President Gordon B. Hinckley was returning to the states from Brazil on Sunday, November 17, 1996, and planned to stop in Miami. He agreed to do a two-session conference with Southeast Florida the day he arrived and continue on to Salt Lake City the following day. The Ft. Lauderdale Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Potter, were asked to host a dinner that night for the Prophet, his wife, the group traveling with him and all the Stake Presidents and their wives.
Being newly called, Sister Potter was nervous that her first time as mission hostess was a dinner for the Prophet. She mentioned this to our Stake President who called Robes, the bishop of our ward, and asked if he'd give Sister Potter a hand in planning the menu. Being an enthusiastic cook and entertainer, Robes helped her plan and volunteered to provide a few different salads, assisted by one of his counselors who also loved to cook. Our ward was scheduled for the morning session. We left early to drop off the salads at the Mission Home before rushing over to the convention center. After the delivery we headed toward the meeting and Robes kept saying, "You can't believe how much chicken she's going to cook by herself during the second session. One person can't do all that cooking in two hours."
We took our seats in time, but unknowingly would have hours to entertain the children until President Hinckley arrived. A wiper blade on the jet he was aboard came loose and posed a danger to the plane. Because the flight had just taken off, the pilot had to circle the airport in Brazil until enough fuel was burned off to land safely, then fix the wiper and take off again. While we sat in Ft. Lauderdale, President Hinckley circled Sao Paulo and Robes kept muttering, "Sister Potter cannot cook all that food alone!" Eventually, President Hinckley arrived and gave a talk about seemingly small things (loose wiper blades) getting in the way of our salvation.
Being so far from the leadership of the church, it was wonderful to be in the presence of the Prophet again and share that experience with our kids. When it ended, Robes asked my sister and her husband if they'd take our 18-month-old, Adrienne, home for a while so we could help Sister Potter cook during the next session. He turned to Ian (9) and Jamel (6) and said, "Now, boys, we're just going to help prepare the meal for the Prophet, but we're not going to see him. Preparing his meal will be special enough and then we'll leave. So don't misunderstand that we're going to be there long enough to see President Hinckley."
It was such a fun afternoon. We all donned aprons and while Robes and Sister Potter cooked, the boys and I put out chairs, linens, and centerpieces and set the tables. It was getting dark and we weren't sure how long before the Miami session would be over. Jamel volunteered to watch the driveway for headlights while we rushed to check the last minute things. Suddenly, he screamed, "Car!!" Startled, Sister Potter threw off her apron, snapped on her tag, jumped in her pumps and stood at attention at the front door. I couldn't stop giggling about how automatic her response was. We all crouched in the kitchen peering around the doorway to the living room where Sister Potter stood straight and stiff. Then we heard a movement behind us. We
turned and saw President and Sister Hinckley with two gigantic body guards and Elder Richard G. Scott in the kitchen watching the back of us. We still don't know how they came so close without making noise. Sister Potter still stood unaware at the front door. Robes introduced all of us in our aprons and then Elder Scott bent down at eye level with the boys and took one of their hands and said, "What is your name?" I think it was Ian who gave his name first. Elder Scott replied, "My name is Richard." Then he did the same with Jamel. We led them to the couches where they waited for all the Stake Presidents to arrive.
We served dinner and before dessert, Sister Potter told the boys they could take a tray to President and Sister Hinckley to let them choose their dessert first. The boys were so excited holding the tray together. Afterward, Sister Hinckley stopped by Ian and put her hands on his shoulders (she was barely taller than he was) and told him what a lovely dinner he prepared and that the dessert was just right. Before they left, Robes asked President Hinckley if he could trouble him to stand with the boys for a photo. I love to look at it because Ian is trying to touch President Hinckley unnoticed and Jamel is pouting because he didn't understand why I was motioning for him to get on the other side. Then they were gone.
We gathered around the kitchen table - the Potters, us and a few missionary couples. Our family hadn't eaten all day, so we made plates of leftovers and then Sister Potter noticed that their 15-year-old, Andrew, was digging into a heaping plate. She said, "Andrew, how can you be that hungry? You just ate with us." He looked at her in disbelief. "Mom, you think I could chow down with Richard G. Scott looking straight across the table at me!" On the drive home we took turns saying, "I cannot believe that just happened!" Robes reminded the boys that all their friends would go to bed that night so happy they got to see the prophet and that he thought it would be unfair to make them feel like they missed out on anything. He told them it was best not to tell anyone in the Ward about what happened. When they felt like they might burst to talk about it, then they could call anyone in the family out of state, but they couldn't tell anyone in the ward. "And remember, boys, you just met the prophet who may very well be the one who calls you on a mission. After meeting him tonight, could you really tell him 'no'?"
We never told anyone in our ward until years after Robes died.