It’s a story we’ve told many times before, but it deserves repeating here because of the powerful lesson it teaches about family priorities.
While serving as Mormon mission president in London, we got a call one day from headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was Arthur Haycock, secretary to President Spencer W. Kimball, who in his mind-mannered, humble way said, “President, we hate to impose, but the prophet will be coming to London next week on his way to the continent and if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, do you think you and Sister Eyre could meet our flight at Heathrow Airport and get us to our hotel in London?
“Well,” I joked, “that is quite an imposition, Arthur, but I suppose we could manage it.”
Arthur knew that what I meant was that I couldn’t think of a greater privilege than picking up and spending an hour or two with our living prophet.
When I hung up the phone, I did something a little impulsive (I was a rather young mission president and probably should have thought about this a little longer). I picked the phone back up and called Lord Lew Grade, England’s most famous film impresario, sort of the Cecil B. DeMille of Great Britain, who had recently been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Lord Grade had produced films like "Chariots of Fire" and "Jesus of Nazareth." I had become acquainted with him when I had accompanied then-Elder Boyd K. Packer to see the latter film on the possibility that the church might sponsor its release in the United States.
When I got Lord Grade on the line, I explained that the president of our church, a man I considered to be a prophet, was arriving in London and that I was taking him to his hotel but had only the mission van to transport him. Would he consider, I asked, letting us have his limo for the evening to make President Kimball as comfortable as possible?
He was very generous, and said that he knew of President Kimball. “Which limo do you want me to send?” he asked.
Well, I hadn’t realized that he had more than one, so I was not sure how to respond. He made it unnecessary by saying “Don’t worry, I’ll send a nice one,” and he asked for the mission home address.
The next week at the appointed hour, I thought we were experiencing an eclipse. Suddenly, something was blocking the light from the windows on the entire front of the house. Looking out, I saw the biggest, longest Rolls-Royce limousine I had ever seen. It must have been 40 feet long! And it was there complete with a young and handsome and very dapper driver in his uniform and cap.
“Well,” I thought as Linda and I climbed in, “too late to back out now.” I was realizing what a foolish idea this had been — sweet, humble President Kimball would probably be overwhelmed and would likely have some questions for me about the mission’s budget.
The flight was late, and it was nearly midnight when Arthur and President Kimball came out of the jetway from his plane, but there was a bounce in the prophet's step and a light in his eye. He had an old-fashioned briefcase with a broken clasp, and there were papers protruding.
I think I thought something like, “We can’t let those papers fall out — they might be revelations!”
But before I could do anything, faithful Arthur noticed the situation, whipped off his belt, and buckled it around the briefcase to hold it together. As he handed it back, President Kimball, in his 80s and jetlagged but with a twinkle in his eye, said, “Why, thank you, Arthur, but are you sure we do not now have a more serious problem?”
I marveled at his energy and humor, but as we came out to the curb to the limo, I was still fretting about what impression the car might make. Without a word, President Kimball and Arthur got in and walked the several steps back to the rear seat. We sat up front with the driver as we drove along the dark motorway toward London.
About 15 minutes passed, and then I heard someone getting up and walking up toward the front of the car. Glancing back, I saw that it was President Kimball. Uh-oh, I thought, here come the questions about the mission budget.
But he was heading not for me, but for the chauffeur (keep in mind that in England, no one talks to the uniformed drivers — they are like part of the car). President Kimball put his hand on the shoulder of the fellow and said, “Young man, I’m so sorry our plane was late. You probably have a family at home and I’m afraid we are keeping you from them.”
I will never in my life forget how I felt as I heard that. Here I was, small and petty, worrying about impressions and cars and budgets; and here was the prophet, seeing through all that and noticing a young father, separated from his family and working late because of him, and caring enough to apologize and to wish him well.
President Kimball, of course, knew what mattered and what did not. We have tried, ever since, to know the same.
Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.