By Utah National Parks Council
Oct 29, 2013

Pitfalls of Social Media, Compassion and President Gordon B. Hinckley

Social media spreads content faster than any medium we have ever seen. Instantaneous information is spread with the click of a button. It is amazing and reconnects people from all over the world. It can be a powerful tool and also a deadly weapon.

Many spread their lies in order to spread contention. Anyone with an opposing view is immediately attacked and annihilated. It seems that civility is thrown out the window and compassion trampled upon.

For a Scout it is easy to get caught up in this cycle that will only lead to destruction; to follow the crowd in attacking others.

The Scout Law teaches that a Scout should be loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind. These attributes help a Scout learn compassion. Compassion is a virtue.

President Monson stated, ” We have no way of knowing when our privilege to extend a helping hand will unfold before us. The road to Jericho each of us travels bears no name, and the weary traveler who needs our help may be one unknown.” [1]

One of the most compassionate men to walk on the earth was President Gordon B. Hinckley. I have never forgotten an experience I had in 1994 while serving a mission in the Frankfurt, Germany mission. President Hinckley came to Germany to speak at a conference and we held a special mission conference where he spoke. I was seated on the front row and as he walked in toward the stand I felt his great love for all humanity. The feeling spread through my entire body and I knew there was not one person he did not love. I have never felt that from any other human being. What an admirable trait – to love everyone.

Brent Ashworth, a friend of President Hinckley’s, shares some personal memories of him.

For a Scout or leader, President Hinckley is a great example of true compassion. Let us reflect on what the Scout Law truly means in our daily communication with others.

Author: Heidi Sanders | Marketing & PR Director, Utah National Parks Council


1. See Thomas S. Monson, “Compassion,” (April 2001, General Conference),


3 February 2008

Brent F. Ashworth

With the passing this week of my friend and our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, I thought I should record a few of my many memories of this great man.

I first met Elder Hinckley in 1968 at the pre-military conference held by the LDS Church, where we were invited up to the old mission home in Salt Lake and met at a stake center just off to the west of Temple Square. This was at the time the Church had been given a quota system by the federal government, which allowed only two missionaries to serve per ward per year, while the rest of us served our military obligation, then six years. As we had 19 boomers turning 19 in my Provo Oak Hills 4th Ward that year, I was one of those headed for the army and attended the Church conference, along with my cousin, Ken Brailsford, five years my senior, who had already served his two year LDS mission in Germany and was also now invited to the conference as he, too, was now entering the military. (Ken currently serves as mission president of the Columbia South Carolina Mission).

The chapel was packed with 300 or more of us and there were two apostles in charge, Elder Harold B. Lee and Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who were assisted by Elder Boyd K. Packer, then an Assistant to the Twelve and Elder Hartman Rector Jr. of the Seventy, the Church’s newest general authority. Elder Lee was a friend of my grandparents Ashworth and my dad, Dell S. Ashworth, had introduced him to me as he visited our Oak Hills 4th Ward in Provo, where his daughter Maurine and her family resided when I was a Deacon. Elder Hinckley I had not met personally before the pre-military conference and sat on the stand with the other leaders, reading a newspaper.

I asked my cousin Ken what Elder Hinckley was doing reading a newspaper while sitting on the stand at our meeting and he shook his head, also in ignorance. Of course, I learned by the 1980s that that was part of his assignment as head of public affairs for the Church. He eventually became the first fulltime church employee to become its president.

After Mark Hofmann had sold me several of his creations in the early 1980s, he sold me the soon to be famous letter purportedly written by Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother. I had taken the letter to the Church Historian, Elder G. Homer Durham. The Church thought the letter’s content was so important that it decided to release it at a press conference to be held on Monday, August 23, 1982. This was one of four press conferences held to announce Hofmann “discoveries”. Mark was the focus of two of them (Anthon Transcript, 1980; Joseph Smith III Letter, 1981) and I was the focus of two of them (Lucy Mack Smith Letter and Martin Harris Testimony Letter, both 1982).

On Saturday, August 21, 1982, I was out cutting my backyard lawn when my wife Charlene summoned me to the phone. It was Brother Heber Woolsey, then head of Public Communications for the Church and in charge of Monday’s press conference. He

told me President Hinckley wanted to meet us and see the Lucy Mack Smith letter that afternoon in his office and asked if we could be there in an hour. I was excited about the visit and asked Charlene if she thought I should bring the nice new Book of Mormon my BYU 82nd Ward had given me for Christmas the previous year (I was serving as bishop at the time) and she thought that would be embarrassing and felt I should leave it home. I decided to put the book in my briefcase just in case an opportunity presented itsself, collector that I am.

We met Bro. Woolsey (he was dressed in a golf shirt while we were wearing our Sunday best) as instructed, at the underground parking to the Church Administration Building, 47 E. South Temple and he said, “Now, if you could just turn up a videotape of the King Follett Discourse”, as he guided us through the darkened hallways (It was Saturday afternoon and hardly anyone was working in the building) to President Hinckley’s office.

Brother Woolsey tapped on the door and President Hinckley opened it, looking at us and said, “Heber, have you been out doing your lawn?” when he saw him in his golf shirt, setting us all at ease. He invited Charlene and me into his office and we showed him the letter and he proceeded to talk about and bear testimony to the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith for about 45 minutes. He was going to Japan that weekend to break ground for the Tokyo Temple and was not going to be available for the Church press conference on Monday and wanted to meet us and see the Lucy Mack Smith letter.

At one point of the conversation, I got brave and asked if he would mind signing my Book of Mormon (I didn’t dare look at Charlene). He went on writing something on a yellow notepad and I didn’t want to interrupt. When he finished his writing, he said, “This is what I would like to write in your book. Would this be alright?” He read it to me and I said, “That sounds wonderful, President”, and he wrote: “In remembrance of the day Brother and Sister Brent Ashworth met with me and Heber Woolsey in my office in the Church Office Building and we read together the original letter of Lucy Mack Smith to her sister- in-law Mary Pierce of Royalton, Vt., testifying to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of Joseph Smith’s role as a translator. Gordon B. Hinckley August 21, 1982”.

We had a marvelous discussion on church history and I learned in a personal way of his deep testimony of the divine role of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

From that meeting through the late 1980s we had many meetings together, dealing with Church historical documents. Some of these dealt with Hofmann documents later declared to be forgeries and some dealt with authentic documents, including documents of the Prophet Joseph Smith, letters of Brigham Young and John Taylor’s Nauvoo Journal, dictated and written by Elder Taylor just after the martyrdom and continuing until the forced exodus from Nauvoo a year or so later. In the case of the Taylor Journal, I had first taken it, as was my custom to the Church Historian, Elder G. Homer Durham, a missionary companion in England in the mid 1930s to then Elder Hinckley (The two of them wrote a hymn in our hymnbook, sung at the funeral for our prophet yesterday).

Elder Durham said, “Gordon needs to see this”, and we marched over to President Hinckley’s office with it. As I showed the John Taylor Journal to President Hinckley, he said, “Brent, did you have to mortgage your life for this?, to which I responded, “No, President, but we will be making payments on it for awhile”. We then spent about an hour reading portions of the journal together, including a loose letter written by Orson Hyde which had just been stuck in the journal. Elder Hyde’s letter contradicted the directions Pres. Brigham Young had earlier given regarding the recruitment of members of the Mormon Battalion. I remember after we read it, President Hinckley remarking, “Isn’t that just like Orson Hyde to go off on his own?” As we read the portions of the journal together, dealing with the early conversion of Solomon Chamberlain, one of our first members, the interaction after the martyrdom with William Smith and the Twelve and of Elder Taylor’s dream of the completion of the Nauvoo Temple, President Hinckley was, I could tell, fascinated. He absolutely loved Church history. I made sure he had a copy of the whole journal as soon as one was made and it was later published in BYU Studies (Spring, 1983).

Each time I met with President Hinckley, he would ask me the same two questions. “Brent, what have you learned this week about the lost manuscript of the Book of Mormon?” At first I thought he was just being humorous, but he seemed serious about it and asked it every time I visited. About the sixth or eighth time he asked me that question, I got brave and the collector in me was wondering, so I said, “President, each time I have met with you, you have asked me that question. I am curious what you think. Are they still around?”, to which he immediately responded, “Oh, they will be provided to us at the proper time; but our members don’t know what is in the Book of Mormon yet. Now what did you bring me to see today?” and we proceeded with our meeting.

The other question President Hinckley always asked me when I came to visit was, “Brent, would you like to know what the enemies of the Church are up to this week?” I always wanted to know, so said “Yes, President”. I remember one time he responded by saying (1982), “This week they are trying to keep us from building the Denver Temple, but they won’t succeed.” We would then discuss what I came to show him that day. He was absolutely incredible when it came to remembering little details from news events and the details of Church history. I have understood from his son Richard and others I have recently spoken with that he read three or four newspapers at the start of every single day to the end of his life, just to keep up on world events and the building of the Kingdom.

President Hinckley knew I was doing many firesides, priesthood and sacrament meetings during the Hofmann era, when he and the Church were continually getting accused of purchasing and hiding documents controversial to our history. He would advise me, “Brent, be sure to tell the members we have nothing to hide. I just want our historians to get a first opportunity to study any documents we acquire and place them in their proper historical context before we announce them.” I always tried to follow this admonition, sometimes delivering messages to as many as five meetings on a Sunday during the Hofmann years. I spoke to hundreds of groups then, throughout Utah and the surrounding states and from Maryland to California. I remember one Sunday when I spoke at five meetings starting in Tremonton, Utah in the early morning and ending with my last in St. George, Utah in the evening. President Hinckley was always supportive of my efforts and I appreciated his advice and friendship.

He also wrote me a couple dozen letters over those and the later years. I remember when my friend, Rick Turley, was writing his Hofmann book for the Church (Richard G. Turley is the Managing Director of the Church Historical Department and the author of “Victims”, presenting the Church story of the Hofmann years). He called me one day and asked to have copies of all the letters from President Hinckley to me during the Hofmann period in preparation for writing his book. I replied, “Rick, you and I are both attorneys. You know that I can’t give you President Hinckley’s letters without his permission”, which he said he understood. I thought that might be the end of it, but in a few moments my phone rang again and it was the president’s secretary. She said, “Will you hold for President Hinckley?” I then heard the president’s voice, “Brent, will you please give Rick copies of my letters?” to which I responded, “Sure thing, President… right away”. It was my shortest conversation ever with President Hinckley.

After the Hofmann bombings and our son Sam’s accident (He had been hit on his bike by three nineteen year old teenagers in a black sportscar, who had been drinking and shooting on our hill all day, the Sunday after the Hofmann bombings, when we had left the children home to join my wife’s parents at her uncle’s place in La Jolla, California, to relax.), which had left him in a deep coma for several weeks in Provo’s hospital. We decided we would never leave our son alone there. So, Charlene took the days and I came after work and took the nights (She was pregnant with our current BYU football player son Luke at the time).

About three weeks into this personal disaster, I came into Sam’s room to spell my wife. She looked particularly beat that evening and reminded me it was Thanksgiving the next day and she had done nothing to prepare for it. I told her not to worry about it as we had nothing to be grateful for that year. (Of course, I am ashamed now that I ever thought or said that to her, but it was a tough time in our lives). Just then, a good friend from work came in and wanted to talk about our son’s condition. I heard you don’t talk about a coma patient in front of him, as he may hear you, so I escorted my friend down the hallway, out of hearing distance and left my poor wife to await my return. She looked particularly worn out at the time and had put in a hard day of watching Sam and being pregnant.

When I returned to the room some time later, her countenance had completely changed. I asked her what had happened and she said after I left the phone rang. She picked it up and it was a man’s voice. “Is this the room of Brent Ashworth’s son?”, he had asked. “Is this sister Ashworth?” “This is Gordon Hinckley in Salt Lake. I just wanted to call and tell you I have placed your son’s name on the prayer roll of the First Presidency and the Twelve, so that we might add our faith to yours in his behalf”. As you can imagine, that call changed our entire outlook at that time. We all went home for a few hours the next day and had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. This typical kind act had given my wife and me and our whole family much to be grateful for. My dad, Dell S. Ashworth, was so pleased with this call that he wrote a nice thank you to President Hinckley soon thereafter. The president wrote me several letters about my son then and after his passing, six months later, which again showed his concern and kindness and which we have treasured ever since.

The year after our son Sam’s passing, Mark Hofmann finally coughed up his guilty plea and headed to prison. (I had testified against him at Utah’s longest preliminary hearing in early May, 1986. Our son Sam had died on the Friday before I testified. I testified the following Wednesday and we buried our son the following Friday). The very next day, I received a call from President Hinckley’s secretary, requesting my presence in his office that morning.

When I arrived at President Hinckley’s office, it was just me and him for an hour or so. He was in a somber mood, the only time I ever visited him like that. He was questioning where he had gone wrong in the Hofmann affair. He told me of the strenuous efforts he and the Church had gone through to authenticate the Hofmann documents the Church announced. He spoke of several in the collecting community who had vouched for their authenticity, including world renowned dealers Ken Rendell (Ken was a long-time dealer friend of mine I first met in the early 1970s. He had built an international reputation as an expert on handwriting after he declared to Newsweek Magazine in 1984 that the Hitler Diaries “Der Stern” Magazine had paid four million dollars for were forgeries and he was later proven correct. Ken went on to build a huge library for Bill Gates in his $100 million home in Washington state, even purchasing a $30 million Da Vinci manuscript for Gates, among other things. Unfortunately, Ken also wrote the letter of authenticity for Mark’s Salamander letter, which was widely published in Utah at the time), Charles Hamilton, the premier world’s authority on autographs and document collecting who had published thirty or so books over several decades that are still considered the standard in the field (Bud, as we called Charles Hamilton, who has since passed away, was also a good friend who cited my help in several of his publications. He often expressed his sympathy for our loss of Sam by calling him Hofmann’s third victim to me in our private conversations. Prior to his death, Bud told me he wished he could get back the letter of authenticity he wrote for Mark’s Joseph Smith 1828 letter, so he could “eat it”!).

President Hinckley mentioned that morning many other experts on handwriting they had gone to prior to announcing any of Hofmann’s “discoveries”, including the FBI lab in Washington, D.C. (Which us private collectors would probably have no pull to use) and the University of California at the Davis, California campus, where they had what was called an electron cyclotron test, which could supposedly determine within a ten year period, by the migration of electrons in the ink, how long that ink had been on that particular piece of paper. Thus, something that was less than ten years old and dated in the 1830s could be declared a forgery. President Hinckley said they had used that test on several Hofmann documents and that they had all passed (I had heard of that test somewhere when he mentioned it to me and realized about a week after the conversation

with President Hinckley that Hofmann was the one who had told me about it. He must have found a way around the electron cyclotron test as well).

President Hinckley then said he was very familiar with Joseph Smith’s surviving correspondence and writing as he had studied it all his life (Which I knew he had). He said that Hofmann not only had Joseph Smith’s handwriting down, but had learned his sentence structure as well. At this point in our conversation, he paused and I responded, “Yes, President, it’s as if he was possessed, he was so good”, to which the president responded, after he seemed to look right through me and gently tapping his desk with the palm of his hand, “He WAS possessed!”, which I took to mean, are you just seeing that now, which I felt answered the whole Hofmann question, as to how he became the world’s greatest modern forger ever caught.

I went on to tell him that after my wife and I first went to Hofmann’s home by invitation to a barbecue six years earlier, as we were leaving, Charlene asked me, “Did you see the look that Mark had on his face when you asked his wife that question?” We have both now forgotten what question I had asked his wife Dorie, but I responded that I had not been looking at Mark at the time and asked Charlene what she saw. She said, “He had daggers in his eyes”, an expression she had never used before or since, adding that Dorie looked scared and that she felt I should stay away from Hofmann. I repeated this to President Hinckley by summarizing, “My wife told me to stay away from him”, to which President Hinckley responded, “Why didn’t you?”, which I took to include, why didn’t you warn us as well.

Several years later, in the mid 1990s, I was at the Alta Club, across from the apartments President and sister Hinckley lived in at the time and where he passed away. I was attending the Sons of the American Revolution meeting that day. The room we met prior to the formal meeting was the bar where liquor was being served. Of course, I just had a soft drink in my hands and was speaking to a friend when I suddenly saw President and Sister Hinckley walk into the room. I was immediately embarrassed and didn’t want to be seen by him in there, so turned my back to him and pretended not to have seen them. A few moments later, when President and sister Hinckley came my direction, I felt a light tap on my shoulder and heard, “Brent, do you wave the flag with this group?” and turned to see the prophet. I exclaimed, I am sure a little red-faced, that yes, I did. He always had that marvelous sense of humor and ability to get me to smile or even laugh at myself. He was marvelous.

After my dad passed away in January 1995, I received a lovely letter from President Hinckley in which he referred to my dad as a man deserving of honor, which I read at dad’s funeral. It served to help soften the blow of his passing.

I really didn’t want to bother him when he became our prophet in 1995, but we occasionally exchanged letters, such as after the Mike Wallace interview when I sent a letter congratulating him on how he handled that venerable yet tough newsman. I received the standard printed letter of thanks back from his office a few days later, only

he had crossed out the salutation and written “Dear Brent” and then added in his own hand at the bottom of the letter, “You have been a dear friend for many years, thanks.”

During the 1997 commemoration at Martin’s Cove, Charlene and I decided to take our two boys remaining at home, Luke and Ben, and attend the services. We read about the handcart pioneers as we traveled and by the time we arrived had felt the spirit of sacrifice of our forebears there. President and Sister Hinckley were in attendance and both spoke. Sister Hinckley’s grandmother, Mary Anne Goble had died as a result of her suffering at Martin’s Cove in 1856. One of the two stake presidents whose stakes converge at that Wyoming location spoke about the trip President Hinckley had made there the year or two before and how the whole group had walked with him about a mile up to the cove from the bunk house which now serves as the visitor’s center. As they approached the Cove, the Prophet suddenly fell to his knees and the entire group followed. After a moment or so, President Hinckley told the group that this was sacred ground on which they were walking. The entire event was a spiritual feast for us and especially our two growing young sons, soon to become missionaries.

In 2005, when the entire Church celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I was invited to a special awards presentation given to honor President Hinckley as the first recipient of the Junius F.Wells Award, given by the Church Arts and Sites Committee. The invitation came because of my having founded the George E. Freestone Boy Scout Museum in Provo, Utah in July, 2000. After a wonderful meeting and presentation, the two hundred or so of us, including eight of the Twelve headed for the elevators. As Charlene and I were talking, I turned to my left and there standing beside me was our prophet. I had not been with him in person for a decade, although we had exchanged a few letters. In that time, I had grown fat and grey and he appeared to me, besides his cane and a hearing aid, not to have changed at all. He said, “Brother Ashworth, how are you getting along?” I was surprised after all these years he recognized or remembered me and immediately reintroduced him to my wife. “Sister Ashworth, how are you doing?, shaking our hands as he walked past. His memory and care for old friends was still stellar, I thought, despite the many years since we had interacted in person.

At his 95th birthday party that year in the Conference Center, we were seated only about 50 feet away in that huge facility. He spoke of his desire to live to be a hundred, but also made mention of how much he missed Sister Hinckley. Last year, Charlene and I were blessed to be able to attend the Sunday session of April, 2007 conference and listened to President Faust’s last conference address about forgiveness, in which, among other things, he cited the Hofmann bombings and the death of Steven Christensen and his family’s suffering and their forgiveness to their son’s killer. At the same conference, less than a year before his passing, I remember hearing President Hinckley lament the fact he was getting old and there were so many exciting things happening to the Church in our day that he didn’t want to miss.

In March, 2007, I was called by Elder Marlin K. Jensen’s secretary to come to a lunch in his office, the very Church Historian’s Office where I used to meet with Elder G. Homer

Durham a quarter century before. We had a nice box lunch with my friend Rick Turley and Stephen Olsen, Rick’s assistant. After we finished, Elder Jensen said he had been meeting with President Hinckley about Church history. The president had told Elder Jensen that before he died, he wanted to get church historical records and other artifacts and books in order. Elder Jensen then said my name had come up and asked if I were willing to help them. I said I gladly would and he asked whether I would prefer being brought in as an employee or called as a missionary. I said since I missed a mission in my youth, I had always wanted to be a missionary, so I was issued a call last April to serve as the first “acquisitions specialist” in the Church Historical Office, Church Archives. I was asked to begin by making lists of the top 100 manuscripts, books and imprints and artifacts the Church should be looking for during the next century to “fill in the holes” of our historical record. Since that time, I have been having a wonderful time listing, searching for and bringing to the Church over a thousand books, manuscripts, artifacts, etc., to add to the collection we were commanded to keep as part of the record from the time the Lord called the first official Church historian, John Whitmer, in Section 47 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It has been a wonderful experience for which I have again felt the foresight and blessing in my life of President Gordon B. Hinckley.

On the day of his passing, last Sunday, January 27, I presented my first fireside in the Conference Center he had directed to be constructed and spoke to a group of host missionaries for what amounted to several hours, including answering questions about Joseph Smith, Mountain Meadows and Mark Hofmann. Many remembrances of our Prophet were also shared. I didn’t return home until later in the afternoon. About seven thirty that evening, my sweet youngest daughter, Emily Bette Adamson, mother of our year and a half old twin girls, Hailey and Brinley, called with the shocking news that our Prophet had passed away. Like the rest of the Church and much of the world, I have felt numb and in mourning all week. I went through the line at his viewing Thursday morning and had the privilege of speaking with his son and my friend, Elder Richard Hinckley of the Seventy (I served for several years on the board of Nature’s Sunshine Products in Provo with Dick when he was Elizabeth Smart’s stake president and later a mission president in Salt Lake). Dick saw my missionary tag and wanted to know where I was serving and I told him in the archives and he said that was the ideal place for me. I told him how much we loved his dad and wished his family well in the future.

I attended the services for President Hinckley with my wife yesterday and was moved by the spirit, talks and music presented. I stayed up until the wee hours of this morning reading the members’ comments on the internet on the life of this great man, not just because he was our prophet, but because he was also my dear friend. I think we all felt that way, whether we had personal interaction with him or not. It didn’t really matter. He always represented so well to each of us and all the Church and the world at large the love of the Savior he represented. He was Christ-like in all his interactions. We all love you, President Hinckley. I love you and will miss you …until we meet again.

Author: Brent Ashworth | Collector and Volunteer, Utah National Parks Council

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.