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Many of us knew President Gordon B. Hinckley well. Through his thirteen years of service as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, we recognized his voice, we loved his talks, we were tickled by his humor, and inspired by his example. Have you ever wondered about the woman at the side of this great man? Those who knew her will tell you that Marjorie’s talks and her example were just as inspiring as her husband’s, if not sometimes more so. And perhaps most memorably, her good cheer gave support and strength to her husband and to all who knew her.
“Lift up your head and be of good cheer,” was Marjorie Pay Hinckley’s motto.
Somehow she learned a great lesson early in life: “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”
Marjorie Pay Hinckley was born November 2, 1911, in Nephi, Utah, but she grew up in Salt Lake City where she later met and married Gordon B. Hinckley at age 26. Together they raised a happy family of five children. Through much of their early married life President Hinckley traveled extensively for the church, which meant Marjorie was left alone to run the household. He later said of her, “When I was away, she would go forward with family home evening and other important things. She just kept things moving.” Later when her children were older she was able to travel the world at her husband’s side.
Those who knew and loved Marjorie have only good to say of her. She was adored by
her family, including her children, whom she tenderly mothered, as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In spite of all her traveling she kept in touch with her loved ones through the letters and postcards that made each individual feel precious. But her fan club includes many more than family members. All over the world people fell in love with little Marjorie (not quite 5 feet tall,) as she visited their countries, spoke to them in firesides and missionary meetings, and interacted one on one. She had a genuine interest in every individual she met and when she smiled or gave hugs, people knew she was sincere.
With Marjorie, what you saw was what you got. She didn’t fret over making a good impression but expected people to accept her as she was—after all, that’s the way she accepted everyone else. As a friend Ardeth G. Kapp said, “’Sister Hinckley is so real’ is the description often used in describing her influence in people’s lives. She is not one who would want to be held up as a perfect model to intimidate others. Rather, she is one of our beloved sisters to walk beside, learn from, laugh with, and follow, knowing that she understands and cares.”
Marjorie’s cheerfulness was based on peace, and she knew one source of that peace: “We each do the best we can. My best may not be as good as your best, but it’s my best. The fact is that we know when we are doing our best and when we are not. If we are not doing our best, it leaves us with a gnawing hunger and frustration but when we do out level best, we experience a peace.”
Marjorie was always full of praise for anyone she was with. Her children said, “Mother was an expert at [praising], even when there appeared to be very little to praise! She believed we could do anything we set our minds to do”. She was also full of praise for the people she met as she traveled. She loved experiencing new cultures and saw the beauty in each one. Her children and grandchildren always looked forward to the trinkets and stories she would bring back from her visits around the world, and the people she met on those visits long remembered the love they felt from her. As she taught, “Let’s be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”
Known for her witty sense of humor, she also had a way of putting things succinctly. In an interview she was reminded of the comment she’d delighted listeners with years before when her husband was called as president of the LDS church: “How did a nice girl like me get into a mess like this?” The interviewers then asked, “Could you put that comment into perspective now that you have been married 66 years to this fine man? Sister Hinckley answered with her characteristic humor and sincerity: “Well, it turned out better than I expected. It has been a good life.”
She lived her motto “Lift up your head and be of good cheer”. Her great faith directed her upward and her character helped her choose cheer.
- Pearce, Virginia H. Glimpses Into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1999
- Gardner, Marvin K. At Home With the Hinckleys Liahona Oct 2003