When the U.S. Air Force sent L. Lionel Kendrick to Nagoya, Japan, he had been a Church member for just one month. The second Sunday, the group leader approached Brother Kendrick with a priesthood manual and said, “I feel impressed by the Spirit that you’re to be our priesthood teacher.”
Brother Kendrick replied, “I’ve just been baptized. I don’t even know what to teach.” Though he felt overwhelmed, he accepted the call.
“It was a marvelous experience,” he says. “I had to dig in early into the scriptures.” That early training in the scriptures prepared him for greater and greater responsibilities in the Church, culminating in his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy on April 2.
Elder Kendrick says that his conversion was both gradual and sudden. In high school, he was active in his Protestant congregation when he met Myrtis Lee Noble, who had been reared in the Church. He was still active in his church when they married in 1952, his senior year at Louisiana State University.
Before marriage, they had made an agreement concerning religion. Sister Kendrick had explained that, since sacrament meeting attendance was the Lord’s commandment, she wanted both of them to attend. She also wanted them to pay a full and honest tithing. She said that without those things their relationship would suffer. Elder Kendrick responds, “I felt comfortable about those points, so we paid a full tithing,” and he attended LDS services with his wife.
Over the next two years, Lionel received a degree in health and physical education, then taught high school before entering the air force. The military soon sent him to officers personnel school in Bellville, Illinois. The branch in Bellville was the turning point for him. An LDS Sunday School class stimulated his desire to learn the truth, and “by the second Sunday, I absolutely hungered to know,” he says. “After a few months, the Spirit bore an undeniable witness. I knew the Church was true and entered the waters of baptism.”
Brother Kendrick completed his military duty after sixteen months in Nagoya. The Kendricks were sealed in the Hawaii Temple in 1956 on the way home to Louisiana. Brother Kendrick then began teaching at Pride High School, where he also coached the basketball and football teams. Taking night and summer classes at LSU, he obtained a master’s degree in 1958. A year later, Sister Kendrick received a B.A. in elementary education.
After six more years of teaching, Brother Kendrick returned to LSU for an Ed.D. in health and physical education, which he earned in 1967. In 1966, the family had moved to North Carolina when East Carolina University offered him a position on the faculty. In 1970, he became director of the ECU regional training center, which offers programs and seminars in such areas of health as stress and the effects of drugs and alcohol.
His work, though, has been second to family and church, which the Kendricks feel are inseparable. They talk glowingly about their family: their three sons—Larry, Jr., Hal, Dana—and their wives; their daughter, Merri Ellen, and her husband; and their six grandchildren. “We’re a loving and hugging family,” Elder Kendrick says. Sister Kendrick adds, “During summer breaks, we took long vacations with our children. We also carefully taught them the importance of gospel goals.”
Elder Kendrick loves Church service. He has served in two bishoprics and as branch president of the Greenville Branch on the ECU campus. After nine years as Kinston North Carolina Stake president, he served three years as a regional representative assigned to North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. In July 1985, he was called as mission president of the Florida Tampa Mission.
“I have enjoyed every call,” he says. “The ones involving direct contact with people have been most rewarding. This call to serve with brethren I have always looked up to has taken me to the depths of humility, and I have spent the last few days in soul searching. I feel more keenly than ever the divinity and urgency of the Lord’s work.”