SALT LAKE CITY - The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got a 97th birthday present Saturday that was too big to wrap - a building bearing his name built with donations from followers.
"If I'd known so many nice things were going to be said, I would have had a party like this 10 years ago," Gordon B. Hinckley joked after his counselors in church's First Presidency lauded his contributions to the church.
The 83,000 square foot building is the new home of Brigham Young University's office of Alumni Relations, Annual Giving, Public Affairs and Guest Relations.
"Now this is a very large building to carry the name of a small man," the 5-foot, 8-inch church president said.
In 2006, the church president celebrated his birthday by turning over a shovel of dirt and dedicating the building site. On Saturday, Hinckley's son, Richard G. Hinckley, christened its use with a dedicatory prayer.
A stainless steel time capsule was also installed in the building Saturday. Among the items placed inside was a small hammer that Hinckley said was from his own workshop, a pair of his cufflinks and a copy of one the many books he's written.
Hinckley, whose father attended BYU when it was still known as the Brigham Young Academy, is a graduate of the University of Utah.
The church-own BYU isn't saying how much the building cost, although the school's philanthropic Web site states a fundraising goal of $35 million.
"What I can say is, the money for the building has been raised," BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead said Thursday.
Don Breneman, a job site supervisor for Span, one of two companies that worked on the four-story building, said the one-year construction timetable was "amazingly fast." Breneman, of Plant City, Fla., also noted a strange phenomena during construction. Workers from his mostly-Mormon crew showed up at the site on weekends to take pictures with their families.
"One of the comments was that on most jobs they work for a paycheck, but on this job there is much more pride involved," Brenman said.
Hinckley is the 15th president of the church, which claims 12.5 million members worldwide. He is said to be in good health.