(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
[Editorial Note: A couple of the below accounts are of miracles attendant to President Rudd’s mission service and priesthood administrations, though he writes them in a way that one might miss that fact unless reading carefully.]
In the Florida Mission, we needed a new branch president in a small city in southern Georgia. My counselors spent most of their time working with the thirty-nine branches in the mission. They were familiar with the priesthood leaders and the good people who resided in those branches. I had also met many of them. I felt that a certain brother should be the new branch president, but my counselors objected. I said, "He is the best man there and would be a good branch president." My first counselor stated, "But he wasn't a full tithe payer last year." I responded, "I agree, we should not put in someone who doesn't pay a full tithing, but I would like to interview this man anyway. Until last year he always paid a full tithing. I think there must be some serious problem that we need to know about." Both of my counselors felt he definitely should not be called unless he was a full tithe payer. Every leader in every branch and in all of the four districts was a full tithe payer. In fact, we didn't even have anyone on our auxiliary boards who wasn't a full tithe payer. This was a most unusual situation and my counselors felt we would be making a mistake if we called the brother I felt we should call.
As a result, we did not make the call. We waited a little while and the next time we were together, I brought it up again. I expressed my feeling that this brother should be the branch president. They still disagreed. So I said, "Why don't I at least interview him?"
During the interview I said to this good man, "You've always been a full tithe payer, and now last year you quit paying tithing and you show up on the records as a part tithe payer. What has gone wrong? Are you having some difficulties?" He replied, "No president, I am getting along pretty well. I just decided not to pay any tithing." I asked, "Surely you are converted to the principle of tithing aren't you?" He answered, "Oh yes, but I don't want to pay my tithing." I said, "Well, please tell me the reason." He said, "I just don't want to, I think it would be best if I didn't." I persisted in getting a better answer. Finally he admitted, "Well, I will be honest with you. I know you are hunting for a new branch president and I think you would like to have me be the branch president, but I don't want to be the branch president, and I know you won't put a man in who does not pay his tithing. So I've taken my tithing money and deposited it in the bank. As soon as you get a branch president, I'll go draw it out, with interest, and give it to the Church as my full tithing. I just don't want to be a branch president."
I told him that I was confident that the Lord wanted him to fill that call and after consulting with my counselors, we gave him the chance to go to the bank and get his tithing money and get himself back one hundred percent and then we called him to serve. He became a splendid branch president, though at first he was nervous and shy and felt he was not prepared for that call.
The Florida mission included all of the Caribbean islands. We were in contact with a small branch of the Church located at the Guantanamo Naval Base on the southeast tip of Cuba. We had about a hundred Latter-day Saints on that base and an excellent branch. There were some children in the primary. Month after month the reports showed one hundred percent attendance. I was quite anxious to go visit the Saints there. But, because of military regulations, it was next to impossible.
However, the branch president had been working with the Protestant chaplain on base and was able to convince him that I should come to the naval base. The chaplain was a splendid man and contacted the captain of the base, an admiral, to see if it was possible for me to come. After some months, I received a telegram from the Pentagon instructing me to be in Kingston, Jamaica on the coming Thursday night. I quickly arranged my schedule and flew to Jamaica.
I stayed in the Sheraton Hotel. Early the next morning I followed the orders I had received and met a naval officer. I was flown on a navy plane to Guantanamo. There were no seats or windows in the area of the plane I was in. I sat on the floor, put a seat belt around me as instructed, and had a reasonably good flight.
When we arrived at the base, a large crowd of at least a hundred people gave us a royal welcome. The branch president, President Sweeney, immediately introduced himself and then introduced me to the chaplain. The Protestant chaplain apologized for the two Catholic chaplains who were not there. He said they had a wild party the night before and were both too drunk to come.
I met the rest of the branch presidency, the Primary children, and the whole branch. It was quite a wonderful feeling to be with them. After about an hour the chaplain said we have to leave now because we have another appointment.
President Sweeney, the chaplain, and I, got into the chaplain's car and went to the office of the base captain. We were welcomed by him and had a wonderful one-hour meeting. He was interested in the Church and asked a lot of questions. "President, why are you here? Why is it important for you to come?"
I told him I needed to meet the members of the Church on the base and hold some meetings with them.
"I understand that," he responded, "but why is it so necessary for you to come; you already have a leader here?" "We are going to sustain Brother Sweeney as the branch president." The admiral persisted, "But isn't he already the branch president?"
"Yes, he is the acting president, but I am here to make it official." He continued, "What are you going to do?" "On Sunday we will hold a meeting with all the members of the branch and I will present his name, and the name of his counselors, and the members will vote to sustain them. After that, he will officially become the president of the branch."
"Couldn't that be done without you?" he said. "Well, actually it has been done, he has been the acting president for two or three months." "So why did you come? I want to know exactly why it was important for you to come," he asked.
I finally realized what he was trying to get at. "After President Sweeney has been sustained, and the meeting is over, then I will set him apart." "Tell me what that means." "I will place my hands upon his head and in the authority of the holy priesthood, I will set him apart to preside over this branch of the Church."
Then the admiral admitted: "I knew that. I have great respect for your priesthood. I just wanted you to tell me a little bit more, but I know what happens in your church. You men hold the Lord's priesthood, and a man can't serve in your church until he has received a blessing from someone holding the proper authority."
It was exciting to hear him tell this to me. I was grateful I had answered the questions to his satisfaction. The admiral turned to the chaplain and asked, "Now, why would you work so hard to get President Rudd here? After all, you are a Methodist minister and he is a Mormon. Aren't you in competition with each other?" This wonderful chaplain replied, "No, we are never in competition with the Latter-day Saints. Admiral, if everyone on this base was a Latter-day Saint, you wouldn't have to have any military police, and there would be no brigs. Latter-day Saints obey and honor the law, they are good people, no drinking, carousing, or anything like that."
"Now President Rudd," the admiral offered, "because you have come, and President Sweeney is now officially a priesthood leader in your Church, I will treat him as if he were a chaplain. He will have all the rights and privileges the other chaplains have. We will furnish him a car as he needs it, and he will have access to the officers' club, even though he is not in the Navy, but he is your president here on our base, and he will be so respected and honored." That splendid hour with the admiral was certainly a highlight of my visit to the Saints on the island of Cuba.
In April of 1968, I attended a district conference in Puerto Rico. While there, President Gardner Russell took me to a hospital. A one-year old baby boy, a son of one of the active families in the area was critically ill with spinal meningitis.
When we arrived at the hospital, three doctors were consulting about the baby's condition. They told the father the baby would not live—there was no hope of recovery. They indicated that if the child lived, he would be severely handicapped and mentally retarded.
After the doctors left, President Russell and I assisted the father in giving his child a blessing. During the course of the blessing, the child was promised he would recover and live a normal life. The child responded to the blessing almost immediately, and within a short period of time was recovering.
A number of years later the mother contacted me and said the boy was mostly recovered and doing well. He was deaf as a result of the illness, but had otherwise completely recovered and would lead a fairly normal life. He became an Eagle Scout and a fine student.
The parents of this boy expressed their appreciation for this blessing that had returned their son to them and allowed him to live.
I received a letter on November 17, 1967, written in Spanish. After it was translated, I learned that it was from a young member of the Church, a girl who was living in the city of Santiago in the Dominican Republic. Santiago is located about 90 miles north of Santo Domingo which is the capitol of the country. The girl's name was Flavia Salaz.ar Gomez. She explained that she had joined the Church in Mexico when she was about twelve years of age and was very active there. Her sisters and mother had also joined the Church. Later, she fell in love with a Dominican boy, married him, and he took her to the Dominican Republic to live. She had a year-old baby that had never received a Church blessing.
She then told me she was seriously ill suffering from cancer, and the doctors told her she did not have very long to live. She asked if it was possible for someone holding the priesthood to come to Santiago and give her a blessing. I wrote and told her that we would get there as soon as we could.
It wasn't long before I was to go to a district conference in Puerto Rico. There was a Latter-day Saint family living in Santo Domingo, Brother and Sister Dale Valentine and their children. Brother Valentine was an elder and they were an active, fine Latter-day Saint family. They held Church meetings in their own home, held family home evening, had all the Church magazines, and in general, lived the gospel.
I wrote Brother Valentine and asked if he would take me to Santiago so that we could find and bless Flavia. I took Elder Gert Forestor with me. At the airport in Santo Domingo, Bro ther Valentine met us, and we stayed overnight in his home. Early the next morning, he, his wife, one of their children, and Elder Forestor and I, got into their station wagon and drove up to Santiago. It was a rather long ride because the highway was crooked and quite heavily traveled.
When we arrived at the outskirts of Santiago, Brother Valentine asked me where she lived. At that moment we realized that none of us had an address. All I knew was her name and that she was praying for us to come. We stopped the car for a few minutes on a high point overlooking the city. I felt impressed to tell Brother Valentine to drive his car down into the city and take the first busy road to the left. He obediently drove on. I then told him to make a right turn and move close into the center of this large city which has about 200,000 people. As we drove down the street, we began looking for a parking place. We couldn't find a single place to park the car. After traveling several blocks, Brother Valentine asked, "What can we possibly do to find her?" At that moment I said, "Go to that next comer, make a right tum, and you will find an empty parking place just around the comer."
He drove to the corner, made the right tum, and there, nearly right in front of us, was an open space where we parked the car. We locked the car and stood on the sidewalk. Brother Valentine said, “Now what do we do?" I said, "Let's just start asking people." There was a gentleman nearby leaning up against the front side of a residence. Brother Valentine went over to him, and in Spanish, asked if he knew Flavia Salazar Gomez. The man looked at him in surprise and said, "Yes, she's my wife. She's just inside that door." We had parked in front of their home!
Flavia and the baby came out to greet us. We were invited into their humble little home to visit. I asked Brother Valentine to interview her and see how close to the Church she had remained. We were delighted to know that she was still living the Word of Wisdom and that she prayed every day. Of course she had no church to attend and was unable to make any contributions to the Church, but she felt she was a good, faithful member. She asked about President McKay, wanted to know if he was still alive and well, and asked a few other questions about the Church. It had been about two years since she had left Mexico and had been out of touch with the Church.
We named and blessed the little baby. Then we had Flavia sit on a chair. I requested Brother Valentine to give her the blessing in Spanish. However, I asked him to bless her that she would recover from her cancerous condition and become well.
I told him to give her a blessing of comfort and whatever came to his mind. We put our hands on her head and gave her the blessing. We then visited briefly with her. Her husband, who was very considerate and kind, was totally disinterested in the Church, though he was not opposed to Flavia being a member. We left them and drove back to the city of Santo Domingo.
I returned to the mission office after the trip. I later heard from Brother Valentine that Flavia and her husband had moved to Santo Domingo. About six months later, on my way to Puerto Rico, we stopped over in Santo Domingo for a twenty-four hour visit. We drove to where Flavia and her husband were living and found her in good health, looking well and happy. She told us that she had been completely cured. The doctors told her she no longer had any cancer and it seemed she was going to be all right. They were delighted to see us again and it was a great thrill to meet this lovely young Latter-day Saint mother and realize the blessings of the Lord which had come to her.