Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve


Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder L. Tom Perry.

“To read of the lives of the apostles of the Lord, and then find yourself serving in that role is just overwhelming,” said Elder Lowell Tom Perry, newly sustained member of the Council of the Twelve.

“But when you sit in front of the prophet, and you know that he knows more about you than you know yourself, all you can do is accept the call and then try to live up to the expectations.”

Elder Perry has had a lifetime experience of “accepting the call.” Responsibilities within the Church were learned from his father who served as a bishop for the first 18 years of the future General Authority’s life, and then for the next 20 years as a counselor in and president of the Logan Utah Stake.

Bishop Perry ordained his son a deacon and then counseled him as he accepted the position of deacons quorum president, teachers quorum president, and other positions in his years of church activity.

His father’s example is still a teaching factor in the life of Elder Perry. In his first address as a member of the Council of the Twelve at the 144th Annual General Conference, Elder Perry referred to his parents who each day dressed their six children in the “armor of God.”

“As we would kneel in family prayer and listen to our father, a bearer of the priesthood, pour out his soul to the Lord for the protection of his family against the fiery darts of the wicked, one more layer was added to our shield of faith.”

This shield of faith has been passed on to Elder Perry’s children: Linda Gay, a high school student in Salt Lake City; Lee, a student at Brigham Young University who served in the Japan West Mission; and Mrs. Barbara (Terry) Haws of Tempe, Arizona, who now has a son of her own.

Elder Perry, who has been active in business affairs as well as in the Church, believes the secret to his family’s good relationship has been involving everyone in his activities wherever possible.

“I think we have been involved in nearly everything together. For instance, from the time she was six or seven, my oldest daughter would help me in my business affairs by drawing forms for the budget or copying the budget figures. That meant we were together, and it also meant that I could finish my work earlier and spend more time with my family. In church work my son would run the copying machine and help me with other things. Now that he is older, he does a little writing for me. He has a vocabulary much superior to mine, so he helps me in that area.

“I think that any father should let his family become involved and never isolate them from what he is doing. He should make the family a part of every calling and every business responsibility that comes to him. By so doing they feel closer, and they feel the need to make contributions.”

Elder Perry sees his contribution to the Church as a member of the Twelve as that of enthusiasm. “I think that the greatest talent that the Lord has blessed me with is enthusiasm. I am hard to keep down. I will try to keep people charged up about their responsibilities and duties and about their great potential.

“The second talent I think I can contribute is that in my life I have been blessed to have both Church and business experiences that have taught me organization. Perhaps my contribution will be in the basic levels of the organization; to make them stronger, more alive, more efficient. The Lord’s business has to be the best in the world.

“I have also been blessed with the opportunity of living and serving in various areas of the country. I was born in Logan, Utah, but I have lived in Idaho, California, New York, and Massachusetts, and on the morning following my call as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, I had the very strong impression that one of the reasons for the call had been my experience away from the center of the Church. I have had the experience of living in small branches, of traveling long distances to and from meetings, of all the problems you can encounter while growing and maturing in building programs. I am sure that I will be drawing upon these experiences as I make contributions to the Church.”

Elder Perry was president of the Boston Massachusetts Stake at the time of his call to be an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. As a stake president he was attending general conference and learned of his call just 24 hours prior to being sustained.

His call to the Council of the Twelve came with a little more notice. “My wife and I had returned home after attending the day-long Regional Representatives’ seminar on the Thursday before conference. I had just loosened my tie when I received a telephone call from President Kimball’s secretary asking me to meet with the president that evening. That is when I received my call.”

Elder Perry’s wife is the former Virginia Lee of Hyde Park, Utah. They met when both were students at Utah State University where he was majoring in finance and she was studying Portuguese. They were married in the Logan Temple on July 18, 1947. Two years later he received his bachelor’s degree and continued at USU in graduate work before entering business.

Prior to entering college, Elder Perry had served two years with the United States Marines in the Pacific; before then, he served two years in the Northern States Mission.

Elder Perry was born August 5, 1922, to L. Tom and Nora Sonne Perry. Those who remember his teen years in Logan affectionately recall that his nickname was “Stretch,” because of his height. He is now “a little over six feet four inches.” He is also remembered for his concern for younger children and his willingness to play with them.

“I enjoy children. The best Church position I ever had in the early days was being a member of the Sunday School presidency responsible for Junior Sunday School. That was a tremendous experience. I enjoyed MIA, too.”

Elder Perry became an associate director of the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA when the total MIA program was realigned in 1972. In 1973, he was appointed chairman of the Church Bicentennial Committee responsible for recommending programs and projects by which the Church in the United States may celebrate the nation’s 200th birthday in 1976.

“This has the potential of becoming one of the greatest events in the history of the Church as well as in the history of the nation. For a whole year we will devote time to contemplating and thinking about the things we can do for our government. I think the great message that we have to carry is that of local, individual, family, and community interest in government. The Church is in a unique position because we have a pattern of local leadership. I am positive that we have millions of people who are devoted to our country, and who are looking for a way to participate in its leadership at the local level.”

Leadership has been a part of Elder Perry’s life; leadership in the home, Church, and in business. Wherever his energies and enthusiasm have been directed, he has found that “when you live close to the gospel, the Lord is always there. I have proven it to be true that if I would do my homework, if I would study and be prepared, the Lord always ratified the direction I should take. The Lord has always been there to rely on. I will need him more now than ever before.”

The Perry family: Elder L. Tom and Sister Virginia Perry, in front, daughter Barbara and husband Terry Haws, son Lee Thomas, and daughter Linda Gay. (Photo by J Malan Heslop.)