President Hunter taught value of a penny's worth of integrity

It was a beautiful December day in 1962. My wife, Geri, and I had only been married three months and were enjoying a delayed honeymoon in California. We drove from Gilroy, where we visited relatives, down the California coast to Los Angeles, where we planned to stop by for a visit to my mission president.

As honeymooners will, we stopped and dawdled over every lookout point and tourist attraction along the way, enjoying the scenery, the beautiful weather, and the thrill of being together without any pressures from school or work.Naturally, we had to stop and see the famous Hearst Castle, near San Simeon, Calif., an awesome and unique creation and the site of filming for several famous movies. However, we arrived just in time to miss the tour bus and were told we'd have an hour's wait until the next tour.

We decided to spend that hour sightseeing, and drove out of the parking complex and by the huge sign publicizing the castle where a couple was stretching their legs by the sign. I immediately recognized Elder Howard W. Hunter and his wife.

"Honey, that's Elder Hunter and his wife over by that sign," I said. "Let's go say hello."

I pulled our car around and parked behind them and got out. I recognized him because only a year earlier he and his wife had toured our mission in Chicago, and it was my privilege to travel with them for a couple of days.

"Well, he's not going to remember you," my wife said. I think she was a little awed at the thought of passing the time of day with a General Authority and his wife.

"That doesn't matter," I said, "and we'll just say hello." I helped her from the car to meet the two of them.

We introduced ourselves to the Hunters and learned that we both had the same problem - an hour's wait until the next tour.

They suggested we jump in their car and go for a drive for the remaining time. We were honored that they would invite us and excited for the opportunity. They were kind and easy to talk to, and we had a wonderful visit. Part way up the road we spotted a small store with a rustic front and setting. Elder Hunter stopped and we all filed in just to stretch our legs and look around.

As we were browsing the store's Western decor, Elder Hunter went to the counter, counted out some licorice, paid the clerk 10 pennies and we left. We jumped back into the car and headed back down the coast toward the place we'd left our car, timing it so we'd just make the next tour of the castle.

On our way, Elder Hunter passed the licorice around once, and then again, and then suddenly it was apparent to him that he must have miscounted for we ended up with 11 pieces instead of the 10 he had paid for.

He could have easily overlooked the error. After all, it was just a penny, and we were in a bit of a hurry now to make the tour. Who would know the difference or care? But he didn't even think twice about it. He wheeled the car around and headed back up the road to the store.

He and I hustled in. He explained the problem to a different attendant, apologized for the error, and paid the extra penny to the surprised clerk.

We did make the tour on time, but I don't think the story would have been any different if we hadn't. What a memorable lesson in integrity he taught this young couple that day. We have not forgotten that sermon from more than 30 years ago, and we remember it every time we raise our hands to sustain him now as our prophet, seer, and revelator - President Howard W. Hunter.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed