Elder Perry Remembered for Life of Devotion to God, Family, Country

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 5 June 2015

The casket is carried prior to the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

“All who heard his voice and those who read his words could readily see that here was a fearless defender and testifier of truth, intelligent in thought, radiant and warm in personality, succinct and powerful in expression, unwavering and unflinching in commitment and belief. He could teach, persuade, warn, explain, and encourage.” —President Thomas S. Monson

Elder L. Tom Perry was remembered for his abiding faith, optimistic attitude, and charitable spirit by thousands gathered on Temple Square—and in other locations across the globe—for his funeral on June 5.

Elder Perry, 92, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles died Saturday, May 30, 2015, just 40 days after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The oldest living Apostle at the time of his death, Elder Perry had been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since April 6, 1974.

“Since his passing on Saturday, I have reflected a great deal on this faithful servant of God. We shared much over the years—heartache and happiness, sorrow and laughter, and, above all, a love for the Lord and His gospel,” said President Thomas S. Monson, the concluding speaker at the funeral, which was broadcast live on LDS.org, the Mormon Channel, KSL, BYUtv, and the Church satellite system.

President Monson said Elder Perry combined “an insightful mind with a faith-filled heart” to work wonders with his words.

President Thomas S. Monson.

“His style was distinctly his own. He was endowed with a rich and resonant voice with which he proclaimed the word of God at home and abroad all the days of his life,” President Monson said. “All who heard his voice and those who read his words could readily see that here was a fearless defender and testifier of truth, intelligent in thought, radiant and warm in personality, succinct and powerful in expression, unwavering and unflinching in commitment and belief. He could teach, persuade, warn, explain, and encourage.”

The congregation—including every member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—filled the Tabernacle and overflow locations in the Assembly Hall and the North Visitors’ Center on Temple Square for the funeral. In addition to President Monson, Elder Perry’s son, Lee T. Perry, and Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Dallin H. Oaks, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also spoke. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency conducted the service; Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered prayers. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided the music. Elder Nelson conducted the graveside service, during which Elder Perry’s brother, Ted S. Perry, offered the dedicatory prayer.

During his remarks, President Monson said that, along with his faith, commitment, and energy, Elder Perry was “one of the most kind, considerate, and gracious men” he has ever known. “I declare to you, my brothers and sisters, that there was no chink in L. Tom Perry’s armor; there was no guile in his soul; there was no flaw in his character. He loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and served Him with all his might to the very end of his mortal life.”

Born in Logan, Utah, Elder Perry served as a marine during World War II, had a distinguished business career, and served ably in every position in the Church to which he was called, said President Monson. “His service to the Lord’s work has been exemplary and without flaw.”

President Monson added, “The gospel he believed so deeply and taught so powerfully provides the assurance that all is well with this beloved servant of our Heavenly Father. His indomitable spirit has gone home to that God who gave him life. His record is known in heaven, and there it will yield its treasure trove of good deeds and faithful service.”

Elder Oaks said Elder Perry “was a big brother to all of his juniors in the Quorum of the Twelve. I speak for all of us in this tribute to this great Apostle.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks.

Elder Oaks said Elder Perry made a tremendous impression on everyone he met.

“As one Catholic friend said, his goodness ‘was just transparent. … He impressed you simply by being the great-souled man that he was,’” said Elder Oaks. “This audience is filled with people who were loved, motivated, and directed by this wonderful man.”

“In a revelation given less than a year after the organization of the Church, the Lord called upon the elders of the Church to ‘let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds’ (D&C 43:34).

“A funeral is a time to speak of those mighty solemnities of eternity,” Elder Oaks said. “We therefore repeat our testimony that because of the Atonement and Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, death is merely a necessary step in our destined transition from mortality to immortality.”

Elder Ballard said that Elder Perry has “always been larger than life in my eyes, with his powerful and convincing voice, his physical stature of over 6'4“, and his positive, enthusiastic attitude.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard.

“He was someone I knew would make a great impression on anyone he would come in contact with,” Elder Ballard said.

By his nature, he said, Elder Perry expected things to move forward.

“He seemed to have very little patience if time was not productive,” Elder Ballard said. “He always taught, encouraged, and inspired all of the General Authorities that we could do more—we could do better—and we could move faster in blessing the lives of every member of the Church. His vision of the impact the gospel should have in all of our lives was an important part of his apostolic calling.”

The Church has been blessed by Elder Perry’s leadership, testimony, and dedicated service, he said.

“Knowing him as well as I do, his voice and presence are already engaged. He is carrying on his ministry of teaching and testifying 'among those who are in darkness' (D&C 138:57) of the divine mission and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Lee Perry spoke of his father’s life and his devotion to God, family, and country.

For his family he thanked all those who had supported and helped Elder Perry over the years. “The prayers and the expressions of comfort and gratitude from the members of the Church have been overwhelming. Thank you. It is also overwhelming to look over this congregation and realize that you have come to the Tabernacle to express your love and gratitude to Elder Perry.”

Elder L. Tom Perry's son, Lee T. Perry.

He said his father spoke often to the members of the Church about the importance of family and of the sacred roles of fathers and mothers. “His final general conference address two months ago once again focused on marriage and family.”

Brother Perry said every day of his father’s life was glorious to him. “He embraced a life that was always full-speed ahead. … He is now enthusiastically teaching the gospel in the spirit world, and he will continue with full speed of purpose until he rises on the morning of the first resurrection.”

Interment was in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Elder Perry is survived by his wife Barbara Dayton Perry; his son, Lee T. Perry; his daughter Linda Gay Nelson; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his first wife, Virginia Clare Lee, who died in 1974; a daughter, Barbara Lee Perry Haws, who died in 1983; and a granddaughter, Esther Lee Wood, who died in 2014.

Carol Petersen, left, hugs her sister, Barbara Taylor Dayton Perry, right, wife of Elder L. Tom Perry, before his funeral on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Carol Petersen, left, her sister, Barbara Taylor Dayton Perry, wife of Elder L. Tom Perry, and family arrive at the Salt Lake Tabernacle for his funeral on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

President Thomas S. Monson greets President Boyd K. Packer prior to the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The First Presidency stands as the family of Elder L. Tom Perry enters the Tabernacle on Temple Square for his funeral on June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder L. Tom Perry's casket is carried into the Tabernacle on Temple Square prior to his funeral on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The casket is brought in prior to the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

General Authorities attend the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Richard G. Scott, left, and Elder Robert D. Hales are among members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles attending the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The casket is taken out after the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Family and friends follow the casket after the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The American flag is draped over the casket of Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles after his funeral in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

The hearse carrying the casket of Elder L. Tom Perry exits Temple Square after his funeral service on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

The hearse carrying the casket of Elder L. Tom Perry heads to the Salt Lake City Cemetery after his funeral in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, at right, leave the Tabernacle after Elder L. Tom Perry's funeral on June 5. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Elder Quentin L. Cook, right, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, and Elder Neil L. Andersen, all of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and their wives, exit the Salt Lake Tabernacle after the funeral of Elder L. Tom Perry in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.