President Hinckley in Japan
From Van C. Gessel (Currently
serving as President of the Oregon Portland Mission)
Saturday, June 30, 2007
a bit short on time myself (go figure), I do have one "President
Hinckley in Japan" story that probably nobody else can tell. I was in
Tokyo--living with some friends who were house-sitting what would become
the Grobergs' mission home in Fuchu--the summer of the first Area
Conference in Japan, the one where Pres. Kimball announced the Tokyo
Temple. I was asked to be a translator for the conference; I was
assigned to interpret for Elder Komatsu's talk; he gave it in Japanese,
and I translated it into English so the Brethren in attendance could
know what he was saying.
Almost all the other interpreters were,
of course, Japanese brethren who would be interpreting for the General
Authorities. All the talks were prepared and sent over in advance so
they could be translated, but in our training we were given very clear
instructions that some of the Brethren might be inspired to depart from
their prepared texts, so we'd better be ready to do it on the fly!
Tensions mounted among the interpreters as the conference approached.
You could almost see the panic spreading across their faces--after all,
this was the very first Area Conference, and they were given the weighty
responsibility of appropriately conveying the remarks of Church leaders
to the members assembled in the Budokan. It seemed almost as though they
felt a mistranslation would result in excommunication! :)
A prayer meeting was held in the interpreters' booth a couple of hours
before the first session. The anxiety was palpable. The dear Japanese
brother who gave the prayer actually asked the Lord to inspire the
Brethren to stick to their prepared texts! (Ironically, this same
brother ended up interpreting for Sterling W. Sill, whose first words at
the podium were: "I feel inspired to depart from my prepared text..."
and then he began his characteristic quoting of long memorized passages
from the likes of Shakespeare, Milton, etc.! You could almost see this
poor brother melting at the mike.
Perhaps 45 minutes before the first session, the door to the
interpreters' booth opened, and in walked President Gordon B. Hinckley.
The interpreters all leaped to their feet and stood at attention,
worried, perhaps, that they were about to be reminded that no errors
would be tolerated. President Hinckley smiled and waved and said, "Who's
interpreting for me?" A panic-stricken brother raised his hand as though
volunteering for the death camp. President Hinckley walked over to him,
shook his hand, asked him to sit down and pulled a chair up next to him,
put his arm around his shoulders and said gently, "Do you have any
questions about my talks? Any parts I can help you with?" It was such a
powerful and touching affirmation of the incredible love Pres. Hinckley
has always had for the Asian Saints, his uncanny ability to sense when
others need a calming reassurance, and the ways in which he goes out of
his way to serve others. I was privileged to witness that act of pure
Don't know if there's a way you can use that--but it's a true story!
Best to you in all your terrific labors! Van