L. Tom Perry, An Uncommon Life: Years of Preparation, 1922-1976 (Hardcover)
Elder L. Tom Perry, a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is fond of describing himself as being "as common as dirt."
Yet his life is uncommon by any standard. After spending most of his early years in his hometown of Logan, Utah, and additional years on a mission and in the military, young Tom Perry launched a twenty-year professional career that took him from his first job as an internal auditor in Boise, Idaho, to executive positions in retailing on the west and east coasts of the United States. Soon after his fiftieth birthday, he was surprised to be called as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. Not long afterward, President Spencer W. Kimball extended to Elder Perry the call to join the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Perry has now served for forty years as a General Authority.
For Elder Perry, the value of life's experiences is determined primarily by the lessons they teach. As the story of his life shows, his positive attitude has created positive lessons that we can learn from. He has lived a life of faithfulness to God, family, and country, and he continues to be blessed with faith-promoting experiences.
This first volume of Elder L. Tom Perry's biography extends from his birth on August 5, 1922, through his marriage to Virginia Clare Lee, the births of their children, and his career in the world of retailing to the time of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the passing of his beloved Virginia.
Uplifting and inspirational, this story of a remarkable man of faith encourages us to live better lives by drawing closer to God, selflessly serving others, and leading our families along the path of righteousness.
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Pages: 368
- Year Published: 2013
About the Author
Lee Tom Perry, son of Elder L. Tom Perry, holds a PhD from Yale University. An associate dean at the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management, Dr. Perry is the Sorensen Family Professor of Organizational Leadership and Strategy. He served from 1998 to 2005 as associate dean over both graduate and undergraduate programs at the Marriott School.
Brother Perry has served in the Church as a bishop, as a stake president, and from June 2005 to July 2008, as mission president of the California Roseville Mission. He presently serves as a member of the Sunday School General Board. The author of Righteous Influence: What Every Leader Should Know about Drawing on the Powers of Heaven, he also wrote the lyrics of the Latter-day Saint hymn “As Now We Take the Sacrament.”
Brother Perry and his wife, Carolyn Bench Perry, live in Orem, Utah. They are the parents of six children.
The Perry Home
The home at 466 North 100 West in Logan was remodeled a second time, starting when my father was seven years old. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and young Tom’s father was the bishop of the Logan Ninth Ward. Bishop Perry convinced the leaders of the Church to authorize his ward to build a chapel addition to the existing cultural hall that had been serving as the ward’s meetinghouse. The chapel addition was certainly needed, but its construction was also Bishop Perry’s attempt to keep some of the men in his ward employed during this difficult period. He, however, soon realized it was only a partial solution to the problem. The men needed other projects to earn enough to support their families. So when their work was not needed on the chapel project, the workmen were hired to remodel the Perry family home.
The remodeling project took nearly two years to complete because work on the Logan Ninth Ward chapel took priority. The remodeling project afforded many opportunities for Bishop Perry to teach his son about the joys of honest labor. Elder Perry shared one of these lessons many years later in the October 1986 general conference. He said: “We were remodeling our house and tearing out some of the walls. In those days two-by-sixes were used as studding. To the studs was nailed the lath, and over the lath came the plaster. When tearing out walls, the slats and the plaster were easy to knock off, but, of course, that left the nails in the two-by-sixes.
“Each night after the workers had finished, I had the responsibility of gathering up the two-by-sixes and taking them out to the back lawn where there stood two sawhorses. There I was to make a pile of the two-by-sixes and then, one at a time, put them on the sawhorses, and with a crowbar remove the nails. After the nails had been pulled out of the studs, I was told to straighten them. Finally, I threw the straightened nails into a large green bucket and stacked the two-by-sixes in a neat pile.
“There was so much in this project that was of value to me in my young life. First, I was taught to be productive, to work, to be busily engaged, and not to waste my time in idleness. . . .
“Second, as a lad doing the job my father had assigned to me, I was taught not to waste, to conserve resources where possible. When the nails were pulled from them, the two-by-sixes could be used again—and we did use them. . . .
“Third, I will never forget my consternation as I watched the workmen using new nails as they built the walls back up and completed remodeling our home. The pile of nails that I had straightened and put in the green bucket grew and grew and was never used. I went to my father and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to save the new nails and use the ones I have straightened?’ I was proud of the work I had accomplished.
“My father showed me something very important. He took a new nail and, using an odd angle, drove it into a board. He was able to drive it straight and true. Then he took one of the nails I had straightened so carefully, and, using the same odd angle, hit it again and again. It soon bent and was impossible to drive into the board. So I learned that a used, or bent nail, is never as strong as a new one. But then why had my father asked me to straighten those nails?
“As a boy, I never remembered receiving a satisfactory answer. It was not until I had a son of my own that I started to understand. . . . Work is something more than the final end result. It is a discipline. We must learn to do, and do well, before we can expect to receive tangible rewards for our labors. My father must have known that if he focused on the outcome of my labors, he would only become frustrated with how inadequately I did things then. So he found tasks that were difficult and would challenge me, to teach me the discipline of hard work. He was using the straightened nails not to rebuild our home but to build my character.”
There is a reason Elder L. Tom Perry often shares stories at general conference about lessons he learned from his parents—much of his character was shaped in the Perry family home at 466 North 100 West in Logan. Elder Perry also knows that embedded in the lives of his parents, Leslie Thomas and Nora Sonne Perry, are faith-promoting experiences and time-tested traditional values needed by every member of the worldwide Church.
Leslie Thomas Perry
Leslie Thomas Perry was endowed with an unusually keen intellect. Later in life he attended law school at both the University of Chicago and Stanford University, and he argued cases before the United States Supreme Court. While he was a man of humble means until his fortunes improved very late in life, he began life under extremely harsh circumstances. Perhaps his first year of life in Three Mile Creek, Utah, was not as difficult as the years that followed in Idaho, but it fills me with wonder when I consider where life took him from his first home in Rudy, a one-room log cabin covered by a roof made from sapling branches and dirt.
When Leslie was fifteen and a half years old, his parents arranged for him to attend a Church school, the Fremont Academy in Rexburg, which became the Ricks Academy before he graduated. Rexburg was twenty miles away from Rudy, Idaho, and Leslie claimed he remembered every turn of the road during that eventful trip.
Henry Morgan Perry could not afford to buy his son a new suit for school. All he could afford until the potato crop was harvested was a new hat. Leslie registered for school with some confidence because he believed that his schoolmates would fixate on his new hat, not the mended clothes he was wearing. He found the principal’s office and politely laid his hat down on the principal’s desk before he sat down. Leslie noticed that as the principal looked up, he seem startled by the hat sitting on his desk. As Leslie’s eyes turned toward the hat, he realized that instead of his new hat, he had been wearing his old work hat. In his excitement to leave home in the early morning hours when it was still dark, he had mistakenly picked up the misshapen hat he had used the day before while working at the back of the straw carrier of the family’s threshing machine. It was an inauspicious start, but a few years later, Leslie graduated as the valedictorian of the first graduating class of Ricks Academy.
Upon graduation, Leslie decided he didn’t like his name—it was too feminine—so he assumed what he considered a more masculine form of his name, L. Tom Perry, by which he was known the rest of his life. After becoming certified to teach school in Idaho, Tom was hired to teach in the Rexburg Public School. This first job lasted two years.
Tom’s desire for further education led him to Salt Lake City, which he reached by train from Idaho Falls. He had applied and been granted the opportunity to attend L.D.S. High School for two more years of secondary education. In his personal history, Tom wrote about arriving in Salt Lake in the evening: “It was my first trip to a city with more than five business buildings. What a thrill to view the Salt Lake Temple. I had dreamed of this since boyhood as I pondered over a picture of the temple on the cover page of the Juvenile Instructor.”
Tom mixed well at L.D.S. High School. He was older than most of the students, and though they impressed him, he was not intimidated. He associated with the children of such Church leaders as Heber J. Grant, Orson F. Whitney, and a grandson of Brigham Young. He considered it a privilege to be taught economics by Bryant S. Hinckley, the father of future Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. He was elected by his fellow students to serve as the senior class president for the class of 1907.
Tom entered the University of Utah in the fall of 1907. During the years he attended the university, he milked the cows for the family of President Joseph F. Smith and lived at the Beehive House. Late one night as Tom entered the Beehive House, he accidentally bumped against a partially opened door and awakened the prophet. Many years later he considered the prophet’s patience with him. He wrote:
“He [President Joseph F. Smith] turned on the light and, seeing who it was, came down the stairway and inquired concerning my difficulty.
“‘The door is locked that leads to my room,’ I explained. He went to the door and pulled instead of pushed, and the door opened. Had he been disturbed by my foolish blunder I would not have been surprised, for I had robbed him of a precious night’s sleep by a thoughtless act. He only smiled and stopped to inquire of a strange stable boy what I had stumbled into. I pointed to the half open door at the other end of the hall.
“‘Let me show you something.’ He took time at midnight to explain, ‘When in the dark, never go groping with hands parted and outstretched; that permits doors to get by your guard and hit you. Keep your arms in front, but hands together; then you will feel with your hands and not your head.’ I thanked him and moved to my quarters. He waited until I reached the rear stairway and then he retired.
“I had been alone at night with the nephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith who through his own worthiness was now [Joseph’s] successor as the President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had taken time to teach me a simple lesson, how to guard against danger as I walked through the darkness alone. He had lighted my path as I traveled to my resting place. Though clothed in night attire and not priestly robes, he was always a Prophet of God.”
During Tom’s time at the Beehive House, he witnessed firsthand some key moments in Church history. He was present one evening when President Smith returned home and announced to his wife Julina, “I have brought home the last of the bonds of the Church. I desire to destroy them.” Tom was asked to make a fire in the fireplace, and once it was burning vigorously, President Smith opened his briefcase, took out the bonds, and threw them on the fire. This was 1907, and the history of the bonds dated back to December 1, 1898, when the Church was heavily in debt. Church leaders decided it was necessary to issue one million dollars in bonds, divided into two series, A and B, each in the sum of five hundred thousand dollars. It was a struggle, but the Church met every obligation when it came due.
Tom also participated in the Smith family prayer after the resolution against seating Reed Smoot in the U.S. Senate was defeated on February 20, 1907. Senator Smoot had been called as an Apostle in April 1900, and he received permission from President Smith to run for the United States Senate in 1902. Senator Smoot was elected, and he began serving on March 4, 1903. Questions arose, however, about whether Senator Smoot was eligible to serve as a U.S. Senator, given his high office in the LDS Church and evidence that the Church was not fully compliant with the 1890 Manifesto against plural marriage, although Smoot himself had never been a polygamist. The Smoot hearings began on January 16, 1904, and they lasted for more than three years.2 In his prayer, President Smith offered a heartfelt expression of gratitude to the Lord and all the senators who had defended the Church. Later, at general conference, he said this about those who opposed Senator Smoot: “I forgive them and leave them in the hands of the Just Judge.”
The young stable boy briefly served as a body guard for President Smith during the time when Thomas Kearns and the American Party were parading and rioting in Salt Lake City, and President Smith’s safety was occasionally threatened. Kearns, who had served as a U.S. Senator from 1901 to 1905, included in his many business interests the publishing of the Salt Lake Tribune. With the newspaper’s backing, the American Party opposed LDS Church influence in the politics and economics of Utah, and the party achieved significant backing in Salt Lake City and Ogden City government between 1904 and 1911. Tom admitted that his role as President Smith’s body guard was uncomfortable. He said, “Even though I was rather large in size, I trembled for fear of attack.”
Salt Lake Tribune
Young Tom was at the Beehive House when distinguished guests visited, including Bathsheba Smith, general president of the Relief Society, and two future prophets, Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith. Perhaps the most memorable visitor to the Beehive House was Joseph Smith III, the son of the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Smith’s cousin. After observing their interactions together, Tom said: “The son of the Prophet Joseph Smith, a large ponderous man, seemed to be governed by the desires of the flesh; his face was full, his beard sandy, protruding forward. The son of the Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, [was] calm, collected, full of the Spirit, whose passions had been subdued. I may have been prejudiced, but this was a testimony to me that I was following the man that God had chosen as the leader of His people.”
During his senior year at the University of Utah, Tom was elected as the debating manager, and in that role he arranged debates with Colorado College and Denver University.3 His debating skills proved invaluable when he was selected as the valedictorian for the class of 1910, but because he failed to submit his senior thesis by the deadline, the graduation committee refused to certify him for graduation. Tom pleaded his case before the president of the university, Joseph T. Kingsbury. He explained that his thesis had been in the hands of a typist in plenty of time to meet the deadline, and it was the typist’s fault. Moreover, he argued, the university was ultimately at fault because it had allowed the typist to advertise in the school newspaper. He argued further that he was already on the program to give the valedictory address with Utah governor William Spry, who would be unimpressed if the student selected to represent the student body at graduation could not qualify for graduation. President Kingsbury overruled the graduation committee and allowed Tom to submit his thesis late and still graduate.
After graduating, Tom took a position teaching English and history at Rigby High School. Also teaching at Rigby High School during the 1910–11 academic year was a young woman from Logan who had recently graduated from the Agricultural College of Utah (now Utah State University) in home economics. She had been hired to teach domestic science, and her name was Elsie Nora Sonne.
The home in Logan in which Nora Sonne grew up was a Danish home. Her parents, brothers, and sister spoke Danish in the home, and the food and customs were Danish. Nora was the youngest in the family, and the task fell to her and her older sister, Emma, to care for their mother, Eliza, who was in poor health for many years.
Nora’s three older siblings liked to play jokes on each other. For example, Alma and Emma once conspired to convince older brother Ola that Alma could solve in his head any arithmetic problem in their textbook. Unknown to Ola, Emma was signaling Alma the answers from the back of the book. Eventually, Ola caught on to their trick and stormed out of the room.
Another time, Emma pretended to sneak up on Alma with a pair of scissors and ruin his new haircut. When Alma complained to their mother, she could find nothing wrong with his haircut. Eventually, Emma confessed she had pulled a lock of his hair but had not cut it. What Alma didn’t know was that she had cut a piece of paper to produce the sound that had alarmed him. Their mother laughed at the joke, but Alma found it less humorous.
Nora, being the youngest, received less teasing from her older siblings, who were protective of her. Moreover, Nora had a kind, sweet disposition that fostered adoration from her parents, brothers, and sister. Being the youngest in the family, however, did not excuse Nora from work. There was plenty of work to do, and like everyone else in the family, she was expected to do her fair share as soon as she was able. It could also be said of Nora that she had a streak of inner strength and independence common to many Danish women at that time.
Nora was an excellent student and a leader. She attended Brigham Young College in Logan and graduated in 1909 with a degree in domestic sciences. Nora served as student body vice president during her junior year, the only woman among the fourteen student body officers. She completed her education at the Agricultural College of Utah, where she was among the thirty-five graduates of the class of 1910.4 At the Agricultural College, she served as the senior class vice president and participated on the college debate team. More relevant to her major, Nora took some commercial classes in drafting patterns for the complicated skirts and blouses of the era. This skill was greatly appreciated by her students the year she taught a Rigby High School. Three of her students, sisters of another teacher, Leslie Thomas Perry, soon became sisters-in-law.
Tom notes in his personal history that his initial encounter with Nora was not love at first sight. In the course of a brief hallway conversation, Tom mentioned an invitation he had received to a party for the school’s faculty hosted by a Rigby matron. Nora, who had also been invited, said, “Good. I am glad I will not have to go alone.” Nora always claimed all she meant by the comment was she would know at least one person at the party, but Tom assumed she mistakenly thought he had asked her to be his date. He arranged to pick her up at 7:30 that evening, and they were together nearly every evening after that, a use of time that Tom later admitted might have interfered with their daily lesson preparations.
Tom and Nora’s courtship involved spending a lot of time together, but it was not particularly private time. Dating between teachers at the same school was mostly discouraged, and their principal imposed a rule that all their dates had to be chaperoned. They could be on the opposite side of a room so that there was an element of privacy to their conversations, but they always needed to be in view of their chaperone. Moreover, their contracts forbade them from marrying during the school year, so they waited until June 21, 1911, to be married in the Logan Temple. They spent their honeymoon riding in a wagon through Yellowstone National Park. By this time they were so accustomed to having someone else with them that they had invited Tom’s youngest brother, Heber, and Nora’s older sister, Emma, to join them on the trip.
L. Tom and Nora Perry: The Eleven Years Before Moving to Logan
Tom was hired to teach at Ricks Academy for the 1911–12 academic year. He was returning to the institution from which he had graduated as the valedictorian of the first graduating class. Tom taught at Ricks for three years, and he reminisced about those years as his most enjoyable and successful years of teaching.
The Perrys lived in the Rexburg Second Ward the first year, but then they purchased a home from Oliver Dalby, who was leaving to practice law in Box Elder County, Utah, and moved into the Rexburg First Ward. Oliver had been serving as the bishop of the Rexburg First Ward when he decided to move, and when the bishopric was reorganized, Tom was called by Bishop Robert G. Archibald to serve as his second counselor. Tom served in the bishopric for the next three years.
Tom left Ricks Academy to become superintendent of schools in Madison County, Idaho. The next year he was installed as principal of Rexburg Public Schools, a position that paid substantially better than his position as superintendent. In addition to being the principal, Tom taught eighth grade. He and Nora became pillars of the Rexburg community. In his usual self-effacing way, Tom wrote fondly of those years: “I loved to teach. After the faculty was selected during the summer months, there was little to do in the administrative line. I knew so little about the administrative work, I had few problems. There may have been problems, but I did not see them.”
In addition to school administration and teaching, Tom operated a dry farm on a quarter section of land (160 acres) twenty miles east of Rigby near the Snake River. He homesteaded the land, and it needed to be cleared of sagebrush. By mid-August of his first summer on the farm, Tom had cleared a portion of the land, but it was tedious, difficult work. Then his plow broke. He decided to burn the sagebrush off his land, and after creating fire barriers, he waited until the wind was favorable and then struck a match.
All went according to plan until the second day of the burning, when a strong wind came from the opposite direction he had expected. The fire spread rapidly, and the wind was so strong that fire began to jump the barriers he’d established. Tom tried to put out the fire, but it was too big and moving too fast for one man to stop it. He narrowly escaped being surrounded by flames. As he ran, his one thought was that only God could save him, so he prayed. “I did not kneel,” he wrote, “but poured out my soul to my Maker as I ran across the field.”
Tom wanted to move a hay wagon out of the path of the fire, and he was prompted to get his horses to pull the wagon out of danger. He ran to where he kept his horses, harnessed his horse, Chub, rode him back, and hitched him to the wagon. He realized the fire was starting to burn the hay the horses had earlier dropped beneath the wagon, but still he was able to pull it, his only means of transportation, to safety.5
Tom’s prayer was not answered immediately, but it was answered in time by an unusual change in the direction of the wind. He wrote: “A Southwester changing in the mid-afternoon was a thing unheard of in the Valley of the Upper Snake. More than sage was burned that afternoon, for there was scored in my soul a firm conviction of the power of prayer.”
If this had been the end of the story, it would be remarkable, but apparently God had one more lesson to teach young Tom. Because of the sudden change in the direction of the wind, the fire threatened to jump another fire barrier on another border of his land. Two men joined Tom, but the wind made their efforts futile. At this point in the story, Tom recounted that the fire was out of control but that his faith remained undaunted: “God again took the helm. Once more the wind changed and this time its course held until the fire burned itself to naught.”
A few years later, Tom had an experience that helped him decide he was not cut out to be a homesteader. One day he was resting in the fields reading a newspaper in the shade of his workhorse, Taft. He became engrossed in the paper’s blow-by-blow account of a championship fight, and as the sun rose higher, Tom moved the paper so as to stay in the shade. Just as he was reading about the knockout punch, the paper tickled Taft’s belly, and the horse delivered his own knockout blow. Taft’s hoof caught Tom squarely above the eye, and when he came to his senses, his first thought was what Fred J. Holton, his favorite elementary school teacher, had told his parents—he would never be a farmer. Tom decided to sell the dry farm and pursue further education.
Tom had already been thinking seriously about going to law school. The previous summer he had attended summer school in San Francisco, where he took a course on contract law taught by Professor Samuel Williston of the Harvard Law SchooL. Tom was fascinated by law, and even without Taft’s sudden intervention, it likely would have been his eventual career choice. Law suited his logical mind, his training in debate, and even his budding political aspirations. He enrolled in classes at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1917, just months after the United States entered World War I.
The only housing Tom and Nora could afford while living in Chicago was a small inner-city apartment. They took with them two daughters, Zada and Gay, and Nora never felt safe taking her two young children outside the apartment without her husband. Except for enjoying her associations at church, she found her time in Chicago very difficult and lonely.
Leaving Idaho to attend law school deepened Tom’s resolve to remain active in the Church. In his personal history he wrote: “After observing that many students who went away to school became lukewarm in the faith and that inactivity was the primary cause, I made up my mind to be active. I have never regretted that decision. My marks may not have been as high as some, but even though I devoted the entire Sabbath day to Church work and a study of the Gospel, I did pass all the courses of Law that I undertook.” Soon after arriving in Chicago, he was called to serve as the first counselor in the university branch presidency.
Tom was well above draft age, but many students and instructors at the University of Chicago Law School were called into service to their country. Because of Nora’s unhappiness and the uncertainty of rail transportation (the federal government had assumed operation of the railroads), they decided to return to Idaho at the end of Tom’s first year of law school. While in Idaho they arranged for Tom to transfer to Stanford Law School, which had lost fewer of its outstanding law professors to military and government service.
In late 1918, prior to his last quarter of instruction at Stanford, Tom received an offer from Rexburg’s mayor, John L. Balliff, to become the city attorney. Tom decided to accept the position and leave Stanford without his degree. About the decision, he said: “Diplomas meant little to me. I had earned two and lost the last one before I had a chance to read it. . . . I was nearly thirty-four and had a family of a wife and two children to support. It seemed a wise thing to do. My school days were over.”
While serving as Rexburg city attorney, Tom contracted rheumatic fever. The doctor recommended that Tom be taken to Lava Hot Springs, about 110 miles to the south, where he could soak in the springs to relieve his pain. Nora complied with the doctor’s recommendation, but she also knew her husband’s life was in God’s hands. She sought to understand God’s will, but after receiving insufficient comfort from her prayers, she contacted the bishop of the ward in Lava Hot Springs to ask him to direct her to the most spiritual man in the ward. The bishop suggested an old farmer, and Nora went to him to request a priesthood blessing for her husband. Arrangements were made, the farmer and the bishop administered to Tom, and they promised him relief from the disease. In only a few days, Tom was able to return to Rexburg and resume work.
Tom’s bout with rheumatic fever, however, left permanent physical damage—a weakened heart valve. But it did not seem to hold Tom back; he was a hard worker both physically and mentally throughout his life. His doctor recommended a single lifestyle change for Tom—a daily forty-five-minute nap after lunch. Tom set aside time to nap in the middle of the day, and Nora ensured that the house was quiet and that her husband was not disturbed.
Before Tom was taken to Lava Hot Springs, the student leaders at Ricks Academy heard about his disease, and they were understandably concerned. Tom was a former Ricks Academy valedictorian, former faculty member, and, as city attorney, a pillar of the Rexburg community. The student leaders wanted to honor him, and they decided to dedicate the class of 1920 Rixida yearbook to him. The deadline to submit the yearbook to the printer, however, came during the few days Tom was recovering at Lava Hot Springs, and the student leaders were not notified of his miraculous recovery. Assuming the worst, they dedicated the yearbook in Tom’s memory. The inscription read, “We dedicate this book to L. Tom Perry, L.L.B.,6 Lawyer, Humorist and Orator, First Alumnus and present Professor of Law, whose life and accomplishments are an inspiration to us.”
Tom enjoyed telling the story of the 1920 Rixida yearbook throughout his life. Typically, he ended the story with the words of Mark Twain, the great American humorist: “The reports of my death [were] greatly exaggerated.”7
Rexburg’s civic leaders decided to issue bonds to upgrade the city’s sewer system and roads. Hyrum Ricks & Company offered Tom a salary of $275 per month to prepare and manage the issuance of the bonds. It appeared to be a golden opportunity, and Tom decided to leave his job as city attorney to assume the position. His contract with Hyrum Ricks & Company, however, required Tom to invest a thousand dollars in a new hotel and to purchase a new home. The hotel proved to be a total loss, and eventually Tom traded his shares for a lifetime Shaffer fountain pen. This placed the Perrys in serious financial difficulty.
Tom was by nature cautious and conservative, and now he was weighed down by financial pressures in Rexburg. An offer came in the spring of 1922 from Nora’s parents to live rent-free in the small house they had built next door. Tom decided to trade the equity in their Rexburg home for an automobile and move the family to Logan. His intent was to establish a private law practice there.
The Birth of a Future Apostle
Only months after the Perry family’s arrival in Logan, while they were living at 472 North 100 West, Nora gave birth to a baby son. Lowell Tom Perry was born on August 5, 1922. The Perrys considered the birth of their first son to be the fulfillment of Nora’s patriarchal blessing.
Nora had experienced difficulty bearing children. The pregnancy and birth of her second daughter, Gay, had been particularly hard, and she had not been able to become pregnant for several years. She visited their patriarch, Andrew J. Hansen, and requested a blessing. In the patriarch’s blessing, Nora was promised that she would “bring forth in safety the souls of the children of men, even sons and daughters, preachers of righteousness, and leaders in the affairs of men.”8 A few years later, Nora became pregnant and carried baby daughter, Mignon, to full term. Continued fulfillment of Nora’s blessing came with the birth of healthy Lowell Tom and then two more sons, Theodore (Ted) and Robert.
Eliza Sonne, Nora’s mother, had been ill for several years, and relatively soon after the Perrys arrived in Logan, Chris suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Because the new baby in the Perry family would eventually require another bedroom, and given Eliza and Chris’s declining health and their challenges maintaining a large home, it did not take long for the two families to decide to trade houses. Technically, the Sonnes owned both houses, but the home at 466 North 100 West in Logan became the Perry family home.
A compelling story of the Lord's preparation of one of his called and chosen apostles.
by Customer - reviewed on March 31, 2013
I could not put Elder Perry's biography down. It stirred me deeply to learn about a humble man who the Lord took by the hand and led. This is a man who claims to be "as common as dirt" who is extraordinary in every way. The book begins by telling the incredible story of Elder Perry's ancestors and parents, moves to his boyhood, tells about his mission and military service. It provides deep insight into his professional career and years of church service in Idaho, California, New York, and Massachusetts. The book also provides revealing glimpses into Elder Perry's family life, and especially poignant stories about his first eternal companion, Virginia Clare Lee Perry. The span of the book covers Elder Perry's life through Virginia's tragic death, and practically up until the moment he meets his second eternal companion. Many of the stories told in the book are riveting and inspirational. This is a must read for all devoted members of the Church.
a wonderful read!
by Stephanie - reviewed on April 30, 2013
Written to commemorate his 90th birthday, this biography is written by Elder L. Tom Perry's son Lee Tom Perry. In the book he says, "My father has given me little direction about his biography, but he has made one request - it should have a purpose. In other words, it ought to teach something to everyone who reads it." Don't worry Elder Perry, it does! Following L. Tom Perry's life from birth to present we are blessed to see how his life experiences have shaped the amazing man that he is today. Did you know he was in the Marine corps? How cool is that? Did you know his first name is Lowell? And, seriously, his smile is contagious don't you think?? Through all of his life he has maintained a positive attitude and by taking this peek into his life we can learn valuable lessons. He is such a faith-filled man and he shows you through his example how to draw closer to God and live a better life by giving service to others.
I couldn't put it down
by Courtney - reviewed on April 25, 2013
Written by his son, Lee Tom Perry, An Uncommon Life begins with a brief history of a handful of his ancestors. I was amazed as I read about his ancestors. Even though we live in a very different time and place than those who lived so long ago, human nature and the struggles of raising a family transcend generational barriers. After leaving her family behind to build a life in the uncharted woods of Idaho, I couldn’t help but empathize with Elder Perry’s grandmother as she sobbed in her husbands arms, begging, “take me back where there’s singing and music and dancing; take me back to where there’s books and learning!” I’ve been there. I’ve felt that same loneliness. After his family history we begin to read about L. Tom Perry himself. Born in 1922, he was raised by goodly parents who taught him the value of hard work and education. Given the emphasis his parents placed on education and the example of his two brilliant siblings, you can imagine why Elder Perry felt “as common as dirt”. In his own eyes he was not naturally gifted and had to work hard to achieve his desired results. While this might have been kind of a downer for most of us, Elder Perry was quite glad of it. He felt that his situation of being “common” was an “opportunity for self-expression and initiative”. Of his father the author said, “he was grateful he was not as naturally gifted as others. He felt fortunate that things didn’t come easily for him and that he was given only enough natural ability when he was conscientious and applied himself.” Not being naturally gifted in anything, my successes are almost always are preceded by epic failures so I can’t tell you how inspiring that concept is to me. Elder Perry left to serve a mission just as the US was entering World War II. After his two years were up he touched ground in his native Utah for just a few months before heading off to war. My laughter carried throughout the house when I read that L. Tom Perry chose the Marines over the Navy because of the uniforms, and Matt grinned when I read him the passage. (Matt has mentioned more than once that his only regret in joining the Air Force is that the uniforms aren’t as sharp as the Navy’s.) Elder Perry later finished school, married, started a family, moved to several different states during his successful career, and eventually ended up in New England near my old (and current) stomping grounds. His service in the church and the experiences he had with following the spirit allowed him to have a very successful career, and his enthusiasm and love for life helped him gain lasting and meaningful friendships with those around him. For a more thorough review go to http://ordinaryhappilyeverafter.com/blog/2013/04/l-tom-perry-an-uncommon-life-review/
Candid life accounts that are spiritually edifying.
by Benjamin - reviewed on April 10, 2013
I met him on my mission back in 2006 when He accompanied President Hinckley at the rededication if the Sanitago Chile Temple. He spoke to the Chile Rancagua mission then and also right before my two years were up. I shook his hand and was able to talk to him but this book gave me a greater opportunity to get to know him and his example he has set all throughout his life. My emotions were stirred and my spirit was uplifted throughout this book. Great perspective on his life from his son. I even went to youtube to watch his conference address from 1972 when he was called as an assistant to the twelve and then in 1974 as an apostle. I even was able to watch his address in 1975 after his wife Virginia, had passed away. It really tugged at my heart and made me realize how he really is a A Special Witness of Christ.
Truly inspiring and a must read!
by John - reviewed on October 20, 2013
I'll admit I had this one on my shelf for a few months before I really started reading it. Now that I've finished the book, I can't believe I waited so long. This is a truly inspiring biography because Elder Perry is a truly inspiring man! His son did a superb job articulating the lessons to be gleaned from the rich experiences throughout Elder Perry's life. Even on paper, his enthusiasm is infectious. I dare you to read this book and not catch it!
AN AMAZING MAN!
by Shauna - reviewed on April 03, 2013
I am always amazed at how the Lord prepares his leaders. Even from early on they seem to be trained to one day lead the church in a specific way and in a specific era. L. Tom Perry is an amazing man. I loved reading about his ancestors and how they shaped his life. I enjoyed reading about his early life and his shyness. I really liked reading about his work history, his church service, and his family life. What a great example he is to all of us. One thing I learned about Elder Perry is that the "L" is for Lowell, his given name. And that he used to go by that name, but when Elder Perry's younger brother was born and couldn't say his name and called him Wo-Wo instead...Elder Perry pleaded with his family to start calling him Tom...and he has been L. Tom Perry ever since. One of my favorite stories is when Elder Perry used to take his young son, Lee, with him on speaking assignments. To help his son be quiet and attentive, Elder Perry gave him the task of watching and then signaling like the three monkeys representing see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil... If Elder Perry was not standing up straight the son was suppose to cover his eyes. If Elder Perry was speaking too loudly the son was suppose to cover his ears. And when it was time for Elder Perry to finish speaking the son was suppose to cover his mouth. I especially loved reading about his love for his wife and children. And his love of the Lord and his willingness to serve where ever he is called. I also loved that they included pictures...
An Incredible man; An Uncommon Leader
by janet - reviewed on April 15, 2013
Elder Perry is such a great man! Brother Perry's biography of his father moved me deeply. I loved reading about Elder Perry when he was a young boy, how close his family was, and the influence they had on each other. What a remarkable man Elder Perry is, and has always been. To be able to take a peek into the life and upbringing of one of our beloved leaders is a gift worth mentioning and recommending. The author has a gift of storytelling which made this book hard to put down. I laughed and cried throughout. Thank you Brother Perry for this biography, and thank you Elder Perry for the example of your life so far! I loved this book!