Elder Weatherford T. Clayton: Loving the Lord and His People
Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
- Turn to God in prayer in times of need.
- Look to the examples of others to prepare for a new calling.
- Develop charity for those you serve.
Born on March 1, 1952, in Los Angeles, California, to Elizabeth Touchstone Clayton and L. Whitney Clayton Jr. Married Lisa Madeline Thomas on March 16, 1976, in the Salt Lake Temple. They are the parents of five children and have 12 grandchildren.
Earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as a medical degree at the University of Utah.
Elder Clayton was an obstetrician gynecologist in private medical practice from 1985 to 2013. He then worked as a laborist from 2013 to 2014.
Elder Clayton has served in various callings in the Church, including ward mission leader, bishop, stake president, family history consultant, and Young Men president. He was serving as president of the Canada Toronto Mission at the time of his call as a General Authority Seventy.
Born of pioneer stock with ancestors such as Brigham Young and William Clayton, Elder Weatherford T. Clayton, a new General Authority Seventy, grew up as one of four sons of parents who were growing and developing in the gospel. “My mother was baptized about a year and a half after my parents were married,” said Elder Clayton. “I was baptized when I was nine.”
A diligent home teacher visited the Claytons during those growing years and faithfully taught them the gospel. “He had a way of shaking your hand that communicated great love,” said Elder Clayton. “He really loved my mom and dad and made a difference in our lives. We are very grateful to him.” Elder Clayton was 12 years old in 1964 when the family was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple by then-Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
A testimony-building experience
Young Weatherford had a testimony-building experience during the summer following his junior year in high school when he was given the opportunity to be an exchange student with the Rotary club in Japan. The trip required that he change several things he planned to do during his senior year. In Japan and still wrestling with his decision, he found a quiet place and prayed out loud to his Heavenly Father for guidance.
“The room suddenly filled with a magnificent feeling of peace,” he said. “It was something that I had never experienced and I didn’t know existed. It was unique and new. Every bit of concern and worry I had evaporated. I knew that God loved me and He was aware of my circumstances. I knew the course of life I was on was a good one.” That experience changed his life.
A decade of decisions
After graduating from high school in Whittier, California, he attended Brigham Young University for a year. “My experience at BYU was fantastic,” he said. “I took classes that helped me understand the Book of Mormon. It helped me to appreciate what we have in the gospel and that it’s beyond just going to church. I learned that these are truths that stretch into the eternities.”
Following the example of his older brother, L. Whitney Clayton (currently serving as the senior President of the Presidency of the Seventy), he decided to serve a mission. He was called to the French Canadian Mission. “My brother came home while I was in the MTC, so we saw each other for only half an hour in the airport over those four years of serving missions,” he said.
Upon returning from his mission to Canada, Elder Clayton decided to attend the University of Utah. An important result of his switching schools was finding a very special person. “The first week of my junior year, I was sitting at the sacrament table in church and my future wife walked in. I just had to meet her. Three and half weeks later we were engaged.”
Elder Clayton married Lisa Madeline Thomas in the Salt Lake Temple on March 16, 1976. Sister Clayton commented about that important time: “I was about to turn 21 and I wanted to serve a mission, but the Lord told me that I was to follow a different course so I started my senior year at the U instead. I am so grateful I listened to that prompting.”
Deciding what to do for a career came by inspiration. “The reason I became an obstetrician gynecologist was because of an answer to prayer,” said Elder Clayton. “I tried to steer away from that specialty because my father was an OBGYN and I knew how busy he was.” However, with that inspiration, concerns vanished and he pursued a career in that field.
A life of service
Elder and Sister Clayton raised their family in Newport Beach, California, where he had a private medical practice. As their family grew so did opportunities to serve. Elder Clayton was a young father with a busy career when he was called to serve as a bishop. “My wife and I were partners,” he said. “She made everything work for our family at home. I will be forever grateful. If anything good has come to us as a family it is because of her efforts.”
Prayer was always important to the Claytons. No matter where the day took them, the family gathered for prayer. “I loved family prayer because we could speak to Heavenly Father specifically about each of our children, ask for specific blessings, and express gratitude for the good choices they were making,” said Elder Clayton. “We have loved being parents. It has been the sweetest part of our lives.”
When asked what helped prepare him to serve in various leadership capacities, Elder Clayton said, “I think a lot of it has to do with the example of friends and family. I saw them willing to dedicate their lives to the Lord and find joy in the service they offered. They valued opportunities to serve God and His children more than the accolades of the world and the outward evidences of personal success. That made a big difference to me.”
As they served over the years, the Claytons grew in their capacity to love others. “When my husband was called as bishop, we felt our hearts expand,” said Sister Clayton. “We loved our ward members so much and wanted them to be faithful and close to the Spirit. We knew they would be blessed as they followed the Lord’s path for them.”
The Lord continued to expand their hearts as Elder Clayton was called to serve as a stake president, president of the Canada Toronto Mission, and now as a General Authority Seventy.
“We are humbly surprised at this call,” said Elder Clayton. “We’ve loved the Saints of the Church we’ve been blessed to serve. We love our missionaries. We feel it will be a tremendous blessing and privilege to declare to more of God’s children that Jesus is the Christ, that this is His Church, and that the Restoration is evidence that our Heavenly Father and our Savior love them more than they can imagine.”