President Cook: «The Passing Of A Giant – Elder L. Tom Perry»
The next article was published written by President David L. Cook, from the Chile Santiago South Mission for «El Mensajero«, a mission newsletter, on June 3rd, 2015. Published with the author’s permission. Leer en español.
Several weeks ago Elder L. Tom Perry was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and began treatment. Unfortunately, the treatment was not successful and he entered hospice care last Friday. He passed away the following day. I hope you won’t mind if I share my personal memories of Elder Perry.
I had the marvelous privilege to be assigned as his junior companion for a week in March 2008. It was an assignment that was not anticipated. I had taken a day off of work to go skiing. Upon arriving home Elder Perry called. In his gregarious voice he said: “Elder Cook, this is Elder Perry, how has your day been?” I told him I had just returned from a outstanding day on the slopes with Sister Cook and he bellowed a powerful “Wonderful.” He then told me he had been assigned by the President Hinckley to tackle the issue of improving missionary work in the wards. He had an upcoming stake conference assignment in the Owego, NY stake and asked me to accompany him. He was beginning to explore some ideas that eventually became known officially as “Missionary Work in the Ward” and unofficially as the “Perry Plan,” although he did not like that name, wishing not to take individual credit for it. In many ways the Perry Plan contains the seeds of what we in the South America South Area experienced as the Piloto and now simply call “The Plan”.
In the week we spent together each evening we went to a different stake in upstate New York and met with the ward leaders. There was never an agenda to these meetings. He spoke about simple concepts to improve missionary work in the wards. He challenged the brethren to be more involved with the missionaries and to insure that the missionaries were invited to the ward council. He asked them to work together with the missionaries in identifying less active members and investigators and to coordinate their efforts. I hope you see these key elements in our “Plan.” Each evening after he spoke he turned to me and asked me to “preach to the brethren about this glorious opportunity we have to do missionary work.” We repeated this on four successive nights.
During that week we also had a mission conference with the missionaries of the Utica, NY Mission. After I spoke, he opened the meeting up to questions. I will never forget one of the questions and his response. A brave missionary asked a question about the former priesthood restriction. Elder Perry responded with a powerful testimony. He said, “I am one of three people alive that were in the upper room of the temple the day the revelation was received that ended the restriction. It was experienced differently by each of us in the room. President Kimball led us in prayer. While he was praying we had a marvelous experience. The nearest I can describe it is that it was much like what has been recounted as happening at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple or the day of Pentecost. I felt something like the rushing of wind. There was a feeling that came over the whole group. When President Kimball stood he was visibly relieved and overjoyed. There was a great feeling of unity among us and relief that it was over. As I have talked with other members of the Twelve since then, they felt the same as I did. I don’t think the Twelve will ever be the same again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” He then in his thundering voice testified of the reality of revelation that directs the church. As you read this I want you to remember that last statement from Elder Perry that revelation directs the Lord’s work at every level, from your area to the Quorum of the Twelve.
Elder Perry was a remarkable man. However, don’t forget he was just like you. He strived to do his duty as a young man. He served as a missionary and in the U.S. military at the end of World War II. He was among the first troops into Japan after the atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He spent much of his time rebuilding churches of Protestant and Catholic congregations.
One of his common sayings during his ministry was somewhat self-deprecating. When people would praise him he would respond by saying “I am as common as dirt.” He never sought praise or position and he served wherever called and thus received grace for grace. He was once a humble missionary just like you, facing the same challenges, excitement and discouragement that you face. He served in the rainy Northwest. Do you think he had cold wet days? Remember that when the cold and the rain sets in here in Santiago next month. He did not seek to be great in the eyes of others; it was simply a consequence that came from his inherent humility and commitment. Please remember that humility and commitment will bring power and revelation to the work of the Lord. The Lord knows his servants, be it in a small apartment in a difficult area in Santiago, or in the office of an apostle. Never seek the honor of men and like Elder Perry remember your roots, that we are all common labors in the vineyard, even “common as dirt,” involved in a very uncommon work.
-President & Sister Cook
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