(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
My assignments to stake conferences continued until I was called to be a mission president in 1966. As I look over the list of the Brethren I have traveled with, it is hard to keep from telling a story or two on all of the Brethren. They were great men. I am not amazed, but absolutely thrilled to know that the Lord plans well ahead as to whom he wants to run the Church. Each of these men comes into the leadership of the Church, takes his place, and does his work in his own way.
I want everyone who reads this book to know that my testimony increased constantly by the privilege and opportunity I had of rubbing shoulders with these men. They were great to travel with. We shared rooms and experiences over a good many years which was a great blessing to me. The one thing I learned over and over, week-after-week is that the Brethren are the greatest men that the Lord has on the earth.
Elder Mark E. Peterson and I had just concluded an excellent stake conference one weekend, when Elder Peterson asked me to stay and assist him in one more special meeting, to discuss, he said, "probably the worst condition in the whole Church." All the members of one of the wards were invited to meet with us and the stake presidency. Of the 468 members and 200 families in the ward, almost all the families had completely ignored the law of tithing. Elder Peterson would not leave until the ward was called to repentance and had firmly committed to live this sacred law. Brother Peterson urged me to give a strong and powerful talk on tithing, after which he did the same, addressing the bishopric because they were no better than the rest of the ward. He told the stake presidency to report to him on a quarterly basis, and that individuals were to be released from their assignments if they could not qualify as tithe payers.
I marveled as I witnessed an Apostle bearing down in such blunt and direct terms to these people, and I was grateful that Elder Peterson had the courage and ability to speak out on that occasion. I am certain a great change took place in the ward, as well as in the stake, as a result of that meeting.
In August, I attended the Denver West Stake conference with Elder Mark E. Peterson. We did not make any leadership changes during that conference, but Elder Peterson made suggestions about a few little things he thought were not quite the way they should be. He was diplomatic, but very forceful in giving instructions. President Russell Taylor was a rather young president who was very competent and was an excellent leader. He was fearless in speaking to Elder Peterson and asked several direct and rather personal questions of the Apostle. I thought he was fine, and Elder Peterson was a very interesting man to be with. [Editorial Note: This story speaks of President Russell Taylor, who later became Elder Russell C. Taylor of the First Quorum of the Seventy.]
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and I were assigned to attend the Sunset Stake conference in 1974. Elder LeGrand Richards and I had addressed some serious problems in the stake several months earlier, but what we had tried did not work out, and the Brethren felt it was time to change the stake presidency. Elder Hinckley and I drove up on a Saturday morning and interviewed until late in the afternoon. A few sisters broke into our private meeting and suggested we eat something because we had gone all day without food. We stopped long enough to eat, and as we concluded our meal, the sisters brought us each a big piece of pie. Elder Hinckley and I, up to then, had been unable to find a stake president. Just as the pie arrived, he said to me, "Glen, do you have to eat that pie?" I said I did not so he said, "Let's leave." He announced we had to go back to work and excused the two of us. When we got out into the hall and were walking back toward the office, he said, "I now know who should be the stake president." I said, "I know also." When we got back to the room, we had a word of prayer, and then I told him who I thought the new president should be. He and I had arrived at the same man. In our search and deliberations, we were of the opinion that we should release everybody—all the stake presidency and all of the high council. We had overlooked a fine, young man by the name of Kenneth Rock, who was the second counselor.
President Rock was sustained and set apart and served for ten wonderful years as stake president in the Sunset Stake. His leadership completely changed the well-being and strength of that part of Utah.
Elder McConkie and I were neighbors and good friends, and when we went to the Denver South Stake conference in 1971, I suggested he change his [speaking] style a little bit. Rather than standing straight and tall and precise, I suggested he might tell a little joke and give everybody a short laugh and then just talk to them in a very friendly way. I did not criticize him for the dignified manner he always used, but he generally stood straight and tall, without much of a smile and really taught the gospel. He said to me, "If you want me to change, I'll do the best I can." Then, just before he stood up to speak, he said, "Now, watch me." When he stood up, instead of smiling or a little humor of any kind, he stood straight and tall and really preached the gospel in the famous McConkie style. When he sat down, he said, "Did I do any better?" All I could do was smile.
Elder Bruce McConkie and his family lived on the same street as we did about three houses away. His kids played in my yard and mine played in his, and there was always some activity. One day I was standing on his front lawn when he came home from work in his car. As he got out of the car, he had a large package in his hands. I said, “Bruce, what do you have there?”
He said, “Oh, this is my new book. I just picked up the first six copies that have been printed.” He then turned to me and said, “You are worthy to receive the first copy of Mormon Doctrine that has ever been distributed. He then handed me the book. He said, “I’ll sign it later, but I want to go and show my wife my new book.”
I have now had in my possession for all of these many, many years, this lovely book—the first one given out—by Bruce himself. This book is all over the world and is constantly used by members of the Church.
In November 1962, I attended a stake conference in Anchorage, Alaska with Elder Alvin R. Dyer. Brother Dyer told the saints of the crisis in Europe that had caused a rapid change in the Church organization in that area.
As the General Authority over the European area, Brother Dyer was planning to organize a number of stakes in 1963. He wanted to create in Berlin a "master district" similar to a stake, to prepare for a future stake in that area.
However, one Monday morning in September 1961, Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Twelve informed Brother Dyer that he had been assigned by President David O. McKay to organize a stake in Berlin immediately, and that he was on his way.
The Berlin Wall had very recently been put up. Tension was great among the countries of the world; and another world war was threatening at the door. Brother Dyer felt the assignment to organize a stake in Berlin was most untimely, considering the present world conditions and the slight number of just over a thousand members in the Berlin area. He urged Elder Stapley not to come.
But the direction had been given and Elder Stapley was on his way. A stake with four small wards was organized with bishoprics and several high priests. Brother Dyer said that there was only one basic reason for making a stake at that time: To place priesthood in sufficient numbers to offset the evil powers threatening another world war. He bore testimony to the saints in Alaska that almost immediately after organizing the stake and ordaining several brethren to the Melchizedek priesthood, the tensions all over the world eased up. The priesthood had caused this great change.
Then, in February 1963, I attended a stake conference in Cardston, Alberta, Canada with Elder N. Eldon Tanner, wherein he bore testimony of the creation of the Berlin Stake. At the time of the organization, the anti-Christs had a foreign dictator presiding over East Berlin, and the Lord had a Prophet on the other side of the wall with the authority to bestow the priesthood and set up a stake. Elder Tanner bore testimony that the priesthood had a great effect on the conditions of the world.
I learned from years of traveling with the Brethren that most all of them had a reasonably good sense of humor. In fact, the higher up the line they were, the better their humor was. They were not inclined to tell a lot of jokes, but there were many humorous events and stories known and told by the Brethren.
One night in California I was put with one of the Twelve in a large bedroom where there were twin beds. I had a bad cold and was sure I would snore so I resolved to stay awake until the Brother had gone to sleep. We got into bed and he was sound asleep within seconds and began to snore and so I could not sleep hardly at all the whole night. It was on that occasion I resolved that from then on it would be every man for himself and that if I did not take care of myself, it was my own fault.
I may not have done well at the university, but I had the greatest teachers in the world when I began to travel with the Brethren. I think I should be given a doctorate in something as a result of the magnificent training and teaching which came from the great men of the Lord's Church.
On one occasion Elder Moyle commended me for doing what I was doing at Welfare Square and told me to do anything I felt like doing. He said if I got into trouble and anyone complained I was to tell them that Henry D. Moyle had told me to do it and then he said, "Be sure and give me a phone call and tell me what I told you so I can defend whatever you did." In other words he more or less gave me an open checkbook to do what needed to be done in building and improving Welfare Square. I tried to be wise and never take advantage of his confidence in my judgement.
In May 1974, I had the privilege of taking President and Sister Spencer W. Kimball to a Layton regional Aaronic Priesthood-MIA special sacrament meeting. It was wonderful to have President and Sister Kimball with us in our car. Later that month, President Marion G. Romney invited me to attend a greater Ogden area young adult meeting in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
On 23 December, I visited with President Marion G. Romney in his office, and then a security officer took both of us to Welfare Square where he spoke to our employees at the annual Christmas party. That day I also saw President Spencer W. Kimball. He stopped and talked with me. He shook my hand and pulled me up close and gave me a kiss and a compliment. It is always a great moment to be with him—a wonderful thrill. Even though I had been raised close to the Brethren and had been traveling and visiting with them for many years, I still got a thrill out of being in the presence of one of the First Presidency.
For a number of years I traveled around the Church as a representative of the General Welfare Committee and on other assignments. Most of the time, I traveled with a general authority, but from time-to-time there would be sisters from the general boards. These sisters generally traveled two at a time when they went out to conferences.
I enjoyed the sisters; they always did their very best. But I detected that some of them were a little nervous when they were assigned to be with me at conferences. I couldn't figure out what made them nervous, until one day I heard that there was a grapevine among the sisters, saying to beware of brother Rudd when you have to go with him, because he only asks two questions. The grapevine said that I asked them, "How old are you?" and "How much do you weigh?" These questions put fear into the hearts of women. It took me a little while to get them to settle down when they found out that I really wasn't that kind of a person. I did ask a couple of hard questions, but not those two. It was a great experience to travel with some of these women who were very well trained, did good work, and did well in their conference assignments. It is a dreadful shame that terrible rumors sometimes get spread that are not true or are partly not true.
When I was called by the First Presidency to be a general authority, President Monson asked me just two or three simple questions over the telephone centering around one idea, "Is there anything in your life that could embarrass the Church?"
When I was called to be a temple president by Gordon B. Hinckley, the only question I remember was, "Are you feeling well physically and able to serve?"
When I was called to be a member of the Wilford stake presidency, I was in San Luis Obispo, California. President Hinckley called me on the phone and asked, "Are you going to be released as a regional representative?" I informed him that I was; I had a letter of release effective in about six weeks from that day. He then informed me that I would be sustained that day as first counselor in the stake presidency.
When I was called to be a mission president, I went into President Tanner's office and he asked me just one question: "Are you out of debt?" I answered that at that moment, I didn't owe a single person anything except the regular monthly bills that were paid every month. He then proceeded to issue me a call to preside over a m1ss1on.
I am quite amazed at the fact that no long interviews occurred. Instead, only one question each time was asked me. Of course, the Brethren knew me pretty well; maybe that was why there was no long interview.
In October 1995, after the book Pure Religion was printed and distributed, Marva and I were invited by the First Presidency to attend a luncheon with them at the Lion House. They called up the next day and invited us to bring all our children. Fortunately, every one of our children (sixteen altogether with their spouses) was able to be present, Glenda and Steve having flown over from Denver.
Seated at the eight separate tables were President Hinckley, President Monson, President Faust, Elder Nelson, and Elder Wirthlin, a couple of the Seventies, members of the Presiding Bishopric, and some of the General Relief Society Presidency.
After a nice lunch, President Faust spoke, followed by President Monson, who praised the book highly. President Hinckley followed, in his very kind and considerate way, and I concluded with a few remarks. When it was over, I went with my family to the Church Office Building, where we stood in front of the large mural in the lobby and had our picture taken with my small camera. A lady happened to be standing there and snapped two pictures. One of them was perfect, and we had copies of it enlarged for each member of our family.
This very lovely affair lasted about two hours. It was something that wouldn't happen very often to very many, and we were honored to think that the First Presidency of the Church and others would give to us such a marvelous opportunity.