SALT LAKE CITY — Elder D. Todd Christofferson joked in August when he accepted the World Peace Prize in India that the large trophy that came with the award would have to be shipped back to Utah because it wouldn't fit in his suitcase.
He joked about the trophy again Wednesday night. It turns out that upon the trophy's arrival in the United States, it was turned away by U.S. Customs because it is made partly of real gold, said Elder Christofferson, who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"(Salt Lake Community College President) Deneese (Huftalin) gets that beautiful sari, (Westminster College President) Steve (Morgan) gets that wonderful vest and I get this gold trophy that never arrived," he said to laughter.
More than 150 students and friends of both schools gathered to hear Elder Christofferson speak as part of Westminster's Global Peace and Spiritual Life lecture series on campus in the Jewett Center's Vive Gore Concert Hall. The event was sponsored by the college's Office of Spiritual Life and Westminster's LDS Student Association and LDS Institute.
He spoke about the way international service builds world peace, saying that he believed spirituality is manifest and nurtured in service.
Elder Christofferson praised SLCC and Westminster for the service learning projects they collaborate on at five schools in Wai, India, he visited during his trip. He said Wednesday that he was surprised by an $8,000 award that came with the World Peace Prize awarded by the Maharashtra Institute of Technology-World Peace University, but he was grateful he could donate it to the projects' schools.
"Looking into the students' beautiful and bright, eager faces, really made me emotional and I felt impressed to leave them an apostolic blessing," he said. "It was a special experience. If any of you have an opportunity to visit there and help these students, you can affect them in a very positive way.
"I applaud your service here and in India and elsewhere," he added. "I know you work with these and other institutions on literacy, English comprehension and conversation, science and health education, the public library."
He also quoted from a talk on the celestial nature of self-reliance by the late President Marion G. Romney, who served in the LDS Church's First Presidency, and thanked those who work on the SLCC-Westminster collaboration in India for helping lift others to self-reliance.
"I congratulate each of you who are seeking to develop the capacity and resources in your own life to serve in that way," he said.
He also spoke about the good that spirituality and religion can achieve.
Drawing on a wide range of studies and his acceptance speech for the World Peace Prize, Elder Christofferson said religion fosters trust that leads to economic growth, is a powerful source of humanitarian assistance and enriches the lives of families and children.
"Children are safer and thrive better in families led by a religious mother and father whose faith inspires them to make personal sacrifices for the strength and happiness of their marriage and children," he said. "Children raised in religious homes are less likely to experience anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness. Simply put, children are happier when mother and father are religious."
LDSSA President Gabi Sanchez was grateful for Elder Christofferson's visit.
"It's hard to convey what this means to the LDS population here at Westminster," she said. "It’s almost like a dream come true, a dream I never knew I had because I never dreamed it could happen."