As a kind of follow-up to my friend Dan’s touching post about President Kimball, I had a couple of additional thoughts and stories. The first is a story similar to Dan’s Bolivia story. My High Priest Instructor told us the story a few years ago, back when the High Priests still met. His father was mission president of the Washington, DC Mission, and his father got word that President Kimball had a brief layover in Dulles Airport. President Kimball didn’t have enough time on his layover to leave the airport, but he wondered if he could meet with all the missionaries there. So the mission president quickly assembled all the missionaries at the airport (obviously this was before security would prevent such things) and President Kimball came to meet with them. He shared some brief words, and then said, “now I would like to greet each of you and shake your hand.” He went around the room, looked each one of them in the eyes, and shook their hands, telling them he loved them. When he got to the end of the room, he said, “I’m worried I may have missed someone. I’m going to go around again.” So he went around the room a second time, repeating the same gestures, but this time with even more sincerity. Our instructor said no one in the room doubted that President Kimball loved them.
As I recount that story, it occurs to me that such experiences are legion, and not limited to President Kimball. I have stories about President Monson, President Hinckley, Elder Maxwell, and Elder Ashton.
When we might be in a critical or doubtful spirit, we can sometimes wonder if the Church leaders are in on the fraud, or if they genuinely believe what they are saying. It’s easy to assume others are thinking and feeling the same thing we are, they just aren’t saying so. But in this case, that would be wrong. The latest example of this is from Elder Holland’s testimony, released just a week ago. I can’t really do it justice, but here is a snippet on this point:
This is not a fairytale. This is not something that I get up every morning and ask myself, ‘How can I go fool another group of people today? How can I go pretend that something is true? How can I go and work a great fiction on the public?’
I would not do that, and my life is worth more to me than that, and my witness to my children and my children’s children is worth more than that. [He gets emotional at this point.] It means more than that. My integrity is more than that. I get up every morning saying, not, “God, how can I pretend, how can I act that this is true…” [instead], my plea every morning of my life is, ‘How can I convey what I know to be more true than anything on the face of this earth? How can I convey to some person or persons the reality of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the fact that God lives, that the heavens are open, I have a commission to stand by the Savior of the Lord, to defend Him, and defend the rock that He is?
Joseph Smith and Hyrum did not sit in Carthage Jail, ready to be executed by a mob. They did not pull out the Book of Mormon, and say, let’s tell some jokes from this book we made up. No one would do that. No one would do that! They read from that book because they knew it was true, and they knew it would be their salvation… Every day I am giving my life for the church, because I know it’s true.