Today (4/21/14) was a very special day because Elder L. Tom Perry visited our mission. All of the missionaries and stake presidents and the one district president in our mission gathered to the Morristown stake center starting about noon. Elder Perry arrived about 1 PM. The spirit was incredibly strong as he met with us for almost the next three hours. Words can only partially describe the experience, but we will give it a try. First let us tell you how this happened.
Our mission president, President Jeppson, met Elder Perry years ago when Elder Jeppson was a young missionary serving in New England. Over the years their friendship developed. Then President & Sister Jeppson decided they would like to go on a senior mission so they prepared and submitted their application like anyone else. Before their official call came they received a phone call from Elder Perry who asked them to come to his office whereupon he asked them to be a mission president. Yes, that is proper English because they serve together.
President Jeppson's story is that he agreed to be a mission president on the condition that Elder Perry would come and personally visit the mission sometime during the three years of President & Sister Jeppson's service. They will be going home this July. When President & Sister Jeppson were recently invited to attend a mission president's seminar which would be conducted by Elder Perry they recognized an opportunity. Accordingly, President Jeppson called Elder Perry and reminded him about their agreement. Did I mention that President Jeppson is a lawyer?
Elder Perry kept his promise. Following the seminar, which was somewhere in the Washington DC area, he traveled by train to meet with us earlier today. He is 91 years old and he is a big fellow. As we recall, he played football when he was a young man. When he walked in, everyone stood up. He went up on the stand but did not sit down. Instead he spent a few moments visiting with the Area Seventy that came with him and with President & Sister Jeppson.
Then it was announced that Elder Perry wanted to greet each of us, so he came down and stood in front of the stand and we all lined up, with the senior missionaries first. He shook hands with each one of us and thanked us for serving a mission. We think he was joking when he said we couldn't go home until we found our replacements. When I shook his hand I said we are the replacements.
After we sat down we watched him at he greeted every missionary. He was warm and cordial to each one. It was not mechanical. We were impressed and the spirit flooded our souls. I said to Sister Shaw that this experience alone was worth the sacrifice of going on a mission. In fact, we think this one act of kindness had as much impact on the missionaries than anything he said later in the meeting. Remember, he is 91! It could not have been easy for him to stand that long and be cheerful at the same time.
While it is always important to pay close attention when an apostle speaks, the thing that made this experience different was seeing the human side. During his talk Elder Perry said that as a member of The Twelve he had been assigned to be in charge of public affairs for the Church. His response was, "Are you sure you have the right person? I love numbers and finance. I am not an outgoing guy. I am not Elder Ballard, you know!"
He then went on to say how much he has learned and even enjoyed as he fulfilled this assignment. It gave us reason for hope to hear that even an apostle has the same feelings about his assignments as we do about ours. Along this same line, someone asked him about prayer. He said, "At my age I can't stop praying. When I am sitting in general conference waiting for my turn to speak I never hear what the speaker ahead of me is saying because I am praying so hard for Heavenly Father to pull me though this."
There is much more we could say about this incredible experience but we have gone on long enough for now. There is much more in our journals.