One of Elder L. Todd Budge’s earliest recollections come from when he made a youth baseball all-star team. Turns out, the game was going to be on a Sunday.
Elder Budge remembers going to his father and asking if he could make an exception about not playing sports on a Sunday. Rather than telling him he couldn’t play, his father told him, “You need to pray about it. Get your own answer.”
“I think that was the first answer that I remember,” Elder Budge said. “It was: ‘Don’t do it.’ So I didn’t.”
A little while later, young Todd was in an accident that resulted in him being hospitalized in the intensive care unit. With his mother crying and everyone around him feeling nervous, he remembers saying, “It’s going to be OK. I didn’t play baseball on Sunday.”
While not knowing then what the outcome would be and whether or not he would fully recover, he at a young age had an assurance that came from understanding the relationship between obedience and faith.
From that point, Elder Budge — sustained as a General Authority Seventy in the April 2019 general conference — said he has “always wanted to have confidence in my standing with God.”
Elder Budge was born in Pittsburg, California, to Lowell and Deanna Budge. After returning from serving in the Japan Fukuoka Mission, he studied economics at BYU, where he met Lori Capener.
She was drawn to his faith and purity of his soul. From the moment they first met, “I just felt his goodness,” she said. “He’s just a good, good man.”
After their first date, Elder Budge recorded in his journal that she “is the kind of girl that I want to marry someday.”
That someday came in August 1981, when they were married in the Logan Utah Temple.
Elder Budge’s banking and finance career soon took their young family to Tokyo, Japan, then to Georgia.
During their time in the United States, with five children and a new house, Elder Budge began wondering if his career was doing as much good as he otherwise could. “I was getting these feelings that maybe I should be a marriage and family therapist and try to help families, because families are central to the plan (of salvation).”
He soon began taking graduate records exams and traveling to interviews to find the right program. “Here I was talking about quitting my job and going back to school with five kids. It was scary,” he said. But he knew he needed to go forward.
The very weekend he needed to make the final decision of a program to join and to tell his boss he was quitting, Elder Budge was given the opportunity to attend a social services seminar at a nearby stake. He was familiar with the books the seminar speaker had written and decided that if he attended, he could confirm his decision to change careers.
Listening to this speaker, Elder Budge thought, “I want to be like him. That’s what I want to do with my life.” Then he went to greet the speaker after his speech and mentioned his plan of quitting his job in finance to pursue a career in marriage and family therapy.
Rather than telling Elder Budge he thought this was a great plan, “He looked at me like I was crazy.”
Afterward, the speaker was supposed to leave immediately for a flight. However, the flight happened to be delayed, so Elder Budge had a chance to talk to him one on one about his plans.
As they talked, he was told, “Some day … you’ll have lots of opportunities to counsel people and help people. We need people with integrity in business. You can do a lot of good. You don’t have to do what I’m doing to do good and to help people.”
Is your heart in the right place? Are you staying true to what matters most?
In praying about this counsel, Elder Budge felt a confirmation the speaker was right. For him, it meant he now knew what career path God wanted him to take.
“I think He wanted to know where my heart was,” he said. “Once the Lord knew my heart, He did not require the sacrifice, and I trusted that He could use me for His purposes without changing careers.”
Soon after that, Elder Budge’s career took him back to Japan where he later became the president and CEO of Tokyo Star Bank Ltd. — the first foreigner to become president of a Japanese bank.
The position “opened doors to talk about the gospel, to talk about the Church and to deepen my understanding of and love for the Japanese people and culture,” he said.
Elder Budge was asked to join a prestigious club of businessmen in Japan, which required a nomination to join. In order to show him the “fringe benefits” of joining the club, an expensive dinner was thrown in his honor.
There was an unsavory atmosphere at the dinner, however, and Elder Budge, who was serving as bishop at the time, felt “very uncomfortable.”
“And so I excused myself, went to the restroom, went into a stall and I started praying.”
Upon asking Heavenly Father what he should do, he felt a strong impression that said, “Get out of there. Don’t stay.” So he left.
Very soon after that, Elder Budge stopped by the home of a less-active Church member. He answered the door and said, “I’ve heard about you. I hear you had an interesting dinner the other night.”
How could he have known? He explained that a friend of his was in attendance that night.
“Those are the times that you listen to the Spirit and follow,” Elder Budge said of this experience. “Those are times I think that God is once again checking, ‘Is your heart in the right place? Are you staying true to what matters most?’ I think when you do that, He blesses you. He can trust you, too.”
God wants His children to choose Him and trust Him, Elder Budge said. “I think one of the reasons we came to earth is to learn to trust in God’s goodness and His mercy and His power and His love for us,” he added, citing 1 Nephi 17:40: “And he loveth those who will have him to be their God.”
Elder Budge has spent 22 years of his life in Japan, and the Budge family has served in nearly all the missions in Japan — with the exception of one child who served in Hong Kong and another serving in Accra, Ghana. Elder Budge served in Fukuoka, a son served in Sendai, another served in Kobe, one daughter in Sapporo, another in Tokyo, and Elder and Sister Budge presided over the Japan Tokyo Mission.
In August 2018, Elder Stevenson spoke entirely in Japanese during a Face to Face event with the youth.
“So really, the only mission left was Nagoya, but we didn’t get that one,” Elder Budge quipped.
His time in Asia has not come to an end just yet. In August, Elder Budge will serve as second counselor in the Asia North Area presidency.
“We love Japan,” he said. “We love the culture, we love the people. Just a lot of good friends and great relationships over there.”