As a young missionary in the Korea Seoul Mission, Michael Tally Ringwood walked the streets of a country where everything felt foreign and tried to pull himself out of discouragement. He struggled with the language.
Secretly, he wished he would be one of a few elders from his mission to be sent stateside to teach Korean Americans.
It wasn’t until he was a mission president years later that he could explain to people how hard those early days were.
Today, he looks back and thinks it was something as simple as singing hymns that got him through.
He had learned a person could use hymns to keep discouragement away and he selected two favorites: “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.”
“Whenever I would feel discouraged I would sing those hymns in my mind,” he said. “When I would do that I would feel the Spirit and I would know that I was right where Heavenly Father wanted me to be.”
Years later, as a new General Authority for the Church, Elder Ringwood knows he was in the right place. “My face may look American,” he said, “but my heart is Korean.”
Michael Tally Ringwood was born Feb. 14, 1958, in Provo, Utah, where his father played football for BYU. The third of seven children, he, too, grew up loving sports. In high school, Michael played baseball, basketball and football.
But it was seminary that really made a difference in his life. During his senior year, he served as seminary president. Although the call was difficult, because Michael was committed to many extracurricular sporting practices and games, he never dreamed of saying no.
That service opportunity opened the door for him to received a leadership scholarship to BYU.
He planned to attend BYU for a year and then serve a mission. So he tried out and made the BYU baseball team. But “about that time I had feelings I needed to leave on my mission as soon as possible.”
So he quit the team, turned in his mission papers and left in March for Korea. Even today, he believes there is “significance in the timing” of his call.
“Every good thing that has come has come because of my mission,” he said. “It changed my life, my outlook. It certainly changed my testimony.”
A couple of years after his mission, Elder Ringwood became reacquainted with Rosalie Nelson, a young woman he had known growing up in Salt Lake City. When she transferred to BYU, he helped her move in. They started studying together and driving to Salt Lake together.
When a friend asked Michael how he felt about Rosalie, he came to a sudden realization. “Are you dating her?” the friend asked. “If not, I would like to date her.”
Michael said Rosalie was not available. The couple married Dec. 27, 1982, in the Jordan River Utah Temple.
The eighth daughter of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Dantzel, Rosalie graduated from the University of Utah in family consumer studies.
Elder Ringwood spent the next 14 years working for Huntsman Corp. His work took the family — which would ultimately include five children — to Houston, Texas; Virginia Beach, Va., and twice to Australia. In all, the family moved five times in seven years.
Everywhere they went they found “Church members and instant friends.” They enjoyed many adventures and made wonderful memories, said Sister Ringwood. “The kids are close as a family,” she said. “We have always relied on each other.”
As their children grew older, the couple returned to Salt Lake City, planning to retire there. But the family didn’t stay for long. In 2004, Elder Ringwood was called to preside over the Korea Seoul West Mission. The call would require their eldest son to return from his mission to Korea, instead of Salt Lake City, their daughter missed her senior year at Brighton High School, their second son to miss high school and their daughter to miss junior high in the U.S. In turn, each family member had his or her own confirmation that “this was a call from Heavenly Father and that they would be OK.”
The last came one night when the Ringwoods’ daughter stood beside their bed and offered a simple pledge of faith: “OK, Dad,” she said, “I will go.”
The Ringwood children ended up being the only Americans in their international high school and had opportunities they would not have had in the United States.
President Ringwood made an attempt to attend all of his children’s athletic events. And he made it to so many that many of his children’s teammates — seeing him regularly on the sidelines in his dark suit, white shirt and tie — wondered if he was the school principal.
“We feel it is an honor to serve the Lord and do what He wants us to do,” said Elder Ringwood. “It is not always easy, but it is best. Heavenly Father knows what is best.”