I know it’s discouraged to have favorites, but in light of the recent controversy over the comments of an Apostle in General Conference, I thought I would highlight some incidents and quotes from one of the Apostles I admire greatly, has taught me a great deal, and has frequently inspired me.

Unlike that other Apostle who has a reputation for being bigoted and intolerant, this Apostle recognized the need to better reach out to, and minister to, black members of the Church well before the Priesthood ban was lifted. He helped form an auxiliary organization called Genesis in 1971, which is still in existence as far as I know. His leadership was ahead of its time.

Unlike that other Apostle who is considered lacking in compassion, this Apostle once wrote:

A few years ago it was my sad privilege to accompany President Kimball, then
President of the Twelve, to a distant stake to replace a stake leader who had been
excommunicated for a transgression. Our hearts went out to this good man…

One day I received a call from the President. “I have been thinking of this brother. Do you think it is too soon to have him baptized?” (Always a question, never a command.) I responded with my feelings, and he said, “Why don’t you see if he could come here to see you? If you feel good about it after an interview, we could proceed.”

A short time later, I arrived very early at the office. As I left my car I saw President
Kimball enter his. He was going to the airport on his way to Europe. He rolled down the window to greet me, and I told him I had good news about our brother. “He was baptized last night,” I said.

He motioned for me to get into the car and sit beside him and asked me to tell him
all about it. I told him of the interview and that I had concluded by telling our brother very plainly that his baptism must not be a signal that his priesthood blessings would be restored in the foreseeable future. I told him that it would be a long, long time before that would happen.

President Kimball patted me on the knee in a gentle gesture of correction and
said, “Well, maybe not so long. . . .” Soon thereafter the intermittent phone calls began again…

Several years later, this same Apostle spoke at a Stake Conference where a Stake President had to be released when he greatly embarrassed the Church when he was caught soliciting a prostitute. While many Church members were braying for blood because of the damage this did to the Church’s reputation, this Apostle told the members of the Stake that this man’s transgressions, if repented of, need only be a “tiny blip” in the eternal scheme of things.

This Apostle cares little for rank or being overly deferential to those senior to him. He once told Elder McConkie to “quit resisting the will of the Lord.”

Unlike that other Apostle who has a reputation for interfering with local affairs, this Apostle is happy to delegate and leave the local authorities to deal with it:

As a trustee, I have, over the years, uniformly referred problems that came individually to me back to the university administration, or to the board, not wanting, as a brother, to assume what belonged to the Brethren. I have generally not even asked for a report, nor have I intervened unless assigned to do so.

There may be one Apostle who is contemptuous and suspicious of artists, but this Apostle is a talented and sensitive painter and woodworker.

That other Apostle is known for insisting that Church historians only provide faith-promoting history. But Richard Bushman sought a blessing from this Apostle when he began his biography of Joseph Smith. (See On the Road with Joseph Smith, page 32.)

Unlike that other Apostle who has been called self-righteous, this one bears a powerful and humble testimony of Jesus Christ:

I readily confess that I would find no peace, neither happiness nor safety, in a world without repentance. I do not know what I should do if there were no way for me to erase my mistakes. The agony would be more than I could bear…
I cannot with composure tell you how I feel about the Atonement. It touches the deepest emotion of gratitude and obligation. My soul reaches after Him who wrought it, this Christ, our Savior of whom I am a witness. I testify of Him. He is our Lord, our Redeemer, our advocate with the Father. He ransomed us with His blood. Humbly I lay claim upon the atonement of Christ. I find no shame in kneeling down in worship of our Father and His son.

By now you all know what I am doing. There are things I have been offended by, or disagreed with, that I have heard in Conference from time to time. There are statements that I cannot defend. But I don’t have to either. I think we should judge our leaders the way I would like to be judged, which is based on the totality of my life, and having people put effort into understanding where I am really coming from, and what I am really saying, even if I may not have worded it the best. These counter-intuitive snippets may not have changed any minds, but I hope they have at least rounded out the picture for you. If, after doing all of that, and putting spiritual and intellectual effort into understanding his words and coming to a testimony of his words, if after all that you still find yourself questioning your place and continued affiliation with the Church, consider this extremely wise quote from this leader whom I greatly respect, which reminds us that it is in the collective testimony and words of our leaders, and not any one particular person, no matter how revered or reviled, where we have safety:

[My motto is] ‘Follow the Brethren,’ not ‘Follow the Brother.’ There is only one “Brother” to follow, and that is our Prophet President. But even he does not act alone, for he has counselors.