I got the phone call about 7:30 am. I was in my car, on my way to work.
“Hey, we need you to come to President Monson’s office in an hour and film him for the Tab Choir’s new Youtube Channel.”
“Uh…okay.” I knew why they called me. I’d been filming the Apostle’s as they traveled and doing stories for LDS.org.
“What do you want me to bring?”
“I don’t know. Keep it simple. You only have a few minutes with him.”
I called a cameraman friend of mine and a sound man.
The phone rang again.
“You should probably have someone there to do makeup.”
I called a makeup artist.
The phone rang again.
“Are you bringing lights? You should bring lights. But remember, keep it simple.”
I called a lighting guy.
Again, the phone rang. “Oh, and, you’ll need a teleprompter. President Monson likes to read from a teleprompter.”
“Sure. Keep it simple,” I said.
“That’s why we called you.”
“Thanks.” It wasn’t simple.
We met at the entrance to the Church Administration Building dressed in our Sunday best–all six of us and our gear.
The phone at the front desk rang. The security guy nodded. We proceeded through the automatic doors, down a long hallway and up the elevator to President Monson’s office. I went in while the crew waited in the hallway. President Monson’s secretary greeted me with a smile.
“Welcome,” she said. “Come in. President Monson is expecting you.”
“Thank you. It will just take us about 15 minutes to set up.”
“Us?” She wasn’t expecting us.
“The crew” I said. “Lights, camera, sound, you know.”
“No. I don’t know,” she said, not smiling.
“We’ll be fast,” I said.
I opened the outer door and the crew clamored in. She opened President Monson’s door, deep lines creasing her forehead.
President Monson was seated behind his desk, smiling.
“Come in. Come in.” I went around the desk and shook his hand, while the crew set up.
“President Monson, thank you for letting us come in and film you this morning.”
“Of course. What are we filming today?”
Apparently, no one had told the Prophet what this was about.
I could feel the crew pause and look at me. I kneeled down next to the Prophet’s chair to explain, while they went back to work.
“The Tabernacle Choir is introducing a new youtube channel and they wanted you to introduce it.”
“Wonderful,” President Monson said. “What’s youtube?”
President Monson’s secretary was standing in the doorway. I looked up at her and she glared at me. I looked at President Monson. His eye twinkled and he chuckled, “What do you want me to say?”
I breathed a sigh of relief, “It’s right here on the prompter, President.”
“Okay. Let’s do it.”
We did it. President Monson was perfect. One take.
As we packed up our equipment, President Monson’s secretary hovered in the doorway, occasionally glaring at us. As we finished packing up, President Monson stood up and walked around his desk. He shook each of our hands.
His secretary, now smiling with anticipation of our departure, watched from the doorway. As President Monson shook my hand, he said, “You know, I don’t have any place I need to be right now. Why don’t you sit down and let’s just chat.”
President Monson guided me over to a plush seat by his desk.
Chat? With the Prophet?
Out of the corner of my eye I could see his secretary shaking her head. NO. Her forehead creases were growing deeper and her face was getting red.
“Make yourself comfortable,” President Monson said, and the rest of my crew sat down.
“What do you suppose an Apostle has in his desk drawer?” President Monson asked as he sat back down.
“Scriptures,” one of my crew said.
“Good guess,” President Monson said. “But, I keep those on top of my desk.” He opened the desk drawer and pulled out a plastic container. He placed it on the desk and opened it.
“Flies,” he said. “I tied ’em myself.”
For the next little while, President Monson told us stories about fishing on the Provo River when he was a boy. He laughed and we laughed. It was amazing. He was just like our Grandfather. He loved us, he loved having us visit and he loved telling stories.
His secretary COUGHED. Maybe she was choking. Her face had gone from red to purple. She burst into the room with clenched fists.
“President Monson, you do have somewhere you need to be, and these men NEED TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY.
I looked back to President Monson. He chuckled and winked. “I didn’t want to go to that meeting anyway.”
I have thought often about that day with President Monson. It was good to know that the Prophet was just like my Grandfather, who, I believe, also knew the Lord.
I look forward to seeing them both, again.
President Thomas S Monson: 1927 – 2018