Setting Righteous Goals“I recall sitting in the Salt Lake Tabernacle when I was fourteen orfifteen—up in the balcony right behind the clock—and hearingPresident Heber J. Grant tell of his experience in reading the Bookof Mormon when he was a boy. He spoke of Nephi and of the greatinfluence he had upon his life. And then, with a voice ringing with aconviction that I shall never forget, he quoted those great words ofNephi: ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hathcommanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandmentsunto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them thatthey may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them’ (1Nephi 3:7).“There came into my young heart on that occasion a resolution totry to do what the Lord has commanded. What marvelous thingshappen when men and women walk with faith in obedience to thatwhich is required of them!” (“If Ye Be Willing and Obedient,”Ensign, July 1995, p. 2).
Constancy & DependabilityAs a young man, President Hinckley worked on a farm during summers and on weekends andholidays. On that farm he grew healthy and learned to work. And there near the soil and close tonature his confidence in God grew like the hundreds of fruit trees and vegetable seeds heplanted, tended, and harvested.“‘After a day of good, hard labor, my younger brother Sherm and I would sleep out under the starsin the box of an old farm wagon. On those clear, clean summer nights, we would lie on our backs inthat old wagon box and look at the stars in the heavens. We could identify some of theconstellations as they were illustrated in the encyclopedia in our family library. Our favorite was theNorth Star. Each night, like many generations of boys before us, we would trace the BigDipper, down the handle and out past the cup, to find the North Star.“‘We came to know of the constancy of that star. … As the earth turned, the others appeared tomove through the night. But the North Star held its position in line with the axis of the earth. Thepolar star came to mean something to me. I recognized it as a constant in the midst of change. Itwas something that could always be counted on, something that was dependable, an anchor inwhat otherwise appeared to me a moving and unstable firmament’” (“President Gordon B.Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Ensign, June 1995, p. 5).In his youth, Gordon B. Hinckley patterned his life after the constancy of the North Star. He wantedto be a young man that the Lord and others could depend on.
Selfless ServiceBecause Gordon B. Hinckley had determined to follow the Lord, his course led him to manyexperiences that prepared him for even greater things. As a missionary in England he faced somevery challenging times. He was concerned about the money being spent to support him on hismission. He knew the sacrifice his father was making to help sustain him. He also remembered thelittle savings account his mother so faithfully kept before her death. This account had helped himbe able to go on a mission. Somewhat discouraged, “Gordon wrote a letter to his father, saying: ‘Iam wasting my time and your money. I don’t see any point in my staying here.’ In due course agentle but terse reply came from his father. That letter read: ‘Dear Gordon. I have your letter *ofsuch and such a date]. I have only one suggestion. Forget yourself and go to work. With love, YourFather.’“President Hinckley says of that moment, ‘I pondered his response and then the next morning inour scripture class we read that great statement of the Lord: “For whosoever will save his life shalllose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark8:35)’”“‘That simple statement, that promise, touched me. I got on my knees and made a covenant withthe Lord that I would try to forget myself and go to work. I count that as the day of decision in mylife. Everything good that has happened to me since then I can trace back to the decision I made atthat time’” (Ensign, June 1995, p. 8).
Work“In my early childhood we had a stove in the kitchen and a stove in the diningroom. A furnace was later installed, and what a wonderful thing that was. But ithad a voracious appetite for coal, and there was no automatic stoker. The coal hadto be shoveled into the furnace and carefully banked each night.“I learned a great lesson from that monster of a furnace: if you wanted to keepwarm, you had to work the shovel”“My father had an idea that his boys ought to learn to work in the summer as wellas in the winter, and so he bought a five-acre farm which eventually grew toinclude more than thirty acres. We lived there in the summer and returned to thecity when school started.“We had a large orchard, and the trees had to be pruned each spring. Father tookus to pruning demonstrations put on by experts from the agriculture college. Welearned a great truth—that you could pretty well determine the kind of fruit youwould pick in September by the way you pruned in February. The idea was tospace the branches so that the fruit would be exposed to sunlight and air.Further, we learned that new, young wood produces the best fruit. That has hadmany applications in life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 68; or Ensign, May1993, p. 52).
Steer Clear of DangerPresident Hinckley said: “*In my youth+ we got sick … just as peopleget sick now. In fact, I think we did more so. In those early years themilk we drank was not pasteurized. We, of course, did not have anautomatic dishwasher, except that it was our automatic duty towash the dishes. When we were diagnosed as having chicken pox ormeasles, the doctor would advise the city health department, and aman would be sent to put a sign on the front window. This was awarning to any who might wish to come to our house that they didso at their own peril.“If the disease was smallpox or diphtheria, the sign was brightorange with black letters. It said, in effect, ‘Stay away from thisplace.’“I learned something I have always remembered—to watch forsigns of danger and evil and stay away” (in Conference Report, Apr.1993, pp. 68–69; or Ensign, May 1993, p. 52).
Grooming and Tidiness“I attended the Hamilton School, which was a big three-storybuilding. The structure was old and poor by today’s standards, but Ilearned that it was not the building that made a difference; it wasthe teachers. When the weather would permit, we assembled infront of the school in the morning, pledged allegiance to theflag, and marched in an orderly fashion to our rooms.“We dressed neatly for school, and no unkempt appearance wastolerated. The boys wore a shirt and a tie and short trousers. Wewore long black stockings that reached from the foot to above theknee. They were made of cotton and wore out quickly, so they hadto be darned frequently. We learned how to darn because it wasunthinkable to go to school with a hole in your stocking.“We learned a lesson on the importance of personal neatness andtidiness, and that has blessed my life ever since” (in ConferenceReport, Apr. 1993, p. 69; or Ensign, May 1993, pp. 52–53).
Judge Not...President Hinckley told about one of his childhoodfriends. “The bane of my first-grade teacher’s life wasmy friend Louie. He had what psychologists todaymight call some kind of an obsessive fixation. He wouldsit in class and chew his tie until it became wet andstringy. The teacher would scold him.“Louie eventually became a man of substance, and Ihave learned never to underestimate the potential of aboy to make something of his life even if he chews histie” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 69; orEnsign, May 1993, p. 53).
Peer Pressure“The next year we enrolled in junior high school. But the building could not accommodate all the students, so ourclass of the seventh grade was sent back to the Hamilton School.“We were insulted. We were furious. We’d spent six unhappy years in that building, and we felt we deservedsomething better. The boys of the class all met after school. We decided we wouldn’t tolerate this kind oftreatment. We were determined we’d go on strike.“The next day we did not show up. But we had no place to go. We couldn’t stay home because our mothers wouldask questions. We didn’t think of going downtown to a show. We had no money for that. We didn’t think of goingto the park. We were afraid we might be seen by Mr. Clayton, the truant officer. We just wandered about andwasted the day.“The next morning the principal, Mr. Stearns, was at the front door of the school to greet us. His demeanormatched his name. He told us that we could not come back to school until we brought a note from our parents.That was my first experience with a lockout. Striking, he said, was not the way to settle a problem. We wereexpected to be responsible citizens, and if we had a complaint we could come to the principal’s office and discussit.“There was only one thing to do, and that was to go home and get the note.“I remember walking sheepishly into the house. My mother asked what was wrong. I told her. I said that I neededa note. She wrote a note. It was very brief. It was the most stinging rebuke she ever gave me. It read as follows:“‘Dear Mr. Stearns,“‘Please excuse Gordon’s absence yesterday. His action was simply an impulse to follow the crowd.’“She signed it and handed it to me.“I walked back over to school and got there about the same time a few other boys did. We all handed our notes toMr. Stearns. I do not know whether he read them, but I have never forgotten my mother’s note. Though I hadbeen an active party to the action we had taken, I resolved then and there that I would never do anything on thebasis of simply following the crowd. I determined then and there that I would make my own decisions on the basisof their merits and my standards and not be pushed in one direction or another by those around me.“That decision has blessed my life many times, sometimes in very uncomfortable circumstances. It has kept mefrom doing some things which, if indulged in, could at worst have resulted in serious injury and trouble, and at thebest would have cost me my self-respect” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, pp. 69–70; or Ensign, May 1993, p.53).
Enlightened Progress “My father had a horse and buggy when I was a boy. Then one summer day in1916 a wonderful thing happened. It was an unforgettable thing. When he camehome that evening he arrived in a shining black, brand-new Model T Ford. It was awonderful machine, but by today’s standards it was a crude and temperamentalsort of thing. For instance, it did not have a self-starter. It had to be cranked. Whenit rained, the coils would get wet, and then it would not start at all. From that car Ilearned a few simple things about making preparation to save trouble. A littlecanvas over the cowl would keep the coils dry. A little care in retarding the sparkwould make it possible to crank without breaking your hand.“But the most interesting thing was the lights. The car had no storage battery. Theonly electricity came from what was called a magneto. The output of the magnetowas determined by the speed of the engine. If the engine was running fast, thelights were bright. If the engine slowed, the lights became a sickly yellow. I learnedthat if you wanted to see ahead as you were going down the road, you had to keepthe engine running at a fast clip.“So, just as I’d discovered, it is with our lives. Industry, enthusiasm, and hard worklead to enlightened progress. You have to stay on your feet and keep moving if youare going to have light in your life. I still have the radiator cap of that old 1916Model T. … It is a reminder of lessons I learned seventy-seven years ago” (inConference Report, Apr. 1993, p. 70; or Ensign, May 1993, pp. 53–54).