“Okay. Who’s THAT?” I whispered, positioning my kiddos at center court.
They concentrated on the deep voice coming from the speakers and filling the hall. (Attendance at all four sessions of conference had been a tradition for as long as they could remember and this game was a highlight, so they getting pretty good at it.)
“Elder Scott!” Their little feet left the ground as they recognized the lulling, deliberate style of Richard G. Scott.
“Good job! Oh wait! He’s done! Now, who’s THAT?” I challenged.
This one was too easy. “President Hinckley!” they chimed together.
His beloved tone of voice represented ALL of the general authorities somehow. The way Gordon B. Hinckley pronounced the word “grreaaat” had always impressed me; I automatically hear it to this day when I read that particular word in scripture, as in “grreaaat and terrible” or “greaaat and spacious…”
I wanted my children to love his voice (and all the Brethren) with the same intensity I did. The belief in the divine inspiration of their calling sparked to life in my youth...
My family was on the grounds of Temple Square during one of our visits with Utah relatives, when suddenly, I felt my mother rush up from behind me, grab me by the shoulders, and propel me with alarming urgency towards the Tabernacle. An old man was moving away from an open door there and people were gathering around him. With a degree of determination and boldness uncharacteristic of my mother, she shoved our way through the crowd until I was standing at his feet. I had no idea what had just happened or why.
He looked down at me. His gentle eyes never left mine as my mother panted, “President Tanner, THIS is my daughter, Ramona.” It was certain that I had never heard that kind of awe and pride in her voice.
I was so young, I don’t remember then if he said anything. I don’t remember if I said anything. What I remember most, and still can’t totally explain, is how important it was to my mother.
We were not active in the church as a family. I had never seen or heard of President N. Eldon Tanner. There were four other children in our family standing nearby. Why she singled me out and hustled me into that opportunity -- just so completely unlike her to be aggressive or assertive in any situation – baffled me for years. Sifting again and again through the details, I find it stirring that she presented me – not herself – to this Apostle of the Lord. He never heard her name or shook her hand.
Years later, my father was cooking a meal for a party of stake leaders and visiting authorities in-between sessions of stake conference. Everyone knew my dad would not be attending the meetings himself, but he was agreeable to lending his experience in the kitchen for church functions. Someone (probably me) came up with the idea of the Beehive class acting as servers at the sit-down affair.
In our look-alike aprons of yellow gingham, my best friend Becky and I assigned ourselves to the “head” table. Sometime during the course of our labors, President Ezra Taft Benson noticed my name tag. He took me by the hand and surprised everyone as he began to sing the old ballad:
Ramona, when day is done I hear you call -
Ramona, I see you by the waterfall...
Ramona, I see you by the waterfall...
My dad came out of the kitchen for the first time that day - and watched. It was certain I had never seen that kind of awe and pride in his face.
I don’t remember now if President Benson sang the whole song, or only a few lines. I don’t remember if I blushed or giggled. What I remember most is how important it was to my father. Why he stood in that doorway and made no move to insert himself into the situation – just so completely unlike him to remain in the background in any situation - has baffled me for years. Sifting through the details, I am touched that he allowed me – not himself – to receive attention from the prophet of the Lord.
The name of “Neal A. Anderson” was read over the Conference Center pulpit yesterday. Thirteen years ago he gave an address called “Teaching Our Children to Love the Prophets”. In it he describes how a group of deacons could list every player and position on the Atlanta Braves but when asked the names of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, were completely stumped. He counteracts the assertion that their message is more important than their names with the point that if our children do not know their names "they most likely will not know their messages either...
“Our family has mostly lived in the eastern part of the United States. On the weekend of general conference, we would spend Saturday and Sunday at the stake center viewing the conference by satellite transmission. Sometimes, as our children were asked to dress in their Sunday clothes on Saturday morning, spirits were less than enthusiastic. Few other young children of the stake went to the stake center on Saturday to view general conference. Yet it is when children are young that parents must be innovative in helping them develop good habits regarding conference participation. As our children are given opportunities to observe and learn the role of these special witnesses, they will receive a spiritual confirmation of the sacred calling of their Church leaders, and they will feel a deeper love for and interest in these leaders and their message.”
It is especially interesting that in this address, Elder Anderson recalls standing with his parents in a long line, awaiting the chance to shake an apostle’s hand. “I have never forgotten the feelings I had," he says, "as I met the Lord’s servants.” I also treasure those feelings, but even more impressive to me as a child, was the the impact of those occasions on my PARENTS.
Muse with me: What experiences and feelings do you recall as a child that have affected your testimony of the prophets today? How have you shared that testimony with the little people and youth in your life?