“The Lord Wants This Tour,” Ensign, Oct. 1991, 42–43
Wendell M. Smoot, president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was in his office that day, April 29, 1991, talking about the upcoming June 8 Tabernacle Choir tour to middle Europe and Russia.
He is a man “on fire,” one choir member said. “He’s just perfect for us. He’s the business head and president, and has brought such a spiritual dimension to the choir. We just love him!”
Today he was basking in the assurance that though the tour had not yet begun, he knew everything was going to be all right, that the tour was going to be a success.
“Let me tell a remarkable story,” he said. “As in any such tour, you have to sign ahead of time your contracts for the airlines that will fly you to your destination, the halls where you are going to perform, the hotels where you are going to house and feed 510 people—everything that Udell Poulsen, our business manager, will have to follow through on. It is customary to have certain payment dates at stated intervals, with some contracts requiring very heavy payments. The date of February 7, 1991, became a very important date, because on that day we had to put down a substantial amount of money. Late in January, I began to be very concerned.
“Do people remember what was going on in the world at that time?” he asked. “The air campaign against Iraq had started on January 16, a projected ground war was imminent, and fear of terrorism and hostage-taking was prevalent all over Europe. Individuals and organizations were canceling various plans and events due to the fear associated with the war. The people abroad with whom we were making arrangements feared that we, too, might cancel out.
“I got all kinds of calls from people in Europe trying to pressure us—trying to make sure we would not cancel. ‘Do you realize that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Mormon Church will be thought of as wimps if you cancel?’ I was told. I answered, ‘We’re not talking about canceling—but that is a possibility if this war continues to worsen.’
“So, on Friday, February 1, I called President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency, the man I report to. ‘President, I need to see you,’ I said. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘Come on over.’
“I went over and laid it all out to him. I then said, ‘President, the reputation of the Church is at stake if we cancel and this war stops soon. You can imagine what will be thought of us if we default on all our obligations, after pleading and begging to get into these prestigious concert halls and getting the promoters behind us. On the other hand, how tragic it would be to blindly go and put at risk all these people, their lives and their families. President, if there is any possibility whatsoever that the First Presidency would think of canceling this trip, I need to know now because of the big amount of money we need to put down Thursday, February 7. President, I’m here to get counsel.’
“The weekend passed, and on Monday morning I called and said, ‘President, I wonder if you have made a decision with the First Presidency concerning the matter I discussed with you last Friday.’
“President Hinckley said, ‘Wendell, I have thought about little else since you were here.’ There was a moment of silence. Then he said, ‘I will say this. The choir will go to Europe this coming summer. The war will be over.’
“I said, ‘President, that’s all I needed to hear.’ At the conclusion of our conversation, I took steps to fulfill our financial commitment, and we moved ahead.
“That day was February 4. The ground campaign of that tragic war didn’t start until February 24! And after it did start, the fighting ended with a cease-fire on February 28.
“But from those two conversations, I learned that this tour that we are about to go on is ordained of the Lord, that the Lord wants this tour. He wants us to go, and we will go and be preserved and be successful because this is a call from the Lord.”
The day was April 29—still forty days before the Tabernacle Choir’s scheduled departure.