My Dirty Fingernails the Day I Met a Mormon Prophet
Filed under Prophets
An historic visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, was made in 1978, by then prophet, seer, and revelator Spencer W. Kimball. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only Christian sect which claims to be led by a prophet. I had received a personal witness from the Lord that this holy man was who he claimed to be. I was on my Mormon mission, a two year voluntary obligation for many young men in the LDS Church. President Kimball’s visit was part of the preparation for building a Mormon temple in Argentina. Word went out in the mission that we would all make the journey to Buenos Aires to hear him dedicate the country to missionary work and address the members of the LDS Church at Luna Park, a football stadium in Buenos Aires.
Argentina is a country roughly 1/3 the size of the United States. It is so long, that if it were in the northern hemisphere, it would stretch from Canada to the Yucatan. It is located in the southern hemisphere, however, in South America. My journey northward to Buenos Aires was roughly a four day journey. We traveled by bus, and it was an arduous journey. We readied our travel plans, bought our tickets, and juggled our missionary obligations, finances, and travel so we could arrive on time for the special conference at the stadium.
It seemed every church member in the capital was housing at least one out-of-town visitor or family. We were concerned that many of us would end up sleeping in the chapel or members’ living rooms or gardens. Because of this concern, many of us planned our trips so we would either arrive just in the nick of time, or then depart soon afterwards. It was a challenge coordinating bus, train, and air schedules, and this helped make the planning harrowing and challenging.
My companion, a native Argentine, was given rare permission by the mission president to stay at his home in San Fernando, a suburb of Buenos Aires. Notwithstanding, we arrived in the capital a short time before the event and needed to get to the stadium via public transportation. We arrived just minutes before President Kimball’s scheduled arrival.
Elder Kimball was actually my first cousin, but I had never met him. We requested permission that we would be allowed to meet with him to at least to shake his hand. (This experience is similar to being granted an audience by the Pope. The term brother or Elder is a correct way to address church members or priesthood holders.)
Permission was granted, but with the caveat that nearly every minute of his visit was scheduled. He was to meet with church leaders and public officials, including Argentine President Jorge Videla. Any delay on our part could undo our meeting him. His security detail included numerous bodyguards. He could certainly greet anyone, but those accompanying him were keeping him on track and a very close eye on him, not only for security, but also possible medical problems, since he was an elderly man.
As we were taking the taxi to Luna Park, I noticed that my personal hygiene was unpleasant because of our trip. Having arrived just moments before, and with three days in transit, sleeping on the bus and train, I looked at my hands and observed that, underneath my fingernails, there was visible dirt. What was I going to do? If we made it in time to meet the prophet, and there was certainly some doubt we would arrive in time, we would certainly be in an unpleasant state. From my perspective, we were on the cusp of meeting God’s personal representative on earth, and I had dirty fingernails. In addition, we were unshowered and unpleasant. It was distressing to us both.
I learned an important lesson that day, and yes, I did meet the prophet. Technically, I doubt it would have made any difference to the Lord whether we had been clean and showered. After all, we were engaged in the work of His kingdom, but I imagined that if this physical dirt had been sin, well then, that would have been a completely different matter. I was hugely embarrassed with that physical dirt. I thought to myself, this is why we need to live the gospel, obey the commandments, and follow the prophets. Since that time, I have striven to not only have faith, but to live my faith.
My hope is that when I arrive at the judgment bar of God, I have kept the faith, have finished my course, and that there is a crown laid up for me in heaven, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will give me. (See New Testament, Second Timothy 4: 7-8.)
Article was written by Mel Borup Chandler
Mel Borup Chandler lives in California. He writes about science-related topics, technological breakthroughs and medicine. Mel is a former member of the Los Angeles Press Club. Additionally, he served an LDS Mission in Argentina during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” He has written for several Spanish language newspapers in the Los Angeles area including La Opinion and El Universal. His email address is email@example.com.
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