(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
In 1964, I received an assignment to attend one stake conference in Samoa, two in New Zealand, and two in Australia. During the first month of that trip, I traveled with J. Vernon Sharp, during the second month with Junius Jackson, both from the Genealogy Committee. I represented the Welfare and Missionary Committees.
After arriving in Samoa, we visited with the people, then participated in the various sessions of conference. It was difficult to find anyone who spoke English with the exception of the stake president, Percy, who was very fluent in English and was a great help to us in talking with the Saints.
I was greatly impressed with the Saints in Samoa and felt tremendously handicapped having to use an interpreter. During the first couple of meetings, I went very slowly so the interpreter could keep up. It was difficult at first, but everyone seemed to understand his interpretation. And by the final Sunday session, we were able to speak at a normal rate. In the Sunday afternoon session, Brother Fitisemanu interpreted. I had just begun, when I noticed that everybody could understand me. So Brother Fitisemanu stopped interpreting. Many people throughout the large congregation nodded their heads as a signal that they understood.
I have never said much about this very lovely experience; but as I have thought about it over the years, I realize what a special blessing was given both to me and to the Saints during that sacred occasion.
[A bonus story:]
Six new missionaries arrived in the Florida Mission late one night. They looked like great young men. One of the missionaries was walking with the assistance of two canes.
After they had a good night's sleep, we met them the next day. We learned that the missionary with the canes was Elder Richardson, who had a rather serious case of polio while in his youth. He had been using crutches until shortly before his call when he switched to canes. The Brethren felt he could serve a mission using canes.
This wonderful missionary said to me, "President, while I am here I am going to learn to walk without these two canes. I would appreciate your prayers and even a blessing as I begin my mission so that I can learn to walk normally. He had a severe limp, but he had great faith and courage. We gave him a blessing and sent him into a good area to work.
A few months passed before I saw him again. He said, "I got rid of one of my canes, but I still kind of need this one."
Sometime later, when we met again, he said to me, "President, I would like to present you with my last cane. I have received a blessing from the Lord and I think I can walk from now on without it."
He finished his mission without needing to go back to using the cane. He still had a serious limp but no one paid much attention to it. He lived a normal missionary life.
Over twenty-five years have gone by now and when I see him, he still has a limp, but his faith is strong, and as far as I know, he has never had to use a cane again. I still have the one he gave me. It is a treasured memento of the faith of a great young missionary.