Elder Richard G. Hinckley was born on May 2, 1941, to Gordon Bitner and Marjorie Pay Hinckley. And therein, for some very few malcontents, murmurers. and troublemakers, lies the problem. For, as the gentlereader almost certainly knows, in April of 2005, when Elder Richard G. Hinckley was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, and thereby became a General Authority, his father, Gordon B. Hinckley, was the Lord's living oracle on the earth... the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator... the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Hinckley moved quickly to quell any charges of nepotism. In the priesthood meeting at general conference on April 2, he spoke of the situation.
"First," said President Hinckley, "I'd like to say just a word concerning those we have sustained this afternoon as members of the Quorums of the Seventy."
Among them, he noted, was his 63-year-old son. "I make it clear that I did not advance his name. That was done by others whose right it was to do so. I feel extremely sensitive about the matter of nepotism. As the lawyers say, I recused myself from participating. However, I believe he is worthy and qualified in every respect. In the first place, he had a great and wonderful mother. I wish I could recommend his father.
"I mention this only because of my sensitivity concerning the matter of nepotism. Please do not hold it against him for his relationship to me. He's powerless to help it."
Of the explanation, Elder Hinckley said, "I claim to be the only General Authority to be sustained in spite of a disclaimer from the prophet."
All joking aside, Elder Hinckley said the relationship with his father is a family relationship, not an official Church relationship.
In all his Church callings, he has always discussed issues or concerns with his priesthood leaders. "I deal with my priesthood leader on ecclesiastical issues and I deal with my father on family issues," he said. "We respect those priesthood lines."
In verbiage very much like his father's, he adds, "The bottom line is there is nothing I can do about it, so the best way to deal with it is not worry about it, and just do the best job I can and go forward." It isn't a problem for Richard G. Hinckley — just a way of life. People have, and maybe always will, look at him first and foremost as his father's son.
"It is just who I am," he says simply of being the oldest son of Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and his late wife, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley.
Still, when he meets Church members, the questions are never far behind. They want to know about his father and what it is like to be a member of his family.
"The best thing I have been able to come up with is it is like any other child of an active man who honors his priesthood," he explains.
Born May 2, 1941, Richard Gordon Hinckley was raised in East Millcreek in the Salt Lake Valley. He grew up in a house his father built — and built and built and built. The house, he said, "was a continuing project throughout my youth. As the family grew, the house grew. Things were added and altered. Bedrooms became kitchens and kitchens became bedrooms and so forth."
The house sat on a large piece of land, filled with fruit trees. On Mondays each summer, Richard and his father rose at 4 a.m. They irrigated the trees together until the sun rose. Then his father would go to work and Richard would finish the project on his own.
"We had a lot of work around that place," he said. "Always something needed fixing or irrigation needed to be done."
When his father began to travel extensively for the Church, Richard Hinckley said there were many periods of time during his youth when only his mother was home. "She never complained," he said. "There was never anything negative about his being gone."
So although his father's absence was noticed, his mother found a way to make things at home run smoothly. "She was a worker at home," he said. "We were all busy with yard work or house work or something."
In 1958, when Richard was 17 years old, his father was called as a General Authority — the beginning of a lifetime of sharing his father and, ultimately, his mother, with the Church.
"I have lived with it since I was 17 and I don't think much about it," he said. "Others probably think about it more than I do."
That was the case with his wife, Jane. The couple met on a blind date and Jane wondered what it would be like to visit Richard's home.
But her fears were alleviated when she met Sister Hinckley. "I fell in love with her first," Jane Hinckley said of her mother-in-law. "She always made everyone feel so welcome and so at ease."
Dinner table discussions at the Hinckley home, Jane Hinckley said, were "normal family talk."
"They were practical," said Elder Hinckley. "Did you get the lawn mowed today? Did you pick the corn? Have you weeded the tomatoes? How was school? What did you learn?"
The couple married July 28, 1967, in the Salt Lake Temple and moved to California where Elder Hinckley earned an MBA from Stanford University. While in California — where he started his career — the first two of four children joined the Hinckley family.
The family also did the things they have always done, spending time in the outdoors, riding horses, playing guitars (Jane Hinckley taught all her children on the instrument) and playing tennis. An accomplished tennis player, she was ranked No. 1 in women's tennis in the Intermountain West, and, in later years, played with her daughter at Flushing Meadow, N.Y.
When the family returned to Salt Lake City, Richard and Jane Hinckley built a home on Salt Lake City's east bench. It was a project they worked on together, utilizing property in the neighborhood where Jane had played as a child and the skills Richard had learned from his father. However, unlike with his childhood home, Elder Hinckley has never done a major remodel on his own home, where his family has lived for the past 30 years — with the exception of three years spent in missionary service.
When Elder Hinckley was called in 2001 to preside over the Utah Salt Lake City Mission, which spanned from Wendover, Nev., to Rawlins, Wyo., and included their home ward and stake, they moved seven miles away to the mission home and for three years left their former lives behind.
"We were very thankful that we did serve here," said Elder Hinckley. "Our mission was in fact an international mission, because of the missionaries. We had missionaries from 42 nations and 46 states." Of that experience he says, “It gave me a tremendous confidence in the future of this Church.” The experience — during which the couple saw hundreds of foreign missionaries gain valuable Church experience and return to their homes to serve as Church leaders — was "one of the most rewarding things we have ever done," said Elder Hinckley.
Over his lifetime, Elder Hinckley has served in numerous Church callings, including twice as a bishop, a stake president and as a temple sealer.
Elder Hinckley said his feelings about his call as a member of the Seventy are not that different from how he felt as a shy deacon assigned to collect fast offerings or as a brand-new mission president.
“Collecting fast offerings was intimidating. But it was a great experience,” he says. “Being called as a mission president is something you just can’t totally prepare for. I felt like the boat was going to swamp for the first few months. But then it was wonderful.”
As he approached his new calling as a General Authority, Elder Hinckley said he felt overwhelmed and inadequate. But he had learned some things from his earlier service. “You just don’t say no to these callings. You learn that when you say yes, the Lord is going to help you learn and grow. And along the way you will be able to make some small contribution.”
With an economics degree from the University of Utah and an MBA from Stanford University in California, Elder Hinckley has been an executive or equity partner or served on advisory boards for a number of regional and national business ventures and organizations. He served a full-time mission in Germany, and he has traveled extensively.
Elder Hinckley has also served as a sealer in the Salt Lake Temple, stake president, counselor in two stake presidencies, and bishop twice.
Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies. That is most certainly the case with Elder
Richard G. Hinckley.
Elder Hinckley served with honor and distinction until October 2011, when he was
granted an honorable release and designated an Emeritus General Authority.