A Sure Witness of Jesus Christ: Elder Richard G. Scott

An Apostle talks about his ministry, his earlier career as a nuclear engineer, and the vital role his family plays in his life.


“There are 15 men on earth who hold all of the keys of the kingdom,” Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in an interview recently. “And [that apostolic calling] is a constant, 24-hour-a-day … burden and privilege … each of us feels. For me, the best way [to fulfill my calling] is to bear testimony of truth, to express gratitude for that sacred privilege and honor, and to respond to what is in section 46 of the Doctrine and Covenants, where it says: ‘To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

“‘To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful’ [verses 13–14].

“That word know is a very important word for those 15 men who are Apostles. [It expresses] the sacred experiences and the confirmation that there is a certainty that our Father in Heaven lives and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior—not a hope, not a belief, not a wish, but an absolute, confirmed certainty. . . . Our Father in Heaven is real. His Son, Jesus Christ, is real. I know that personally and bear certain witness because I know the Savior.”

Following are a few more extracts from the interview that Sheri Dew, a former counselor in the general Relief Society presidency, held with Elder Scott and his daughter Linda Mickel.

To hear the full interview, visit the Mormon Channel Web site


On working with Admiral Hyman Rickover to develop nuclear fuel for naval and land-based power plants

Elder Scott: I had the responsibility of the design, testing, and manufacture of what are called the fuel elements. That’s the heart of the nuclear core where the fissile materials are kept and where the reaction occurs. That was my responsibility.

I learned that if you’re diligent in work, you can find a way to do things that have never been done before. I also learned, because of my own background, that prayer is an important part of solving technical problems as much as other problems in our life, and so at critical stages when I wasn’t sure what approach to take, prayer turned out to be a powerful resource of guidance and inspiration.

On leaving Admiral Rickover’s team to serve as a mission president

Elder Scott: We were in the middle of some testing of new concepts, and I knew that if I told him about my call before I told him about the results of those concepts that he would be upset. But I felt that was the only fair thing to do, and he was rather upset. He threw some things from his desk around the room. I think it was because it was a surprise to him that someone that was a key part of a very important program would be called to other service. And his immediate reaction was, “You can’t leave for a year.”

I explained to him that this call came from one that I recognized as a prophet of God and felt I needed to, that I was very happy with what I was doing—I was thoroughly enjoying the challenging opportunities and service with him.

And then he said, “Well, if you can’t stay for a year, then you’re through now. I don’t want to talk to you again. I will not speak to you again.”

And that was kind of hard because I really did have a lot of things to get done, and I said to him, “Unless you bar me from the facility, I’m going to come in and turn my work over to someone else.”

And he just said, “Well I’m not going to speak to you.” He was a very strong individual.

Well, we got the transition made, and then I asked for an appointment with him, and his secretary gasped because he thought that was going to be quite an incident.

When I finally went into his office he said, “Scott, sit down. What is it you have? I’ve been trying to change your decision as strongly as I can.”

And I handed him a copy of the Book of Mormon, and I said, “If you read this, Admiral, you’ll understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing here, but a prophet of the Lord has asked me to preside over one of the missions of the Church.”

And then he said something which I think was unique in his service. He said, “When you finish your mission, come back. I want you to work for me.”

When I was about to leave he called me in and in a very kind way expressed gratitude for the working relationship that we’d developed over the years and the opportunity of serving together. I admire him greatly. I learned a great number of lessons from him.

On Elder Scott’s relationship with his wife, Linda’s mother

Linda, speaking to her father: We always felt like even though you weren’t there physically [because of work and Church assignments], we always felt that you were because we could see you through Mom. We knew that her feelings were yours and Mom’s feelings together. And because of Mom’s love for the Lord and her dedication and loyalty, she was able to completely support you. And as an adult now, as I look back, it’s so interesting to me that I never remember her complaining about your being gone or having to handle things on her own. She handled the family matters as if you were there. In her eyes you still presided in our home, and that’s how things were portrayed and that’s how they came across.

On the death of his wife, Jeanene

Elder Scott: First of all, . . . I didn’t lose her. She’s on the other side of the veil. We’ve been sealed in that holy ordinance of the temple, and we’ll be together forever. And at critical times in my life when I need help, I can feel impressions come through the veil in such a real way that often I just [think,] “Thank you, Jeanene.” So there isn’t that loss. The second is that when you get it right the first time, you don’t want to mess it up with a second time. We are so close and love each other so very much that I don’t have any feeling of need to remarry. I recognize that for some men there’s a very strong support they require from a wife, and so they remarry, and I don’t question that for them. Jeanene and I prepared each other in all the ways we could think of for being able to survive well when one of us passed through the veil, and I wish she hadn’t been the first one, but that’s the way it worked out.

On his eternal marriage to Jeanene

[My marriage has] touched every important element of my life—wanting to be a better person, wanting to live more righteously and do things that were more elevating and worthwhile. I don’t believe that the temple ordinance guarantees that we’ll be together forever. There will be a time before that sealing of the Holy Spirit of Promise that makes it eternal where we’ll be in the presence of the Savior, as individuals, and there will be a choice whether we continue with the sealing or not. And I want to do everything in my power to qualify so that she’ll choose for that sealing to be eternal.

Elder Scott’s views on the sacred role of women

Elder Scott: [Women] should recognize that it wasn’t until after the creation of woman as the final act that the Lord declared His work was done. And it was good. They need to recognize the tremendously important role that the Savior Himself places on womanhood. A woman is a nurturer just by the way she’s created, and I think some women begin to wonder about how effective what they do is—and they shouldn’t. They should realize how extremely important they are in all of the plans of Father in Heaven. And that’s why a husband should find specific things that he admires in what his wife is doing because she wants to serve, she wants to give, and unless there’s some reinforcement of how well that’s going, she may have an erroneous understanding of how she’s magnifying her sacred role as a woman. . . .

I think whenever it is at all possible to be done, a man will bless his children more by making it possible for his wife to be in the home with them than almost anything else he could do as they are growing. They need—if it’s at all possible—a mother in the home, not out working to share the responsibility of income. Sometimes that’s not possible, but often I think a second income is used for things that are not basic to the home. And a much greater blessing for children would be to have her there rather than have the things that a second income would provide.

On his parenting philosophy

Linda: We were taught the correct principles, and then we were allowed to govern ourselves. I remember a long time ago I was in my very early teens and I had been invited to go swimming with a friend on a Sunday, and we talked about it at home but I wasn’t told what to do. I was able to make that decision and, unfortunately, I made the wrong decision, but I don’t remember, I don’t ever remember, any kind of a punishment or anything being said. I remember what I felt inside for many years. . . . If I had been told what the decision was, I wouldn’t have learned that. So we were taught correct principles and allowed to govern ourselves.

We were taught basic principles. There wasn’t a lot of fluff, you know? We learned honesty and obedience and diligence and humility, and we just learned that from watching [our parents]. We learned to stay focused on gospel principles, and I think we learned that most from, well from Dad, but from Mom too. We didn’t have a lot of extracurricular activities and things that she involved herself in. We saw her studying the scriptures and working on her calling and being a mother at home and doing family history work. We didn’t see her off doing some other things that women and mothers would do.

We thought it was OK to be different. I remember that, you know, especially in my teenage years. . . . It taught us that we could feel confident in ourselves without being preoccupied with the latest fashions.

On his ability to speak three languages

Elder Scott: I enjoy Spanish; it’s a very rich language. It has capacities, nuances of expression, that are far beyond what we enjoy in English. I had a very wonderful young man who helped me work on Portuguese, and I asked him if [I made] any mistake . . . would he stop me, because if he didn’t I’d think I was saying things right and properly, and he did. I would just barely open my mouth, and he’d stop me. And we would write down the mistakes I was making and then give me an opportunity to overcome them. Those are two beautiful languages and very expressive. . . .

At conference time I take the time to record the message in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Or as it’s given to me in English, it’s broadcast in those other two languages. That takes a little doing because . . . Spanish you have to decrease by about 30 percent in time, and Portuguese about 20 percent in time. But I get responses from all over the world of gratitude for, instead of listening to a translator, they hear the message in a voice they recognize, and they seem to appreciate that.

On why he takes on difficult subjects in his conference talks

Elder Scott: I just pray as I prepare for conference messages that I’ll be led to identify something that will help Father in Heaven’s children in this very difficult world in which we live. For many, many years it’s been possible for members of the Church to kind of follow the examples of prior generations. When problems would arise, they would simply look and see the solutions that their parents or other leaders had provided. The youth who live in today’s world don’t have that privilege for many things. There are challenges, there have been unknowns that they face, difficulties that don’t have the track record of prior experience for them to follow. And if they will just realize that the Lord knew when they would be born, the trials and challenges that they would face, . . . [they would know] that they’re prepared to handle those things as part of coming to earth at this time as they, in humility, seek for guidance and understanding and answers from the Lord through the Holy Ghost.

To hear the full interview, visit the Mormon Channel Web site