The Jerusalem Center at Thirty

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I first “met” James E. Faust in June 1989, when, a month after the Jerusalem Center was dedicated, he called my home. BYU president Jeffrey R. Holland had appointed me an associate academic vice president in late February, with a portfolio that included the university’s international and undergraduate programs, but this assignment was set aside when he was called to the Seventy in April and Rex Lee was named president of BYU. In June, Rex invited me to stay on in that same role with the portfolio President Holland had given me, which on the international side included administrative oversight of the university’s new Jerusalem Center.

Elder Faust introduced himself, asked me a bit about myself, and then asked when I planned to go to Jerusalem. “Probably at Christmas,” I responded. He replied, “Well, if I had administrative oversight for a First Presidency project, I think I would want to see it as soon as I could.” I can take a hint: I was on a plane for Jerusalem in early August 1989 for the first of more than ninety trips in the next thirty years. I returned to Provo, started teaching and learning about my administrative assignments. A couple of weeks after I returned from Jerusalem, I got another call from Elder Faust. He asked about my trip and, within a minute or so, it became very clear that I had been sent but had not returned and reported, and that this was a mistake. Having gently delivered that message, he invited me to join him in the office of Howard W. Hunter, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, later that week. So began wonderful relationships with, to a lesser degree, President Hunter and, to a much greater degree, Elder Faust that lasted until each passed away—relationships that have extended, in a sense, beyond their deaths with Elder Holland’s gentle reminders on occasion of their keen interest in the Center and his thoughtful counsel and concern for its success.