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“Remember Pearl Harbor!”

“Remember Pearl Harbor!” November 14, 2021

 

Brigham Henry Roberts, ca. 1901 1901
Elder B. H. Roberts, of the Seventy (ca. 1901)
A great and pathbreaking Latter-day Saint intellectual, Elder Roberts compiled the so-called “Documentary History of the Church,” in multiple volumes, and authored the multi-volume “Comprehensive History of the Church” as well as many other significant works.

(A public domain photograph from Wikimedia Commons)

 

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I would like to call your attention to a new website — rather quietly launched a week or two ago by the new B. H. Roberts Foundation — that, I think, represents the first fruits of an effort that could well prove to be very significant:

 

https://mormonr.org/

 

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I’m also going to share a quite irrelevant experience that I once had with the famed conservative writer William F. Buckley, Jr., in the middle part or early latter half of the 1970s.  (Once in a while, this blog serves as something of a sketchbook for the life story that I’ll eventually write.)

 

I was a very serious fan of Buckley’s when I was growing up.  I began subscribing to National Review when I was thirteen, and, with the exception of (part of!) my mission and the four years that my wife and I lived in Cairo, I’ve been a subscriber ever since.

 

So I was quite excited when, somewhere around 1975 or 1976, I heard that he was set to speak at BYU.  I was a student then.  I had contacts in student government, and, when I found out that the person who was going to pick him up at the airport — it was someone from the (ASBYU) academic vice president’s office, perhaps even (it’s been more than forty-five years) the vice president himself — scarcely knew who Buckley was, I successfully lobbied to do it myself.

 

Three of us went up, in a BYU loaner car, to get him.  (I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember who the other two students were.)  And, to our great delight, somewhat before we did so we were told that the First Presidency wanted to visit with him.  Would we kindly bring him by after we had fetched him at the airport?

 

Well of course we would!  It was a remarkable opportunity for three undergraduate returned missionaries.

 

When we arrived at the offices of the First Presidency — which I seem to recall had been temporarily moved, for some reason, into the high-rise Church Office Building from the granite Church Administration Building where they normally are — we were met by an older gentleman who was a kind of receptionist.

 

“May I have your name?” he asked Mr. Buckley.

 

“Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy,” Buckley responded.

 

The older gentleman began to enter Teddy Kennedy into the visitor log.

 

Jerry Cahill, the First Presidency’s public spokesman at the time, had met us in the waiting room.  I think he was the one who hastily said, “No, no!  His name is William F. Buckley.”

 

“Oh,” replied the older gentleman.  “But we have lots of Kennedys in our church.”

 

“I’m not in your church,” Buckley said.

 

I was really, really grateful that the door to the First Presidency’s conference room opened just then, putting an end to that increasingly awkward exchange.  I assumed that the older guy was a senior missionary or something.  He certainly wasn’t overly slick or professional.

 

Our visit lasted, if I’m not mistaken, about an hour.  I was surprised at how long and leisurely it was.  President Kimball introduced himself and his counselors — I recall that he introduced President Tanner as “our political man,” because of President Tanner’s long-distant background in Alberta provincial politics — and then, at one point, talking about the missionary program, he called upon each of us students to introduce ourselves and identify our mission areas.

 

One of us had served in Japan.  So, during the trip down to Provo afterwards, Buckley had this returned missionary teach him how to say “Remember Pearl Harbor!” in Japanese.

 

After we dropped him off at his motel in Provo — the city didn’t have many hotels or motels in those primitive and long distant days — I had no more direct contact with Mr. Buckley during his visit.  (There was a real effort to spread opportunities out among a number of students; others had lunch with him the next day and took him to the airport the morning after his speech.)  But he impressed me quite a bit.  He seemed to be not only affable but genuinely interested in us.  At the lunch the next day, for example, I’m told that he made a point of asking the students where they had served their missions.  One of them, Stephen D. Ricks, had been a missionary companion of mine.  When he told Mr. Buckley that he had served in Switzerland, Buckley replied, “Oh, that’s also where Dan Peterson served.”  When Stephen told me that afterwards, I was astonished that Mr. Buckley had remembered my name.

 

He was also, as everybody who read him knew, a great raconteur.  One other story from the ride between Salt Lake City and Provo:

 

Mr. Buckley told us about the then editor of the Boston Globe, who was a friend of his.  The man was skiing somewhere, perhaps in Vermont.  (Buckley was himself an avid skier.)  At one point, he fell.  And, when he was about to rise to his feet, another skier ran right over him.  As he lay there in pain, the only comfort he could find was in the thought that, when he got home, he was going to contact his lawyer.  In the meantime, the man who had run over him was making his way back up the slope to apologize and to offer his help.  Et voilà, when he got there, he was the victim’s lawyer.

 

I should really write more of these anecdotes down.  For my sake, not merely to bore onlookers.  I have lots of them.  And some are actually true.

 

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I really like this parable.  And I must say that whoever played Elder L. Tom Perry — with whom I was somewhat acquainted and whom I very much liked (not only but also not least because he was a great personal help to me at a difficult time) — absolutely nailed Elder Perry’s  distinctive voice:

 

“Shine Your Light So Others May See”

 

 


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