Addressing a roomful of fellow communicators, President Gordon B. Hinckley exclaimed: "We have a work to do! We have a very important work to do."

At the opening dinner of the fourth annual conference of the Association of Latter-day Saint Public Relations Professionals Oct. 18, President Hinckley reiterated a theme he voiced at the recent priesthood session of general conference."As Paul said to Agrippa and Festus, `This thing was not done in a corner,' speaking of the Lord's work at that time. . . . We have a responsibility to stand tall and speak out with clarity and with decency and not with boasting, but factually and honestly and candidly."

Accompanied by his wife, Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley, the Church leader met with the group at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Composed of LDS professionals working for diverse companies, the organization's purpose is to provide professional expertise and support to the Church Public Affairs Department in informing the public about the Church.

The association honored President Hinckley with its Lifetime Achievement and Communicator of the Century Award. In a letter read by Randall L. Beckham, association president, the prophet was cited for being "the pioneering father of the public relations and modern electronic media efforts of the Church."

"Your contributions to effectively convey the Church's message throughout the years are too numerous to enumerate," the letter stated. "You have set an example of clear, meaningful, eloquent communication which has warmed hearts and opened many doors around the world."

In lieu of a gift to him, the association made a contribution to the general missionary fund of the Church.

The prophet reminisced about his long experience communicating the gospel message through the mass media.

After graduating in English from the University of Utah, he had intended to do post-graduate study at the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism in New York City, but was called to serve in the European Mission, with headquarters in London, England. As assistant to the president, Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Hinckley wrote articles for the Millennial Star and produced slide presentations.

Returning home at age 25, he was asked by Elder Merrill to meet with the First Presidency to discuss with them the need by missionaries for more materials to help them. That interview led to his being offered employment as executive secretary of the newly formed Radio, Publicity and Mission Literature Committee, to consist of six members of the Quorum of the Twelve and to be chaired by Elder Stephen L Richards.

"We did a lot of things in those days, really. I'm amazed as I look back at what we accomplished." He noted that this was 1935, before the days of television or color film "We had a man there [in the Church offices] who was schooled in penury, from whom I made a request for a ream of paper. I wanted to get some writing going. And he growled at me, `Do you know how many sheets there are in a ream of paper?' I said 500. He said, `That's right; what in the world are you going to write on 500 pieces of paper?' I had to bring my own typewriter and furnish my own table at which I worked."

President Hinckley recalled producing filmstrips, which, because they were such a novelty at the time, got missionaries into the homes of contacts.

"We produced `The Fullness of Times' radio series, 39 half-hour programs. I wrote most of those, and we ran those on some 400 or 500 radio stations without any cost to the Church of any kind. It was a tremendous thing. We produced them on the big, 16-inch, 33 1/3 r.p.m. platters, which was the way it was done in those days. And then we followed that up with the Book of Mormon radio series, and so on.

"For the 1939 World's Fair, we built a model of the Tabernacle on Treasure Island in San Francisco, put a nice organ in it, and had organ recitals, to which people came by the thousands. There's nothing more welcome than a nice place to sit when you go to a fair."

He told of meeting with news reporters on many occasions, such as when Life magazine published a feature story on the Church. He said he does not welcome news media interviews and approaches them with some trepidation and a prayer.

"But [reporters] don't scare me," he said. "I just look upon them as somebody next door. They have just as many troubles as I do and a few more. And you just be honest with them, check your facts, be sure of your facts so that nobody can dispute what you say, and speak up to them."

His famous "60 Minutes" interview on CBS stemmed from a luncheon speech he gave at the Harvard Club in New York City, attended by Mike Wallace, he recounted. Afterward, the host approached him and invited him to be the subject of a profile on the program.

"In a moment of weakness, I said, `I'll risk it.' Well, we did it. All I can say is, we were blessed, we were blessed. I don't know how many have seen it. I've heard figures up to 40 million. It was broadcast across the States, as you know. We were in Jerusalem and it had been seen there, Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong, British Isles, English-speaking countries. It's done unlimited good. We've had a number of letters, baptisms have come of it, and it has been a helpful thing for the Church."

While commenting on the possibility of worldwide satellite transmission of general conference, President Hinckley said: "We'll be doing it as facilities become available to do it. . . . It's a very much appreciated thing by our people across the world. It's a great unifying factor for the Church. It makes them feel that they're not out there alone, that they're nearer to the headquarters of the Church and the pulse of the Church. It's a tremendous blessing. . . . It is a miracle, that bird 22,300 miles in the air with a little beam shot up to a transponder that uses the energy of one 60-watt bulb and reflects it down to thousands of ground stations."

With energy, he exclaimed: "And we have to use it! The Lord, I believe has made these things available for our use. We must use them to communicate. And we are. They're expensive; they're costly. But He's also blessed us with the means to do these things. Our great challenge is to back up those 52,000 missionaries who are out there and make their work more effective."