Every Tuesday night I attend a religious education class that we Mormons call “institute.” At the end of tonight’s lesson my teacher shared an experience she had had with President Gordon B. Hinckley a short time after she finished writing his biography.
It was a sweet story, nothing monumental, but left me in tears none-the-less. Tears for his life. Tears for his goodness. Tears for his love. His example. His service. It has been one year since his passing and while I know that God has given us another prophet whom I wholly love, support and sustain, I cannot help but miss our dear President Hinckley. It’s just a different world without him here.
It was the Spring of 2005 and at that time I worked from an office that had a wall of windows on the north side that faced the LDS Church Administration Building on South Temple St. in Salt Lake City, UT. It was a sunny day and I’ll admit, I was gazing not at the computer screen like I ought to have been, but out my window watching the world go by.
A few minutes into my reverie, the doors to the Administration Building opened and out came an older man with a cane. I knew the form and face well. Yes, it was President Hinckley. An immediate smile came to my lips and I could feel my heart get a little soft with love. I settled into my chair and just watched.
He had his body guards with him, one on each side and then one trailing behind as he began a “lap” around the gardens to the east of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. He stopped every twenty feet or so, pointed at a cluster flowers, smiled and talked to his guards.
About half way to the Church Office Building on the north side of the square, there was a young mother with a toddler in a stroller. As the prophet came near, she stooped down and began talking to her little boy and pointing to the prophet. I imagine a beautifully simple lesson was being taught. President Hinckley stopped and talked to them for a moment, and then continued around the garden.
A few minutes later, he’d made it almost all the way around the garden patch still stopping and pointing out particularly lovely bunches of flowers every so often when, at the South Temple St. crosswalk, a bride and groom stopped him to requested a picture. President Hinckley happily smiled and posed and spoke to them for a moment.
As he continued on his way back to the Administration Building, I noticed that one body guard always trailed about 15 feet behind. I also noticed that sometimes President Hinckley would use his cane, other times he wouldn’t. But eventually they made it back to the Admin Building and were quickly up the stairs and inside.
I sat in my chair for quite a few moments after that, thinking about what I’d observed from my little perch:
Lesson #1. Take a walk in the middle of the day – even if you’re at work.
Lesson #2. Stop every 20 feet and look at the flowers – not just once, but every 20 feet. There’s a new bloom just that often. And talk about them – the way they look, the way they smell. I know it’s cliche in every way to say we should stop and smell the roses, but how many of us actually do it? Honestly. When was the last time you noticed a garden of flowers, or the sunset, or a baby’s toes, or the way the wind feels in your hair, and then actually talked about how wonderful it was with someone else?
Lesson #3. Stoop down and teach. Literally and figuratively. Teach the things that matter. Teach the things that are simple and true. I imagine all that young mother said was, “Honey that’s the prophet. Look. He talks to Jesus. He teaches us what to do.” (or something along those lines). Point your children (or whomever if you don’t have kids yet) toward people who will point them to Christ.
Lesson #4. You can’t point without looking at what you’re pointing to.
Lesson #5. Start your marriage right beside the prophet (and then continue with him).
Lesson #6. Sometimes we may feel like we’re so far behind where we want to be or where we think we ought to be. And sometimes we may feel all alone as we walk. But we just need to look at where we’re walking and who we’re following. Find people worthy of following, look at the steps they’ve already taken, and then take the same ones. That body guard walked every step President Hinckley did, just 15 steps behind … but eventually they both made it back to the Administration Building, with President Hinckley waiting at the door for him.
Lesson #7. Sometimes we might need to use a cane and sometimes we don’t. It’s OK to use a cane sometimes. Give it a go without it too.
President Hinckley had no idea that I was watching him, soaking up anything I could learn from him that day. It is a treasured memory filled with lessons I’ll keep for always. And tonight I was reminded of why I love our late prophet so much. It’s because he loved us and he loved the Lord and did all he could to help us know Him.
I want to be more like that.