(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
Among the General Authorities I traveled with, I discovered that many were capable of doing a really thorough job at the dinner table. However, after some degree of thought, I have concluded that the biggest eater among them was Elder Alma Sonne, with Elder Sterling W. Sill as a close second. Those two were magnificent at the dinner table. Neither one was bashful nor willing to quit until the food was gone. They made everyone feel good. On the other hand, I was a rather poor eater and embarrassed myself, as well as many people, with my inability to do justice to the lovely meals that were provided for us over the years.
On one occasion, Elder Sonne and I were assigned to a stake conference in Cheyenne, Wyoming. While flying to Denver where we would rent a car to drive the rest of the way, Elder Sonne mentioned a place between Denver and Cheyenne where "they sell the best steaks in the world," and where we would stop and order a great big steak for our lunch. He described in minute detail the restaurant and quality of steaks served there. After talking about it a good part of the flight, by the time we got to Denver, I was close to starvation.
After renting a car and proceeding on to Cheyenne, Elder Sonne proudly continued on in detail about the marvelous steak we were going to have. I finally told him we needed to stop now and eat, because I didn't think I could last. I was starving to death just listening to him. But he was intent on getting to his favorite steakhouse. And, indeed, when we finally arrived an hour later, the steak we were served was a masterpiece.
Elder Sill was almost Elder Sonne's equal in his eating capacity, but he was number one with desserts. I have never been big on desserts; so during our stake conference travels, when we arrived in the various homes for a nice Sunday dinner, even before I knew what the dessert would be, I let the hostess know that whatever the dessert was, I would prefer a very small portion.
On one occasion with Brother Sill, as the hostess excused herself to get the dessert, I reminded her to please give me just a half serving. If I really enjoyed it, I knew I could always ask for more. But before she left the room, Brother Sill added, "I don't know what we're going to have for dessert, but whatever it is, would you please put Brother Rudd's other half on top of my large portion."
She did just that. She brought in a small piece of pie for me which was exactly the right size. On top of Brother Sill's large portion was my other half. When he had cleaned up his plate, he complimented her on the fine pie, after which she made the mistake of asking him if he would like another piece. Promptly he said that he surely would, if there was any more. So he handled another full piece, and was still able to give a good talk in the Sunday afternoon session.
Elder Sterling W. Sill was assigned to spend a week in Florida and tour the mission, which was a delight to him, since about forty years previously, he had served his first mission there. During the tour, we held zone meetings every day and received excellent instructions. Elder Sill was a great teacher and an excellent motivator.
Especially thrilling for him was his arrival in the north part of Florida, where he had presided as the conference (district) president during his first mission. No traveling or meetings were scheduled for him for one full day, so he could visit the little branches in Sink Creek, Blountstown, and Hosford, and go into the homes to meet with several of the saints with whom he had contact on his first mission. Everywhere we went, the saints gathered in large numbers and celebrated with enormous amounts of food, which Brother Sill handled in his usual abundant style. The day was indeed one of rejoicing and happiness for him, but even more so for the faithful Latter-day Saints who had known him in their younger days. It was truly the highlight of the tour.
At the conclusion of the mission tour, a district conference was held in Pensacola, where Elder Sill was to dedicate a beautiful new chapel. The bounteous food which had been served on that wonderful day in northern Florida took its toll on him. Brother Sill, normally a very healthy person, started speaking, when he got desperately ill and had to leave the chapel. I started to speak in his stead, until he returned about five minutes later. Again, he was forced to leave the meeting, this time for about ten minutes. When he again returned, he dedicated the building and concluded the conference as quickly as possible. The day was difficult for him, especially since he had to be rushed to the airport directly after the conference to fly to Birmingham, Alabama for another chapel dedication.
Despite Elder Sill's illness that day, the mission tour was highly successful, especially since he was able to rub shoulders with old and great friends once again.