With conference beginning tonight with the General Women’s Meeting and continuing next week with the other general sessions, I thought I would share a few experiences I have personally had with some of the apostles. All of my experiences have been pretty brief and pretty insignificant to anyone else, but they are all very cherished experiences for me and are part of the reason why I love our leaders so much and have such a strong testimony of their callings.
Elder Henry B. Eyring. Many years ago I attended the wedding reception of my niece whose new husband just happened to be a neighbor to the Eyrings. The reception was held at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and Elder Eyring came. He knew my father and so he went over to visit with him. I was sitting nearby and kept hoping my dad would invite me over and introduce me to him, but he didn’t and so I finally worked up the courage to just go over, interrupt them and introduce myself.
This was at a very difficult time in my life. I was going through a personal crisis and had just lost a very dear friend to cancer. When I approached Elder Eyring, he turned toward me and took my outstretched hand in both of his. He kept cupping my hand in both his hands while he talked with me. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciated that kind gesture. While he stood there, looking down at me (he is a very tall man) holding my hand and visiting with me, I felt so much warmth, comfort, and love from our Heavenly Father and knew I was going to be okay. I was so grateful to Elder Eyring for his kindness—and glad that I had the courage to walk over and meet him.
Elder Richard G. Scott. On another occasion I had the opportunity to visit with Elder Scott. My parents were being set apart as president and matron of the Guatemala City Temple, and Elder Scott had been invited to set my mother apart. My mother had a lot of concerns about leaving her family for three years to go off to Guatemala. She had expressed those concerns a few times to her family, but did not share any of them with Elder Scott. However, when he gave her a blessing, he mentioned every single fear and concern my mother had. It was amazing to me to hear the prayer and know that Elder Scott had received inspiration through the Spirit to know EVERY THING my mother needed to hear.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks. We met Elder Oaks when he interviewed my husband and myself to be mission president and companion in Mexico. I had never met him before but he was president of BYU for part of the time I was there, so I was aware of his many accomplishments and I was completely intimidated by him! I really thought he would be a serious hardliner, but instead found him to be very friendly, down to earth, and completely delightful.
Before our interview I teased my husband that I was going to ask him how he met his wife Kristen. I had heard a story from my sister who heard it from her friend, who heard it from her cleaning lady, so I figured there was probably a lot of fiction in the story by the time it got to me. So I really, really, wanted to get the truth. But I knew it really wouldn’t be appropriate to ask. (And my husband threatened me.:-)
As we began visiting he asked me where I was from. I told him Orem, and that my father had been a BYU professor. He asked who my father was, and when I told him he said, “Oh, I know your father! In fact my wife is a cousin of his.” (I did know that—which was part of the reason I was so interested in their story.) He then asked, “Do you want to know how we met?” I about fell off my chair! Yes!! I did!! And the next ten minutes I listened carefully as he told us their story. I loved it. When we walked out the door after the interview I said to Wes, “God loves me!”
I had another opportunity to see Elder Oaks while we were serving in Mexico. He attended one of our Mission President’s Seminars and did some of the training. While our Area President, Daniel Johnson, was speaking, Elder Johnson asked us a question that I raised my hand to answer. When I sat down from giving my answer I noticed Elder Oaks leaning forward in his chair in front of me and giving me a “thumbs up” sign. Yeah, that pretty much made my day/week/year!
Elder Christofferson Just a year into our mission, Elder Christofferson came to visit and address our missionaries. We combined with another mission and filled the building! I found him to be very nice, humble and friendly as well. I also loved his wife who was very kind and gracious. But my favorite moment of the entire conference came at the very end. Elder Christofferson had just completed his training when he turned to me and asked if there was anything I wanted to add. I was a little surprised. I know protocol has it that no one speaks after the presiding authority and I was positive I didn’t have anything to add to the remarks of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. BUT I was completely impressed that he had asked me. He cared enough about my feelings and my thoughts to ask me if I had more to share. That really impressed me and certainly put him near the top of my hero list .
President Russell M. Nelson. President Nelson grew up a few doors down from my father and they were childhood friends. I had seen him a time or two before as a child when he and my father served on the General Sunday School Board together and I had read his first autobiography that he sent to my father as a gift. But I had never really had any occasion to visit with him.
Just before our last Christmas in the mission, President Nelson came to visit Guadalajara and spoke to the two missions there. Meeting with General Authorities always made me just a little nervous as so many of them would look me directly in the eyes while talking with me and I always felt they were trying to search my soul for some hidden evil there. (I know they aren’t but that is how I always feel) So when I was introduced to President Nelson and he reached out to shake my hand, I was careful to look him straight in the eyes. (Didn’t want him to think I had anything to hide:-) What completely surprised me though and caught me totally off guard, was that instead of feeling like my soul was being searched, I felt complete and total Christ like love which drew me in and made me want to always stay there. This was at the height of the ordain women’s movement in the Church where some women were vocally complaining about not having the priesthood and that the leaders of our Church were male chauvinists and out of touch with reality. But at that moment I knew that I was standing before a man of God in whom there was no guile. The love I felt coming from his eyes was pure and all encompassing. There was no hidden agenda there. There was no desire to oppress or demean. And I felt that if I were to meet the Savior personally, it would probably feel a lot like it did to stand next to President Nelson.
Feeling our Savior’s love, feeling appreciated and valued as a woman, knowing our leaders are inspired and guided by the Spirit are just a few of the reasons I can’t wait for this conference to begin!!
Bring it on!
Lori Smith Wagner
One Mormon Voice