Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008), 15th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, died in Salt Lake City on January 27, 2008. Despite his becoming president at age 84, in 1995, Hinckley was energetic and active almost to his last days. He will be remembered for re-energizing missionary work throughout the world, and undertaking some of the most ambitious construction projects in Mormon history, including the giant Conference Center in Salt Lake City and 83 new temples throughout the world (twice as many as those built by the Church in the previous 165 years).
Hinckley’s assessment by historians would be, however, mostly connected to his efforts for mainstreaming the Mormon Church, by welcoming to Salt Lake City the Winter Olympics in 2002, emphasizing the Christian roots of the religion and the first part of the name, “Church of Jesus Christ” over the second one (“of Latter-day Saints”), and co-operating with Catholics and Evangelicals on initiatives against abortion, gay marriage, and pornography. During his presidency the idea of a conservative “Catholic-Evangelical-Mormon” coalition became commonplace in American political jargon. On how successful Hinckley was in making Mormonism acceptable to mainline Christians, particularly Evangelical, the jury is still out, as evidenced by discussions around the Mormon affiliation of U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Hinckley will be succeeded as 16th president by Thomas S. Monson, 80.