Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grampa Prophets I have known!

Heard a great story about President Thomas S. Monson.  (Amazing what you hear when you're not snoring through Testimony Meeting)  Sister Christy told about going to the graduation of members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (We've been to one of those when Gramma Rosie's best friend mustered out, so we know how it goes!)

At this gathering the newly refurbished old Tabernacle was filled to capacity with friends and well wishers who had either turned 60 or were leaving the choir because of other callings.

President Monson was a surprise visitor.  (President Hinckley wasn't there the day we went!)  Christy chuckled as she told us how President Monson made his way up to the organ and with a sparkle in his eye used his fist on the black keys to play what most folks have done themselves--it goes like this:  Dah-dah-DUMP-de-DUMP, Dah-de-Dump de dump!   She testified how that experience made the Prophet seem less stuffy, more human and more wonderful to her.  It strengthened her testimony and intensified her faith!

Of course there's the marvelous time when the Prophet wiggled his ears during a General Conference Address.  The video of that experience has been removed from all the Internet sites where it once appeared, but a man with such large ears had a talent we never knew.  (His message was to the Priesthood about modeling our best behavior as an example to everyone young and old!)

My personal encounter involved a driveway to Crown Burgers near Temple Square. It was a Saturday.  I had made a turn halfway in the middle of the street and left very little room for the big blue car coming out of the parking lot.  The driver (who I immediately recognized as then Elder Monson in an open plaid sport short and light jacket)  had to maneuver pretty carefully to drive into the street in the tiny space I had left by my slopping turn.   I didn't have the courage to wave--and as I remember he seemed a bit put out and didn't wave either.   I had cut off one of the Twelve.  I hoped he didn't get my license plate number and cancel my temple recommend!  (Of course he wouldn't do that--I just didn't want him to remember my face!)

It's been said that your relationship with the Savior is mirrored in how you get along with your Bishop.   I hope I can repent of my unfortunate encounter--however mild with a future Prophet of God.

Finally, Gramma Rosie and I went to vote, as we always do, at the Junior High one year -- headquarters for multiple voting districts.   I knew then 1st Counselor in the First Presidency and President of the Twelve Apostles lived a few stakes North of us, but I didn't know he voted at the same Junior High.  Maybe we would have dressed up a bit.  Too late.  As we walked into the building, a big black car glided to a stop and a smiling President Monson jumped out and bounded into the building just behind us.

(A neighbor's husband had been his driver and security once upon a time and told us that he like to have the car reparked while he was in a building so he could come back out, jump in the car and immediately drive away without having to back out and turn around.  Sure enough, as he entered, I could see through the glass door, the driver going through that routine maneuver.)

Interestingly there were no signs directing us to vote.  The three of us stood there, we instinctively looking to him for leadership.  He headed for the nearby stairs with a grin and a, "Maybe it's up here!"

I glanced down the hall and saw an open door and suggested we see if that was it before subjecting Gramma and her arthritic knees to a flight of Junior High Stairs!  He agreed and we went into vote.  We let him go in first and he captivated the room.  We shuffled in after him and did our civic duty.  It was a routine bond election.  He punched his ballot, put it in the box and was gone.  Suddenly the room seemed to dim a little.

An attorney once told me that he, as driver and security, and then Elder Monson were hospital visiting and left LDS Hospital by the back door to make a quick getaway.    The exit door slammed shut behind them when Elder Monson was "nudged" to return.  They were locked out.

Elder Monsen chuckled and told his driver, "Well, David, guess one of us better go around and get this door open!  David told me he was torn between following orders and staying with Elder Monsen.  Just then, an elderly woman opened the door to leave the hospital--and David immediately  had both wishes granted as they caught the door before it closed and went back to follow the "nudge".

In 1969 I was working in Washington on Capitol Hill when President Hugh B. Brown, one of my great heros, came to open the Senate with Prayer.   LDS Capitol Hill Staffers had a loose organization--most of us went to the old Washington Ward built with Utah birdseye Marble.  The moonies bought the building when the church realized, regrettably that the neighborhood, once fashionable like Chevy Chase had run down and become too dangerous for us to go through to attend church.  They removed the angel Moroni from the single spire of what was a replica of the main tower of the Salt Lake Temple.  The Moonies put up their circular cross emblem up there.  I drove by and shook my head!   But that was then!

Senate staff is rarely invited into the Senate Dining Room in the Capitol Building where Bean Soup is always on the menu by direct legislation.  That privilege is reserved for Senators and their guests.  Fellow staffer Don Ladd, later a General Authority, invited us to lunch with President Brown.  I was so pleased to sit at his left at a good size table with about 20 other faithful Latter Day saints.

There we sat at the confluence of legislative power in the world, really.  All of us loved our jobs on "the Hill" and had likely planned to be of service in government related assignments for the rest of our natural lives.  It was heady stuff to combine our faith and government service over lunch with this great member of the First Presidency.   We visited casually.  President Brown was quite old--in his 90's I think--but his mind was sharp.  He had been a professional military man and an attorney -- a colonel in the Canadian Army when time for promotion to Brigadier General came his way.   He sat in the office of his commander and noticed his open file on the Lieutenant General's desk.   Across the top of the file in big block red letters were the words:  DO NOT PROMOTE THIS MAN.  HE IS A MORMON.  Later he explained in a General Conference talk about his "being trimmed back" like the bush in his yard.  "I'm the gardner here!" he said quoting what the Lord must say to us when he has other plans for us--and seems to thwart our desires for his devine purposes.

President Brown in another of his always eloquent conference talks explained that his dreams of being the first Mormon General since Moroni in the Book of Alma--slowly faded as he realized his service would have to be given elsewhere.   Soon after that he left the Judge Advocate General Corps and, as he told it, was saved from becoming a millionaire in the oil business with a call to be one of the first Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve.  This was back in the day before the Quorums of the Seventy were organized.

At lunch that day, President Brown could sense that I was eager and anxious for counsel from a prophet.  He smiled, put his hand on my knee in a gesture of friendship and love and uttered these imortal words:  "Brother Howe, stay out of politics!"   We all had a tight little laugh around the table!

I went on to be drafted into the Army as a Chaplain's Assistant, worked in radio news in Utah and Washington D.C., served as an Assistant to the Mayor of Provo, Political Consultant with Keith Haines to elect Ken Pinegar to the Utah Cunty Commission,  PR Manager for Utah Tech in the Utah Eduation System and as Administrative Services Director for the short lived campaign of Richard Eyre for Governor.  I didn't exactly obey President Brown's counsel right away.  After the Eyre campaign I promoted myself to concerned citizen and finally kept his counsel.

Over the years I've cheered on the advancement through the ranks of former Ricks College President Henry B. Eyring.  As he was called as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric,  a Seventy, into the Twelve Apostles and most recently as First Counselor in the First Presidency--I've sustained him and agreed that the Lord was promoting one of his very best.

My conviction came from a simple talk to a BYU devotional I will never forget about appropriate gift giving at Christmas time.  He told about two neighbors --  a loving husband and wife who dropped by after his mother's funeral.  They brought a quart of home canned cherries-- something then Elder Eyring's father, the great scientist Henry Eyring loved.   The sons and father sat with the couple,  put the cherries into bowls and visited while they enjoyed the fruit together.  That, he said to all of us paying attention, was a definition of one of the best gifts that can be given-- something needed, appreciated and filled with love.

My friend Terri used to work with the Tabernacle Choir and now does a specialized free lance make up for the general authorities at conference.   She pays attention to how they'll look on camera.

One day recently, she asked President Eyring if he had another pair of glasses--since his were scratched.  He smiled and reminded her that perscription glasses were expensive--and no, he only had the one pair.

Such intimate glimpses into the lives of these great men make them seem almost human!  They are of course.

If God the Father seems unapproachable to us when we pray, he has given us an intermediary that for a while moved among us and became the Savior of the World.  If even Jesus of Nazareth seems a bit distant--even when we pray in his name and mention him in everything we do in the kingdom, Heavenly Father in his wisdom has given us Prophets and Apostles, Stake Presidents and Bishops--and so many other great leaders who roll up their sleeves along side us and model the standards and commandments.

How blessed we are to have known them.  I admit it.  I left Laramie. Wyoming to become closer to the Kingdom.  Though some may have concerns as they discover little foibles and failings, I have never detected a serious breach in the lives of these great men and women who I live near and rub shoulder's with occasionally.

At BYU Idaho, when Elder M. Russell Ballard encouraged us to spread the faith using the marvelous technology of the Internet,  I took him at his word.  In that spirit, I forward this message to those who, hopefully, will read it with interest and relish.  And should you discover these words long after I am unable to Blog or Testify, Know that I not only believe-- I know these men speak, act and care as direct pipelines from above. 

Elder David A. Bednar gave a wonderful talk about being Quick to Observe at BYU.  I have tried to do as young 11 year old Mormon did as a sober child who was quick to observe.  These are some of my observations.  I hope they do you good!  JRH

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