Thursday, June 20, 2013

"We're just like you."

We had a special stake conference this past weekend. Four general authorities (including an apostle, one of the presidents of the Seventy, another member of the Seventy and a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric) were in our state for a Priesthood Leadership Council on Saturday (a meeting with stake presidencies, bishops and perhaps other priesthood leaders from across the state), and then they fanned out over four stakes for special stake conferences on Sunday.

Our visitor was Bishop Davies, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. I didn’t know anything about him before he spoke to us. It turns out that for the decade prior to his call to serve in the Presiding Bishopric, he worked finding land for all those temples the church is building. And he had some cool stories to tell us about his interactions with President Hinckley on the site in Paris, and with the mayor of Philadelphia regarding the site there.

But those stories are not the point of this post. Instead it’s two other things that struck me.

First, he mentioned that in his role in the Presiding Bishopric he meets with the First Presidency every week. For last meeting before coming to our conference, President Eyring and President Uchtdorf were absent, and they met just with President Monson. Bishop Davies observed that he often reminds himself that it is a privilege that the vast majority of Latter-day Saints will never know: meeting the prophet face-to-face. I was heartened by his acknowledgement of that fact.

I’ve never met President Monson, though I have shaken hands with President Eyring and President Uchtdorf, both long before they served in the First Presidency (and perhaps before their call to the Quorum of the Twelve). And I’ve shaken hands with a couple of other apostles in my life, in connection with meetings where they spoke and shook hands with many people. I have no doubt they have no recollection of me, even though I remember the circumstances of each of those meetings clearly.

The other thing Bishop Davies said that touched me was really tender. He was speaking about his own family and told of a family member who had become distant from the church despite years of activity and parental teaching. He spoke of his love for this member of his family, and his acceptance of the circumstances. And he said something like, “So you see, even general authorities have similar struggles to yours. We’re just like you.”

And, though it’s true that he’s not like me because he meets weekly with the Lord’s prophet, I believe he is more like me that I would have imagined. And I’m grateful to learn from his example.



  1. We're in the same region (Michigan) and we had Elder Richard Maynes one of the presidents of the Seventy and he was very personal and brought with him a really good spirit. Great Special Stake Conferences. We also had the Detroit Temple President, he was very likable and also gave a good message. As they say it rains on the just and as whell as the unjust. Don't think anyone is exempt from problems and trials.

    1. Anon, lucky you!

      I agree, and find that usually when the Brethren come they seem (especially recently) to provide a balance of gospel teaching and a healthy dose of personal experience. That was certainly true of Elder Oaks' recent visit to our stake.

  2. My dad was in a stake presidency in the 70's-80's and we hosted GA's in our home for dinners. The ones I met seemed to me to be just like my dad and the stake pres. They truly are pretty normal men, with good senses of humor and a complete devotion to serving well. Hearing the funny stories of their experiences in different homes throughout the world was priceless. I have a great love of the brethren and look to them as examples of the kind of saint I should be.

  3. You may want to look at the biography of Spencer W.Kimball
    Lengthen your stride. It disscuss the strained relationshp President Kimball had with his oldest son Spencer Levan. He had gone a mission, married in the Temple and had an outstanding carrer as a law professor. Hoever he beacme totally inactive in the church.

  4. John, yes, I'm familiar with President Kimball's biography and his son. And I know other general authorities have other issues. But it was comforting to hear him speak so openly and compassionately about his experience.

    RL, I think you're right: as we meet these men we learn that they are "people" too. I like very much that they share that side of themselves when they visit stakes.

  5. I wish every member really understood the meaning of the last part of his talk - the part you emphasized in your title. It would change SO much that needs to be changed in our culture.

  6. I agree with you, Papa D, but I'm interested to hear more of your thoughts. I can think of three:

    First, if we recognize our leaders are like us, we will not hold them to unreasonable standards of perfection; we will allow them to be human and flawed, and take in stride mistakes they may make inadvertently.

    Related to the first, if we recognize they are like us, we will be less likely to put them on a pedestal, assuming everything they say at every moment is scripture-quotable, hold-everyone-else's-feet-to-the-fire Gospel Truth that becomes a new standard for judging one another.

    Finally, if we realize that we all struggle, perhaps we'll be gentle with one another -- and with ourselves -- as we confront the challenges we all face.

    1. Let me hasten to add, by the way, that the best people I know -- and there are many of them -- are already gentle with one another; they do not use the words of the brethren to judge one another.

    2. Let's see what else I can add to your list:

      Um, nothing. *grin*