Years ago, when I was a student at BYU, I was coming home late one evening. It was almost Christmas, and campus was crowded. I stopped at the edge of the parking lot to wait for a long line of cars to pass. While waiting, I noticed a man several yards away, also waiting.
It was dark, and the man was not in an area illuminated by the lights, so I couldn’t see him well. But something about him seemed familiar.
There was a break in the line of cars, so he walked off of the curb and started to cross the parking lot. He walked beneath a street lamp and I realized why he looked familiar.
It was an apostle. A living apostle*.
He paused again as more cars came.
They wouldn’t stop for him and I wanted to yell, “Stop, you fools! That’s an apostle!!!!”
Meanwhile, I started arguing with myself.
I'm big on giving important people their space. So, in the past, when I've encountered people like Elder ______, I have tended to look the other way and pretend I don’t see them. Not because I don’t honor them—but because I want to ensure their privacy.
But this apostle was one of my favorites.
The cars passed and he started walking again.
“Braden,” I thought “Go say ‘hi’ to him!”
“No,” I argued. “Give the poor man his privacy.”
“Braden!” I persisted, “That’s an apostle! Don’t let this opportunity pass!”
He was approaching his car now. He pulled his keys out.
I couldn’t let this opportunity pass.
The dam of restraint broke and I jumped off the curb and ran up behind him.
“Elder _____! Elder ______!”
With my initial reticence broken, love for this saintly man flooded my heart.
I threw my arms around him—from the behind. “Elder ____, Elder ______!”
He seemed a little startled. I imagine I must have terrified him. I feel badly about that. I didn’t mean to, and I don’t recommend this method of greeting General Authorities.
“Elder _____,” I said breathlessly, “I just want to thank you for all you do. I love you.”
By now he had turned and was looking at me directly. I’ll never forget the gentleness in his voice, or his eyes. Those eyes! He looked at me and I felt like the Savior Himself was staring at me.
“Thank you,” he said softly. “Thank you so much.”
“Merry Christmas,” I said, then walked away.
Later, I realized how inappropriate my actions had been. But, I learned something that night about apostles. They’re easy to walk past or drive by. Nothing flashes or shouts to tell you they’re special. From a distance, they look ordinary. But if you follow them and listen to their voice and look into their eyes, you see the reflection of the Savior, who they know. The Savior who has called them to be special witnesses. You can see Christ in their eyes.
*Note: having once intruded on this man’s personal space, I have decided to not do so again, even virtually, so I'm not going to list his name.
Braden Bell has never again accosted a General Authority, although he honors them deeply and tries to read all their talks. Braden blogs at http://www.bradenbell.com/, where you can read about his recently published novel, The Road Show.