Jamie Lawson, LDS LIving
10/21/2008 05:43 PM MDT
Forty-four years before he became president of the Church, the U.S. government investigated Gordon B. Hinckley to determine whether he was a spy or a loyal American.
According to FBI files released last week, the conclusion was the latter.
In the summer of 1951, at the request of J. Edgar Hoover, a special inquiry was conducted into President Hinckley’s life as part of a screening process for a job with Voice of America, a radio network run by the U.S. State Department. (It is unclear whether he applied for the job or was recruited, and there is no mention of any employment at Voice of America in his biography.)
FBI agents conducted investigations in Utah, California, Colorado and Illinois, interviewing employers, business associates, neighbors, Church members and others who were acquainted with him. Descriptions such as “intelligent, dependable and conscientious” appear repeatedly throughout the documents, with all interview subjects speaking highly of President Hinckley.
One report states that a neighbor described him as “an excellent person and one of the most loyal American citizens he has ever known.” The report further shows that another neighbor said “the U.S. government would be absolutely safe in trusting [him] with any confidential or classified material because of Hinckley’s excellent moral character and loyalty to the United States.”
The FBI reviewed President Hinckley’s high school and college records, reporting that his grades at the University of Utah were “above average.” In addition, agents looked into the credit histories of President Hinckley’s siblings, as well as searched for arrest records. None were found.
The recently released FBI files also include a letter from President Hinckley explaining his employment history from 1932 to 1935. He writes about his mission call to Europe in May of 1933 and says of his mission, “I received no monetary compensation for the two years spent in this effort, as is customary with all Mormon missionaries.”
Upon completing his mission, he was asked by President Heber J. Grant to organize what has become the Church’s Public Affairs Department. In 1951 he was named executive secretary of the General Missionary Committee, managing the entire missionary program of the Church until he was appointed as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1958. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1961 and set apart as the 15th president of the Church on March 12, 1995. He passed away on January 27 of this year.
*Special thanks to The Salt Lake Tribune for acquiring the FBI files through the Freedom of Information Act. Click here to read the entire report.