“Watching Over the Flock,” Friend, Oct. 2004, 32
Peter had always heard in Primary and read in the scriptures that prophets feel a great love for Heavenly Father’s children. One hot summer day, he discovered for himself that it was true.
Peter and his family, who lived in Iowa, were spending the summer of 1999 in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the condominium of their grandparents, who were away serving a mission. On the afternoon of August 11, Peter and his sister, Robbin, stood on the balcony, looking across at the Church Office Building and the valley beyond.
As they watched, a huge windstorm engulfed the Delta Center (a downtown sports arena) in a towering gray-black cloud. They could hear angry pops as power transformers exploded and hail rattled down. Electrical wires snapped, sparking and wriggling like brilliant glowing snakes.
“Mom!” Peter called. “Come quickly! The Delta Center is coming apart!”
His mother appeared at the window, and they all watched as giant pieces of the Delta Center roof spiraled into the air. The day had turned nearly as dark as night as the swirling storm sucked up dirt and debris, growing ever larger. Something felt familiar about the spinning, funnel-shaped cloud that came churning straight toward them.
“That’s a tornado!” Peter’s mother exclaimed. “Quick, come inside away from those windows!”
Peter grabbed his sister’s hand, and they rushed inside. The condominium was on the corner of the building’s top floor, and the room where they stood had two walls of glass. Peter knew from tornado drills at school that flying glass could be deadly. They had to get out of there, but where could they go?
A deep rumbling shook the building, growing louder every second. The wind howled. Dirt, rocks, bits of cement and wood, and who-knew-what-else pelted the windows like fierce rain.
Could they make it to the hallway? What if the glass shattered first? “The bathroom!” Mother and Peter shouted at the same moment.
Grabbing each other’s hands, the three rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door. They clung together near the bathtub, waiting and listening. The wind’s shrieking grew so loud that it hurt their ears. There was a loud bang, and the electricity went out. The walls and floors trembled. It sounded as if a jet plane was trying to land on their heads. Peter wondered if the roof might be sucked off. He closed his eyes and prayed silently. In the darkness, noise filled the room, their ears, and their minds.
Suddenly it was gone. The winds died. The banging stopped. Peter breathed a huge sigh of relief and tried to stop trembling. They were safe.
Together they walked back out onto the balcony. Miraculously, none of their windows were broken. But across the street, huge trees lay on the ground as if toppled by a massive hand. Cars had been smashed. A gigantic yellow crane had fallen against the unfinished Conference Center. Some windows of the Church Office Building had been broken.
Robbin glanced at a nearby apartment building. “Look! Look!” she cried, pointing. “There’s President Hinckley!”
Peter turned and looked. There stood President Hinckley on his own balcony, gazing out over the damage. Peter forgot the chaos below and stood watching the prophet for a long moment. At last, rather slowly, President Hinckley turned away and went back inside.
Peter smiled and leaned against his mother. “Wow,” he said softly.
Mother nodded. “That was some storm. I mean, how often does Salt Lake City have a tornado?”
“No.” Peter quickly shook his head. “Not that. I mean President Hinckley. He came to see what had happened. And you know what?”
“I could feel his love and concern from here.”
Mother slipped her arm around his shoulder. “Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?”
Peter gave her a quick hug. “I think he loves us just as much as we love him.”
Mother smiled. “I’m sure he does.”
Fire engines, police sirens, and helicopters drew Peter’s attention back to the destruction. But he felt only peace. He would never forget the day he saw a prophet watching over his flock.
“President Gordon B. Hinckley … is our prophet today. … He is wise. He is caring. He speaks for the Lord.”
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Hear the Prophet’s Voice and Obey,” Ensign, May 1995, 17.