Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Corliss Clayton with Elder Francis M. Gibbons of the First Quorum of the Seventy

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    Elder Francis M. Gibbons

    “I was born in St. Johns, Arizona,” said Elder Francis M. Gibbons. “My father was the district judge. He used to travel around a lot, presiding over courts in different parts of the state.

    “Once when I was a baby, I was very ill and my father was away from home. It was a Sunday evening, and our home teacher—called a block teacher then—came to our home before sacrament meeting. He had heard that I was ill, and he’d stopped to ask if there was anything that he could do. Mother said no, so he left. But after sacrament meeting he felt impressed to come back. This time Mother asked him to bless me, which he did, and in the blessing he promised that I would recover. That night Mother woke in the middle of the night and checked on me. When she did, she thought that I was dead, because my skin felt cold, but it was only because the fever had left me.

    “Dad wasn’t home when I was baptized, so I was baptized by a man named Stanley Hamblin. I remember having to walk out quite a distance into the St. Johns Reservoir to find water that was deep enough for the baptism. And I remember thinking how sweet and fresh the water seemed as I went down into it.

    “When I was nine, my family moved to Phoenix, Arizona,” Elder Gibbons continued. “Even as a young boy I had wanted to be a court reporter. So at the age of seventeen I studied shorthand and qualified to become one. Soon after that I lost my desire to be a court reporter. However, I used the skills that I learned, both in school and in my work as an attorney.

    “In 1970 Joseph Anderson, secretary to the First Presidency, was sustained as a General Authority. I was Joseph’s bishop, and he told my wife, Helen, and me of the difficulty the Brethren were having trying to get someone to replace him. They needed someone who had had administrative experience in the Church, someone who could work well with the General Authorities and who could take rapid shorthand because they don’t use recording devices in the First Presidency meetings or in the temple.

    “When we got home that night, my wife said, ‘Frank, I could hardly restrain myself from telling Joseph that the man the Brethren are looking for is you.’ We prayed about it. I called Joseph the next morning and said, ‘Can I see you?’ He said, ‘Yes, why don’t you come in at ten o’clock.’ Joseph told me later that he hung up the phone, turned to his wife, Norma, and said, ‘Frank Gibbons is going to come in and offer his services to the Brethren.’ Norma said, ‘You’re mistaken. Frank wouldn’t give up his legal practice for that.’ And he said, ‘Well, we’ll see.’

    “I saw Brother Anderson at the appointed time and told him ‘I just wanted you to know, Joseph, that if the Brethren have need of my services, I’m available.’

    “He called me the next day and said, ‘The Brethren would like to see you in the morning.’ So I went in that Thursday morning, and the Brethren asked me how long it would take me to free myself from my law practice. I said that it would take several months. Then President Tanner asked, ‘How can you afford to do it?’ President Lee spoke up and said, ‘Frank has come to the point in life where he knows that he can’t afford not to do it.’

    “When I was a teenager, the thought of learning shorthand in order to work for the First Presidency never occurred to me. But I had a strong desire to learn shorthand, and I acted on it. Likewise, you children ought to dream, have ambitions, and set goals. It doesn’t make any difference if over the years those goals change. The fact that you’re striving to attain a goal means that you’re developing skills. And you can never tell how those skills will be used in the years ahead.”

    Elder Gibbons is currently President of the Brazil Area. Speaking about that assignment, Elder Gibbons said, “One time I had some important meetings that I needed to attend in Campinas, Brazil. I had a map that showed me where I was to meet the stake president, but I didn’t know that there are two roads that lead into Campinas and that we had taken the wrong one.

    “After we had traveled some distance, it was obvious that we had taken the wrong road. My wife and I then drove into the city, hoping to find our hotel. Unable to communicate with anyone, we finally admitted that we were lost.

    “I began to pray fervently to Heavenly Father to please help us find our stake president. Soon after I had prayed, I had the impression ‘Stop here and go into that building.’ I stopped and backed up. Sister Gibbons went into the building and found a man who spoke English. He said, ‘I can’t tell you how to get to your hotel, but I’ll lead you there.’ He got into his car and led us six or seven miles through Campinas to the outskirts of the city. The stake president was just pulling into the driveway of our hotel. Because of Heavenly Father’s help, I was able to make my meetings on time.

    “I can’t think of any time in my life when I have prayed with fervency and faith that the Lord hasn’t answered that prayer.

    “Children, learn to pray to your Heavenly Father and then to listen to what He says to you. Keep the commandments of the Lord, and be obedient so that you may worthily qualify to go on missions, to be sealed in the temple, and to return to His presence.

    “All of the prophets whom I have worked with have had a great love and concern for the children of the world,” said Elder Gibbons. “Having worked with the First Presidency almost every workday for sixteen years and having observed how they go about directing the Church, I testify that they are truly prophets.”