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Live Close to the Savior

From a personal interview by Joleen Meredith with Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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    Elder L. Tom Perry

    “Elder Perry, if you could say something to the children of the world, what would you tell them?” I asked.

    “I would like to tell them to learn as much as they could about the life of the Savior and to live as close to Him as they possibly can. Living the Lord’s way is the only way to find joy and happiness. If they turn from His course, there’s always a penalty involved, and they’ll find that sorrow and heartache will result from their decision.

    “Children ought to start early in their lives to develop a method for retaining that which they study—a kind of filing system. Mine is simple enough for an eight-year-old to use. When I read scriptures and find one especially important, I underline it and try to pick out the main thought. If the scripture is on faith, I write faith in the margin. Then I turn to the Topical Guide, find that scripture, and underline it in red for future reference.

    “I think we spend too much time just reading the scriptures without remembering them. It is said that we retain about 10 percent of whatever we read, but we can retain 50–60 percent if we do something specific about it. If a child began at eight years of age, think of the vast amount of information he or she would have from that early study of the scriptures!”

    The conversation then turned to recollections of Elder Perry’s parents and his own childhood: “I grew up very close to the Church,” he said. “My father was made bishop of our ward when I was only six months old. By the time I was six years of age, our ward was building a chapel. Father would take us all over to work on it. I remember that my first job was pulling nails out of boards and straightening them so they could be used again.

    “My father came from a large family. They were homesteading in Idaho and had little money. When he reached high school age, he asked my grandfather to allow him to go to high school. His father gave him five dollars and a one-way ticket to Salt Lake, where he had to make it on his own. He found a job caring for President Joseph F. Smith’s cows and lived in the Beehive House like a member of the family for three and a half years. Father attended LDS High School and then went on to the University of Utah, where he was valedictorian of his graduating class. He accepted a position as principal of a school in Rexburg, Idaho. There he met my mother who was a teacher in the same school. They were married and Dad left teaching and went to law school and became an attorney.

    “Dad was a very intense man, but he knew how to relax. Saturday afternoon was spent with the family—fishing, hiking, or playing ball up Logan Canyon. He and I enjoyed pitching horseshoes together even when I was very young

    “My mother was a tremendous woman. She had more energy than anyone I’ve ever been around. She was the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed at night—just perpetual motion all day long. Her family came first and she was a tremendous support to my father, who was a bishop for eighteen years and then in the stake presidency for another twenty years.

    “I had some great teachers when I was a boy. I remember a Sister Johnson, who was president of the Primary for years and years. How tender she was!

    “But the teacher I remember best was Sister Call. She was just a jewel. I remember how impressed I was that she was willing to go on hikes with the Trail Builders. She’d plan scavenger hunts, but they were not just the regular kind. Each one would have a connection with some part of the lesson. As we would find each thing, it would teach us another part of the lesson. Then there was always a nice reward—some special treat at the end. I can’t believe the creative ways she used to keep our attention as young boys.

    “Sister Call is a person who keeps on giving. Recently I received a phone call from her son. He wanted to bring a gift Sister Call had just completed for me. He brought to my office a beautiful quilt she had made. Thousands of careful stitches prepared in a beautiful pattern. She is ninety-one years young. I could not hold back a tear as I thought of the kindness of this great teacher.”

    We concluded the interview with some conversation about Elder Perry’s own family: “I have two grandchildren who live here and two who live in the East. We try to have family home evening together once a month with those who live here. One of our greatest family activities has been a garden that we planted in a vacant lot. We call it the Perry Family Welfare Farm. Both grandchildren have assignments. We plant, water, irrigate, harvest, and have a great time together! I hope I’m teaching them something about the Lord’s cycle of replenishment—that if we’re diligent, He will reward us abundantly. Each little seed brings forth a hundredfold.”

    “Do you have a last word about children?”

    “Children are receptive and attentive and able to follow the leader. They have freshness and are eager to learn. Children are wonderful!”