I stumbled upon this picture the other day and thought maybe it was time to share it. This picture has an interesting story behind it.
On the far right are John and Rosie Byrom. Rosie is mostly in the shadow so it is difficult to make her out. I served in the Runcord Ward from around December 1999 to around August 2000. John served as Ward Mission Leader and Rosie as a Ward Missionary. (The Byroms have since separated and divorced). I served in the ward for a long time and they remained in their callings for the entire time, so we built a friendship which, I feign to believe, still exists to this day.
I returned home from my mission in December 2000. It was not long into 2001 that I learned the Byroms were planning on visiting Utah. Of course, I invited them to spend some time in Idaho.
During the majority of time I served in Runcorn I had a companion by the name of Brad Hales. Also in our district was a senior sister companionship of Meriel Peterson and Patricia Kleinkopf. We were all native Idahoans and were in close proximity of each other. It was natural that the Byroms also wanted to visit each of them while they were in Idaho.
This particular day we drove to Oakley, Idaho to visit Sister Peterson. We had an enjoyable breakfast and conversation. Sister Peterson decided she wanted to give us the tour of Oakley because there were some architectural gems that she thought the Byroms would enjoy. I grew up near Oakley so I was familiar with many of these local landmarks.
We all piled into my little Camry and away we drove. We had not made it very far driving down some of the streets of Oakley when Sister Peterson announced, “Wait, David is home, he will want to meet you!” She had me turn around and we pulled into a little home in Oakley.
I had no clue who David was and I was not familiar with the home we were now pulling into the driveway. We all exited the car. In the yard there was a man trimming his hedges with a large straw hat and a large set of sunglasses that you only see old people wear.
Since Sister Peterson indicated that David would want to meet the Byroms because they were from England, I remained at the front of my car in the driveway and leaned back against it in the hot, summer, morning sun.
I have to give a little bit of background on the month prior. We are in the latter half of July 2001 at the point of this picture (I recollect it was the 21st, but may be wrong). I had just spent considerable time in Hawaii with family at the beginning of the month. During that time I picked myself up a shirt and a shell necklace among other items. As you can see in the picture, I am wearing my red shirt (not the blatant Hawaiian design you regularly see). For years I thought I was in a pair of board shorts too, but this picture corrects my memory on that tidbit. But I had continuously wore my new puka shell necklace since the trip to Hawaii.
Back to the story, I am leaning on the front of my car watching the Byroms enter the back yard through the hedge and approach this old man in a large straw hat and holding an electric hedge trimmer. The man stopped trimming and turned to greet his trespassers. Curiously, after what was a short couple of moments, probably no more than 20 seconds of conversation, this man leaves the Byroms and Sister Peterson and headed my direction.
My first reaction was that I was doing something wrong so I looked around to see my misstep. Alas, not seeing I had done anything wrong I approached the man and met him near his hedge. He had set down his trimmer before arriving to me and he pulled his hand out of his glove to shake my hand. I shook hands with him and he with his free hand reached up and took of his hat and glasses and asked me my name.
My first thought was something along these lines, “Boy, this David fellow sure looks familiar.” He asked my name and I gave it. He asked about my Ross name and whether or not it was Scottish. I informed him it was my name but not the name of which my ancestors carried. He then informed me that Ross was a common name in Scotland where he had served as a Mission President.
He then grew quiet and he sidled up closer to me and put the hand with the hat and glasses in the small of my back while still holding my other hand in a handshake. He was now close enough that his face was in my shadow (and he was considerably shorter than me). He then broke the handshake and with that hand reached up and touched my puka shell necklace.
“What is this?”
“I am disappointed that you have fallen from the principles of the gospel that we teach as missionaries. We teach than men and women have separate and distinct roles and this is confusing the two.”
My first impression was, “How did you know I served a mission?”
This man then turned to walk away back to the Byroms and Sister Peterson. As he walked away, the thought occurred, “You have just been rebuked by an Apostle.”
Then it dawned. David was David B Haight, one of the twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was an individual I recognized as a Priesthood Leader and on my first meeting with him, I had been rebuked.
I stood there reeling from what had just happened. It stung. David went to the back door of his house and summoned his wife Ruby. Ruby appeared and they all stood 25 feet away from me chit chatting about England, Scotland, and whatever else they were talking about.
What seemed like an eternity was likely only a minute or so, if that. I remember reaching up and taking the puka shell necklace off and holding it in my hand. I dwelt on what was really an unintended and probably unwanted visit that was a bother to me and this old man. Sister Peterson just commented he was home and a few lines of dialogue just ended up potentially effected my eternities. According to him I was already on the path, so I guess it did not matter what he said except to correct my backsliding ways.
Next thing I knew, the distant conversation between the Haights and Byroms had stopped and this Apostle was returning to me. He again held out his hand as if to invite another handshake. I held out my hand with the necklace in it and he cupped his hand to receive whatever I was offering. I dropped the necklace into his hand and once he realized what it was he let it drop to the ground.
He held out his hand again inviting mine in a handshake and I clasped his. He sidled up close to me again, put his other hand in the small of my back, and was close enough to be in my shadow and that I could smell the salt in his old man sweat, and he continued…
“Where did you serve your mission?” (I remember thinking that was an ironic question since the Byroms were from England, Sister Peterson served in England, and he asked where the fourth member of the party served his mission?)
“England Manchester Mission”
“How long have you been home?”
(After a quick mental tally) “Nine months”
“Elder, you hold the Priesthood. You have a duty to uphold that Priesthood. You should have been married by now.”
He released my hand, pulled his hand from the small of my back, turned, and walked away. Maybe 4 steps later he turned around and said, “When it happens, I want to know about it.”
He returned to a conversation with Ruby, Sister Peterson, and the Byroms.
I stood there while they chatted for a few more minutes. I do not recall hearing anything of the conversation between them, even if I was close enough to have heard.
Rosie had a picture taken of the occasion. Sister Peterson sacrificed herself in the moment to take the photo that now memorializes this occasion.
I shook hands again with Elder David Haight and Sister Ruby Haight and we headed on down the road to see some other homes. I ended up driving many more hours that day to Boise, Idaho City, Stanley, and elsewhere chauffeuring the Byroms through some of the sights of Idaho. Rosie Byrom teased me about the moment the rest of the time I was with them. After all, it is not every day that you get rebuked by an Apostle. I cannot recall if they overheard the conversation or if I told them about it. I cannot imagine that they overheard the conversation due to the close proximity in which David and I spoke that day.
Oddly enough, it weighed on me for a long time. It became the butt of jokes as time went on, especially as David continued to age. He was already over 95 at the time of my meeting him. Roommates and friends would indicate that I better hurry or else I would not fulfill the rest of my duty to let David know when it happened. I will not lie, it became a great story to tell people. People loved to hear about my rebuke by an Apostle.
I regularly tell the story to individuals I am close to and that wear a necklace. Missionaries I worked with I regularly told the story, especially if they wore a necklace. I admit, I never wore a necklace or bracelet of any type since that date. I know a number of missionaries who have “fallen from the principles we teach as missionaries” and forsaken their evil ways. Honestly, I do not know that the story is one that should be heeded by others. But for the deep effect it had upon me at the time and the power in which he spoke to me, I recognize it was for me. Others should be careful about applying revelation of others to themselves. But I do believe there is a principle here that we can learn, I just don’t know that I can very clearly articulate it. I know the principle clearly for me, but don’t know how narrow or general to make it in application to others.
I remember Rosie reminding me that if I properly repent, I would be married within another 9 months. Boy if that did not apply a little pressure!
As a side, I did pick up my little puka shell necklace and ended up giving it to a friend when I returned to Missouri later in August. I don’t believe she has any clue what that little necklace meant to me.
There is more to the story.
On the following Monday, I believe 23 July 2001, I was in Salt Lake City with the Byroms. After an endowment session, Rosie announced we were to go to the Church Administration Building. She did not tell us why and I thought she just wanted to see the sights from the Church Office Building. We walked in the Church Office Building and after Rosie talked to the man at the desk, she said we were in the wrong building and we needed to go to the Church Administration Building. I informed her that the Church Administration Building was not really open to the public. Rosie announced that we had an appointment.
In light of my experience a few days before, I was not really thrilled about our appointment in the Church Administration Building. We walked around to the front door of the Church Administration Building and walked in. As we approached the man at the security desk he asked,
“Are you the Byroms?”
Rosie responded, “Yes.”
“We have been waiting for you.” (Never a very heartwarming phrase, whether the morgue, jail, CIA, bank, or Church Administration Building)
The man then responded, “You will need to leave your bags here, take the elevator to the fourth floor, take a right, and it is the last door on the left. I will let them know you are coming up.”
We entered the elevator and headed to the fourth floor. Rosie then turned and commented to me, “John helped provide security and drive for Elder Ballard while he (Elder Ballard) was in England for the Preston Temple Dedication. He told us that if we were ever in Utah to stop and pay him a visit.”
Suddenly the realization came to me that I was going to visit with my second Apostle in less than a week. I am a fairly laid back guy but felt some apprehension after the experience just days before. We turned the corner and there stood M Russell Ballard in the doorway. He invited us in to his office, introduced us to his secretary, and then ushered us into his office. Across from his desk, I think, there were two nice wing-backed chairs. Another chair was already there for me, or we pulled up a chair. Elder Ballard left the office for a moment and then reappeared pushing a little chair toward me. We were already all seated and he asked,
“Where is your wife?”
“I am not married.”
“Oh, that is something you will have to fix.”
He turned to push the little chair back out the door. I heard Rosie chuckle and comment, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses…”
Elder Ballard returned and took his seat and we had a nice conversation that probably did not take more than 15 minutes. Once again, Rosie had a picture taken.
That was the extent of the interaction and I felt some sting from the second witness of my duty to uphold the Priesthood. But it was a pleasant experience. Rosie reminded me often after that, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
Well, time passed and eventually Elder David B Haight did pass from this veil of tears at the end of July 2004, three years after our encounter. Fortunately, Elder Haight and I did have an opportunity to talk again regarding our first interaction that lessened the blow of the occasion. Nevertheless, roommates and many friends called after Elder Haight’s passing to let me know how dire my situation was now that the revelator had passed and I had not fulfilled my duty.
Rosie commented to me that I could fulfill my duty by reporting my marriage to Elder Ballard when the time came.
Well, forward a few more years and I became enamored with a little red-headed girl from Kaysville, Utah. She came to enjoy her time with me and after a while we would end our walks with a little dancing on the porch of the Alumni House at Utah State University. It became a regular thing to end our walks and evenings out with a dance and closing conversation on the porch of the Alumni House. I dare say we danced on the porch of that building more than 60 times. It was on the porch of this little Alumni House that I made an unofficial proposal to Ms. Hemsley. It just seemed like the right place.
Months later, Amanda and I returned to Logan under the guise of visiting some friends. While on the campus I took her to that little porch of the Alumni House and there after midnight, now on 4 July 2005, I fell to my knee and proposed to her. Of course she said yes and we danced and kissed there on the porch of the Alumni House. Interestingly, before we left that night, I caught sight of a huge portrait hanging inside the doors that open to the porch that had become an important part of our courtship. As I looked closer, I could see the familiar sight of a man whose face I knew. As I got a little closer to see in the dark the portrait lit only by fire escape signs it dawned on me it was a portrait of David B Haight.
If that was not a little coincidental, and perhaps a little creepy, I do not know what is. Elder Haight’s portrait had actually witnessed some of the most personal moments of my courtship. The building I had only known as the Alumni House is properly named the David B Haight Alumni Center. Somehow it seemed the whole experience had just came full circle.
We sent a wedding invitation to Elder M Russell Ballard with a short note explaining that due to Elder Haight’s passing I was sending the note and invitation to him to fulfill my duty. He responded with a card thanking me for my note and invitation and suggested I consider my duty fulfilled. He also apologized for not being able to attend our reception (which I am glad about, surely some further duty might have been laid upon me if he had!)
There is my story for the above photo with the Haights and Byroms. Maybe some day I can tell my story about Elder Hales (the Apostle, not my missionary companion)…