Marion D. Hanks (1921-2011), Humanitarian

According to Peggy Fletcher Stack writing in the SLTrib (6 Aug 2011) about long-time LDS General Authority Marion D. Hanks (who had just passed away):

Marion D. Hanks, Apostle, LDS Church

During visits to Vietnam, he saw refugee camps awash with disease, distress and death.  He (Marion D. Hanks) convinced LDS leaders that doing Christian service would be as important for the church as proselytizing.

After gaining approval, Hanks then handpicked a few of his missionaries and trained them in Hong Kong to work in various camps.  They taught English and basic hygiene, offering any humanitarian aid, but Hanks expressly forbade them from preaching the Mormon faith.

“He taught us that we should work with no strings attached,” recalled Maryan Shumway, one of those chosen to work with Filipino refugees, “that we should just do work because it needed to be done.”

Stack continues:

In the early 1950s, he took black visitors into his home after no hotels in Salt Lake City would receive them, said the late Eugene England.

And she concludes:

Among Hanks’ lasting legacies, (BYU professor Warner) Woodworth believes, is his suggestion to help the poor without proselytizing.  Now Mormon missionaries are required to do weekly humanitarian service.

Hanks was a “sweet companion to those who suffered,” Woodworth wrote in an email, “The world has Albert Schweitzer.  The [LDS] Church has elder Hanks.

The following information about Elder Hanks was gleaned from Stack’s report of Elder Hanks’ funeral (13 Aug 2011).  According to Elder Jeffrey Holland:

Sometimes in the evenings, Hanks would call his missionaries into the mission home living room to listen to his recordings of Shakespeare.

He urged them to embrace great literature and memorize long, eloquent passages of poetry, the apostle said.

Remembering what he wore to LDS General Conference:

[Elder Hanks] wore a light gray suit to LDS general conference, which was noticeable “in a sea of black suits,” his son said. “It was not to rebel, but to be a beacon of light to those who needed it.”

And remembering one of his humanitarian efforts:

One year, Hanks and a rabbi rang the Salvation Army bell and collected donations in the big drum.

His father [Elder Hanks] knew so many passers-by that he would say, “OK, Bob, put in a hundred. Joe, that’ll be $50 for you. And so forth,” Richard Hanks [son] said. “They made more in three hours than most other volunteers did in a month.”

The general conclusion was:

. . . Hanks’ most memorable — and oft repeated — sermon was a simple one: Preach the gospel of Jesus Christ always. Use words when necessary.

The following was penned by J. Frederick (Toby) Pingree in Sunstone (Oct 2011):

One day, he (Elder Hanks) told us about a family of African-Americans who had joined the Church prior to his arrival in Cincinnati as a missionary.  Perceiving that their attendance caused a conspicuous decline in participation by white folks, they had stopped coming to services.  Each Sunday thereafter, Elder Hanks and fellow missionaries traveled to the family’s farm outside of town to hold sacrament meeting with them.  As I listened, a keen feeling  settled on my heart that something was not right.  In telling the story, Duff said nothing derogatory about the Church nor its members, but I sensed that he was quietly protesting.

This entry was posted in mormonism, Personalities, Religion, Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Marion D. Hanks (1921-2011), Humanitarian

  1. Barett says:


    Thanks for sharing this. I grabbed a portion of the quote about Elder Hanks ringing the bell and re-posted it on my blog where I try and encourage others to get involved in philanthropy. Thanks again for sharing.


  2. Pauline Hill says:

    Marion D. Hanks has my greatest respect and gratitude. He was the mission president of the British Mission when my family was taught the gospel by his missionaries, Elder Lynn Oborn, and Elder Larry Hunter. President Hanks confirmed my father a member of the church at 50 Princes Gate, South Kensington, London England. The Martin Family will be ever thankful to President Marion D. Hanks and the Elders for changing their lives forever. This happened 49 years ago in 1962.

  3. David S. Corbett says:

    Elder Marion D. Hanks was a great spiritual giant. He had a magnificient knowledge of the scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love to go back and listen to his General Conference talks. This giant of a man spoke boldly and with great power and testimony of the Savior. Amazingly he ordained my father to the office of a Seventy many years ago. I will never forget his last talk in General Conference. He stood and gave a magnificient witness and testimony of the Savior then after closing his talk Elder Neal A. Maxwell another great disciple of the Lord stood and in great love and kindness spoke of his gratitude for his many years of working alongside Elder Hanks, what a wonderful a gracious tribute to this great man.

  4. rogerdhansen says:

    According to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “One of the greatest sermons ever pronounced on missionary work is this thought attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.'” He references William Fay and Linda Evans Shephard, “Share Jesus without Fear (1999), p. 22.

  5. Pingback: Harold Bloom’s Recent Op-ed Rant in the NYTs | Tired Road Warrior

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