As he spoke to benefactors on behalf of LDS Business College students at the college's annual donor appreciation dinner, student body president Josh Bennett had no idea his remarks would both realize a personal desire and underscore the event's effort to express gratitude.
The Nov. 12 dinner involved college donors, students and Church leaders, including Elder Paul V. Johnson and Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the Seventy, with Elder Johnson also the Church Commissioner of Education.
Brother Bennett spoke of growing up as one of seven siblings, with his family facing financial hardships when his oldest brother left to serve a mission. The situation compounded when another brother left on his mission before the first had returned.
Turning 19 the summer after he graduated from high school, Brother Bennett recalled working two summer jobs to try to save money for his mission, getting discouraged after several months when he realized he needed to work until age 21 in order to save enough money to be able to go on his mission.
Accustomed to twice a week joining in morning study with the local full-time missionaries assigned to his area, he came home one day after work to find the elders at his home. One of them, an Elder Hughes, had become aware of the financial plight and reported that his grandfather and uncles had established a fund to pay for half of Josh's mission.
"I remember the joy that came over me that day – it was truly a tender mercy of the Lord," Brother Bennett told the audience, adding that while he has written several letters of appreciation to one of the missionaries' uncles, "I can't wait to meet him someday in person and put my arms around him and thank him."
That opportunity came moments later, as Brother Bennett returned to his table, where someone pointed to the next table over and said, "There he is."
At the next table, J.P Hughes and his wife, Elaine, had listened intently and emotionally to the familiar story, recognizing the missionary in the related story as their nephew.
With the program still going on, Brother Bennett quietly slid his chair over to Brother and Sister Hughes, put his arms around them and cried with them in the tender moment. At the conclusion of the program, the three rose to embrace and share more tears and laughs as others in the audience learned how the "appreciation" dinner took on an even greater meaning.
As he prepared the text for his speaking assignment at the dinner, Brother Bennett hesitated in naming his benefactors. "But I felt I should, and now I know why," he said. "I am so grateful to have the chance to thank them in person. I am so grateful to them. They changed my life."
— Scott Taylor