Vicki Reynolds wrote on this blog that they’re showing “Mothers and Daughters” for a Relief Society activity. I’m not sure which one she means. It sounds like the one with the wives of the First Presidency where each had one daughter with her. Sister Hinckley had her eldest daughter, Kathleen (Kathy).
This one is on YouTube (1999). It’s great! My favorite was the one where it was Sister Hinckley with her 3 daughters (Kathy, Virginia, and Jane) on a Thursday evening (02 May, 1996) at the BYU Women’s Conference. 20 years ago this month. It was like a FAMILY HOME EVENING. Thousands were there, but it felt like we were all right in the “living room,” getting a very honest, “real” look at one of the incredible women on earth.
President Hinckley was there, along with his two counselors (on either side of him), and I happened to end up sitting almost directly behind (was on the women’s conference committee that year). I laughed as much at HIM laughing as I did at the hilarious things which happened with Sister Hinckley and her daughters. It was like Sister Hinckley kept going “off script,” and it was SO delightful. Sister Hinckley at one point was fumbling with her note cards – they seemed to be mixed up – and she put her head on her hand and said something like “This is how it is with us… nothing ever works out!” There were times when President Hinckley pretty much “doubled over” he was laughing so hard, and his counselors were helping him survive the evening (HA).
OK… I’ve decided to quote from my journal. This might be long. Go get a snack and glass of water to “tide you over,” OK? And remember: This is NOT “required reading!” There will be NO QUIZ on this! Just skip it if you’re busy or if there are too many details. I’m a compulsive note-taker, and I admit I’m so HAPPY I took notes on this particular evening!
There were security people all over. President Hinckley was sitting on the stand and then was joined by S. Hinckley. I loved seeing them sitting there together. One security man sat right behind the Prophet, continually surveying things. Very alert most of the time. We stayed close to our seats, anticipating what was to come. They had us stay seated while all those on the stand went to the hospitality room. A woman came up to me after Elder Hales finished. She had been talking to E. Holland and said he told her to come and talk to me. She was very concerned about one of the presentations she had attended. She said the woman told only of tragedies – terrible tragedies – and that it was shocking and depressing and even frightening to her. Her son had been killed or had taken his life, and she even showed pictures of him in his casket. The woman said she just was not prepared for all of that – that it happened just a few months ago, and she thinks the woman was still grieving and was not ready to share.
Pretty soon it was time for the BIG EVENT – the one we had been looking forward to for such a long time. And oh was it worth every minute of waiting! How am I going to be able to record this in my journal??…. I’ll do the best I can. They asked us to sit down, and they made a row right in front of us. I wondered what was happening but soon realized it was for the Brethren. Wow. We were right behind them! S. Hinckley went up to the table and sat down between Virginia (closest to the podium) and Kathy, and then Jane was next to Kathy. Each had their own microphone. And they each had a wonderful spray of flowers. It was fun watching P&S Hinckley smiling and communicating without words. Sometimes they’d laugh. Oh I loved watching that happy, eternal connection between the two of them.
As P. Hinckley came in and sat down, the huge crowd began to sing “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.” It was beautiful. Seated right on front of me, starting at my left: Brad Farnsworth and his wife, the Batemans, Chieko, Elaine, P. Faust, P. Hinckley, P&S Monson, S&E Maxwell, E&S Hales, S&E Holland. Aileen (Clyde) conducted this session. I was sitting there thinking how marvelous it was to have been a small part of the planning for all of this that was happening. There was a musical number by a Mother and daughter – Allison and Yoshie Akimoto Eldredge. Allison plays the cello and Yoshie the piano. Magnificent. They’ve played in Carnegie Hall and many other places. She played 3 numbers. Really exquisite. Ave Maria, then a long very classical one, and then “The Swan.”
I was thinking so many things. Like I wondered if all three in the First Presidency have the same barber. I was thinking how different it was to have them all sitting in the audience. I wondered if there will ever again be a women’s conference where the First Presidency and three members of the Twelve will be in attendance. I felt sad that P. Faust’s head shakes as it does. I was thinking how much P&S Hinckley have come to look alike through the years.
And then the magic began. Aileen introduced those who would be participating. She spoke of having talked to some family members (probably mostly Virginia) and of learning of things which have happened in their lives “because of, and sometimes in spite of” everything. President Hinckley laughed at that. She said they were married on the 29th of April, 1937. (Just 1 months before Mom and Dad). She said there are some things they (the girls, at least) don’t like – they don’t like to be quoted, for example.
Virginia got up and began what happened next. She looked down at P. Hinckley and said he could always jump up and bring the whole evening to a close if he didn’t like what was about to happen. There was such good humor. She expressed gratitude to the men who serve “with our Father.” But said tonight was for their Mother. “Thanks for coming anyway, Dad.” It was so sweet to hear her call him “Dad.” That’s exactly who and what he is…besides all else he is.
Virginia said they wanted to help people get to know their Mother better – “we didn’t just want her to give a long speech on something else” (some topic other than herself). Virginia mentioned “60 Minutes” and there was a lot of clapping. They had several video clips throughout, and all of that was narrated by P. Hinckley. So tender and wonderful. I’m not even beginning to capture what happened… I guess it’s impossible. But I’ll keep trying. It was too magical – you’d have to have been there. I already knew that. But I want to put as much as I can in my journal.
The girls began asking their Mother questions. She was asked about what her home was like – how she got to have such faith and all. She said they prayed a lot and prayed about everything. “We prayed we wouldn’t burn the soup.” She said “My Mother was so cheerful.” Father was the youngest of 13 children. “They tried desperately to make something of me.” She spoke of piano lessons. I loved watching P. Hinckley laughing with delight and love. I wrote in my notes that “Oh she’s so precious I can hardly stand it!!” People kept laughing and clapping. She was real. She was so easy to love. They asked about her ring. “This ring is 18-carat gold.” She said it’s 100 years old. Once it was lost in the straw, and her Grandmother (I think) knelt and prayed and then found it. She spoke of “the old First Ward” in Salt Lake where both she and P. Hinckley attended. They had the same Bishop for 25 years. She said that was remarkable but then “I don’t know how remarkable it was for him.” Oh she was so wonderful!
She said (about the Bishop) that having him released would have been “like trading our Father in for a new one.” She’d get off the script and have to ask “Where are we?” Virginia kept saying to Kathy things like “Mother’s a page ahead – she’s trying to hurry us along.” Oh it was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever witnessed and been part of. She said “We’ll skip a few years.” Ha. She talked about when Gordon Hinckley moved across the street (we always think of them with their middle initial, but you don’t call them that when they’re little). “I knew there were 2 sexes and I noticed him.” That about brought the house down! “It was the bottom of the Depression.” And then she looked down at P. Hinckley and said “My husband likes me to say it was the bottom of the Depression.” MUCH laughter and happy feelings. Every so often P. Faust or P. Monson or both would laugh and kind of pat P. Hinckley on the back.
“It seemed that everything wonderful happened in the bottom of the Depression.” In one of the clips right after that P. Hinckley in his narration had said something about “it was the bottom of the Depression,” and we all about lost it. Way, way funny and good. Just a good feeling all over. In the whole place. Such a feeling of love and unity! She said “I desperately wanted him to go on a mission,” and expressed how lonely she felt when his train pulled out of the station. “I wanted to go to the university… but, like I said, it was the bottom of the Depression.” Oh she was so sweet – so real – so spontaneous and quick. The girls were too. There was no way I could write fast enough or capture things good enough to make this even a small part of what happened in the Marriott Center for an hour plus a few minutes. I feel helpless but am still trying.
“He wrote wonderful letters. I’ve saved them all. I keep them in a very secure place, lest he should find them and think them not worth saving.” There was just so much she shared which made it possible for virtually everyone there to identify with her. She said the letters were – are – masterpieces. Little masterpieces of literature. She said he came home and they talked of getting married, but he explained to her that he only had $165 in the bank and didn’t know if he wanted to start out a marriage with only that much. She said “We’re rich!” They were married in the Salt Lake Temple by Stephen L. Richards. They started out on a honeymoon. They got “all the way to Fillmore” and turned around and went home. “We were so anxious to set up housekeeping.” They lived in a small place in East Millcreek. P. Hinckley put in a new furnace. One day she brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers. It turned out to be poison ivy! Then she added: “Some mistakes you make only once….”
There were so many little “one-liners” like that. I was laughing and clapping and enjoying it so much that it was hard to take notes. And I was watching P. Hinckley all the time – he was in front of me and just a few to the right. He’d laugh so hard sometimes that he’d be leaning forward with tears coming out his eyes. It was so marvelous to see his love for her and his delight in not just what she was sharing but the wonderful way in which she was sharing it. It was as if I had to pinch myself and ask “Is this really happening??” It was that good. YES. She said it was a hard adjustment for her. She was used to her family, and now “we were down to just 2.” That “summer house” in East Millcreek. It belonged to P. Hinckley’s parents, I think. She said they were kind to her. She knew she was “in” when her Father-in-law asked her to go to some lecture at the UofU with him.
I loved each of the short video clips in between the questions and answers. I loved hearing the Prophet’s voice talking about his sweetheart, his wife. Between the video clips the daughters would take turn asking questions, bring out what they had felt would help us get to know their Mother best. They got her talking about raising the children (3 girls, 2 boys). She said she tried to keep the summers from being too structured. She wanted them to have a childhood and she wanted them to learn. She talked about working in YW and Primary, Relief Society, and being a visiting teacher. She said “I always had callings. Always and forever!” She said “I felt so fulfilled!” I think you have to trust children. I tried to say yes as much as I could. That was impressive to me – that with her children she tried as much as possible to say yes. And she said one thing which came out over and over: “We tried not to take ourselves too seriously.”
At one point in talking about good humor she said she had baked a wonderful casserole, and as she was taking it out of the oven one of the boys asked “Mom, how come you baked garbage?” I watched Pres Hinckley laugh so hard on that one. We all did too. It was such a happy feeling in that huge Marriott Center – it is one of the most intimate feelings I’ve ever had in there. We were all together, invited to be very close to the Prophet and his wife and daughters for a little while – a precious, unforgettable, magical little while. She told of a time when one of her sons (I think she said Dickie?) had been kept after school. She was not pleased about this and went right over there to get him. She announced to the teacher that “He’s yours ‘til 3:30 (and you can do whatever you think is best during those hours), but then he’s mine!” And home they went. Oh she is so wonderful – so practical and real and unpretentious.
They were asking her about how she managed to put up with and keep up with P. Hinckley’s amazingly unpredictable schedule, like the times when he’d travel and be gone so much. “How did you manage?” “I dunno.” So precious! She talked about one of her first long trips with him to Switzerland, I think for the dedication of the Temple but can’t remember for sure. She said she sobbed to be so far away from her children. She really missed them. Sometimes she would share things and I could tell P. Hinckley was touched – that it was a very tender thing. Other times he would laugh right out loud and just shake hard. I loved it! I loved being close enough to watch and feel and hear and enjoy. Once she was talking about the traveling and said she knew he had to go to South America the next morning. And she looked down at him and said “This is typical” in a somewhat pointed way, and they were both laughing at each other and we knew something very funny and “usual” was about to be shared. She said as they were going to bed she quite casually but with great interest asked him if she was to travel to South America with him the next morning. “Are you planning for me to go with you?” “Well, we don’t need to decide that until morning.” And they both laughed hard, and the daughters laughed hard, and we all laughed and clapped so hard. The laughter and clapping went on all through the presentation. It was completely spontaneous and very joyful. And the women weren’t laughing so much because things were funny (but many things were) as they were just captivated and delighted that S. Hinckley (and P. Hinckley and the whole family) could be – that they were – so real and so wonderful. It was as if E. Hales had talked for one hour about family and the Proclamation, and then here was a “visual aid.” A demonstration. An example.
She spoke about a trip to Hong Kong many years ago and about tracting with the lady miss’s. She spoke of working in the “walk-ups” and of one restroom for 75 people. I could guess that it might have happened when I was in the Philippines on my first mission – that’s a time when she came with P. Hinckley sometimes. She spoke of being in one of the tiny little dwellings on one of those floors amongst thousands of others, and up on some shelf was a little glass vase with a plastic flower in it. This seemed to have touched her deeply, and she spoke of how women will work to make their surroundings beautiful and give a “feminine touch” no matter what or where those surroundings might be. No matter how humble or simple. She remembered being in a Sunday School class where the teacher was talking about the Pioneers and said that people don’t make sacrifices anymore. “I could hardly keep still!”
And she spoke of the wives of mission presidents as an example of sacrifice. She spoke of someone she knew who went with her husband to a place where she could neither understand nor speak the language (“and she was a talker” – and P. Hinckley laughed so hard on that one, as did all of us). She mentioned talking to missionaries. “I didn’t interview them! – I just talked to them while they were waiting to be interviewed, and I found out a lot.”
One of the daughters asked her about how it felt to have met some of the most important people in the world – she’d met some of the most humble, but she’d also met some of the most powerful and famous. With a very comfortable tone she said something like “Oh, I learned a long time ago that everybody puts their shoes on one at a time.” Everyone was so delighted with that response.
On the video clip at about that time P. Hinckley’s voice was very tender and sweet as he spoke of a time recently when he was sitting with S. Hinckley in their living room watching the sunset. He said he looked over at her hands, and they were wrinkled, and he could see the veins. He said he realized that “we’re getting older. We don’t move as quickly or as easily as we once did.” He said they’re “settling” a bit, and are not as tall as they once were. Oh it was so tender and beautiful and such a priceless thing to be able to hear and feel. And see. S. Hinckley then told us (in response to a question by one of the daughters) that she’d accompanied him to 40 dedications of temples, all over the world. She chose to talk about the one in Peru where she watched the natives coming down the hills with a white hankie in one hand and a recommend in the other. I was so touched by this, and by what she shared next. “When I can’t sleep I don’t count sheep – I think of beautiful experiences like this and I count people coming out of the hills with white hankies.” Something like that. I can’t remember exactly.
She told a story of her Grandmother who was at the dedication of the Manti Temple and heard angels singing. “I’ve heard angels sing too.” And she said it’s been 59 years of heaven on earth to be married to P. Hinckley. And then she was finished and Kathy stood up to bring it to a close. She said something like “We’re not a perfect family, but we’re a happy family.” She thanked all those of the GA’s and wives who had surrounded their Mother and their Father and helped them in such significant ways. P. Hinckley left and went around and up behind the table where they were sitting and hugged and kissed S. Hinckley and then each of his girls. And we all stood and wept and clapped and tried to let every single word we’d heard and every single feeling we’d felt sink deep into our souls, never to be lost or forgotten. Oh what a glorious, heavenly, happy, sweet, precious, indescribably evening and experience….
After the closing prayer we all sat while P&S Hinckley and the other GA’s and wives left. No one seemed in a hurry to leave even after that. Women came up and “mobbed” the daughters to thank them and say what was in their hearts. Many women said to me that it was worth the whole trip and all the sacrifice and effort just to have been present at what happened on this magical, incredible evening. Eventually I went down the hall and stood in line to take the elevator up. Talking to everyone. There was a real traffic jam in trying to get out of the parking lot. Still, it took me only about half an hour to get home. I was thinking deeply, praying and expressing thanks to Heavenly Father. I wanted it very, very peaceful….