At 87, Mormon head won’t slow down

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The most well-traveled president in the history of the Mormon church said Sunday he’s not about to stay home in a rocker, as attractive as that might be to a man of 87.
Since becoming the church’s 15th president three years ago, Gordon B. Hinckley has been almost constantly in the air and on the road, visiting many of the faith’s 10 million members, more than half of whom reside outside the United States.
He traveled to 32 foreign cities in 1996, and visited 35 last year. In February, Hinckley — who says he hates to travel — became the first church president to visit West Africa, completing a five-nation tour in six days.
“I would enjoy sitting in a rocker, swallowing prescriptions, listening to soft music and contemplating the things of the universe. But such activity offers no challenge and makes no contribution,” Hinckley told members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the concluding day of the faith’s 168th Annual General Conference.
Hinckley said he is “no longer a young man filled with energy and vitality,” but he shows no signs of slowing down.
During a trip to Mexico he attended 11 meetings in seven days. And last month he was at the church’s birthplace in Palmyra, N.Y., to dedicate a replica of the log house where founder Joseph Smith is said to have encountered his first heavenly vision in 1820.
Hinckley’s arduous regimen stands in stark contrast to several of his predecessors who became feeble in the lifetime office or who suffered poor health.
Hinckley, who became the faith’s “prophet, seer and revelator” in March 1995, continues to exude energy and has had no reported health problems. He will turn 88 on June 23.
“I could spend all day in my office, doing so year after year, dealing with mountains of problems, many of them of small consequence,” Hinckley said, speaking in the historic Mormon Tabernacle.
“But I feel a greater mission, a higher responsibility to be out among the people,” an activity he said “stimulates the adrenaline.”