President John S. Tanner, the current president of BYU-Hawaii, served as the mission president of the Brazil Sao Paulo South Mission from 2011 to 2014. BYU-Hawaii students who served in the same mission with the Tanners expressed their gratitude and lessons they learned from them.
Takuya Ogasawara, a senior from Japan majoring in communications, served his mission with President and Sister Tanner in the Sao Paulo South Mission from August 2011 to August 2013.
He shared, “My first impression of President Tanner was he was strict. At that point, one area was closed since missionaries got sent home, so I was about to go to open that area with my trainer. When I arrived there, President Tanner wanted to make sure during my first interview with him I was an obedient missionary.”
“As I got to know him, my impression of President Tanner changed a lot. When I had a hard time keeping the rules, [the Tanners] always helped me become better instead of scolding me. I felt more mercy and love from them.”
He said the Tanners always motivated them to be fully consecrated missionaries. Melisa Tobon, a senior from Colombia majoring in elementary education, served from 2013 to 2014. She shared her love for Sister Tanner. “Sister Tanner was in the Young Women Presidency, and I remember many of her talks she had given. Her words are my favorite quotes.”
In regard to President Tanner, Tobon referred to him as “the best mission president I could ever have. He has the perfect balance between love and obedience. The way he tells us to be obedient is with so much love. Instead of feeling, ‘Gosh there are so many rules,’ I felt, ‘I want to do that because I love my mission president.’”
She described her first impression of President Tanner as remaining the same because, according to her, he had always been loving and welcoming. “There is one quote he would always say, ‘Obedience brings blessings and exact obedience brings miracles.’
“When I knew he became the school president, I realized I could still call him president. Since the campus is smaller than the mission field, I get to see him more often. I feel like having him here helped me get closer to him. I was able to spend time with him and have dinner in his house together.”
Samuel Jonata De Souza, a freshman from Brazil majoring in business operation and supply chain, served his mission from January 2011 to 2013. He shared, “My first impression of them was they loved me as if they knew me before as parents. I felt so comfortable with them. I felt a lot of love from [President Tanner], so I can trust him.
“He was the best mission president for me. He has spent his time helping people come unto Christ. He focused a lot on real conversion. He wanted us to baptize people, but also to help them stay on the path.
“I heard when I first got to the mission field that the spirit of the mission changed in a better way with his teachings and example. I had the opportunity to teach with them. The way that he taught was full of love and the Spirit.”
De Souza remembered the importance of obedience taught by President Tanner. “He wanted us to be really obedient. I feel like what he believes in is that when missionaries are worthy and keeping commandments, they will be able to help investigators. He focused a lot on real conversion, not only for investigators, but also for missionaries.
“I was so excited when I found out he became my school president. My wife and I also felt the love he has for us when he just dropped by our house … just to bring us food.”