Nations Flow Unto "Mountain of the Lord's House"
Thank you, choir, for that beautiful number. I have never heard that hymn, “The Olive Tree” before, and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you. I’d like to invite the choir and those sitting in back of me if they would like to maybe move to the side so they could see the screen. I think it would be much more meaningful to them if they would like to.
I couldn’t help but notice when President Nelson announced how many children and grandchildren my wife and I have, that many of you gasped for air. People often say, when they hear that, “Well, how old are you really?”
I say, “Well, it would be well for you to know that my wife and I were some of the last ones off the ark. That’s how old we are.” But my wife and I are grateful to be here with you today and look into your faces and see these wonderful young people attending the LDS Business College. As President Nelson said, our oldest son graduated from the LDS Business College before he attended BYU, and enjoyed his time here very, very much.
And Elder Fernando, I want to thank you for the invocation you offered. It was very obvious to me that you had an accent, and I asked the president where you are from. I said, “It sounds like he is from India.”
He said, “He is.” And thank you, Sister Pease, for your thoughts and words today as well.
To you young people, I think the first thing I would say to you today, is you live in a very exciting time of the world, and particularly in the Church. When you contemplate that the Church is just establishing this year 58 new missions—how many of you are returned missionaries? Will you raise your hands? Now, how many of you are contemplating missions, that haven’t gone on missions yet? That’s what I’m saying—and you lost a lot of students here recently when the young ladies went on missions. And so you live in very, very exciting times. When you think of all the missionary work that is going on—58 new missions being established. I had the opportunity a couple of months ago to go down and speak to all the students at BYU and Utah Valley University taking the missionary preparation class. Typically they would have about 2,000 in that group, but there were over 2,500 in that group. And that’s why I say that you live in very, very exciting times. Missionary work is spreading across the Church today in greater abundance than has ever taken place since the restoration of the gospel.
I think also it will be exciting for you to see what’s happening in the literal fulfillment of a prophecy that I’ll show you on an overhead in just a minute. What’s happening—of how many people are coming to Church headquarters to find out about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife and I had this opportunity to be called to this calling—it was a three-year call, and after six years, about a year ago, the First Presidency called us in and said, “Ben and Sue, we think after six years of your three-year call we ought to give you a rest.” So they finally released us. But we were grateful for the opportunity to serve there, and we had two wonderful couples who served with us full-time as well. They’re both here today. I didn’t know one of them was going to here, but your hosts that were seating you today—the Thorpes—where are you? And the Longs stand with them, please, in the back. These two couples were full-time couples that served with us also during this time, and they served not only five days a week, but they also served every Sunday and sometimes on Saturday. Without them we would have never been able to fulfill this calling, which was a wonderful experience for my wife and me.
I might say also that it was by far the busiest, most demanding call that my wife and I have ever had in the Church—busier than being a bishop, busier than being a stake president, a mission president, a temple president, and a general authority. It was that busy. And I think you’ll understand in the short time I’m going to spend with you this morning.
If the visitors we had come visit were at least an ambassador level or higher, then we had the opportunity of taking them in and introducing them to the First Presidency and sitting in the meetings with them. Lest I forget, I just have to share with you to start with a very cute experience we had with one of our very first visitors years ago. She was a princess of Norway, Princess Martha Louise. She was 35 years old, and as we prepared to take her in and introduce her to the First Presidency, I said, “Princess Martha Louise, you need to know that President Hinckley is now 95 years old.”
She said, “Thank you.” Partway through the meeting, she said, “President, are you really 95 years old?”
He said, “Soon to be 96!”
She said, “President, you look absolutely marvelous. You look wonderful! It’s amazing how well you look.”
And he leaned forward in his chair and he said, “Look closer.”
He always had that wonderful sense of humor when you were ever around President Hinckley. It’s been a blessing in the life of my wife and me to have the opportunity to serve intimately with Presidency Hinckley and his counselors, including President Faust, President Monson at that time, and later on with President Monson and his counselors, President Eyring and President Uchtdorf.
If you’ll notice in that scripture, we are seeing a literal fulfillment of that scripture. Sister Brown, would you stand up and read that scripture to us, please? Now that you’re awake, please?
“And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.”
I knew I could call on her. She used to teach my son when he was here. That’s how long she’s been here.
We are seeing a literal fulfillment of that scripture, found in Isaiah and 2 Nephi, that talks about and they shall flock unto the mountains of the Lord. Look at that overhead. This is typical of the number of people that my wife and I, the Thorpes and the Longs have hosted. We would host generally anywhere from 600-700 people a year, from 80-100 countries every year. That’s the number of people that we hosted that were coming to find out more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I’m taking a lot of these slides out of here because there isn’t time, but to give you some idea, these are some of the venues we would take them to visit, depending on how much time they had. Where do the referrals come from? Why do these people come here? Where do these requests for hosting come from? These are just the sum of them, but they came from many other places as well, the requests to host these people.
Our objective was to help build bridges of understanding. Ours wasn’t like yours when you were full-time missionaries or when I was a mission president—to convert people. We were to introduce people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of them had never heard anything about our Church or even knew of our Church before they came to Salt Lake City and Church headquarters. So our responsibility was to introduce them to the Church and make them friends of the Church. But it was always interesting as we would take them to different venues, they would ask a lot of questions which would open up the opportunity to teach the doctrines of our Church to them.
Who were the people that we hosted? I’m going to show you some overheads of some of the people we visited with, and give you a cross-section of the type of people we visited. We hosted presidents of countries. I don’t know if any of you remember when President Vicente Fox, a former president of Mexico, was here to visit the First Presidency. He visited with—in this picture, you’ll see President Vicente Fox, his wife with him, and one of their sons, standing next to President Monson. This was a very unusual visit in the fact that, partway through the meeting, President Fox said, “President Hinckley, can I ask a favor please?” He said, “Of course.”
I want you to contemplate about this. Partway through the meeting he said, “President, would you please give me a blessing?” Can you imagine that? A president of a country who had never been here before, asking the president of our Church to give him a blessing.
The president said, “I’d be happy to.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Hinckley stood up. He didn’t put his hands on his head, but he stood in front and asked all of us to arise. And [President Fox] also had part of his cabinet that was there in the room with us also, in the First Presidency boardroom that you’re looking at there. President Hinckley pronounced a beautiful blessing upon President Fox, his wife, his children, the country of Mexico, the people of Mexico, and the Church in Mexico. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.
Afterwards we took the pictures and left the room. As we walked out, President Fox turned to me and he said, “Elder Banks, President Hinckley truly is a man of God, isn’t he?”
I said, “He is.”
He said, “You could feel it, being in his presence.”
That’s the kind of impact visitors would have, when they had the opportunity of visiting with the First Presidency.
We also hosted many first ladies. I am just showing one of them. This is Pilar Garcia, first lady of Peru. I show this to you because, when she was here with an entourage of people, she said, “I’ve never seen snow before. Can we go see some snow?”
We took her up to Park City Ski Resort. She said, “I want to make snowballs so I can take them back and show the people back in Peru what snow looks like.” And so again, a wonderful visit with a wonderful woman.
We hosted many, many ambassadors that I mentioned we would take in to meet the First Presidency. This happens to be the ambassador of Russia. Do we have any students here from Russia? Good. We hosted the ambassador of Russia and many visitors from Russia over the years. [Screen displays a picture of the Russian ambassador and the First Presidency.]
It would be interesting to know that we hosted an ambassador from North Korea. Does that surprise you? It does most people. But we hosted the ambassador from North Korea, and the Church has done some humanitarian work in North Korea that most members of the Church know nothing about. I’m not going to get into the details other than to tell you that what we’ve primarily been doing in North Korea has been taking fruit trees there and showing them how to plant and grow fruit trees to help them feed their people. This visit from the ambassador and his right-hand person who was with him at this visit, came because we were going to give them 100,000 fruit trees when they came to visit this year, to plant in their country.
We hosted Prince Turki Al Faisal, part of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. There’s a long story to tell you about him, but I’m going to skip over that because I want to share some other things with you. We hosted the ambassador from Vietnam, and we are making some inroads there. I can’t go any further than to tell you that we are making some inroads there. He was a very delightful man; he was very anxious to find out about the Church and some of the doctrines of our church, about the humanitarian work that we do.
We hosted the ambassador from Jordan, Prince Zeid. Now the reason I show you this picture, you’ll see Prince Zeid standing in the back next to his flag. Can you see that in the back of the picture there? If we had ambassadors come to visit then my wife would make arrangements for the International Children’s Choir to come and sing for the ambassador and their wife and the group that was with them. The thing that was so remarkable, these young people would walk in dressed in costumes of the world, and the native costumes of the world, and they would always be carrying the flag of the visitor that they came in to sing to. And they would walk in singing a song in their native language. Kathy Sorensen, their director, would teach them a song in their native language and I don’t know how she did it. Whether it was Russian, whether it was Arabic, whether it was Spanish, Portuguese, whether it was German or one of the Chinese dialects, she would teach them to sing in that language. You can imagine how that melted their hearts when these children came in singing the song of that country and sometimes their national anthem in their native language. They always wanted to have pictures taken with the International Children’s Choir.
Prince Zeid, at the dinner we held for them that night—Elder Holland was there and there was a group there, and [Prince Zeid] said, “I want to tell you”—and he said—“I say this in all sincerity, and I’ve never said this in a group before. But of all the places I’ve visited throughout the world, I’ve never [been] received more warmly than I have by the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have made me feel at home.”
We hosted this ambassador from the United Nations. There are ambassadors to the United States and ambassadors to the United Nations. Now many of you may think that we’re known all over the world, but we aren’t. I share this one example with you. A few weeks before she came to visit, we had a group of three men from India. They were not Hindu; they were Muslims. We had them down at BYU visiting with the religion department, and partway through the meeting one of them said, “Can I ask a question?”
I said, “Of course.”
He said, “Why is it that a lot of people in the world do not like Mormons?” How would you answer someone if they asked you that? I’m not putting you on the spot, but he put me on the spot.
I said, “Well, I think it’s easy to answer that for you.” I referred to him by name. I said, “You have a prophet Mohammed.”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “We have a prophet also.” At that time the prophet was Thomas S. Monson. I said, “The difference is, we believe our prophet receives modern-day revelation.”
He said, “I understand, then, why you are not accepted around the world.”
I share that with you because, when the ambassador was here, as my wife and I were walking, taking her up to a dinner we were hosting that night with Elder Holland, and in this picture, do you know this woman sitting on the end of this picture? Do you recognize who that is? That’s the former governor of Utah, Olene Walker. We had her come to the dinner as well, with her husband.
But as we were walking to this dinner up in the Joseph Smith Building, she said, “Elder Banks, let me ask a question. I don’t mean to be offensive, but,” she said, “why is it so many Christian churches in the world don’t accept you? Why is it that a lot of people in the world don’t like Mormons?”
And I said, “Well, to answer that, Ambassador, the reason other Christian churches don’t accept us is because we do not adhere to the Nicene Creed. We believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are three separate individuals, where the Christian churches believe they are three in one, as a result of the Nicene Creed. Then we believe we have a living prophet today who receives modern-day revelation, and these are the main reasons that we aren’t accepted by other Christian churches and other people don’t accept us.”
She said, “Thank you. I’m happy to know that.”
I share that with you because it’s important to realize that we still have a great work to do and that’s going to multiply now, when you see all the new missionaries going out among the world.
I show this picture to you, and you may wonder, “Why in the dickens are Elder Banks and Sister Banks dressed like that?” The Marriott family back in Virginia have a beautiful farm out in Hume, Virginia, and once a year in the fall, in conjunction with the Public Affairs Department of the Church, they host a Western barbecue out at their ranch for all the ambassadors and their families, and all their children come. They’re advised to come in Levis or just sport clothes, and when they come they’re given cowboy hats and neckerchiefs, and just have a day of relaxation out at this wonderful Marriott Ranch in Hume, Virginia. They have a wonderful time; they have games for the young children, they have games for the teenagers, they have displays, and they have a wonderful Western barbecued meal and then they have one of the performing groups from BYU—whether the ballroom dancers or different groups that perform there perform for them as well. And it’s a wonderful event that the ambassadors and their families look forward to every year.
The ambassador from Pakistan, Husain Haqqani, a wonderful man. He is no longer ambassador. He was going to retire. I said, “Are you going to go back to Pakistan?”
He said, “No, I’d like to stay in the United States and teach at one of the American universities.” And I think that’s what he is doing, back in Washington, D.C., teaching at one of the universities. He was very helpful to us. My wife and I had the opportunity to meet him back in D.C. in his embassy, where he invited us to have lunch with him, the three of us, where he told us what we needed to do to make it easier for our Area Presidency to get into Pakistan without so much red tape. A wonderful help to us.
The next one is consul general from … actually, ambassadors are a higher position, but consul generals are a more important position for the Church. Do you have any idea why? Let me share why. Consul generals are the ones that okay your missionary visas for you to go to their countries, and that’s why they’re so important to the Church. Every consul general has to okay missionaries going to their country from our church, and that’s why consul generals are so important. And this consul general, was very interesting because partway through out tour she said, “What do you have to do to become a Mormon?”
I said, “We can tell you.”
And she said, “Where can I get a Book of Mormon?”
And I said, “We can help you.” So at that time I asked my wife—we were leaving the Humanitarian Center, and I asked her to run over to the Distribution Center and get a Book of Mormon in English and also Swahili, which she did. We got to the meeting with Elder Holland; I passed them to him so they couldn’t see, and said, “Why don’t you present them to her?” Which he did. The man between her and Elder Holland was her assistant. Do you know who the other man is? If you don’t, shame on you. He’s a general authority. That’s Elder Sitati, from Kenya, Africa. You can see him on the stand during general conference every time. A wonderful, wonderful person. And so I don’t know what has happened, if she has been baptized, but she said, “What do you have to do?”
The next photo here is one of the consul general of Thailand. And the reason I show this—he was such an impressive person. He sent me a letter after, and I just want to read to you a statement out of it: “It was the best ever trip I’ve ever made anywhere. I did gain an invaluable insight into some core principles and operations of the Mormon Church.”
Now listen to the rest of this: “Indeed, I was moved by what I saw during the trip, having seen with my own eyes the powers of faith, generosity, and dedication of the people. The many incredible projects the Church has been doing for members and the humanity could be perfect models for our community and our country. I would try to digest and look for ways to emulate and look for ways to apply some of those things for our country. Thank you so very much indeed.”
How can you not appreciate something like that, to have someone from a country like that say he’d like to see it implemented in his home country?
We hosted the Supreme Court justices from China, the first time that’s ever taken place. We hosted the breakfast with Elder Oaks there, and some of the attorneys from BYU Law Department who came to this breakfast for the Supreme Court justices.
We also hosted a lot of educators. This happened to be an African women delegation. Yesterday on the elevator I met two young men, one from Zimbabwe and one from, I think it was Ghana. Are you here today, you young men? If you are, stand up. You said you were going to be here today, unless I scared you away. But anyway, we host a lot of people from the different African countries. You’ll notice in this picture, as we hosted this luncheon we invited the general presidency of the Relief Society, the Young Women, and the Primary to attend that luncheon. If you look close in that photograph there, that picture, you’ll see them also with this group of educators.
Some time ago someone asked me, “What countries haven’t you hosted?” At that time, I said the only country we had not hosted here at Church headquarters at that time was Somalia. But since then we’ve hosted many people from Somalia, so there is no country in the world that we haven’t had the opportunity to introduce the Church to.
Do we have any Samoans here today? I hope so. We hosted a group of Samoans from Washington. The man that called was the president of an organization in the state of Washington, the Samoan community. He said, “There’s only three of us in this group that are members. If we bring them down there, could you host them for lunch and show them some things?”
I said yes. They love to eat, and we hosted them for lunch and then we took them on different tours around. When he got back home, after he had been home for a couple of months he sent me an email and said, “Elder Banks, we’ve already baptized eight of them.” And their visit here to Church headquarters, this Samoan community from the state of Washington.
You young people here today in this wonderful choir that sang for us—we hosted the German Vocalis Choir. They are young adults throughout all of Europe, and they meet once a month and they travel sometimes over 200 miles just to come to a choir practice to be part of this choir. They came over here, and we hosted them to sing at many venues. They sang with the Tabernacle Choir. We had them meet with the First Presidency, and of course they were thrilled to meet President Uchtdorf, who spoke to them in their German language. And there have been several marriages come as a result of that. Now I don’t know if that’s going to happen in this choir, but it did in that choir.
This is Martin Luther King III. Martin Luther King III came out here to thank the First Presidency and the Church for helping with humanitarian help for an organization that he helps in Louisiana. He came at the time we had the open house for the new Draper Temple. We had a luncheon for them at the chapel next to the Draper Temple. It was hosted by Elder Ballard and then he took a tour of the Draper Temple and enjoyed himself very much. He’s written letter after letter commending the Church and thanking them for all they do. Martin Luther King III.
This is a picture here—Carolyn Tanner Irish, who some of you may know was the Episcopalian bishop here. She just recently retired. And she invited to come out the new Episcopal bishop for the entire United States, and that is the person you see standing next to President Monson, and her husband is next to her. She is a pilot—she flew out on her own private plane. Carolyn Tanner Irish called me; she said, “Elder Banks, we have a new bishop that’s been installed for the entire United States, and she’s coming out for the dedication of the remodel of our building here. I think it would be nice for them to meet the First Presidency. Could you make arrangements for that?”
I said, “I’ll be happy to.” Again, can you imagine the head bishop of the entire Episcopal Church of the United States wanted the chance to meet the First Presidency? It was a wonderful meeting, as well as with the Presiding Bishopric.
I love this picture. These were religious leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They lived right on the border next to each other. They didn’t speak Arabic; they spoke Farsi. And they came dressed like they were—only about half of them spoke English, but we had a wonderful time with them. As we finished our tour down at BYU—this was with Erlend Peterson, the International Vice President at BYU, we had a wonderful visit. As they prepared to leave, they paid my wife a wonderful, wonderful compliment. They turned to my wife and said, “Mother Teresa, it’s been wonderful to meet you. We hope to see you again someday.” I thought that was a wonderful tribute, to be called Mother Teresa.
This here is Cardinal George from Chicago that was invited to speak at the BYU Forum one day. Standing between myself and Elder Ballard is Bishop Wester, who is the head bishop of the Catholic diocese in Utah, and other visitors there as well. First they met with the First Presidency, had a wonderful visit with them. Again, building relationships with other religions so we understand each other better.
This was a very, very unusual visit. Akbar Ahmed is considered the most authoritative person in the United States on Islamic culture and religion. After 9-11, he was asked to speak on every radio and television station in the country as time permitted. He is shaking hands there with Elder Wood of the Seventy. He brought with him—I think it was six of his doctoral PhD students, and he was taking a tour across the United States, meeting all the major religions and writing a new book on how to have Christians accept Muslims and Muslims accept Christians. We spent three days with him. It was a wonderful visit. He sent me a copy of his book.
As we were coming back on the third day from BYU, he turned to my wife and he said, “Elder Banks, I’d like you and your wife to attend our four o’clock prayers with us this afternoon.” I’d never been to a Muslim four o’clock prayer.
I said, “Okay, we’ll go.” We did. We went to their four o’clock prayers at the mosque, and my wife had to go and put a headscarf on. The women went into a separate room where they could watch on television. I went with Akbar Ahmed and the Imam met us, we went in to where they were going to have their prayers, myself not being Muslim and only one of the students with him were Muslim. We all had to sit in the back while they knelt on their prayer rugs and the Imam offered prayer for them.
When they were through, Akbar Ahmed said, “I want you to bring all the women in now, and I want to talk to everyone and ask some questions.” They brought all of the women in and they sat in the back of the room. And he said, “Elder Banks, come up and sit with me here on the floor.” I thought, “Oh boy, I don’t know if I like that or not.”
But I did, and he brought them in and he said, “You all live here in America now. You live here in Utah.” And they were from all different Muslim countries that were living here in Utah in the valley here. And he said, “What is it that you like about living in America, now that you are here?”
A woman raised her hand and she said, “I was able to vote for the first time.”
Another man raised his hand and said, “I like living here and being able to speak what I can speak and not get into trouble.”
Another man raised his hand and, “I like the diversity of living among people.”
Another man who it was very apparent he was very wealthy, you could see by the way he was dressed, raised his hand and said, “Professor Akbar, I think it is well for you to know that we just built a new mosque down in the Redwood Road area, and the Mormon Church gave us a lot of money to help us build that mosque. They help us in many ways.”
It went on for many other questions, and then he was ready to end. He said, “I think before we end this meeting, I’m sure Elder Banks wants to speak to all of you.” I didn’t want to speak to them at all, but—I was tongue-tied, but I came up with something to speak to them about, and I hope it went well with them. But this was a wonderful visit as well, meeting with the Muslims.
This is the most unusual visit that we ever had in the six years we had this calling. This particular sect of Hindu swamis—you’ll notice that they are all dressed in orange, but if you look at the corner of the picture, you’ll see one—you can just barely see one dressed in white. There were eight Hindu swamis, and two Hindu priests dressed in white. The reason this group is so unusual, they belong to a particular sect and they had made a vow the rest of their life they would never again look at a woman or talk to a woman or touch money or spend money the rest of their lives. To join this sect they had to be a college graduate, they had to have their parents’ permission and also made a commitment that if they joined this sect they would never again speak [to] or see their parents or siblings the rest of their lives. That’s how radical they were.
Well, we had a wonderful two-day visit with them. They invited us—we fasted with them. I took Keith Longson with me. I told my wife, “You’re not going with us on this one.” The only thing that was hard about this was they wanted us to eat with them, and hot food doesn’t bother me, but Brother Longson, who is in the back here, he had some of their hot food and I think he had to go to bed for a week to cool it down. But we had a wonderful visit with them.
The reason they came here was that they had heard about all the wonderful programs we have for the youth in our church, and they wanted to find out about the program for youth in the Church. Before they left, we went down to the Distribution Center. I asked Brother Longson to go in ahead of time and tell the women not to come up and approach them. If they do, they just look at the ground. But the reason they had the two Hindu priests—if they have to speak to women, they do it. If they have to spend money, they spend it, because they won’t touch money either. They spent $500 buying every manual they could—they even bought [copies of the] Book of Mormon, missionary discussions, and everything to take back to them. There is more, but time doesn’t permit. Unusual visit, isn’t it?
You know who the Community of Christ Church is? This is their new First Presidency. The First Presidency called us and asked my wife and me—they were coming to meet them, [and] they asked if we would come and bring them in to meet the First Presidency. Wonderful visit. I wish there was time to tell you more about it other than to say it was a wonderful visit. The meeting with President Veazey, President Robinson, President Schaal—since that time, President Robinson has moved back to Australia and they have called a woman into their First Presidency. President Hinckley was very thoughtful, asked if there was anything he could do to help them. We spent a day hosting them as well.
This is one of the Fancher families. The Fancher family are descendants of the families that were massacred at Mountain Meadows Massacre, and for many years they were very bitter toward the Church. But because of the great effort of Elder Marlin Jensen and Rick Turley, they have made them friends of the Church, and we hosted them to a lunch along with President Eyring, you will see in that picture. There is more to tell you, but time doesn’t permit, other than to say that they have turned around now and are friends of the Church and accept us and have forgiven us.
Another very unusual visit was Joseph Safra. President Nelson served a mission in Brazil; you’ve got others here from Brazil who served missions. Joseph Safra was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He is Jewish; his grandfather was fearful he might become part of the Holocaust during Hitler’s regime, and moved his family to Sao Paulo, Brazil, from Lebanon. He started in the banking business and has been very successful. Joseph Safra is the third generation of that company in the banking business, and the family—the Joseph Safra Family Foundation, they have assets of over three billion dollars. The Church does some banking with them, and he does some humanitarian help. He wanted to come out and see what we did as humanitarians. He flew up on his private jet with his wife, his wife’s hairdresser—and that’s true, sisters, his wife’s hairdresser had to come with them, to take care of her hair—and then he brought a cousin that takes care of their New York bank, and the cousin that runs their Monte Carlo bank.
He flew in in the morning, we hosted a breakfast for him with the finance people of the Church. We took him on tours of various facilities, we had lunch with the Presiding Bishopric and the Humanitarian people, we had this meeting with Elder Nelson and Elder Didier, and then we went over to finish the visit at the Family History Library. As we left Elder Nelson’s office to go over to the Family History Library, he turned to me and said, “Elder Banks, I am so impressed with what your church is doing as humanitarians, I’d like to make a million-dollar contribution to your humanitarian effort of the church. I’d like to make it right now before I go back to Brazil. Tell us what bank to transfer it to.”
We don’t get many people wanting to give us a million dollars. He said, “I’d like to transfer it right now.” The Church accepted it, but they left the money in Brazil. And because there has been an outbreak of measles in northern Brazil, they are using it there for the immunization of children for measles in northern Brazil. A wonderful man; we had a wonderful visit with him.
This was a bit of an unusual visit. We got a phone call—if you’ll notice, the person standing next to Elder Perry is the president of Utah State University. He called me one day and said, “Would you mind hosting a luncheon? I’d like to host a luncheon for all the general authorities that graduated from Utah State University.”
I said, “We’d be happy to.” So you can look there and see your commissioner there, Paul Johnson, I believe is in this picture. No, I guess he isn’t. But anyway these are some of the general authorities that graduated from Utah State University. I thought you would like to see that.
I show this one just quick-like. This is the president of Arizona University, a new president. There’s Paul Johnson, your commissioner, standing next to him, along with Cecil Samuelson, president of BYU. Do you know why he came up here? He said, “What do I have to do to get more Mormon students to come to Arizona University? They’re wonderful, they made a difference at Arizona State. I want to do the same at Arizona University. I’d even like the ones from Utah to come down to Arizona University.” Don’t leave here to go down, but I’m just telling you what he came for.
He said, “I want to get Mormon students. They do something for a university that no one else does.” So that’s why he came to see what he could do to see if he could get more Mormon students to attend the University of Arizona.
Any of you basketball stars? Anyone recognize who that is? Dikembe Mutombo. We had a wonderful visit with him. He’s from DR Congo, as you know, and his mother died of cancer. He wanted to build a hospital in memory of his mother, which he did. And Yao Ming wanted to help make part of the financial contribution, which he did. They named it after his mother, but after they got it all built, the water going into the hospital was dirty. You can’t have dirty water in a hospital, can you? He heard the Church had some humanitarian projects to get clean water in the hospital, and so he contacted the Church, the Church helped him get clean water in there. It’s an operating hospital now in his village, and he came here to thank the Church. It was a wonderful visit with him. He only wore a size-25 shoe and his legs were so tall he couldn’t get them under the table while we ate dinner. He had to reach back to get his food to feed himself. But a wonderful man. He lives now, I think, in Orlando, Florida—no, he lives in Georgia, Atlanta Georgia. They just remodeled that temple and he went to the open house of the temple in Atlanta, Georgia. He has a real interest in the Church.
Last two overheads. Recognize who that is? David Archuleta. He wanted his band to come and find out about the Church. We had a meeting with Elder Ballard and Elder Cook. We talked about the Church, then we took his band on a tour to the visitors center here. While we were there, the phone rang and it was President Monson. “Have you got David Archuleta?” he said.
I said, “We do.”
He said, “I want to meet him, too. Bring him over here.”
I said, “Okay.” So I said to my wife, “I’ll take him and his parents; you stay here with his band.” I took him over and the president asked him to sing for him. He said he would; he kept all his secretaries there, and we took a lot of wonderful pictures of him.
The last two I’ll share with you is Chaplain Roseberry and Alan Blum. Chaplain Roseberry was studying to be a chaplain of another faith, and a minister. He came on a tour here and was so impressed. The Spirit touched him and to make a long story short, he went home and sent me an email and said, “I’m going to have the missionary discussions.” And then he [sent another one] and said, “Since I’ve been having them, no one in my church will talk to me; my neighbors won’t talk to me. But I know it’s true.”
He has joined the Church and he’s been here a couple of times at conference. He is the elders quorum president in his ward. He said, “Maybe one day I can be an LDS chaplain.”
Alan Blom—he’s Jewish. His family are the oldest diamond cutters in the world. He came here on a request. On a business trip to Los Angeles he met a member of the Church. He did business with them, and he suggested he come up here. We hosted him. He was so touched when we finished he said, “Can I go home and get my wife and bring her back to see what I have seen?”
We said, “You bet.” His wife was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.
He brought his wife back, we spent another few days with them. And every place we took them, there were tears in their eyes. As we finished, he said, “I’d like to have the missionary discussions.” He knew what it would mean if he joined the Church, because he was very active in the Jewish faith, as is his family.
To make a long story short, I said, “It’s best if you go back to South Africa.” I called the Area president, the mission president, and said, “Make sure you get good missionaries to teach them.” They joined the Church, even at the disgust of his family.
And he said, “What I felt in Utah, I came and was so impressed. I’m going to turn my businesses here in South Africa over to someone else to run and I’m moving to Utah, because I love the spirit there.” He now lives down in Provo, has a lovely home down there. The ward welcomed [him] and his wife there, and he started a cultured diamond business here. I had him speak with me a few years ago when I spoke once before to the students taking the missionary preparation class at BYU and Utah Valley University, to show them what happens when someone is touched by the Spirit and becomes members of this Church.
My time is up. I’m sorry to have rushed so quick, but I hope you can see that you live in marvelous times. You live in marvelous times when there are new missions happening, you live in marvelous times where you see people coming to Church headquarters to find out about this church that you belong to. I pray that you will be faithful members of the Church all your days of your lives, because you are the future leaders of this Church. You are the future bishoprics and stake presidencies and mission presidents, temple presidencies and general authorities. You are the future Relief Society, Young Women presidencies and Primary presidencies, and wives of general authorities. The Lord is counting on you. He is proud of you, and I pray the Lord’s blessings upon you as I bear my witness to you that I know that Jesus Christ, a God Himself, came to this earth to fulfill all righteousness through His Atonement. And having had hands laid upon my head years ago to be called to be a special witness of Jesus Christ, I bear that witness to you and leave my blessings with you and thank you for your attendance here today, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.