive because we are worthy. I think President Hinckley was able to accomplish a lot during his life because the majority of church members were worthy and the time was right for expansion, construction, reaching out, etc. If people are waiting around to start or stop actions until they hear the words Thus Sayeth the Lord then they will probably be waiting a long time. We sustain the quorum of the 12 as prophets, seers, revelators. We ought to reinforce that sustaining with a willingness to act on their suggestions and guidelines.

  12. I think building the new Nauvoo Temple was a great thing to do. My partner Mike and I drove there as soon as it was done and were among the first groups to tour it when it was opened to the public.

  13. Jeff, you left off what I consider to be a big one. Saturday morning, October 6, 2001 , is an often overlooked day in President Hinckley’s legacy as Prophet of the Church. This is the morning that he proclaimed to the Church and the world (that is if the world listens to or reads LDS conference addresses) the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32). This announcement was also in concert with the fulfillment of one of Moroni’s prophecies (Sept 1821) recorded by Joseph Smith that Joel’s prophecy was not yet fulfilled but soon would be. (JS History 1:41)
    (I guess “soon” in this case meant 180 years, give or take a couple of weeks)

    I’ve also thought that James Talmage was possibly speaking of young Gordon Hinckley when he stated the following in October General Conference of 1916 “The tribes shall come: they are not lost unto the Lord; they shall be brought forth as hath been predicted; and I say unto you there are those now living–aye, some here present– who shall live to read the records of the Lost Tribes of Israel, which shall be made one with the record of the Jews or the Hobly Bible, and the record of the Nephites, or the Book of Mormon, even as the Lord hath predicted”. Of course, if he did read them, he never shared that with the body of the Church before he passed on.

  14. so does just saying “thus saith the Lord” make something a prophecy? I’ve heared that before, also in relation to blacks receiving the priesthood. (whether it was a prophecy or just something a church president invented himself). but what makes something a prophecy? does the language actually mater?

  15. Heather,

    At first blush, I’d tend to agree with you. The logic is simple: say enough things and some of them are bound to come true. But that’s it’s problem, I think. It’s too simplistic to simply brush it off as a “typical” result. Remember that any review ex post is going to be subject to hindsight bias, which would unfairly weigh in favor of concluding that results are typical rather than unique.

    That said, I wouldn’t really know how to “fairly” approach it. We could study of all the things GBH focused on and see which ones “came true,” but who’s to say that now is the right time? Perhaps some things were indeed prophetic (rather than good or inspired leadership) where payoffs won’t show for several years. Also, if any prophet were so obviously inspired that everything he/she spoke came to fruition in an obvious way, it would take from the principle of faith.

    Just my thoughts.

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    If you read OD 2, you will see that it was received by revelation. I offer this quote:

    7 Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
    8 He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. (Doctrine and Covenants | Official Declaration 2:7 – 8)

    So, if I read this right, it was in fact a “Thus saith the Lord.”

  17. First off, yes I do believe that I was blessed with moving and everything that comes of it because I followed Pres Hinckley’s challenge (or invitation or whatever you want to call it). We are blessed when we follow the prophet.

    Second let me add a comment about the whole “Thus saith the Lord . . . ” line. In Old Testament times the Isrealites needed to be completely instructed in everything down to the last letter. (See how specific Moses was told about temple sacrifices) Even then by the time Christ came some had blown the ten commandments out of proportion by, for instance, specifing how many steps you can take on the sabbath. It is my opinion that they also needed to be told “Thus saith the Lord . . .” to emphasize that this comes directly from God. Even with that most did not listen.

  18. Thanks, Sean, for answering the first part of my question. How about the other parts? Other than timing of “soon after,” what makes you associate the two events? More importantly, what about all those poor LDS members who were a little slow, and finished reading in mid-January of 2006? Since they didn’t meet the Hinckley deadline, did they fail to receive blessings for their reading? If so, would that make deity just a tad bit capricious?

  19. I feel that the Spirit has testified to me that it is true.

    As to those that finished a little late, I don’t think that the Lord cares. The Lord always blesses those that follow the guidance He gives.

    And to those who were commenting on if it was a “challenge” or not please check out the First Presidency Message from August 2005.,4945,2043-1-3156-1,00.html

    “We studied the Book of Mormon in Sunday School this past year. Nonetheless I offer a challenge to members of the Church throughout the world and to our friends everywhere to read or reread the Book of Mormon. If you will read a bit more than one and one-half chapters a day, you will be able to finish the book before the end of this year. Very near the end of its 239 chapters, you will find a challenge issued by the prophet Moroni as he completed his record nearly 16 centuries ago. Said he:

    “And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? . . .

    ‘And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true’ (Moroni 10:27, 29).

    Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”

    We are always challenged to read and re-read the scriptures. Study them and learn from them. We should be continually studying the scriptures. We will be blessed in so many ways for doing this.

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    Sean, you are right on this. It was a challenge, but I think you also hit upon another aspect, He didn’t issue the challenge just to have us do it. We wanted us to do it with “real intent” as Moroni speaks about. If it took a few wweeks or a month longer than the end ofthe year, who cares? It is the fact that we were will to try and do it that matters.

    And those that did, were better off for having done it. I know that I was. I chose to listen to it and follow along in the scriptures.

  21. Maybe things are no longer prefaced with “thus saith the Lord”, but the well known address by Ezra Taft Benson on the Book of Mormon advised the church, “As I participated in the Mexico City Temple dedication, I received the distinct impression that God is not pleased with our neglect of the Book of Mormon.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “A New Witness for Christ,” Ensign, Nov 1984, 6). Messages in that tone definitely sound an alarm where complacency has set in. I always had the impression that President Benson delivered his messages with a sense of urgency, reminding me of the urgency that Joseph Smith felt relieved of when he finally shared the endowment with Brigham Young. That tone of delivery is one of prophetic style. When commandments were given to Book of Mormon prophets, there was certainly an urgency to deliver the message to the church. I love the delivery of Gordon B. Hinckley just as well, as being delivered with prophetic pearls to those that are listening closely. I recall sitting and listening to the satellite broadcast of the announcement of the Perpetual Education Fund and feeling that I had just beheld such a prophetic moment. I had worked with Elders who were native to a different country who had little to return to after serving valiantly in leadership positions during their mission. This would provide a means for those in a similar situation to get basic financial solidarity in their lives so that they could provide for a family and make time for the volunteerism required with a lay Priesthood. The potential for developing leadership for expansion of the church becomes greater, and the design of the PEF administration lends to ever growing resources to repeat the process. Is that program merely an “administration accomplishment” (#8)? Is it a miracle? I know how I feel about it.

  22. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff all received “Thus saith the Lord…” revelations while serving as Church President.

    The last “Thus saith the Lord…” revelation was received by Wilford Woodruff in 1889, at the height of the Anti Polygamy crusade, in which God told President Woodruff “Let my servants… make their pleadings… with out any further pledges from the Priesthood”. Six months later, the Church forced President Woodruff, under pressure from the U.S. Federal Government, to publish the “Manifesto”, a direct violation of the revelation he’d just received.

    God has not spoken to the Church since.

    (The above Woodruff revelation was last published by the Church in “My Kingdom shall roll forth – readings in Church History” 1980).

  23. The restoration of the Priesthood as revealed through Spencer Kimball was revelation from God. Another “Thus saith the Lord.”
    Another great testament to me that Gordon B. Hinckley was a prophet is that his life was sustained to such an old age (97) and all of the things he accomplished as an elderly man. Do you know of any other man who has done so much at such an old age? so many of the remarkable things he accomplished have already been mentioned. Another very prophetic moment was the inspiration to build the small Temples. This idea came while visiting Colonial Juarez in Mexico an old Mormon colony. He desired that the faithful members in that colony could have a Temple close by and through inspiration the small Temple was designed by him. Several small Temples have blessed the lives of the Saints. To me the life of President Hinckley was living testimony that he was a Prophet.

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