Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quite a night

I was a very lucky person the other day.

My dad came to Utah this past weekend, on March 15th. I left Paul home with Hattie to pick up Dad from the airport. Of course, I arrived at the airport early, so I went to the Park and Wait area. Being slightly under the weather, I fell asleep, waking up 20 minutes later to realize that Dad's plane had arrived. Fearing that his plane had landed long ago, I quickly started the car...or at least tried to since I had left the headlights on and the battery was dead. Gratefully, there were a lot of people in Park and Wait that day so I had no trouble finding someone with jumper cables. I sure felt silly though.

Upon picking up Dad, we headed downtown to the Church Office Building. Dad had been invited to a dinner hosted by BYU-Idaho, and, being that Mom was going to Arizona to be with a new granddaughter, I was his date. I certainly felt a little out of place...most of the people there were my dad's age. But there were some BYU-Idaho student hosts scattered throughout the reception, so I'm sure people thought I was another student host. After an hour of mixing and mingling, we were shown upstairs, to the 26th floor. There is definitely a great view of the city from up there.

We had been told that we had assigned seating at table #1. We made our way to the table and saw our name tags: Reed Dame and Linda Dame :) I looked around at some of the other name tags: Sue Clark, President Kim Clark, President Thomas S. Monson, Francis Monson. I think my heart stopped about then. I knew that President Monson was going to be in attendance that evening, but it was quite a surprise that we'd be sharing the same table with him!

Dad and I made conversation with the other couples sitting at our table while we waited for the Monsons. After about an hour of waiting President and Sister Monson arrived. On entering, he said, "I'll tell you why we are late: the Home Teachers came!" Everyone chuckled...who doesn't chuckle when the prophet makes a joke? He sat down and immediately started telling stories. I knew he was a storyteller, but this was amazing. All throughout dinner, he was the person talking. You could tell he was enjoying himself - that he liked entertaining us. And it certainly made everyone at the table feel more comfortable and less intimidated by eating dinner with the prophet. We didn't have to worry about what to say and sounding intelligent...we could just listen and enjoy ourselves. I'll try to remember some favorite stories.

"I used to work on printing the phone directory for Salt Lake. Do you think you can tell me the #1 and #2 surnames in Utah?"
Someone said Smith. I said Jones.
"You're right! Smith has been #1 for years, and Jones was #2 until recently, when Johnson took over. Francis here was a Johnson," he said proudly. He loved knowing random facts.

He quizzed us on a couple of other things, like the names of the horses of the singing cowboys in the 50's. That, of course, was beyond me.

Someone asked if he and Sister Monson would be moving downtown to be closer to Church headquarters. He replied, "Nope...because I can't take my 3 chickens with me!"

Here is a favorite: (of course, my telling is summarized and not nearly as funny)
"I was reading through my grandfather's journal of his mission in Sweden, and he tells of teaching a family, and names all of their children. Little did I know at the time that one of those children was Francis' father. So when I was courting Francis I went to pick her up one evening and her father asked if Monson was a Swedish name. I told him it was. He then asked if I had family who had served a mission in Sweden, and I told him that my grandfather had, and I gave him his name. Immediately, Francis' father kissed me on the check! He said that he was grateful to meet the family of the man who brought his family the gospel. Then Francis' mother kissed me on the check. I thought that I was the only man who had ever received a kiss from the girl's parents before a kiss from the girl!" Of course, he laughed at his own joke. He was so fun and light-hearted all evening.

After dinner, President Monson gave a talk. He started off simply telling more stories. They weren't necessarily related, but they always had a purpose and a moral. He quoted "A Christmas Carol" like he often does, and even made fun of himself for always doing it. He told how every Christmas his kids chide him for reading it to them once again. I'm sure he has the book memorized.

After he had been storytelling for a while, he said, "I prepared some formal remarks so I guess I'd better give those before I get carried away." So he began reading. He paused at one part and said, "Now I really like this phrase - 'like a light shining to the people (or something along those lines)' - Isn't that pretty? I thought it was nice." And he kept right on going! Later, at a different phrase he paused in his formal remarks and said, "Now I had someone at the office read over this and he said, 'It sounds like you, President.' 'Of course it does - It is me!'" At another part of his remarks he said, "As chairman of the board of directors of Brigham Young University Idaho...now that's a new title I've been given lately. I've been given a lot of new titles lately. Probably more new titles in the last two months than in my whole life." It was fun to watch him break in and out of character...he would turn on the formal remarks and sound like the typical President Monson, and then suddenly break away and be light-hearted and jokeful. When he got to the end of his prepared comments, he said, "Okay, I'm done with those now," and went right on storytelling has he had before!

One comment in particular that he made has stuck with me: There are no small decisions in the life of a person who has the potential to become as God. I've been thinking of that a lot since Saturday. I know that there are a lot of small things I can do to improve, and I just need to decide to do them. It IS important how I spend my time at home all day, even though it seems as though all my daily tasks are meaningless. Because all those tasks add up to my life, and I had better spend them well, and most especially, with a good attitude. The evening was unforgettable, sitting only 5 seats away from the prophet for over an hour. I was selfishly glad that my mom was unable to come!


Noelle said...

What a story Melanie! You were a lucky girl (first that you could get a jump that quickly and second, dinner with the prophet!) I loved reading all the little anecdotes from your night with him. He certainly is a happy and lighthearted man. He will be a wonderful prophet.

Melina Ficek said...

Wow Melanie, that is fantastic!! He came to my Gmas funeral a few years ago, it was really great to meet him and see him in an unformal setting.

Karli said...

what a great opportunity and a blessing for you! do you mind if I use that line about small decisions in my talk in sacrament on sunday? Zac and i were asked to speak and i think i'm going to talk about becoming a christ centered person and family/home...that would tie in well i think.

anyway, you lifted my spirit for the day. so grateful for you!

Heather said...

Incredible! Thanks for sharing some great stories!

Brandon and Jenn said...

Wow, what an experience! Thanks for sharing it.

Janssen said...

I just found your blog via Noelle and I LOVE this story. What an amazing experience. Good thing your battery didn't keep you away! :)

Laura Bernard said...

I always thought it was pretty cool that I got to go with dad to a dinner when Pres. Hinckley was Honored as Business Person of the Year by the NAC. While wonderful, we were in the middle of the ballroom---I can't even remember the name of the building. Oh, the Wilk. Anyway, I'm so glad/jealous you had such an amazing experience. If you don't mind I'm going to post a link on my blog to your post.

Melony and Todd said...

What a neat experience! I am not sure what I would have done or said if I was sitting so close to the prophet!

LadyCarma said...

What a great way to share a wonderful experience through your blog. You tell a great story yourself! President Monson has always been a great person to be around. I had a spiritual experience in his presence many years ago. He was Elder Monson, a member of the Twelve and was assigned to the Provo Stake conference in February 1979. Steve was the stake executive secretary, and as such, the wives had prepared the meal between the leadership meeting at 4 p.m. and before the adult session at 7 p.m. After we ate, Elder Monson invited the stake presidency and wives, the high council and wives, to come to the high council room where he invited us to knee around the big table, join hands for "prayer" before the evening meeting. He was the voice of the prayer. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I was able to kneel next to him, and as he took my hand in his, and began to pray, my whole body felt a power and strength go through me. Steve, holding my other hand said he felt that same "power" generating from a spokesperson for the Lord. It still gives me goose bumps!