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Marjorie Hinckley dies

Beloved wife of LDS Church president — 'the lodestar of their family' — dies at 92

Marjorie Pay Hinckley, wife of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, died at 5:05 p.m. Tuesday at her home, surrounded by family, of causes incident to age. She was 92.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. At press time, no decision had been made regarding a viewing.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide learned of her failing health on Sunday during the final session of the church's 174th Annual General Conference. During closing remarks, President Hinckley said his wife had collapsed "with weariness" on their way home from a trip to Ghana in January.

President Hinckley dedicated the church's most recently completed temple there and said his wife accompanied him on to the island of Sal, then on to St. Thomas in the Caribbean before she became ill.

"She's had a difficult time ever since. She is now 92 years old, a little younger than I am," he said. "I guess the clock is winding down, and we do not know how to rewind it. It is a somber time for me."

The weekend conference was the first time in her husband's 46 years as a general authority of the church that she had not accompanied him to the meetings, President Hinckley said.

Known to Latter-day Saints worldwide as a small woman with a big heart and a warm sense of humor, she often accompanied her husband on church business and had traveled with him to many parts of the globe, conversing comfortably with both dignitaries and ordinary people. During meetings he conducted, he often called her to the podium to speak. Their banter put audiences at ease and endeared her to many.

In a press release from the Office of the First Presidency, President Hinckley identified his wife as "the lodestar of their family (who) gently guided her children with faith, intelligence and humor. Her happiest role was that of a supportive wife and mother (who) made good use of humor to settle many of life's difficulties. She was often heard to say, 'The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.' "

An avid reader and family history enthusiast, she encouraged her children and grandchildren to pursue higher education and "delighted in the opportunity to share stories of their (her ancestors') faith from her research."

She is survived by her husband; five children: Kathleen Barnes Walker (M. Richard); Richard G. (Jane); Virginia Pearce (James); Clark B. (Kathleen) and Jane Dudley (Roger); 25 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the church's Perpetual Education Fund or the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair in Social Work at Brigham Young University.

Sister Hinckley was born Nov. 23, 1911, in Nephi, the first child of Phillip LeRoy and Georgetta Paxman Pay. She had four sisters and two brothers, but one brother died in infancy. The family moved to Salt Lake City in 1914, and she attended East High School, graduating in 1929. She then went to work at the Owens Illinois Glass Co. performing secretarial duties.

Sister Hinckley came from a strong LDS ancestral background that formed her own deep faith. Her maternal grandfather, George Paxman, died at age 24 of injuries sustained while working on the Manti Temple. Her paternal grandmother, Mary Goble Pay, walked, as an 11-year-old girl, across the Great Plains with a handcart company during the Latter-day Saint migration to the West.

Serving in the LDS Church herself, she started teaching Sunday School at age 17 and held a variety of church assignments in Young Women, Primary and the Relief Society.

President Hinckley first noticed her while both were growing up in the Liberty Stake's 1st Ward in Salt Lake City. He lived across the street from her home, and in 1930, he asked her out on their first date. It was the start of an association, occasional at first, then interrupted by Elder Hinckley's LDS missionary service to Great Britain, that continued in the years that followed and was shared in many parts of the world.

Following his mission and during his employment at LDS Church headquarters, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 29, 1937. Elder Stephen L Richards, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, performed the ceremony. They then moved into their first home, a family retreat in East Millcreek, at that time a quiet, rural area of the Salt Lake Valley.

In 1941, they built a home nearby, clearing the area and planting numerous trees, shrubs and flowers.

"Marjorie is a real Latter-day Saint," a longtime associate of Sister Hinckley said in an LDS Church News interview. "She always has time to help those in need of help. I have never heard her say an unkind word about anyone or to anyone. She makes all people welcome in her home. She is an outstanding mother and teacher."

"I first saw her in Primary," President Hinckley said, reflecting on his marriage. "She gave a reading. I don't know what it did to me, but I never forgot it. Then she grew older into a beautiful young woman, and I had the good sense to marry her.

"She was beautiful, she was light-hearted and happy, she was bright, and at the same time she was serious about the important things."

"The greatest judgment he has ever shown in his entire life," President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, says, "is the judgment he showed in marrying Marjorie Pay. You cannot know him unless you know her — the tender, guiding, patient influence she has been in his life and in that of their children."

"Marjorie was 'the girl next door' when we were growing up," recalled Ramona H. Sullivan, President Hinckley's younger sister, in a church magazine interview. "Only in this case it was the girl across the street. And she was very pretty. The thing I remember most about Marge in those early years is how polished and impressive she was, even as a young girl, in giving readings and performances in the meetings and activities of our old 1st Ward. All the other kids would just sort of stand up and mumble through something. Marjorie was downright professional. She had all of the elocution and all of the movements. I still remember those readings she gave."

Sister Hinckley received some outstanding praise from Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve during the April 1995 general conference, the day after her husband was sustained as church president.

"With all the pressures of church service thrust on the Hinckley family, Sister Hinckley has always maintained a balance between her two eternal callings — that of a wife and mother," Elder Perry told the Sunday afternoon congregation.

"Much of what we learn as members of the church is by example," he explained in speaking of the examples set by modern-day prophets and their wives.

"The sweet relationship of President and Sister Hinckley offers both the men and women of the church a marvelous example to observe and emulate," he continued.

"Much will be said, written and recorded about President Hinckley during the time he presides over the church. Much less will be recorded about his dear companion. What an example she has been and will continue to be to the women of the church and to all the world. She is such a loyal, supportive companion to our president."

In speaking directly to Sister Hinckley, Elder Perry said: "You are an inspiration to all of us. You are diligent in seeking after the truths the Lord has revealed for the growth and development of ourselves here in mortality. Your desire to know these truths has kept you busy studying the gospel. When the opportunity avails itself, you have regularly signed up for institute classes to deepen your knowledge. That knowledge is clearly in evidence as you speak and touch the saints. It is especially important when you stand before a group of full-time missionaries. Here you are at your best. How you inspire them and how they respond to your instructions."

In his address on President Hinckley's spiritual capacity in the October 1997 conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve said, "While I focus on President Hinckley, Sister Hinckley also should be included. They . . . have long been one in spirit, while maintaining their individuality. They do not waste time pondering the past or fretting about the future. And they persevere in spite of adversity."

She participated with missionaries in cottage meetings and tracted while accompanying President Hinckley in his travels.

How did her grandchildren see her? An article in the April 1997 New Era mentioned that each grandchild pauses as he or she thinks of her, then every one of them breaks into a big grin before they say a word.

"We always say," Jodi Hinckley said, "that we love Grandpa so much because he married Grandma. Everybody loves her so much."

"She never stops smiling," James Pearce added. "Never."

"There's something magical about her," Ann Hinckley said. "She's never in a grumpy mood. She's always happy. The whole way she looks at the world is so real and unpretentious. She is a fun grandma."

Just before Christmas, the article said, she had a special grandchildren's Christmas party. The table was set with fancy dishes and dinner served — and only grandchildren were invited. Another trademark was the individual notes on postcards, written to her children and grandchildren during her travels with President Hinckley, asking about the details of their lives and affirming her love for them.

While their five children were growing up, she described her house as "Grand Central Station, with each member of the family busy with a full slate of activities and Mother trying to tie the schedules down to fairly regular family associations."

In describing family vacations, she said on the video of President Hinckley released during the April 1995 general conference:

"We had a lot of fun as a family. Every summer we'd get into whatever car we had and start out for who knows where. We just went down the highway, and by the time the children were grown, I think we'd seen the states of Utah and California several times over."

In between church assignments she shared with her husband, Sister Hinckley found time not only for gardening but also for good books, taking a class or two at the University of Utah and teaching literary or social science lessons on a ward or stake basis for the Relief Society.

In addition to being an avid reader, Sister Hinckley also wrote three inspirational books, rich with encouragement and expressions of her faith. Her most recent book, "Is this what I was born to do?: Mother's Day Booklet," was released last month. According to an online review at, it tells the biblical story of Esther and the encouraging words of Mordecai, who asked, "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

She also wrote "Small and Simple Things" and "Mothering: Everyday Choices, Eternal Blessings."

As a general authority's wife, she had the opportunity to bear testimony to many at home and in foreign lands.

"I believe my testimony was anchored when, as a child, I attended general conference with my parents in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I thrilled as I listened to the vibrant voice of President Heber J. Grant bearing his testimony to the membership of the church," she said.

President Hinckley explained how his wife's testimony affected others in August and September 1995 when she accompanied her husband on a busy 10-day visit to England and Ireland.

"Whenever she goes in these conferences and speaks, people enjoy listening to her," President Hinckley said in a Church News interview near the end of the trip. "She has a quiet kind of folksy way of saying things in an informal tone and speaks of the problems of the people in a way that they believe that she's been through what they're experiencing. They love to hear her. It has been a wonderful thing to see the response to her when she speaks."

After he was sustained to the Twelve, President Hinckley wrote in a memo to Elder Mark E. Petersen: "I have been blessed with a great wife. You know her. She was a bright and capable girl when she was growing up and has done a great service in the church and elsewhere, having served as ward Primary president, MIA president and in the Relief Society presidency over a number of years. No one ever had a better companion."

In February 1996, she received the Exemplary Womanhood Award from Brigham Young University. She received the Pioneer Heritage Award in July 1997 and the Distinguished Service to Humanity Award in April 1998. She also received the Utah Heritage Award from the Utah-California Women later that year.

In April 2001, she and her family were honored by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and a week later she and her husband received honorary doctorates from Utah Valley State College. In April 2003, BYU established the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair in Social Work and Social Sciences. The chair was established to help the school focus on the family through research and education, to expand learning by lectures, to increase community involvement in family issues and to provide service.

In tribute to his wife on Sunday, President Hinckley said of her, "We've walked together, side by side, all these many years, co-equals and companions through storm and sunshine."

Material taken from a Church News interview, May 23, 1964; Deseret News files; the June 1995 Ensign; the April 1997 New Era; and Church News files.