“His prayers were so earnest and his appeals so sincere none could doubt that the Lord was near to him.”
—President Ezra Taft Benson
Marion G. Romney was just eight days old when his father left for a two-year mission to the northwest United States. While his father was gone, young Marion became so ill that his life was in peril. But in a priesthood blessing he was promised that his life would be spared because he had a great mission to fulfill.
The oldest of ten children, Marion was born to George S. and Artemesia Redd Romney on September 19, 1897, in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. He attended school and worked on the family farm until revolutionary activities in northern Mexico forced the American colonists to leave their homes in 1912. His father could not accompany the family, so 14-year-old Marion was put in charge of taking them safely to Texas.
On the way, armed members of the rebel army stopped them and searched the wagon. They took the family’s 20 pesos, the only money they had. Then they “drew their guns … and pointed them towards the wagon. As I looked up the barrels of the rifles, they seemed very large to me, and I suppose this was one of the most exciting moments of my life. … They did not shoot, however, and I lived to tell the story.”
From Texas, the Romneys moved to California, then to Idaho, where Marion’s father taught school for three years. Finances were tight. Young Marion couldn’t even afford a coat. Yet tithing was always paid. Marion never forgot the cold day he had to trudge to the bishop’s to deliver the tithing. He said later that it would never again be that hard to pay.
Marion’s father became president of Ricks Academy, and the family moved to Rexburg, Idaho. At Ricks, Marion played on the football team and the championship basketball team. He also met the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, Ida Jensen, just hired by his father as a teacher.
But Marion had been saving his money, and resolved to serve a mission. His father could not afford to help him, but he accompanied his son to the bank where Marion borrowed the rest of what he would need. Elder Romney served an outstanding three-year mission in Australia, and returned to pay the loan in full.
He continued school at the University of Utah and resumed his courtship of Ida. They were married September 12, 1924. They had four children, but two died in infancy.
Marion studied and worked at the same time to support his family. He would go to school during the day, work at the post office from 3:00 to 11:00 P.M., sleep, then get up at 5:00 A.M. to study until he left for school. He followed that schedule for three years, also making time each day to study the Book of Mormon.
He was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Salt Lake City for 11 years, holding a variety of city and county offices and serving in the state legislature.
He also served in Church positions, including three years as bishop and three years as a stake president. In 1941, he was called as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. His first assignment was as assistant managing director of the welfare program. Ten years later, he became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He continued directing the welfare program until he was called to the First Presidency, where he served from 1972 to 1985, first as a counselor to President Harold B. Lee, then as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball. When President Kimball died in November 1985, President Romney was called as President of the Quorum of the Twelve.
In addition to being known for his contributions to the welfare program, President Romney was known for loving the scriptures.
One night his son was lying in the upper bunk bed as they read aloud alternate paragraphs from the last chapters of Second Nephi. President Romney heard his son’s voice break and thought he had a cold. As they finished, his son said, “Daddy, do you ever cry when you read the Book of Mormon?”
“Yes, son,” he answered, “sometimes the Spirit of the Lord so witnesses to my soul that the Book of Mormon is true that I do cry.”
“Well,” he said, “that is what happened to me tonight.”
As he was promised in the priesthood blessing when he was an infant, President Romney did have a great mission to fulfill. And his love, his example, and his lifetime of service to the Church, including 47 years as a General Authority, show that the promise was indeed fulfilled.