Friday, November 5, 2010

Face to face with apostles

A post over at Wheat and Tares got me thinking about my personal experiences with apostles. I don't have many – I have met only two, and those both briefly. And I shook hands with a third.

The first was in the early 1990s when we lived in Hiroshima, Japan. Elder Maxwell spoke at a stake conference. After the meeting, we were about to set out home and I mentioned to my wife, I'd really like to go back and meet Elder Maxwell and shake his hand. So we took our five kids back inside where he was greeting members on the stage of the auditorium where we'd met. By the time we got there the line had thinned quite a bit. We had first greeted Elder Bateman who was in the area presidency (and chatted about West Africa – my parents had lived there when Elder Bateman, before his call as a general authority, had come on an exploratory trip before the church sent senior couple missionaries there and had met him in their home in Lagos).

When we got to Elder Maxwell, I was so impressed by his gentle manner and his genuine interest in us. I shook his hand and introduced myself, and, not wanting to take any more time than necessary, tried to pull my hand away so I could introduce my wife and children. But he held onto my hand, looked into my eyes and smiled. It was as if he had said, "You waited to see me; let's just share a moment together." Frankly, I was not all together comfortable, but I did feel his love.

Several years later we lived in Venezuela and Elder Hales visited for a regional conference. Because I work for a car company, I was asked to try to arrange a vehicle to transport Elder Hales, and I selfishly agreed to do so on the condition that I could drive it. So I transported Elder Hales and his wife from the airport, and to and from his meetings and hotel. It was a delightful experience to visit with him. He and his family had lived overseas on work assignments prior to his call as a general authority, and it was interesting to hear his perspective on that experience. He also spoke of a rather serious and mysterious illness he'd contracted on an earlier visit to Latin America, one that landed him in the hospital for some time. And he expressed genuine concern for my family and for the ward in which I was the bishop at the time.

After the Sunday meeting, his flight arrangements did not allow him to stay after the meeting to visit with members, so prior to the meeting, he walked through the crowd in the basketball stadium shaking hands. After the meeting, as we waited in the line of cars leaving the stadium to return him to the airport, he saw a disabled man exiting the arena. He asked if I knew who he was, and I identified him as a member of our ward. Elder Hales got out of the car and walked over to him and visited with him briefly as the motorcade waited. I was touched by his attention to individual members despite the realization that his commercial flight would not wait for him if he were late.

The third – just a handshake -- was with Elder Packer. He spoke at a regional conference in our state. While we watched the Sunday session on a live video feed, I attended the priesthood leadership session in person the day before. I sat just a few rows from the stand as he instructed us for most of the meeting. Much of the time he answered questions from the audience and taught us based on the questions that were asked. I felt that some of his teaching applied specifically to me, and some didn't. As he left the chapel, he shook hands with those of us who were close enough to the aisle to do so.

It was impressive to me to sit at that apostle's feet and receive his instruction and blessing and to feel the spirit bear witness of his message.

These three men were each quite different in their approach. They taught different subjects. Each spoke in his own style. But in each case, I felt a confirming witness of their divine call. My heart was touched by their message. And my life was improved by being in their presence.


  1. Back when apostles still visited stake conferences, my dad and I were early to our meeting, sitting in the middle of the long bench without anybody yet sitting on either side of us. Elder Maxwell came up the aisle, then came all the way into the middle of the row to shake hands with us. It was a very little thing, maybe, but it made my dad feel like he was wanted and welcome, something he didn't feel very often at church where he was a faithful attender but never quite in the thick of things. For years my dad would occasionally mention those six steps Elder Maxwell took that day, always with a warm smile of remembering.

    I'd love Elder Maxwell for that if for no other reason!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It is a nice reminder that there is a power and a conviction that follows these Apostles - your powerful witness of that reminded me of my own and I need that kind of reminder lately.

  3. Ardis & Jordan thanks for your comments. Ardis, I'm glad you shared the experience with Elder Maxwell and your dad.

  4. Elder Bruce R McConkie visited Ecuador when I was a missionary there. We had a wonderful meeting with him, after which he shook hands with every missionary there. I remember how large his hands were (which I suppose went along with how tall he was - but when you're 5'2", everybody is tall...!)

    And a week from tomorrow, Elder Dallin H Oaks will be visiting for our Stake Conference - you can imagine we're pretty excited about that!

  5. Thank you for taking the time to sharing these personal experiences. I believe sharing them can go a long way in making a difference for those who may never have personal interaction with a living Apostle.

  6. Thanks. These personal touches help me to see these men as more than just the polished conference speakers, but also living, compassionate servants.