What of the
From Returned Missionaries
Reflections on President James E. Faust
Conan Grames, August 21, 2007
We will miss President Faust and the sweet spirit he always brought to General Conference. He is particularly special to us because, on October 16, 1999, he called Cindy and me to preside over the Japan Sendai Mission. It has been fun to look back on that moment in our personal history.
We organized a weekend reunion with three other couples in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I had served as a missionary in Japan with the guys and we got together with them and their wives every few years. After a perfect day walking through colored leaves to see the waterfalls in Childs State Park, we returned to a small lodge at Paradise Lake. As we unloaded in the parking lot, I was greeted by the manager who said, “You have a call from Jim Faust in Salt Lake City.” This was not a normal occurrence for us as I’m sure our friends could tell when they saw our faces.
How President Faust found us in the Pocono Mountains is one of our family’s favorite stories. Our high school daughter, Renny, was at home with Chris and Clayt on that Friday afternoon. She answered the phone to hear an unfamiliar woman ask to speak to me, but when the woman did not know how to say my name, Renny assumed it was a telephone solicitation and abruptly hung up. President Faust’s secretary called back and gently explained to Renny that she was calling from “the office of President Faust of the First Presidency.” Renny was mortified, but the secretary took it in good humor and they even bonded somewhat over the incident. Renny did not have a contact number for us. We had left our children at home with a couple who worked during the day. Renny had to call them to get the number of the Paradise Lake lodge and then called back her new friend in President Faust’s office. Renny still calls President Faust’s secretary one of “ my good friends.”
At the lodge I returned President Faust’s call. He was sweet and warm and wanted to know if Sister Grames was with me and could I put her on the phone as well. Being a mountain lodge, there was only one phone, so we put the phone between our ears and received our call to serve from this wonderful servant of God. After asking us both if there was anything in our lives which would embarrass the Church, he said, “We would like to call Brother Grames to serve as president of a mission in Japan and for Sister Grames to serve as his companion and as the mother of the mission.” He talked to us about the difficulty of missionary work in Japan, about the importance of hard work and discipline, and said that the salvation of the missionaries was much more important than baptisms. Our success as a mission president would be determined starting in 20 years, measured by whether the children of our missionaries were being married in the temple. Then President Faust told us we could share this call with our immediate family but we were to tell no one else until we had our official letter from the Prophet.
When we walked back out into the parking lot, Cindy had tears in her eyes and our companions were standing waiting for us. “Well?” they said with great anticipation. “We can’t tell you,” we had to answer. But being schooled in church government themselves, they knew that such a call from President Faust in the fall could mean only one thing. We actually never met President Faust in person, but when he spoke to the mission presidents at the MTC he said, “I called half of you. I am responsible for you. May the Lord bless you.” We feel that blessing from President Faust to this day.