“His ministry was to the individual and his eye was always open to those he could lift up and help lighten their burden.”
The next article was written by President David L. Cook, from the Chile Santiago South Mission for “El Mensajero“, a mission newsletter,. Published with the author’s permission. Leer en español.
WE LEARNED THE sad news that Elder Richard G. Scott passed away yesterday quietly with his family at his side. We have now lost three giants in the last few months and all wait with anticipation the news of who the Lord has prepared for the Apostleship. Sister Cook and I would like to share some of our personal memories of our interactions with Elder Scott.
In the summer of 1995 I was serving in the mission presidency of the Rochester, NY Mission when Elder Scott visited the mission. It had been only a few months since Sister Scott had passed away from cancer. Then, and every time I was with Elder Scott over the next several years, he talked about his dear Jeanene. When he spoke of her it was with such tenderness. It always seemed that the veil was very thin for him.
In 1998 our stake was unexpectedly reorganized when our stake president of one year was transferred to another state for his employment. Elder Scott was assigned to reorganize the stake. He met with Sister Cook and me to extend the call. I was humbled by the call but will always remember the way in which he extended the call. He looked at me very intently and said: “In the name of the Savior and as his apostle I call you to serve as the stake president of the Palmyra, New York stake.” The power by which he spoke was palpable.
Several months later he was assigned to attend the Hill Cumorah Pageant and to inspect the Church historic sites. I was asked to transport him. He spoke to the Pageant cast one evening and he told a story of when he served as a mission president. He was serving in Argentina and Elder Spencer W. Kimball visited the mission. He noticed one evening that Elder Kimball left his scriptures on the kitchen table when he went to bed. President Scott stayed up all night writing down the references of the scriptures that Elder Kimball had marked. Elder Scott explained that hoped to gain greater insight into the verses that were deemed significant by an apostle. When Elder Kimball awoke in the morning he found President Scott still at the kitchen table studying his scriptures. Elder Scott told the Hill Cumorah Pageant cast that he felt embarrassed and apologized to Elder Kimball who kindly reassured him that it was ok. A few weeks later President Scott received a letter from Elder Kimball thanking him for his hospitality and included a list of every marked reference and notes from his scriptures.
Our oldest son Jared had recently returned from his mission and joined me as we drove Elder Scott to the Church historic sites. When he learned that we both served Spanish missions he spoke only Spanish to us for the next hour. He took a special interest in our son and gave him some great counsel that I have passed on to every departing missionary from our mission. He asked Jared to find a place where he could be alone and contemplate his mission and the lessons he learned. He then asked him to list in brief statements the spiritual principles that he had learned as a missionary. Then then asked him to write and make a commitment that corresponded with every principle.
During that visit he shared with us his love for nature and that whenever possible he went hiking in the mountains and canyons above Salt Lake City. He was in his 70´s and the church security personnel were concerned for his safety in the mountains. He chuckled as he told us how they made him carry a satellite phone. He said in the mountains and in the temples he felt closest to God and his dear Jeanene. Although a well-known and public figure, he understood the need to seek out solitude to recharge, contemplate and seek direction from the Lord. He counseled me to never become so busy that solitude is lost.
In October 2009 I was with Elder Scott for part of a weekend assignment. While we were together he suddenly said to me, “If you ever serve as a mission president . . . ;” and then gave me a great deal of profound advice that has stayed with me. I have tried dutifully to follow every detail he shared with me. That same weekend he spoke to the mission presidents from the North America Northeast Area. We were in a hotel in Washington, DC having dinner with the mission presidents and their wives when he began talking about his mission with his wife in Argentina. He described how their mission was extended for an additional year and the conditions they worked under. It was a 32 hour drive from one end of the mission to the other. The conditions were primitive throughout much of the mission. He used a four wheel drive truck and put a mattress in the back where he and Sister Scott spent their nights as they traveled to visit their missionaries. I listened that evening and knew that the sacrifices he made as a mission president are probably unequaled in the modern era.
In 2011, I was assigned as his junior companion for a weekend. It consisted of a meeting with the missionaries of the Rochester, NY mission, the priesthood leaders from eight stakes and a stake conference in our home stake. Several things stand out from that weekend. The first was that he asked me to take him to the Palmyra Temple Sunday morning before the stake conference began. Because it was a Sunday the temple was closed, so I called the temple president and asked him to meet us at the temple. We entered and Elder Scott asked to be alone in the Celestial Room. I waited for him for some time. We then went to the stake center where we met with a family whose young handicapped daughter was scheduled for another in a series of major surgeries. The young girl was unable to speak and was obviously scared among strangers. Elder Scott took her in his arms and tenderly stroked her head and quietly spoke to her then we administered to her. I witnessed the healing power and gifts of the holy apostleship.
During that stake conference Elder Scott decided to play scripture chase with me and called me up to the stand where he quoted from memory verse after verse and asked me to name the reference. You can imagine the stress I felt. He was having great fun as I squirmed.
After the conference I drove him to our home for Sunday dinner. Our oldest son and his family were with us that day. When he arrived our granddaughter was playing in the family room. Elder Scott greeted everyone then went directly to our granddaughter knelt on the floor with her and started drawing pictures with her. The thought that came to Sister Cook and me as we watched this tender scene was simply “unto the least of these.”
It is common for members of the Church to think of the Brethren as beyond our reach. However, please remember that Elder Scott was from common stock. He grew up in Washington, DC in a part member family. He never contemplated serving a mission until his girlfriend who became his wife told him she would only marry in the temple to a returned missionary. He was unprepared to serve a mission but submitted himself to the Lord and followed the path of discipleship. He never served as a bishop or a stake president. He was serving as a stake clerk at the time of his call to serve as mission president. The path of true discipleship does not carry any other title or honor but disciple. That path changed his life and those of countless others that he touched. That path will also do the same for you. We hope you sense from our limited experiences that Elder Richard G. Scott was a kind and compassionate servant. He sought out those in need, he inspired and lifted those that sometimes may have been overlooked, he touched the heart of a child, he strengthened missionaries and their presidents the world over. His ministry was to the individual and his eye was always open to those he could lift up and help lighten their burden. He will be missed by all.
–President & Sister Cook.
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