I was saddened to learn today of Elder Perry’s passing. I remember memorizing the names and faces of the Twelve Apostles as a boy. My mother had given us a mnemonic for several of them, and Elder Perry’s has always stuck with me because it was so apt, given the big, toothy grin he always sported: He is very cheery, he is Elder Perry.
A few years later, we found ourselves living in Manila, Philippines where I was now in high school and enrolled in my first year of early morning seminary with my mom as the teacher. A small group of us expat kids met in our home every morning at 5:30 before heading to the International School together. At one point we learned that Elder Perry was visiting the Manila mission. President Iba was in our branch and his kids were in our carpool. My mom, being the intrepid soul that she is, asked the president if she could perhaps get a meeting with the Apostle for her seminary class, and Elder Perry consented. So the next day, there we were, six or so of us face to face with L. Tom Perry at 5:30 a.m.. He was wide awake, thanks to the time difference between Manila and Salt Lake City. I remember three things from that conversation.
First, Elder Perry looked just like his photo. He was indeed very cheery!
Next, he told us a story about Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who sat next to him in seniority in the quorum at that time. Elder Perry said that one day they got new chairs in the council room of the Twelve, and Elder McConkie was trying his out, rocking it back and forth, putting the chair through its paces. Elder Perry was talking to someone else when he heard something odd and turned to find Elder McConkie’s boat-sized wingtip shoes kicking in the air next to him. Elder McConkie had rocked his chair too far back, and now he was inverted. I’ve always remembered that story because it humanized the apostles for me and has helped me see them as real human beings in addition to solemn witnesses and ministers of the Gospel.
Finally, Elder Perry asked each of us to think of a question to ask him. I’ve never forgotten mine, nor his response. I asked him simply if he had a favorite scripture, and if so, what was it? He replied that there were many scriptures that he loved, but there was one from the Psalms that often came first to mind, and he quoted it to us then. It is now a favorite of mine, as well, but I had never heard heard it before that morning when it was delivered to my ears in the cheery, energetic voice of Elder L. Tom Perry:
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens….
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour….
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalms 8).
Do you have a fond remembrance of Elder Perry? Please feel free to share in the comments.