Discuss this article or ask questions at the LDS.net Forums.
L. Tom Perry
Lowell Tom Perry was born on August 5, 1922, in Logan, Utah. He was the oldest son and had five siblings. His parents were strong members of the Church and encouraged their children to participate by involving them in their own callings. Elder Perry said that in his family it was hard not to have a testimony because of the example of his parents.
In 1942, L. Tom Perry was called on a mission to the Northern States. While on his mission, he developed a great love and understanding of the Book of Mormon. Elder Perry tells an entertaining story regarding his first attempts at proselyting:
- “I was assigned to serve in Columbus, Ohio, just after I had arrived in the mission field. I knew absolutely nothing about missionary work and my senior companion, who had been out only three months, knew little more than I did. I had always been strong in the Church, and though my testimony had never been tested, I surely thought that it could never waver.
- “Well, my first full day of proselyting was spent going from house to house. We didn’t have much success until a kind Southern Baptist lady invited us into her home. She had a profound knowledge of the scriptures, and I’m afraid that my companion and I could not counter her persuasive arguments. I went home that day a converted Southern Baptist.
- “The following day was not much better. I went home a converted Methodist. And the next day I was swayed toward the Lutheran faith. I finally decided that this kind of thing should not be happening to a Mormon missionary. I decided that before I could teach and bear testimony about the gospel it was first necessary that I know something about it myself.
- “My companion and I lived on the top floor of a four-story rooming house. The landlady had granted us the privilege of using the kitchen, which was in the basement. I decided that each night I would go down to the kitchen after my companion had retired to bed and prepare a talk, beginning with the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel.
- “The first night I studied and prepared a talk on faith that I presented to my audience: a mouse that I had coaxed out of his hole with a cracker. He stared at me for a minute, picked up the cracker, and went back into his hole.
- “The following night the subject was repentance. The mouse came out and listened to me for some time longer than the night before, and then returned to his hole. I was making progress.
- “The third night I came down and filled the dishpan with water and washed some dishes before I prepared my talk on baptism. Again, my friend the mouse came out of his hole to hear my presentation. He stood there and stared at me the whole time, and when I was finally finished he walked back to his hole in deep thought. I was a bit proud of myself as I walked upstairs, knowing I had really impressed my audience.
- “The next morning my companion and I went downstairs to prepare breakfast and I noticed that I had not emptied the dishpan of water I had used the night before. I was greatly surprised when, at the bottom of the pan, I found my friend, the mouse. My little talk had really made an impression. In his stupor of thought he must have crawled into the pan: baptism by immersion!” 
Just six short weeks after returning from his mission, L. Tom Perry was drafted into the military during World War II. He volunteered to be in the Marine Corps, and when he arrived overseas he was assigned an office job. He was one of the first to enter Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped and did all he could to help the Japanese people rebuild their country. His comrades in the military respected Elder Perry, and many of them joined the Church because of his willingness to share the gospel with them.
Elder Perry graduated from Utah State University in 1949 with a focus on business. While there, he met and courted Virginia Lee. They were married on July 18, 1947, and eventually had three children. Elder Perry found a job with a company in Idaho, and just after moving there he was called to be second counselor in the bishopric. The family moved many times with Elder Perry’s job, and he had new Church callings all along the way. He served as a seminary teacher, in bishoprics, on the high council, and in stake presidencies. Throughout it all, Elder Perry maintained his standards. He advises others,
Set your standard of values and never compromise it. Have it grounded on the gospel. Don’t be afraid to let people know what you believe in and what you live by
- (Loren C. Dunn, “Elder L. Tom Perry: Serving with Enthusiasm,” Ensign, Aug. 1986, 17 )
On October 6, 1972, Perry was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles and two years later, on April 11, he was ordained as an Apostle. As an Apostle he has served on the Temple and Genealogy Executive Council, the General Welfare Services Committee, and the Church Board of Education Committee.
In December 1974, Perry’s wife Virginia passed away, and in 1983 their daughter passed away; his family has also unfortunately lost two grandchildren. Despite these trials Elder Perry has ever put his faith in Christ,
The Lord is very kind. Even though some experiences are hard, he floods your mind with memories and gives you other opportunities. Life doesn’t end just because you have a tragedy—there’s a new mountain to climb. Don’t spend a lot of time sulking over what you’ve lost. Get on with climbing the next mountain (Loren C. Dunn, “Elder L. Tom Perry: Serving with Enthusiasm,” Ensign, Aug. 1986, 17 ).
In 1976, Elder Perry was introduced to Barbara Dayton and they were married that spring.
Perry is noted for bringing the poem, "My Three white Dresses" to notoriety. The poem was written by Perry's daughter, Linda Gay Perry Nelson. Perry quoted the poem in his October 1993 General Conference address, Choose the Right. ::“Choose The Right,” Ensign, Nov 1993 . The Poem is regularly sold in LDS bookstores today.
Quotes from Elder L. Tom Perry
It appears to me that the crosshairs of Satan’s scope are centered on husbands and fathers. Today’s media, for example, have been relentless in their attacks—ridiculing and demeaning husbands and fathers in their God-given roles. . . . Satan, in his carefully devised plan to destroy the family, seeks to diminish the role of fathers. Increased youth violence, youth crime, greater poverty and economic insecurity, and the failure of increasing numbers of children in our schools offer clear evidence of lack of a positive influence of fathers in the homes. A family needs a father to anchor it.
- ~“Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling,” Ensign, May 2004
Our community of Saints is not one of exclusion but one of inclusion, built upon a foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. It is open to all of us who love, appreciate, and have compassion for our Father in Heaven’s children. The dual foundations of our economic welfare are the principles of charity and hard work. It is a progressive community in which we educate our youth in courtesy and civility and also in the deeper truths of the restored gospel. Our community has a spiritual center, allowing us to live with the companionship of the Holy Spirit that guides and directs us in our lives.
- ~“Building a Community of Saints,” Ensign, May 2001