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Ye shall know this Mormon inventor by his fruit: a sliced banana

First Published      Last Updated May 21 2014 12:00 pm

Mormonism often points with pride to popular inventions by Latter-day Saints, including the television, traffic lights, stereophonic and digital sound.

Somehow, though, William Sheffield's creation rarely makes the list: the banana slicer.

Too bad, too, because Sheffield sees even more connection between his faith and his invention.

The idea for the yellow, plastic device "was not the direct result of fruit-cutting frustration," writes Tyler Lopez in a Slate slice-of-life profile of the inventor, "but rather a vision from God."

After converting to the LDS Church in 1985, Sheffield quit his job as a judge with the California Superior Court and moved to Hong Kong, where he become the Utah-based faith's general counsel in Asia.

"Sheffield found himself walking through the crowded streets of that city one day, brainstorming potential ways to help the director of a small orphanage in India he and his wife recently met," Lopez writes. "Sheffield recalls suddenly seeing a crystal-clear vision of a flat, ladderlike, banana-shaped device. He knew it was meant to be."

The would-be inventor got a patent, which eventually bore fruit. He sold more than a million slicers, giving more than 60 percent of the cut to the orphanage in India, now known as Pathway, which has served more than 22,000 disabled children.

That's only one episode in Sheffield's action-packed life, Lopez writes. He also "sued the pope, made a movie with Steven Spielberg and advised Indira Gandhi."

Soon, 74-year-old "Banana Bill" will embark on a tamer sort of adventure with his wife of 40 years — in July, they jet off to a full-time mission for their church.

Maybe they'll be assigned to a tropical region, where his tool can be put to the test. After all, the guy told Lopez, he still uses his invention regularly. It's the greatest thing since sliced, well, bananas.

Peggy Fletcher Stack