“I am sick, sick, sick of reading about Gordon Hinckley. There is just too much about Gordon Hinckley in this manuscript” (ix). So said the fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he reviewed early drafts of his authorized biography with Sheri L. Dew, his biographer. Preferring to not be the centerpiece in his own biography, President Hinckley affirms instead that he’s just a common, ordinary man—“You can’t get a dollar bill out of fifteen cents!” (ix). However, this book shows that he is anything but ordinary.
In this biography, we read of an intellectually acute and well-schooled person with a delightful sense of humor, a highly respected and selfless Church leader and member of several First Presidencies for more than fifteen years, an articulate speaker, a people-person with a phenomenal memory for names and faces, and a spiritual man of God. Those who watched the profile of President Hinckley and the Church on CBS’s 60 Minutes will more than likely agree with Mike Wallace who said of him, “Generally speaking, he’s first rate” (541).
To write this engaging biography, Sheri Dew did extensive research, conducted some thirty interviews with President Hinckley, paid careful attention to his journal, and talked extensively with his wife, Marjorie; other family members; business leaders; and numerous General Authorities (along with other leaders of the Church). The result is a well-written and edifying biography that situates President Hinckley’s life effectively in the context of his times.
Particularly interesting are “the years of obscurity,” his lengthy and important behind-the-scenes work in Church administration “known to comparatively few” (196) before he was called in 1958 to be an Assistant to the Twelve and assigned to supervise Asia. Under his supervision, the Church in Asia experienced phenomenal growth. An early member in the Land of the Morning Calm, Rhee Ho Nam, who joined the Church in 1954, reports, “Very simply, Elder Hinckley is the father of the Church in Korea” (223).
In addition to numerous anecdotes, stories, and testimonials by and about President Hinckley, the biography is supplemented with sixty-four pages of photographs, extensive notes, a time line, excerpts from major interviews and press conferences, and a thorough index.
In a recent interview, Sheri Dew gave her overall assessment of Gordon Hinckley: “The bottom line is, he is an exceptional man. And then if you combine that with the fact that you believe that the Lord really does direct succession and He’s training and preparing this man, you can see the Lord’s fingerprints all over him.”