Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'll Forgive, President Faust, But I'll Never Forget You

by Kerry Blair

President James E. Faust , second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, passed away early this morning. You can read a touching article from the Deseret News here, and the brief notice on the news page of the Church web site here.

Like many of the younger Saints, I’ve never seen a General Conference where President Faust wasn’t seated somewhere on the stand. (I wasn’t born before his call as a General Authority like many of you, but I was reborn in the waters of baptism almost a decade after it.) In other words, I’ve been moved by his testimony and touched by his spirit as long as I can remember. President Faust’s passing feels like the loss of a surrogate grandfather, a wise and beloved friend, a prophet of God. I am saddened today for me -- for us -- but thrilled to ponder the welcome he has received in the arms of our Savior.

Have I ever told you about the first time I saw President Faust? (Or, indeed, any General Authority.) I was convert of about a dozen weeks, newly enrolled at BYU. The first Saturday in October rolled around and one of my roommates happily shared the news that we could sleep in the next day because of General Conference. I’d never heard of it. (Don’t blame yourselves, Elders Adams and Montgomery. Thanks to you, I went from clueless about the Church to a member-in-good-standing in six days. With a crash course like that, an infobit or two was bound to slip through the cracks in my gospel education.) At any rate, my roommate briefly explained the general idea of General Conference and I was stunned. Awestruck. Lot’s wife, post-pillar.

When I could speak again I said, “You mean prophets and apostles actually stand up to speak tomorrow and anybody can be in the same room and listen and see them and everything?” (My speech simply overflowed with italics in my youth. I’m better now. Not.)

She yawned. “Anybody who gets there early enough, I guess.”

I couldn’t believe it. In junior high we’d written essays on “The Historical Figure I’d Most Like to Meet.” I’d chosen Peter – and been laughed out of homeroom. Now someone was telling me I could sit at the feet of a latter-day prophet, and fourteen more apostles besides? Me? In the same place? At the same time? I went post-pillar again.

When I regained my senses I dressed hurriedly, ran out to my car, and drove to Salt Lake City – all the while praying I would make it in time to claim one of the last places in line. I’d even be willing to sit on a window ledge like that boy in Acts who listened to Peter preach. (Unlike that kid, I wouldn’t fall asleep, fall out the window, and thus necessitate a break in proceedings while President Hinckley raised me from the dead.)

I arrived at the front gate of Temple Square at 12:07 AM. The temple spires, glowing golden in the lightly-falling snow, was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I was awestruck at the pervading sense of peace. All was calm. All was bright. I looked around. A little too calm, come to think of it. I pushed against the high, wrought-iron gate. Locked. I dropped to the frozen ground in discouragement, certain I was the eleventh virgin. (You know, the one who had oil in her lamp, but no alarm clock to get her to the wedding feast on time.)

It was nearing 1 AM when a security guard approached, pointed out that even homeless people were smart enough to be elsewhere, and suggested I move on.

I was incredulous. Obviously the man was an employee of the Church, but he hadn’t heard about General Conference, either! (Remarkably secretive, those Mormons.) I explained breathlessly that in a mere nine hours prophets and apostles would assemble to speak to unworthy mortals like him and me and all we’d had to do to get a seat was arrive early enough. Then I sadly explained that we were already too late. The place was deserted. The tabernacle must already be full.

He rolled his eyes heavenward and said, “You’re a convert, aren’t you?”

To this day I don’t know how he knew, but I’m grateful he let me sit in an alcove outside the tabernacle where it was a little warmer and a lot dryer. Turns out I was the first one in the building that morning. (I know! I was surprised, too!)

James E. Faust, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, spoke that day on marriage. (No, my memory isn’t that good. I looked it up on the Church web site.) He said: “There is no great or majestic music which constantly produces the harmony of a great love. The most perfect music is a welding of two voices into one spiritual solo.” What a gift that man had for words. Truly a gift of the Spirit.

In the last General Conference (I show up a little later these days, but I always show up, if only in front of the TV), President Faust spoke on forgiveness. I won’t relate his words here because I know they’re as deeply etched on your heart as they are on mine. I’ll just say that since that talk I have been quicker to forgive, more anxious to understand, more able to let go and move on and obtain peace. It was the last – and perhaps the greatest – gift given us by this remarkable, warm, tender, loving prophet of God.

When the tears finally dry, I know I will be able to forgive President Faust for leaving us so soon, but I will never, never forget him.


At 8/10/2007 3:06 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Thank you, Kerry, for your tender remembrances. I have tears streaming down my cheeks--hardly suitable for going into town to shop--for the loss we have sustained. I can only dream of receiving such a welcome as he has had today.

At 8/10/2007 4:14 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

What a beautiful tribute Kerry. Too bad we all don't stay that excited to sit and listen at the feet of living prophets.

At 8/10/2007 4:25 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I'm sure glad you're not a writer, Kerry. I would hate to think how much I would be moved by your stories then. I've always been fond of Fridays, but with your blogs I look forward even more.

At 8/10/2007 4:53 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

What a wonderful tribute to a truly great man. Thank you, Kerry.

At 8/10/2007 5:55 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Kerry, you have a beautiful way of expressing what the rest of us long to say. =) Our hearts hurt a bit today, but we'll always treasure the teachings of this wonderful leader.

Also---don't feel bad about your first experience with General Conference. Coming from an inactive LDS home often led to similar adventures for me. Like the first time I saw all of my college roommates kneeling together in the tiny living room of our apartment. I was certain they all had lost it---until they explained about family prayer. And we won't even discuss my first attempt at doing a FHE while at that same college. Let's just leave it at I had no idea what I was doing. Good times, as I recall. =)

At 8/10/2007 7:06 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Beautiful, Kerry. I grew up watching General Conference and when I was 16 I went to a session. We arrived 3 hours early and didn't make it in because we had forgotten about daylight savings. All the spots were full.

I love your enthusiasm.

At 8/11/2007 1:31 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Kerry, your enthusiasm for the gospel gives me a greater appreciation for it. Thank you for sharing your eloquent thoughts and feelings.

At 8/11/2007 9:39 AM, Blogger Governale said...


Thank you for posting this lovely, humorous tribute to President Faust.

Fortunately for my computer monitor, I wasn't drinking milk when you revealed the existence of an Eleventh Virgin. Oil in the lamp, but overslept -- too funny.


Many years ago, Daylight Savings Time fooled me, too. I arrived one Sunday for our ward's early-morning priesthood meeting, but found the chapel locked up tight and not a soul around.

I sat, confused and forlorn, on the front steps, visions of having missed the return to Jackson County hand-carting through my head.

Eventually, a car pulled up. I have never been so glad to see a bishop in my life.


(now of exceedinglycurious (dot) com, despite what my Blogger profile may still say)

At 8/11/2007 9:48 AM, Blogger Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Thank you for reminding me the awe inspiring privilege to have a live prophet and apostles. I will miss President Faust too. He, along with Elder Richard G. Scott, was one of my very favorites. I always sat a little straighter and held my pen a little tighter when he spoke.

At 8/16/2007 6:11 PM, Blogger Janine said...

I don't know you, your blog came up when I googled President Faust and music, but can I say, I loved this post. I would be really excited to RSS your blog. Would that be alright? I'm a member in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and a convert of 11 years.

At 8/17/2007 11:04 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Hi, Janine! I looked for a place I could write back to you personally, but I couldn't find a contact. (I did see an adorable picture of your little boy, so it was worth the search!)

Thanks for the kind comment. I'm too clueless to know what an RSS is, but go for it! I'm so glad you found us and hope you'll come back often!


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