"This is a valuable book." – President Gordon B. Hinckley, referring to an 1854 Liverpool edition of The Book of Mormon.
Such a simple statement, but written in his own hand and on his own stationary tucked inside his copy of this edition, it's quintessential President Hinckley. As the 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Hinckley was known for his deft and poignant use of language. This handwritten note is one of several found inside five books significant to LDS history from President Hinckley's personal collection. The books – four rare editions of The Book of Mormon and one edition of the Doctrine and Covenants – dating back to 1840, were donated by his children to the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center and are now on display at BYU.
"It was very gracious of the Hinckley family to make this donation," said Linda Thomas, manager of the Hinckley Center. "I'm sure these are precious family heirlooms to them and we're very happy to have them on display in the Hinckley Center."
Thomas and Director of University Relations Jim Kasen worked with the BYU's Special Collections team – Gordon Daines, Greg Seppi and Christina Thomas – and the Hinckley family to secure the volumes, which were put on display earlier this month.
Meagan Larson, BYU Photo
In addition to the five books, the Hinckley Center has also acquired a replica of the cane President Hinckley used in his later years. The cane was made by Orrin Olsen and Otis Willoughby, who also made the original. In the discussion about the book donation, Kasen learned that the Hinckley family didn't know what happened to the original cane. Kasen asked Olsen if he would make two replicas: one to give to the family and one for display in the Hinckley Center. The replicas are identical to the original. Just like the original, the replica canes have been created with wood from the walnut tree that grew in President Hinckley's yard.
The cane and all five books will be on display on the main floor of the Hinckley Center now until May, when the books will be put on a rotation: three on display and two in conservation.
"President Hinckley was a vital figure in the growth of BYU," said Kasen. "It's wonderful to have a building named after him that holds some things that were more of a personal nature to him. It makes the Hinckley Center a more special and personal place in terms of honoring President Hinckley."
It should come as no surprise that these books from President Hinckley's collection are editions of The Book of Mormon. He was well read and spoke often of the literature that influenced him, none more so than The Book of Mormon.
"The test of the [Book of Mormon] is in its reading,” President Hinckley said in an October 1993 LDS General Conference address. "I speak as one who has read it again and again and tasted of its beauty and depth and power.... I have read much of English literature. In my university days, I tasted the beauty and richness of the whole field from ancient to modern times. I have been lifted by writings that have come of the genius of gifted men and women. But withal, I have not received from any of these the inspiration, the knowledge of things sublime and eternal that have come to me from the writings of the prophets found in this volume."
The Hinckley Center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
About the books in the collection (pictured above, left to right):
- Book of Mormon: third edition printed in Nauvoo in 1840.
- Book of Mormon: fourth edition printed by Samuel W. Richards for Orson Pratt in Liverpool, England, in 1854.
- Doctrine and Covenants: an early European edition containing the Lectures on Faith. President Hinckley purchased this copy in a used book store in London halfway through his mission.
- Book of Mormon: this edition is one of 250 printed in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of work in the British Isles. It is a replica of a specially bound edition presented to Queen Victoria in 1841 by Lorenzo Snow.
- Book of Mormon: first European edition printed in Liverpool, England, in 1841. This book was once owned by Charles W. Nibley, a member of the First Presidency in the 1920s, and later his grandson and BYU professor Hugh Nibley.