This will be a long post. It is inspired by something that Elder Perkins mentioned at our recent Stake Conference.
When I left on my mission to Switzerland I had been a member of the Church for a year and two weeks. I had a firm testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel but very little practical knowledge about how to LIVE like a member. I don't mean things like the Word of Wisdom, more like what a missionary did, what a mission president was, etc.
In those days there was a house across North Temple from Temple Square, called the Mission Home (now where the Conference Center is). All missionaries went there for one week. At the end of that week, those who were going to the Language Training Mission got on a bus for Provo (subject for another post) and those who were not got on a bus for the airport.
Many things happened that week, most of which have been changed for today's missionary. One was that everyone went to the Salt Lake Temple on Wednesday. Many missionaries arrived in Salt Lake unendowed because they just couldn't get to a temple before. Actually, we went twice. In between the two sessions we went up to the Assembly Hall and asked a General Authority any question we had ever had about the temple or any other Gospel subject.
Another important thing that happened was we all got set apart as missionaries. Now, of course, that is done by the Stake President. In those days the Stake President did not have the authority.
Unless we had made other arrangements we were all "assigned" a General Authority to set us apart. I believe that Alma Sonne was the one who did the bulk of these ordinances and that he was the one I was assigned to.
I told my companion (not in conjunction with the setting apart assignment) that it was a fond desire of my heart to somehow meet Elder LeGrand Richards, whose book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder had been responsible for my conversion (I will talk more about that in another post). He (my companion) said "Well why don't you just ask him to set you apart".
Understand, I had grown up a military brat. In that context you just didn't ask to have one of the generals meet with you for anything, so I was flabbergasted at the mere idea. Anyway, my companion made the call, and the arrangements were made.
When you first entered the Mission Home there was a big "living room", which was the place where the family said goodbye to the missionary. Around the walls of that room were pictures and short biographies of almost all the Mission Presidents. Of course, mine was one of the ones that was missing.
So here I was, truly a Stranger in a Strand Land, knowing nothing about what was in store for me, or even those who would be in charge.
Now comes the amazing part. I went out and bought a new copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. We went to Elder Richard's office at the appointed time. He took my paperwork and glanced at it and said: "Oh, my granddaughter is your Mission President's wife".
We talked about a lot of things, especially about being a missionary, and about President Nelson (who was the grandson of Joseph Fielding Smith) and his family. Then he set me apart, autographed my book, and we were done.