Cancer Spread Quickly in Claiming Life of Apostle

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 4 June 2015

Elder Perry discusses the priesthood during a 2011 interview. His death May 30, 2015, was just 40 days after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Elder L. Tom Perry, 92, died about 3 p.m. Saturday, May 30, 2015, at his home, just 40 days after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since April 6, 1974.

In a news release on the Church’s website, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was quoted speaking of Elder Perry’s enthusiasm and optimism.

“That warmth, that graciousness, the fact that he really did like people and he liked all the members of the Church and appreciated them—I think that’s how he’ll be remembered,” Elder Cook said.

Lee Tom Perry, Elder Perry’s son and biographer, was quoted as saying, “He had this common touch, and he was as comfortable with the common man as presidents and rulers and treated them all pretty much the same and had a way of relating to them and connecting with them that’s just profound.”

He added, “I think he’ll be remembered as a champion of the family.”

After the diagnosis of Elder Perry, the cancer’s spread was so aggressive that it shocked his family and members of the Church.

In a June 1, Deseret News article by Tad Walch, Lee Perry was quoted as saying Elder Perry tried to maintain his duties in the quorum until the week of his death.

“It was only on Tuesday that he realized it was too much and that he couldn’t do it anymore, so he did the appropriate things,” Brother Perry said. “Elder [Russell M.] Nelson was traveling, so he talked to Elder [Dallin H.] Oaks and Elder [M. Russell] Ballard and explained the situation. He had a last few instructions, but he said he had the sense his mission was done and that they should move forward without him.”

The apostle told his family April 19 that a mass on his thyroid had been identified and he would have a biopsy the next day.

Brother Perry said his father had one of four kinds of a rare form of anaplastic thyroid cancer; it happened to be the only kind that was inoperable.

“The family, we certainly shed a lot more tears than he has,” Brother Perry told the Deseret News. “Again, the Marine comes out [Elder Perry is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps]. There were tender moments with him, but he’s been pretty stoic and peaceful through it.”

A former business executive, Elder Perry was used to schedules and was uncomfortable being without one, Brother Perry said, and remarked the day before he died that he was “getting kind of bored.”

Brother Perry said that even in the final week, his father showed consideration to him, conscious that the son has had back surgery and was having to lift his father frequently. Elder Perry regularly called someone to come help.

“It was just always the little things that represented a consideration on his part for what others were going through,” Brother Perry said. “He just wasn’t the person who thought of himself. He was much more concerned about others. That’s the way he lived his life.”

Expressions of sympathy can be posted on Elder Perry’s official Facebook page or emailed to condolences@ldschurch.org.

 

Elder L. Tom greets young men during an assignment to Perry, Utah, on July 3, 2011, for the city's centennial celebration..