(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
On March 25, 1987, I received a phone call from President Thomas S. Monson while in the New Zealand Temple. After a few moments of greeting he said, "We need to get serious." He then notified me that President Ezra Taft Benson had authorized him to extend a call to me to become a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. Marva and I were in the office together when we received the call. President Monson spoke with Marva also. He gave us instructions to get tickets and fly home in time for the April conference.
Six days later we were on our way home. When we left Honolulu we boarded a Boeing 747 and had seats in the firstclass section. When we climbed the stairs into that area of the plane, we saw John R. Lasater and his wife and Douglas J. Martin and his wife, Wati. The six of us were the only ones in the first-class section. We all shook hands and smiled at the others. The six of us were on the same journey. No one dared to talk about why we were all headed to Salt Lake City. All of us had awkward smiles on our faces. Finally we began to talk and it wasn't long before we were quite certain of each other's assignment. Even though no one would say out loud why they were traveling to Salt Lake City.
After being sustained and set apart I received an assignment to work in the North America West Area as a counselor to Elder Gene R. Cook. Elder Ted E. Brewerton was the First Counselor. I also was assigned to be in the Missionary Department where I worked with Elders J. Richard Clarke and Russell C. Taylor. That was the busiest of all the assignments I had. I worked every day and hardly took even a Monday off, unless it was necessary because of travel. This was indeed one of the busiest and most difficult years I spent as a General Authority.
I was then assigned to go to the Pacific Area as First Counselor to Elder F. Arthur Kay. Elder Douglas J. Martin was the Second Counselor. That year was extremely interesting inasmuch as I was back in New Zealand several times and visiting the other islands, and holding many conferences in Australia.
The second year of that assignment I was the Area President with Elder Douglas J. Martin as First Counselor and Elder Ben B. Banks as Second Counselor. This was an exciting and busy year with many exceptionally fine experiences.
After two years in the Pacific I was reassigned to work in the North America Southwest Area as a counselor to Elder George I. Cannon. Elder Francis M. Gibbons was the First Counselor. I was assigned to be in the Temple Department.
The next year I was the president of the North America Southwest Area and received two new General Authorities as my counselors, Elders W. Mack Lawrence and Cree-L Kofford. This was a very productive year. I was still in the Temple Department, and to work with these two high-powered counselors was a great experience. I let them do all that was possible and supported and sustained these two men who had a great future ahead of them.
While in the Missionary Department I worked with Elders Dean L. Larsen, H. Burke Peterson and F. Enzio Busche for a period of two years.
In the Temple Department we were not nearly as busy as we were in the Missionary Department. I was grateful, because being in the presidency of the Southwest Area was totally a full-time job.
One of the most unusual assignments that I had during the five and one-half years as a General Authority was to preside over the change in the presidency of the New Zealand Temple. President Hinckley told Elder W. Grant Bangerter, Executive Director of the Temple Department to, "Tell Glen he is a General Authority and he can make the change." I tried to get a General Authority in the Area Presidency to come and take care of the transition, but no one would come. Therefore, I had the privilege of releasing the old temple presidency, myself, Sidney Crawford, and Stan Phillips. I gave all three of us high praise for our fine work. Then I presented for the sustaining vote the new presidency. We sustained Milton Russon as president and his two counselors, George Rogers and Lloyd Hayes. I had the privilege of setting these brethren apart.
I wrote of the telephone call that came into the New Zealand Temple on 25 March 1987 from President Thomas S. Monson and the official call assigned to serve as a Member of the Quorum of the Seventy. I also told some of the details of getting ready to go to general conference, coming home, being sustained in conference, being ordained and set apart, and flying back to New Zealand so we could continue our assignment in the temple until a new president arrived. I will not repeat all of that, except to say that this time was wonderful, but hectic. When the call came to be a General Authority, I was totally and completely surprised. I had not thought anything of it, even though I had heard all kinds of "prophecies and predictions" even back in the days when I was a very young bishop. At that time, we had a fine old patriarch, who had been one of the great leaders in the early days of welfare, speak in our sacrament meeting. Partway through his talk he paused and then made a very direct prophecy that I would someday be sustained as one of the leaders of the Church. After that rather unusual interruption in his talk, he went ahead and finished his message. Several people in the congregation noticed and made comments. I made a mental note but put it off to the side, trying not to think about it or consider it. However, there were times over the years that one person or another would mention the fact that I might someday be a General Authority. I can honestly say that I lived close enough to Brother Lee and other General Authorities that I had ruled out any possibility or desire of such a call. I was not anxious to have the duties I saw the Brethren have. I had been heavily involved in the travels and lives of many Brethren and realized what a most difficult life it was for them to lead. Not only that, but I was now 68 years of age and was certain that I would not be called at such a late age. In the history of the Church, there were only 6 men older than I was, called to serve as General Authority.
When the call came, I must confess that I was having a marvelous time as the president of the New Zealand Temple and knew I would be released in about three months. Although our time in New Zealand was winding down I had not given much thought of the future. We were having great success and enjoying many wonderful blessings. At the end of March 1987, I wrote the following in my journal: "President Monson called on the 25th. It made us both very nervous." I think that is a gigantic understatement of the feelings that both Marva and I had.
After we were called, had traveled to conference, and returned to New Zealand, we continued on with our regular work for six weeks until President and Sister Russon arrived. Just after they arrived, President Hinckley called me and asked to talk to the brethren who would be the two new counselors. He personally called George G. Rogers to be the first counselor in the temple presidency and then spoke with Lloyd N. Hayes and issued him a call to serve as second counselor in the presidency. President Hinckley authorized me to preside over the reorganization of the presidency and to set the counselors apart. I was extremely pleased that President Hinckley was totally involved in all that was going on in "far away" New Zealand and that I was acting under his direction in every respect and everything that pertained to the temple.
On Wednesday, 3 June 1987, I was in meetings most all day in the Church Office Building and was given a temporary office. The next day, I went to my first monthly meeting in the Salt Lake Temple with the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and all other General Authorities. This meeting was held on the fourth floor of the temple. President Benson was absent, so President Hinckley presided. President Howard W. Hunter was recovering from surgery, but the rest of the Twelve were there. This was the first of several magnificent temple experiences where we had the chance to hear the Brethren bear their testimonies. In those sacred meetings, held the first Thursday of every month, there was very little, if any, business transacted. It was strictly a fast and testimony meeting, including a prayer circle very similar to the ones held in a regular session in the temples. It was hard to believe that I was in that sacred room where there are magnificent oil paintings of the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, and each of the Presidents of the Church. The First Presidency sat at the front of the room, with the Twelve in a semicircle. Directly behind the Twelve were chairs for the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric. I learned to look forward to the first Thursday as it was a spiritual highlight of every month.
The next weekend, I went with Elder Dallin H. Oaks to Hunnington, Utah, where we reorganized the stake. This was a special event because Elder Oaks was particularly interested in seeing to it that I thoroughly understood what the Brethren expected us to do when a stake was reorganized. He was particularly kind and thoughtful as he gave me instructions. I had assisted at least 20 other Brethren in reorganizing stakes, but being with him was a very excellent learning experience for me.
The very next week, I was with Elder Grant Bangerter up in Paul, Idaho, where we once again reorganized a stake. One of the counselors who was being released was preparing to go to Fiji with his wife as missionaries. I stayed in their home, and we were up late talking about the Islands, and I answered many of their questions. On Sunday, we took care of the business, and Elder Bangerter and I drove home. He, too, allowed me to do most of the work. In fact, he almost became lazy on that occasion, making sure that I did everything that I ought to and that I understood. The Brethren who were assigned to help me understand the work of a General Authority were very kind. I appreciated their consideration.
One of my assignments as a General Authority was to be one of the Assistant Executive Directors in the Missionary Department of the Church. There were three of us with that title, and one other General Authority who was the Executive Director. The four of us were put in complete charge of all of the missions, under the direction of the Twelve.
With this assignment, I had the privilege of sitting in on the actual assignment of missionaries as they were made by Members of the Twelve. The first time was with Elder L. Tom Perry less than two weeks after returning home. I was greatly impressed with the process followed by the Twelve when they made assignments. I then had the opportunity of sitting along with one of the Twelve almost every other Tuesday morning while the assignments were being made. My job was to handle the paperwork and witness the Apostle receiving inspiration in making the assignment. It was wonderful to be with these chosen men. Elder Ballard, a great missionary himself, was especially enjoyable and radiated a tremendous missionary spirit. One morning in July, Elder Perry assigned 525 missionaries to their various missions. I was thrilled to be with Elder Boyd K. Packer when he assigned another large group. He was very relaxed and in total control.
For the benefit of everyone, I think that I should say that the meetings where missionaries are assigned are very sacred occasions. The door to the room is closed and locked, and the secretaries have orders not to interrupt. No one is in the room except the Member of the Twelve, the Seventy who is helping him, and one staff member who does the paperwork and writes down what the Lord had inspired the Apostle to do. The first time I participated the process seemed mechanical. Then I realized that I had never done anything that had required me to be so close to the Lord as to witness the Lord telling the ordained Apostle where to assign the missionary. If I ever had any questions about how missionaries were called, they were soon erased, and I thoroughly enjoyed this part of my assignment.
All of the problems which happened in the mission field were brought to one of the four General Authorities assigned to the department for our final decision. I soon discovered that some missionaries in the Missionary Training Center needed another interview and had confessions to make after they left home. Some of these young men could repent and carry on and go on with their missions. Others had to return home and have their missions cancelled or delayed. I found myself in the position of making those very delicate and heart-rending decisions. There is nothing much harder than to tell a young boy who has been at the Missionary Training Center for a week or ten days that his mission is cancelled and that he is to return home because of his transgressions. Everything I had ever learned in my whole life was needed as I helped to direct this great missionary part of the Church.
I am grateful for the many years of training I had. I soon realized that the training President Lee had given me 25 and 30 years before was just preparation for what I was now doing. I was grateful to President Kimball and his great teaching, as well. I did not anticipate all that was to happen, but these two Brethren and others had given me much needed training.
When I was called, President Romney was still alive, but was in very poor shape physically and mentally. I had the privilege of visiting with him a couple of times after coming home from New Zealand. I was amazed at how he had aged in the short time I was away and how he was being prepared to leave this earth. What a great friend he had been to me for well over 30 years.
I soon learned that there is no department that keeps a General Authority as busy as the Missionary Department does. Most General Authorities have Monday off as they are traveling on the weekends. However, I went to work a couple of Mondays and realized that mission presidents have more trouble on Mondays than any other days of the week so I found myself working every Monday as well as every other day of the week. I was blessed with good health. I still had many headaches, but I was able to keep up the schedule and be on the job without any vacations or very many days off.
During the year, I had several opportunities to visit with President Monson. He was always very kind and considerate of Marva and me and the work we were doing.
Not long after I was made a General Authority, I received an assignment from the First Presidency to speak to the student body at Brigham Young University in February 1988. This was a tremendous assignment, inasmuch as I needed to write out the entire talk and prepare it for the teleprompter and publishing. I must confess that I was extremely nervous and found that the assignment of speaking in the Mariott Center to the huge group of BYU students and faculty was really a nerve-racking experience. The talk turned out well, however, and has been used time and time again and played over KBYU a number of times.
One of the saddest things that periodically happens in the missionary department is hearing that a missionary has been severely injured, or even killed. In January 1988, four missionaries serving in Michigan died in a terrible accident. The heart-rending things keep happening, but there are also constant success stories and blessings that come into missionary work.
I remember one day when a mission president from back east had a rebellious Maori boy from New Zealand whom he could no longer tolerate, so he literally kicked him out of the mission and sent him to us. I told the president to have him report directly to me. After I interviewed this young missionary, and because I knew his family in New Zealand, there was no way I could send him home. He was reassigned to northern Utah and finished his mission in good style. I am grateful we were able to intercept him and keep him from being lost to missionary work. This is the sort of thing that those of us assigned to the Missionary Department were constantly enjoying.
President Marion G. Romney passed away on 20 May 1988. I received word while I was in Sulfur, Louisiana. I immediately came home so I could attend his funeral. He and I had been friends for many years, and I had learned to love this wonderful and powerful man who was almost like another father.