Saturday, April 12, 2008

W. Brent Hardy, An UnSung Hero and Me

W. Brent Hardy is one of the unsung heroes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is well-known to locals in the Las Vegas area for his devoted service to the Church. He has accomplished a great deal in his lifetime. He is one of my favorite people in the Church and for that reason I want to tell you about him and how I came to know him.

In 1974 I met W. Brent Hardy just a couple months after joining the LDS Church. I was a business major at Clark County Community College which later became Community College of Southern Nevada and finally College of Southern Nevada. In one of my business classes the instructor asked us to find out what makes a business leader successful. The question we were to ask the person interviewed was "What principles, methods, or policies have made you the success that you are today?"

Being a convert to the LDS Church I didn't know too many people in business other than a few people who worked in my father's casino and most them were Mafia types. Everyone in my stake told me that I should interview W. Brent Hardy since he was a most righteous man. I suggested I might talk to the stake president James K. Seastrand but an attractive girl in my class named Twila said he was too busy talk but Brother Hardy won't let you down and you won't be sorry because he is an amazing man. I wondered what made him so special when I heard where he worked.

He was the owner of O.K. Tire in North Las Vegas which wasn't too far away from the Clark County Community College where I was attending. They all told me he was a nice person that would sit down and talk with me. I called him up and set up an appointment. We met in his office on N. Las Vegas Boulevard which was few miles up the road from the original campus which was across the street from a furniture store by a railroad track.

At first blush he didn't look like a high-powered business man but in the first few minutes I learned he was a very unusual man. He was dressed in coveralls like most tire guys wear in putting on tires. He was a clean cut middle-age guy that had a warm smile and was very down to earth. Looking at him you would guess he was just some good old boy that owned a tire store.

This proved to be far from the case. The first thing he talked about was how he had designed a wireless microphone. This confused me since he had a couple of tire stores. I wondered why he didn't have a manufacturing plant for microphones. He said he had the patent on one of the first wireless microphones ever invented. He told me that innovation and adaptability were strong components of his business success. He told me how he was active in business affairs in the community and served on the Ensign Federal Credit Union. It was charted in 1961 to serve members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Las Vegas North Stake, today it serves nearly 9,000 members throughout Southern Nevada. He served on their board for twenty-four years. He later went on to form another credit union the Bank of North Las Vegas in the area.

He told me about his church service. He had involvement with Taiwan going back almost twenty years before. In December 1958 President W. Brent Hardy, the second counselor in the mission presidency, organized the Northern and Southern Districts in Taiwan. In July 1968 he was made a mission president in the Southern Far East Mission located in Hong Kong which included Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand in its area.

In 2002 Grant Heaton on the Thailand Bangkok Mission site wrote: "W. Brent Hardy was born on October 14, 1933 in La Verkin, Utah. He served his mission in the Southern Far East Mission in the 1950's. At that time, the mission included the entire southeast Asia area and so, President Hardy had the opportunity to serve in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam. President Hardy became the Mission President of the Southern Far East Mission in 1968 and finished as President of the Hong Kong Mission in 1971. The mission was divided three times during that period of time (see History). President Hardy graduated from Hurricane High School and earned a degree in Economics at the University of Utah. He also served in the Army for two years. President Hardy has been Bishop, Regional Representative and Mission Representative of the Twelve for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam Regions, Stake Patriarch for North Las Vegas, Youth Sunday School Teacher (17 year olds) 26 years continuously. He is currently the Temple President of the Hong Kong Temple. Sister Elaine Taylor Hardy was born July 1, 1935 in Ogden, Utah. Sister Hardy also served in the Southern Far East Mission from 1958 to 1960. She graduated from Weber High School and attended Utah State University. Sister Hardy has served as Spiritual Living instructor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Primary, Young Women, Secretary for Patriarch 24 years, Companion to the mission president, and Hong Kong China Temple Matron. President Hardy is currently serving as the Temple President at the Hong Kong China Temple.President and Sister Hardy were married in the Salt Lake Temple and now have five children -- Dianne, Warren, Rebecca, Hance and Jared -- and seventeen grandchildren. (Submitted by President Grant Heaton)

R. Lanier Britsch described Brent Hardy's influence as a counselor to President W. Grant Heaton: "By the end of 1957 the elders had baptized more than fifty Chinese, and by mid-1958 the work was moving ahead at a satisfactory pace. By then there were 286 local members, 184 of whom were in Taipei. In the first quarter of 1958, the elders extended the work to Tainan and Taichung, and soon after to Kaohsiung and other cities in the south.

But the Church did not take hold in Taiwan quite as quickly as it did in Hong Kong. There were several reasons for this. President Heaton did not assign as many missionaries there as in Hong Kong. He could not visit Taiwan very often—about quarterly—and did not feel comfortable having many elders and sisters away from his direct supervision. This led to feelings of separateness among many of the Taiwan workers. When Heaton or his counselors visited Taiwan, at least until September 1958, the missionaries treated them coolly, and when the leaders were gone, the Taiwan elders disregarded some mission rules and directions. But during the last part of 1958, President Heaton assigned his counselor, W. Brent Hardy, to live in Taiwan and act as president. This change brought the desired effect, and from then on the work progressed at a faster pace.

A change in local political conditions at about the same time also had a good effect. During August and September 1958, Communist China and the Republic of China almost went to war. Elder Hardy related that tensions were extremely high during this time and that the missionaries were not sure whether they could stay. At approximately the same time that the threat of war was at its height, the missionaries held an islandwide meeting in which they prayed that they could remain and pledged their loyalty to the Lord, the Church, the Chinese people, and each other. Within a few days the danger of war passed, and by the end of the year new investigators were studying the restored gospel. As the two powers settled into the uncomfortable peace that has endured to the present, the level of propaganda was reduced somewhat in Taiwan, and the people had an opportunity to think about matters other than war. From that time on, the LDS missionaries had better success.

Evidently the missionaries did not encounter as much poverty in Taiwan as they had in Hong Kong. The mission records do not mention shortages of food, housing, or medical attention. Education, too, seems to have been adequate and steadily improving. President Heaton and the Taiwan elders did have a difficult time finding suitable property for chapels. By the time of Heaton's release, the Church had acquired no property. Meeting facilities were poor. Related to the property matter was official registration of the Church. The Church needed to own property before it could register. Hence, buying property took on additional importance. (From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998, p. 253-255).

Also R. Lanier Britsch in his book From the East said about Brent Hardy's times as a mission president: "W. Brent Hardy, fifth president of the mission, was also a businessman. He had served in Hong Kong and Taiwan during the early years of the mission and knew well the Mandarin and Cantonese languages and Chinese ways. His wife, too, spoke Cantonese. He worked closely with local leaders to strengthen the Chinese Saints. Virtually all programs of the Church were in use in Hong Kong and Taiwan by this time, and members were generally struggling with the same problems as the Saints elsewhere in the world. "President Hardy," said William S. Bradshaw, who followed him as mission president in Hong Kong, "had the mammoth responsibility of seeing the Church undergo organizational changes in many, many countries." 2 He was referring to the separation of Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and South Vietnam into the new Southeast Asia Mission in 1969, the reassimilation of South Vietnam a short time later, and the creation of the Taiwan Mission in January 1971. Being involved in these changes was time-consuming and taxing on his energies. President Hardy also worked at acquiring new property for chapels." (From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998, p. 261).

Lani Britsch also said about Hardy's involvement in that region: "On March 19, 1968, about a month after President Keith E. Garner took the first six missionaries to Thailand, he sent Elders Todd Bake, Joel Richard III, Kim Shipley, and Melvin Shurtz to Singapore to begin proselyting work. Their efforts were soon rewarded when Alice Tan was baptized on May 4, 1968, and other local people joined the Church soon after.

By October 1968 additional missionaries had joined the staff, new converts had joined the Church, and the Singapore government had recognized the Church as a legal corporation. On October 13, one day after the registration of the Church, President W. Brent Hardy, who had replaced President Garner, organized the Singapore Branch. He called a missionary, Elder John McSweeney, as branch president. Seventy-five people were in attendance at the organizational meeting, half of whom were investigators. Nearly forty people joined the Church between the arrival of the elders in March and the end of 1968.

In April 1969 Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then supervisor of Asian missions, visited Singapore and, under authority from President David O. McKay, dedicated the nation for the preaching of the restored gospel. The service was held on the evening of April 14 on Mount Faber. Forty-five Saints, including President and Sister W. Brent Hardy, attended. In his address to the group, Elder Benson made two statements that he also reiterated in his prayer: "We expect confidently that thousands upon thousands of people in this choice country will hear the message and will accept the gospel, and that this may someday become a center from which the gospel can be directed and sent into other countries which have not yet heard the message of the restored gospel." And again, "This will be a training ground for missionaries and others who will be able to go out from here to carry the message to other nations in Asia." In the decades that have followed, Singapore has played a much larger role in the growth of the Church than could have been foreseen when Elder Benson's words were uttered. Singapore has been the hub from which hundreds of missionaries have been sent to serve in various nations of South and Southeast Asia and from which the various programs of the Church have emanated.

Church leaders in Salt Lake City evidently had much more in mind for Singapore than Elder Benson was at liberty to discuss at the dedicatory service, for not long after that the First Presidency called G. Carlos Smith Jr. to preside over the soon-to-be-organized Southeast Asia Mission. This mission was to encompass Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Far East Mission president W. Brent Hardy (fourth from right), missionaries, members, and friends gathered atop Mount Faber overlooking Singapore to witness Elder Ezra Taft Benson dedicate that nation for the preaching of the restored gospel on 14 April 1969. (Courtesy Greg Gubler) Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam, most of which were new to LDS efforts. When the Smiths arrived in Singapore on October 24, they had the pleasant experience of moving into an established branch where the missionaries and members had affairs well organized. Two days later, on October 26, Elders Ezra Taft Benson and Bruce R. McConkie met with the Smiths and the missionary force to officially initiate the mission. "Under the direction of President Smith," wrote Dale S. Cox, "the work was stepped up significantly, and the missionary force in Singapore was increased to 48 in the latter part of 1969. . . . Also during this period a comparatively large number of strong local men were baptized who were qualified to take responsible leadership positions." By the end of 1969, 118 people had entered the waters of baptism. Many of the individuals and families who joined the Church in Singapore during the first several years have remained faithful and have provided strong leadership ever since.

Making the choice to become Latter-day Saints was usually not easy for Singaporeans. Long-held ideas and family traditions made accepting the gospel a challenge. A. C. and Helen Ho, who were baptized in 1969, described how they overcame these obstacles:

The idea that there is such a thing as the "right church" hit us like a cannonball at first and left us several painful days to ponder over the matter. It was our belief that all churches belong to God and if a man would choose any church and worship God in all sincerity, he would be on the right path. It had never occurred to us that a particular church could be any "righter" than another until the missionaries introduced us to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . .

We had never heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until the missionaries visited us one evening at home. At first we were skeptical. The introduction of the Book of Mormon hit us like a second cannonball—this time with greater impact than the first. We had to examine and handle the book physically before accepting it as scripture. It took us a while to read the Book of Mormon and pray before we accepted the gospel. We are glad that we have received the gospel in its fullness. It has changed our lives. It has also helped us realize our duties in serving our brothers and sisters and setting the example by living according to the teachings of Christ. (From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998, pp. 453-457).

Truman Madsen in Presidents of the Church under the chapter on Spencer W. Kimball tells a story W. Brent Hardy shared about calling Elder Kimball while mission president: "In far-off Asia, an elder with emotional problems was being kept in the mission home. One night the mission president and his wife woke to see the young man with a knife, standing over them as they lay in their bed. When the elder left the room, the president phoned Elder Kimball, explained the situation and then said, "What do I do?"

Elder Kimball said, "Save him. The Lord bless you." He never gave up on anyone."(Truman G. Madsen, The Presidents of the Church: Insights into their Lives and Teachings, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2004).

On the Hong Kong version of LDS.Org we learn: "President W. Brent Hardy, the new mission president, arrived in Hong Kong on 4 July 1968 to replace President Garner. The Elders Quorum held a farewell party for President Garner and his wife on the evening of 3 July. On the 13th of the same month, President Hardy conducted the worship service at the Peak. There were about 400 people attending that service. The first thing that President Hardy did after assuming the office was to visit the quarters of the missionaries. He also made a great effort to improve the leadership skills of local members. On 1 August, Sister Hardy gave birth to their fourth child in the Baptist Hospital in Kowloon. That was the second time that a child was born to a mission president in Hong Kong. The first was the birth of President H. Grant Heaton’s daughter Lisa.

On 25 November, Elder Bruce R. McConkie came to Hong Kong to preside over a conference for mission presidents in the Asia area. On the 28th and 29th a meeting was held in the Peninsular Hotel to discuss how to strengthen the missionary work in Asia. A special district conference was held at the City Hall on 1 December. It was conducted by President NG Shee-nan. Among the special guests were presidents of the Japan Mission and Korea Mission and their wives. Attendance of the conference was well over 1000, the highest ever in the history of the Church in Hong Kong. On 26 December, the Kowloon M.I.A. put on a musical show at the City Hall. This was the first large-scaled musical show organized by the Church in Hong Kong since its establishment. Many participated in this activity and the performance won much applause.

On 1 November 1969 the Southern Far East Mission was divided into the Hong Kong-Taiwan Mission and Southeast Asia Mission with President H. Brent Hardy in charge of the former and President Cox Smith in charge of the latter.

Due to the increasing social needs of church members, many of them emigrated to other countries or went abroad to study in the two years that followed, creating a brain drain in the Church. The shortage of church leaders began to weaken the lower strata of the Church. Seeing such situation, President Hardy decided to combine the Hong Kong and Kowloon District into one by the end of May 1970 and Brother Sheldon Poon shiu-tat was called to be the president of the combined district. At this time, the translation work of the Doctrine and Covenants also commenced. On 1 January 1971, the Hong Kong-Taiwan Mission was divided into two separate units. The president of the Taiwan Mission was Malan R. Jackson, and President Hardy continued to serve as the president of the Hong Kong Mission, which also covered Vietnam.

On 14 April 1971, President and Sister Harold B. Lee, accompanied by Elder Komatsu, an assistant to the Twelve Apostles, came to Hong Kong, they attended the district conference held at the Hong Kong Polytechnic in Hung Hom, Kowloon the next day. The talks of the conference focused on encouraging members to place the work of the God as a top priority, diligence in studying the scriptures, keeping their faith, spreading the gospel, and joining their efforts to build up the kingdom of God with a heart full of love and the spirit of Christ.

9 June 1971, the new mission president Brother William S. Bradshaw arrived in Hong Kong. President Bradshaw was one of the eight missionaries who came to Hong Kong in 1959. Both President and Sister Hardy had also served their mission in Hong Kong before. President Hardy served between 1956 and 1959 while his wife served from 1958 to 1960. In the years that President Hardy was the mission president in Hong Kong, he spared no efforts in training local leaders. On 17 July, President Bradshaw conducted the Peak worship service in the evening to commemorate that special occasion in the year 1949, when Elder Matthew Cowley was there by the side of President H. A. Robertson at the top of the Victoria Peak where they dedicated Hong Kong to God. Hence, this worship service bore a significant historic meaning."

Joseph Fielding McConkie in the Bruce R. McConkie story sheds some light on the details of Bruce R. McConkie's visit to W. Brent Hardy when he presided over the Southeast Asia Mission: " From July 1968 to July 1971, Bruce, still a member of the Seventy, supervised the missions in Asia under the direction of Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. During this period Bruce and Amelia made four trips to Asia and held three seminars with the mission presidents and their wives. Amelia described these as "the most interesting experience we have ever had." Describing the first trip, Amelia said, "We landed in Japan to be treated like real celebrities with banners, songs, and flowers. Oh yes, and people! On the way to church the next day we got a look at Mt. Fuji-a very rare experience for Tokyo, as the sky is usually too hazy to see the mountain. At church someone called me 'Sister Smith,' so I knew for sure we were with our own people and felt right at home.

"When Brother Benson arrived a couple of days later and got in a huddle with the two Japan mission presidents, the next play was changed," she recalled. "Instead of Korea and all of Japan as we had planned, we went to Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines, finishing up with a mission presidents' seminar in Hong Kong. That's how we got to see Joseph. It's also how we got to have some wonderful experiences with many people who could teach us many things about humility, faith, loving, and giving. Half the world's population is in these missions, and miraculous things are happening.

"Singapore was opened for missionary work last May, and Bruce was the first General Authority to speak at a meeting for members. More than 60 people were there. He was the first to visit Clark Field in the Philippines since my father dedicated that land for missionary work in 1955. The countries and people are fantastically interesting. Someone said they were lands of great contrast, with the ultimate in wealth along with the ultimate in poverty-the ultimate in beauty which contrasts with the ultimate in filth. We came to love all these people, people who welcomed us so warmly, and we gave what we could, which in Bruce's case was much, as he gave them a better, clearer, more meaningful understanding of the gospel, and as a consequence more faith and more hope for an eternal life."

During this trip my parents' path crossed with mine as a result of an unusual set of circumstances. I was serving as an LDS chaplain in Vietnam at the time. There were three districts of LDS servicemen in Vietnam, which were under the direction of President Brent Hardy of the Hong Kong Mission.

We were holding a servicemen's conference at Long Binh, where I was stationed. Hundreds of LDS servicemen had come from one end of the country to the other. As I remember it, we were meeting in a large hangar. Our district president and beloved friend, Chaplain Farrell Smith, was waiting for Elder Benson's plane at an airport near Saigon. He was to bring him and President Hardy to our meeting as soon as they landed. My assignment was to speak until Elder Benson arrived.

When the door finally opened, to my surprise it was my father who stepped through it, followed by Chaplain Smith and President Hardy. Dad moved quickly down the center aisle and bounded up the steps to the pulpit where I stood. Somewhat stunned, I extended my hand, which he took, and then pulled me into his arms. As my father kissed me, tears streamed down my face, and an audience of battle-hardened soldiers, I am told, also lost the fight to control their emotions.

Lieutenant Colonel Rulon P. Madsen recounted that event in the Improvement Era. He wrote: "Father and son shook hands, then, in the presence of the entire conference, embraced each other with a kiss of love. Many respectful, homesick men beheld that tender scene with tear-filled eyes.

". . . As I think of it even today my eyes moisten with tears. It was the sweetest and most humble greeting I have ever witnessed. I was filled with joy for both of them, moved by the open expression of such outstanding love between father and son. No doubt many others sat through the remainder of that conference considering, as I did, the basis of so wonderful a relationship, and praying that as fathers or sons we might, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, build such love between us and our dear ones at home.

"It was an experience none of us will ever forget."

Dad told me that earlier that morning, as he stood in line at the airport in Hong Kong, Elder Benson had turned to him and asked, "Bruce, where are you going?" My father rehearsed his itinerary, and Elder Benson said, "We're trading tickets." He then handed his tickets to Dad and took Dad's in exchange. Elder Benson had been advised that it would not be wise for someone with his high profile to travel to Vietnam. Dad, in company with W. Brent Hardy, left immediately for Saigon. Mother was taken back to the hotel in Hong Kong and left the next morning to meet Dad in Saigon.

"It was in the afternoon on a Sunday," Mother recalled, when she and Elaine Hardy boarded a plane for Vietnam. Needless to say, both women were quite uneasy about going into a war-torn country without their husbands. Much to their relief, they were met at the airport by a faithful elder, who took them into the city and got them situated at their hotel.

I had no idea my father would be walking through the door that day and have thought many times since how grateful I am that when he came I was at my post doing my duty. After the servicemen's conference, we visited LDS men in various evacuation hospitals. We administered to a number of them. That experience was the best lesson on faith and priesthood that I ever had. When Dad laid his hands on their heads, he spoke as one having authority. His purpose in Vietnam was to give blessings, and that is precisely what he did. In the name of the God of Israel, he commanded bodies to mend and organs to function. In effect, his language was "take up your bed and walk."

The next morning I was among those who escorted Dad and President Hardy back to Saigon, where both men met their wives. Mother was quite pleased to see us. I took a lot of teasing about it, as there are not many soldiers whose mother comes to check up on them in the middle of a war.

We left the women in Saigon and spent two days meeting with various groups of LDS servicemen. This was made possible by what we called our Mormon Airlines. The Lord saw to it that we always had military pilots with access to either helicopters or fixed-wing planes who could take us to wherever our soldiers could get together. Major Ray Young, an Army pilot, who could fly by radar or the Spirit, as necessary, was the pilot of our little fixed-wing aircraft on this trip. During the middle of our second night out, we had the opportunity to see how quickly we could move to bunkers to avoid incoming artillery fire.

In October 1969 Dad and Mother again accompanied the Bensons on a tour of the Asian missions. After a mission presidents' seminar in Manila, their group-which in addition to the Bensons included Wilford W. Kirton (general counsel for the Church), W. Brent and Elaine Hardy (from the mission in Hong Kong), Brother Harding (of the Church Building Department) and Carlos and Lavon Smith (who were to take over missionary work in Singapore)-were scheduled to go to Djakarta, Indonesia. At this time there was a small branch in Indonesia. The primary purpose of their visit was to determine whether the time was right for the Church to formally enter that country and whether it should be dedicated for the preaching of the gospel.

They arrived at the Manila airport for their international flight less than an hour before the flight was scheduled to leave. President Hardy wanted to ship a half dozen boxes of copies of the Book of Mormon to Djakarta and said, "Let's get group baggage." He took everyone's tickets and passports and went up to the counter to make the arrangements. There was no trouble in getting the boxes added to their baggage; however, it was discovered by the representative of Garuda Airlines that the Bensons did not have visas to admit them to Djakarta. It was now forty-five minutes before the plane was to depart. The week before, the airline had been fined a thousand dollars for carrying someone to Djakarta without a visa, so the firm ruling was that the Bensons could not go. Elder Benson immediately phoned the American ambassador in Manila, who phoned the American ambassador in Djakarta, who, within the short time available, made arrangements to get him into the country with a visa.

Representatives from the Canadian embassy met them upon their arrival in Djakarta and accorded them VIP treatment. After the women had been taken to the hotel, the men were taken to a males-only affair related to a royal wedding. There they were able to meet the diplomatic corps of the country.

Before leaving for Djakarta, Elder Benson had received permission from the First Presidency to dedicate Indonesia for missionary work if he felt so impressed. Visits with government officials, the local branch members, and the mission presidents who were traveling with him helped bring him to the conclusion that the time had come. That morning Elder Benson held a meeting in an upper room of the hotel. Those attending sat in a circle, and each was invited in turn to express his feelings about dedicating Indonesia. Dad sat on Elder Benson's left and was the last to speak. All spoke affirmatively. After they had done so, Elder Benson said, "I have been praying to the Lord that if it were not proper for the land of Indonesia to be dedicated to the preaching of the gospel, that he would hedge up the way and prevent it from being done." Dad later joked with him, "Yes, Brother Benson, even to the point of not having a visa so that you could get into the country."

Carlos Smith was assigned to find a suitable place for the dedication, which was scheduled for the next day. The morning of the dedication, the Saints were greeted by rain. Mother described the place chosen by her cousin Carlos as "beautiful" and "pristine." To get there they had to climb a hill covered with banana trees to a lookout point overseeing a valley of rice fields and terraced cornfields. The decision was made to go forward with the service, despite the rain. As the opening prayer was being offered, the rain stopped in a circle around those present, and the clouds parted enough for the sunlight to shine down on them. President Benson offered the dedicatory prayer, and Elder McConkie made a few remarks. Others spoke briefly or offered prayers. When the last amen had been said, the clouds closed in and the rain fell once again.

The occasion was deeply touching. Elder Benson's voice cracked with emotion as he spoke. Among those present was a high government official whom Elder Benson had met when he visited the United States on agricultural business. That man requested baptism." (Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003).

In 1968 W. Brent Hardy was involved in overseeing the work in Vietnam. Desmond L. Anderson in BYU Studies in "Meeting the Challenges of the Latter-day Saints in Vietnam" said about Hardy's involvement in that country: "The Vietnam Southern District Presidency and High Council authorized the new program on June 2, 1968, but because the program departs substantially from the one in general use throughout the Church, a member of the District Presidency was requested to clear it with the General Authorities during a trip to Utah in the latter part of that month. Accordingly, a few weeks after the adoption of the program, it was discussed with President Hugh B. Brown, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley--then supervisor of the Asian missions of the Church and presently of the Servicemen's Committee--and Elder Marion G. Romney of the Home Teaching Committee. Elder Romney indicated that the formalized Home Teaching Program applies to the wards and stakes in the built-up areas of Zion and that whatever we are able to do in Vietnam on our own initiative, consistent with the gospel, is acceptable to the Brethren.

W. Brent Hardy, then newly assigned President of the Southern Far East Mission replacing President Keith Garner, was receiving direction and counsel from the Brethren in Salt Lake City at the time of this visit. He also endorsed the program a few weeks after his arrival in the Orient. The significance attached to this program was emphasized when three of the District High Councilmen were assigned the responsibility for the Home Teaching Program under the direction of a counselor in the Vietnam Southern District Presidency. Accordingly, Navy Captain Louis Payne, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Madsen, and Army Major Lidge Johnson were assigned the Home Teaching Program as their sole and specific responsibility when visiting the branches and groups." (BYU Studies, 10 [1969], p. 192).

R. Lanier Britsch and Richard C. Holloman Jr. said in "The Church’s Years in Vietnam," in the August 1980 Ensign: "Thus after visiting with servicemen at conferences in Da Nang and Nha Trang, the visiting authorities met on October 30 with 205 Church members and friends in the Caravelle Hotel in downtown Saigon. As he spoke, Elder Hinckley informed the congregation that President McKay had authorized him to dedicate South Vietnam for missionary work. He offered a beautiful, exceptionally appropriate dedicatory prayer: “We have seen in other parts of Asia,” he prayed, “the manner in which thou hast turned the hand and the work of the adversary to the good and the blessing of many of thy children. And now we call upon thee at this time that thou wilt similarly pour out thy Spirit upon this land.” He pleaded with the Lord that there might be peace, and that freedom-loving men might be allowed their free agency. He asked that an added measure of the Lord’s Spirit might be poured out upon both the nonmembers and those who already had the gospel, that the people might be more willing to listen to the message of the Savior, and that the members would be more eager to share the gospel. He also asked the Lord to “open the way for the coming of missionaries, and make their labors fruitful of great and everlasting good in the lives of the people” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1968, pp. 22–23).

Dedicating a land during a time of war for the preaching of the gospel is not the Church’s usual practice. Traditionally the Church has dedicated countries when missionary work is about to commence or shortly after it has started—and the usual pattern is to remove missionaries from areas of active warfare, not to send them in. Nevertheless, Elder Hinckley, along with the mission president over the area and the servicemen who led the Church in Vietnam, felt that this was a different situation. Somehow, notwithstanding the grim horror of war, they expected the gospel to be established in Vietnam. In Elder Hinckley’s general conference address of April 1968, he said:

“I make no defense of the war from this pulpit. … I seek only to call your attention to that silver thread, small but radiant with hope, shining through the dark tapestry of war—namely, the establishment of a bridgehead, small and frail now; but which somehow, under the mysterious ways of God, will be strengthened, and from which someday shall spring forth a great work affecting for good the lives of large numbers of our Father’s children who live in that part of the world. Of that I have a certain faith” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1968, p. 24).

Elder Hinckley visited Vietnam in 1966, 1967, and 1968. He was torn inside by the pain and suffering he observed. But in the midst of the misery, he observed true manhood. In 1966 he said, “No more faithful members are found anywhere in the world than among our servicemen.” (George L. Scott, “South Viet Nam, Thailand Dedicated for Missionaries,” Church News, 19 Nov. 1966, p. 5.)

American involvement in the Vietnam War reached its peak in 1968. In that year over five thousand LDS servicemen were assigned to Vietnam. They made up sixty groups and branches. Six LDS chaplains were assigned there. In order to help and supervise Church activities, President Garner, and later Presidents W. Brent Hardy and William S. Bradshaw, who also served as mission presidents over the area, visited the war zone at least every other month, and usually monthly. (South Vietnam was part of four missions during its history: Southern Far East, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong—Taiwan, and Hong Kong.) All three men found the work exhausting because of the intense pace that was required, but also highly rewarding as they met and counseled with servicemen, local Saints, and investigators. "

Roy and Myrtle Ah Sook Sang in their A Condensed History Of The Church In Thailand said about W. Brent Hardy's involvement in Thailand: "In July, 1968, President Keith E. Garner was released and W. Brent Hardy set apart as the new president for the Southern Far East Mission. In Sept., 1968, church services were moved from the Grand Hotel to the YWCA on Sathorn Road. On Feb. 1, 1969, President Hollis Hunt, Darwin H. Jepsen and Harold Ward of the Branch Presidency were released. Sidney W. Ross was released from the District Presidency and sustained as Branch President with Ronald Cundick and Harold Ward as counselors. Final approval for purchasing property on Soi 21 granted May 12, 1969. Oct. 29, 1969 G. Carlos Smith was called to preside over the South East Asia Mission. Newly formed Thailand is part of the new mission. In attendance were President and Sister Bruce McConkie and President and Sister W. Brent


By the end of 1968 there were twelve missionaries in Bangkok and Korat and a total membership of seventeen. At the end of 1969, there were fifteen missionaries and sixty-one baptisms."

We learn in the missionary journal of Elder Alan H. Hess entitled The First Year of Missionary Work in Thailand of a visit by Ezra Taft Benson and his wife with President and Sister W. Brent Hardy: "July 22, 1968 President Garner had returned to America, and the new Mission President, W. Brent Hardy, arrived in Bangkok for his first visit. He spent some time getting to know the Elders. We traveled to Korat to visit the Elders there, and then President Hardy continued on his journey to other parts of the mission.

Aug. 4, 1968

President Hardy returned to Bangkok. He spent some time proselyting with us; some of the time was spent looking for a Marvin Brown, an inactive Mormon who worked in a linguist capacity for the AUA. On this visit, President Hardy and his assistant, Elder Egbert, met with the Elders in a most inspirational testimony meeting. The Elders had encountered some problems with unclean spirits; it had been rough on morale, and in this particular meeting President Hardy invoked the

power of the priesthood to cleanse our home. It really seemed to help for a while.

Nov. 1, 1968 We began trying to arrange an audience with the King of Thailand for Elder Ezra Taft Benson on his upcoming Nov. 30 visit to Thailand. We found many obstacles, and nobody we could talk to would give us any hope at all that such a thing could be arranged. Finally, on the very eve of Elder Bensons's visit, permission was granted. The Lord really opened the door; all the official who informed me could say was "I can't believe it" and "most unusual!"

Nov. 29, 1968 Elder Benson arrived in Bangkok. He visited with the missionaries, now numbering twelve, and he and Sister Benson participated in a testimony meeting

with the Elders, Brother and Sister Hardy, and Brother Phil Haymond. During this meeting, a printer, whom we had contracted, delivered to our house the first printing of Joseph Smith's Testimony. One of the pamphlets was to be included with materials given to the King on the following day. During the meeting, the Apostle was given a report on the progress of the work in Bangkok and Korat by Elders Hess and Christensen.

Nov. 30, 1968

Elder Benson met with the American Thailand District Conference, after which, he, Elder Hess and Brother Phil Haymond traveled to the home of the American Ambassador. Brother Benson and the Ambassador then traveled to the palace. Brother Benson told us later that a very nervous official had told them that their maximum time would be 15 minutes. The King was so congenial and interested that he didn't let them go for over 45 minutes. The King was presented with a copy of Meet the Mormons, a copy of The Book of Mormon and a copy of the Thai Joseph Smith's Testimony. We found out later that the King had kept a stadium full of people waiting over fifteen minutes because of the interview.

Later, Elder Benson spoke at the Thai session of the conference. The occasion was most inspiring. Conference speakers and translators were as follows:

Sister Hardy Elder Christensen

Sister Benson Elder White

Pres. Hardy Elder Hess

Elder Benson Elder Winegar

Dec. 3, 1968

Elders White and Hess boarded a train headed for Northwest Thailand. President Hardy had requested that we take about two weeks and proselyte in all of the reasonably large towns all the way up to Chiang Mai. Towns visited and proselyted in were: Phitsanulok, Lampang, Chiang Mai, Phrae, and Nakhon Sawan. Elder White and I made several attempts to contact Karen tribesmen while in Chiang Mai. President Hardy had requested that we do so because of a legend he had heard about concerning a golden book which was to be brought to them by white men from across the sea. Our report was submitted to the mission home in Hong Kong.

In 1972 Brother Hardy was made a regional representative of the Twelve to the Hong Kong and Taiwan Mission He was the stake patriarch in the North Las Vegas Stake when I visited him in 1974. I ended up receiving my own patriarchal blessing from him in February 1975 the year I went on my mission. His wife Elaine helped him transcribe the blessings which he taped.

I remember my discussion with him the night I received my blessing. I had actually gone on the wrong night since I wasn't in to calendars or planners. A cute girl got her blessing with her parents. I went there alone with no one but myself since I was the only member of the Church and didn't have a lot of friends only being a member around four months.

We discussed his preparation for giving blessings. He sometimes fasted even though he gave thousands of blessings in a few short years. He gave me a very inspiring blessing which talked about having the blood of leadership and being able to bring many in to the church as I went from place to place. Later proved inspired as I have lived in eleven different places in the last twenty-five years. The first part is still out for deliberation.

In 1998 W. Brent Hardy who was in the Orchard Valley Ward, Las Vegas Nevada East Stake with his wife Elaine Taylor Hardy was called to be the second president of the Hong Kong Temple. The temple was dedicated in 1996.

The Church News reported on his call: "W. Brent Hardy, 64, of the Orchard Valley Stake, Las Vegas Nevada East Stake, has been called as president of the Hong Kong Temple, succeeding Pres. Ng Kat Hing. Pres. Hardy's wife, Elaine Taylor Hardy, will serve as temple matron.

Pres. Hardy is a former president of the Southern Far East Mission, regional representative in Asia, temple sealer, patriarch and bishop. An automotive business owner and governmental affairs consultant who is retiring to accept this call, he graduated from Dixie College and the University of Utah. He has been active in government, serving as city councilman, vice chairman of Southern Nevada Water Authority, and executive director of Nevada State Board of Oriental Medicine. He was born in La Verkin, Utah, to Isaac Warren and Harriet Bowers Hardy.

Sister Hardy who served with her husband when he presided over the Southern Far East Mission, is a temple worker and former officer and teacher in Young Women, Relief Society and Primary. She attended Weber State College and was born in Ogden, Utah, to Hance A. and Erma Greenwall Taylor." ("New Temple Presidents," Church News [
Saturday, 19 September 1998]: 12).

In 2000 President Hardy has a special Hong Kong temple moment with a family from Cambodia:

"Vibol Pen, the first Cambodian district president, his wife, Vanny You, and their four children — daughter Bun Naa Roat, 20; sons Phiroum, 19, and Wirak, 16, and 3-year-old daughter Viriya — traveled to Hong Kong from Cambodia to be sealed in the Temple on May 9, 2000.

The family climbed into the plane in Phnom Penn at 7 a.m. on May 9. They had a three-hour layover in Bangkok, Thailand, before arriving in Hong Kong that evening.

Originally, the Hong Kong temple presidency had planned for the Pens to be at the temple for their own work that evening and the next day. But because Elder David and Sister Velma Blodgett, the Latter-day Saints Charities country directors for Cambodia who had accompanied them to Hong Kong, had another commitment it was decided to complete everything that evening so the Blodgetts could be there.

They were the mentors for the Pens and, as President Pen said, taught them "line upon line and precept upon precept." The Pens were most anxious to have the Blodgetts with them and so it was arranged by temple President Hardy.

Temple matron Elaine Hardy told of how sweet the children were as they waited to be sealed to their parents. She said Viriya loved the white dress she wore. "She twirled and played with the ribbons; you could tell she felt like a little princess."

President Hardy said that communicating back and forth could have been a challenge, but that it went well. He said that when he shared his experiences with Brother Chung Lap Choi, a temple worker, "He said, 'You spoke with the tongue of an angel and they were angels and they understood.' "

President Hardy assured Brother Pen the Lord would pour out blessings upon their family and their country as they continue to teach and inspire the members in Cambodia to go to the temple.

The following day, Brother Choi had the Pens gather their family genealogy and he helped them prepare their own family names so they could use them as they continued to work in the temple over the following two days.

It is hard to measure the blessings that will come to the Vibol Pen Family and to the nation of Cambodia because of their family going to the Hong Kong China Temple. They are pioneers of Cambodia. (W. Jay Fellows, "Temple Moment--Cambodians Blessing," Church News [
Saturday, 30 September 2000]: 16).

Former presidents of missions in Taiwan attending Salt Lake City reunion, many with their wives, were, from left, W. Brent and Elaine Hardy, Malan R. and Linda Jackson, Thomas P. and Bonnie Nielson, Boyd and Lyona Hales, Frederick W. Crook, Pau. Photo by Keith Johnson© Deseret Morning News

On Saturday, June 17, 2006 the LDS Church News reported about the fiftieth celebration of the Church being founded in Taiwan. Brother and Sister Hardy returned for the event: " Fifty years after the first missionaries arrived in 1956, Taiwanese members, former missionaries, former and current mission presidents, and other leaders and friends joined together to officially recognize the great blessings that have come to Taiwan as a result of that dedication.

Two sessions of the Dedication Memorial Ceremony were held at the Grand Hotel overlooking the dedication hillside on the morning and afternoon of Saturday, June 3, attended by more than 1,000 guests combined.

Elder Daryl H. Garn of the Seventy and Asia Area president, presided at each of the sessions and spoke words of praise for the members in Taiwan who helped build the Church through the years. "This celebration is about you, the faithful members living the gospel of Jesus Christ," he said...

W. Brent Hardy, a missionary in the 1960s and later president of the Southern Far East Asia Mission, shared his testimony as well. He praised the members who had stayed here and told them this generation is the fruits of the earlier teachings. He said the Lord has a plan for the Asian families, and that it is now in their hands to make these plans happen.

Missionary choirs performed for both sessions. The dedicatory prayer was read first in Mandarin Chinese by Taipei Taiwan Central Stake President Tzeng Shuei-Tyan and Kaohsiung Taiwan Stake President Zhou Wen Tsung, and then in English by Taiwan Taipei Mission President Anthony D. Perkins and Taiwan Taichung Mission President Scott Watterson.

Testimonies were borne by early members who told of their conversions. Sister Shu-hui Tan Chin of the Taipei West stake and Sister Chih Tsai Rong of the Taipei East stake spoke of past and present missionary experiences. Sister Dai Lu Chin Chih, Elder Edward G. Miner and Cheng Ting Huang of the Chung Hsing Taiwan Stake also bore testimonies.

From left, early convert Shu-hui Tan Chin with original missionaries Weldon J. Kitchen and Melvin C. Fish, and Sister Mei-Hsiang Moyer pose in front of commemorative banner. Photo by Elder James R. Morehead©Deseret News

A pictorial presentation of the past evoked memories for the saints as events were shown, including the original dedicatory service, the earliest baptism, apostles who have visited Taiwan, various member groups, as well as the translator of the Book of Mormon into Chinese. An extensive history of the Church has been assembled from personal picture records. Among the Church leaders who have traveled to Taiwan is President Gordon B. Hinckley who most recently visited last August to dedicate the newly completed Church Service Center in Taipei." (James R. and Joyce U. Morehead, "Great blessings celebrated in Taiwan: Taiwanese members recognize 50 years of preaching the gospel," Church News [Saturday, 17 June 2006]: 14).

In 2008 he was serving on the Board of Directors of the Bank of North Las Vegas with several business men I knew when I was a young man.

My encounters with W. Brent Hardy have been motivational and instilled in me a desire to serve as faithfully as he has in the Church. I hope missionaries, friends and people will share their stories about him on my blog. Please feel free to share your best W. Brent Hardy story.


Rod Nielson said...

I was a missionary first called to the Singapore Mission. AFter 6 months I was sent to serve in Taiwan. Pres Hardy was my Mission president. I have fond memories of serving with him.

Dr. B said...

I think that is great. Do you have any pictures or stories you would like to share?

Keryn said...

Sorry this comment is so late (came from the link on your June 9 post), but wow--thanks for posting all this. I spent many (MANY) an hour in the OK Tire Shop, waiting for the Hardy brothers to try to fix our sad family van. Or our old Oldsmobile. My father was good friends with them, and they were always willing to try to fix our cars to get us on the road to our family vacation or reunion or whatever.

I remember how surprised I was to watch a news program about the Hong Kong Temple and realize that--hey, I know that man! It was then I realized that Bro. Hardy was much more than I had ever known. Thanks again for this post--it was a great reminder of some of the most Christ-like people of my childhood.

Brianlaura2007 said...

My name is Phiroum, I went to Hong Kong Temple in 2000 it was long time ago with my family. Vibol Pen is my father. I want to testify that after we were sealed and doing everything in the temple our family had so much blessing and continue to follow the Lord every single time. I am so grateful that we went to Hong Kong Temple and met with Pres. Hardy and his wife. They were the best couple and temple missionary ever. I know everything we do in the temple were sacred and blissful to our lives and family.

M&D blog said...

I was reading in the August 2, 2008, Church News about some genealogy about Thomas Hardy. My Grandmother is a Hardy and she comes through a Samuel Hardy from Charlestown, Massachusetts. I cannot find him, so when I read that article I wondered if you could direct me to someplace where I could find Samuel Hardy. Bruce Coulsey

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in the same ward with the Hardy family. Pres. Hardy was also my Sunday School teacher.
Sis. Hardy was/is an angel( and sang like one too), and all of the kids were outstanding in every way. They were/are a real blessing to all they came in contact with. As a Sunday School teacher, he never read the lessons out of the book. He taught by the Spirit and by example and shared many mission experiences with us to teach us the principles. The gospel was exciting to learn in his class and my eyes teared regularly - though I tried to hide it as I was a teenager who was also trying to be cool. I spent much time in their home and had only great memories of them. He helped inspire me to serve a mission and gave me my patriarchal blessing before I left. Much of it has already been fulfilled. I will be forever greatful for knowing them.