“With President Lee in Mexico,” Ensign, Feb. 1974, 28–29, 75
I must have taken over 2,000 pictures of President Lee in the last ten years; and whether he’s in the car, in his office, walking down the street—this man glows. He glows!
I’ve been in his presence many times—many, many times—but the trip to the Mexico Area General Conference in 1972 has to be the highlight of my life. Those four meetings that Saturday—they were incredible.
It was 9:30 that Saturday morning and more than 8,000 people were waiting in this huge hall for the President to come. When he finally came, they all rose to their feet together. He stopped and looked up at that vast crowd of people from all walks of life, rich and poor. He looked at some of the brethren, and then looked up, and it seemed as if the Spirit, right then and there, just descended. It made you feel tremendous inside.
That night President Lee was scheduled to meet with four groups of people—the Aaronic priesthood youth, the girls of the same age, the Melchizedek priesthood, and the sisters.
We went first to the Aaronic Priesthood brethren—about 500 boys, beautiful boys. When he walked in, those young men began to sing softly, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” I’ll never forget it if I live to be a hundred. He walked to the pulpit; the Spirit of the Lord was with him. It seemed as if the Lord and President Lee were hand in hand.
When he started talking to them about being a boy in Clifton, Idaho, there wasn’t a noise in the congregation.
In the hall where the young girls were waiting, there was a huge spotlight, blinding bright. President Lee talked to those girls like a father would to his daughter—off the cuff—a beautiful talk about chastity, morality, and the problems of the earth.
At the conclusion of his talk he asked one of the brethren if there was an aisle up the middle. He couldn’t see, because of the light, but he wanted to walk out the middle. The spotlight followed him—this white-haired man in that white light.
I watched him walk up the aisle. He’d reach out to touch a cheek, pat the top of a head, reassure with a touch on the shoulder. His hands were very important; he’d touch one, shake a hand. I thought of Christ coming into a town and blessing the people with his hands.
When he reached the back of the hall, he turned and saw 2,000 young Mexican sisters standing in the balcony waving white handkerchiefs. “Come back, Presidente Lee, come back.”
I cried more in Mexico than I have anywhere else in the world.
When we got to the huge hall reserved for the married sisters, the President got to the pulpit and looked out over a large congregation of women with their babies, and he gave them a sermon I’ll never forget.
“Sisters, here is what I would like you to do tonight. Go home and put your children in their ‘jammies.’ Then I want you to bring your husband out into the living room, sit on the couch, and kiss each other, then I want you to tell each other how much you love each other. Then I want you to talk to each other.”
How simply the prophet of the Lord spoke—as if to only one person!
Then we went to the Melchizedek Priesthood brethren and this was super. When we got there, there were brethren sitting on tops of cars, in windowsills—every available space. Some were in suits, others in pantaloons and sandals, shirts that had seen hard living. Their eyes had seen hard living and their faces, but behind all them, uniting them, was the priesthood.
After he told the brethren of their responsibilities, as only President Lee could do, he walked out through an aisle the brethren created for him. How they avoided crushing him, I don’t understand. They loved him so much, they wanted to touch him, and he responded by shaking hands, as many as he could.
It took us 45 minutes to get to the car. President Lee was shaking hands all the way. He said, “I wish I could have shaken more hands.” He felt bad that these men had come so far and that he couldn’t shake all their hands. But those with whom he did shake hands will cherish it forever. They’ll be thinking, the prophet shook my hand, the prophet touched my cheek.
I have seen President Lee time and time again, and I’ve never seen him leave a room without shaking hands with everyone in it. Never. He went to you. He didn’t make people come to him. He’d come over and take both hands—photographers, the TV men, kids—everybody, not just the dignitaries.
I was in President Lee’s home not quite a year ago to take some pictures. We went into his study, a simple room, a room for working. On his desk were an open Bible and Book of Mormon.
I asked him about the open books, he said, “I have to give a talk tomorrow, and I want to be correct in anything I say. This is the source from which I get my information.”
I said, “President, you certainly have a nice room here.” He smiled, “This is the room where I’m on my knees most of the time.”