Elder L. Tom Perry dies from cancer at age 92

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President Samuelson and Elder L. Tom Perry sing the fight song during a basketball game in the Marriott Center. Photo by Sarah Hill
President Samuelson and Elder L. Tom Perry sing the fight song during a basketball game in the Marriott Center. Photo by Sarah Hill

A top-ranking Mormon leader, 92-year-old L. Tom Perry, has died from cancer.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement that Perry died Saturday at his home in Salt Lake City.

Perry was diagnosed with cancer in late April. He began receiving radiation treatment and briefly returned to work as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a high-level governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But on May 29, church officials announced the cancer had spread aggressively.

Perry is the second-most senior member of the quorum, having been chosen for the council in 1974.

A replacement will be chosen by Church President Thomas S. Monson.

Perry is survived by his second wife, Barbara Taylor Dayton, whom in married in 1976.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve counsels 2013 BYU graduates.
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve counsels 2013 BYU graduates.

The church published the following news release shortly after Elder Perry died:

Elder Perry was ordained an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1974, after serving as an assistant to the Twelve since 1972. Elder Perry’s commanding physical presence combined with his enthusiasm and optimistic style made him a forceful as well as a popular figure among Church members across the world.

“That warmth, that graciousness, the fact that he really did like people and he liked all the members of the church and appreciated them — I think that’s how he’ll be remembered,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Cook said Elder Perry’s witness of Jesus Christ would also be remembered. “Tom Perry bore a powerful witness of Jesus Christ. He knew the Savior; he loved the Savior.”

“We must be bold in our declaration of Jesus Christ,” Elder Perry taught in the church’s October 2011 general conference. “We want others to know that we believe He is the central figure in all human history. His life and teachings are the heart of the Bible and the other books we consider to be holy scripture.”

As with the apostles in New Testament times, Latter-day Saint apostles are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. Elder Perry was one of 15 men who help oversee the growth and development of the global church, which now numbers over 15 million members.

Elder Perry spoke frequently about the importance of religion in society, the family and preserving religious freedom, emphasizing that the “essential freedoms of conscience, embedded in religious liberty, must be diligently preserved and protected.” He worked closely with leaders of other faiths to promote the cause of religious freedom.

“He had this common touch and he was as comfortable with the common man as presidents and rulers and treated them all pretty much the same and had a way of relating to them and connecting with them that’s just profound,” said Lee Perry, Elder Perry’s son.

“I think he’ll be remembered as a champion of the family,” Lee Perry said.

Lowell Tom Perry was born August 5, 1922, in Logan, Utah, to Leslie Thomas and Nora Sonne Perry. He served for two years with the Marines in the Pacific just after World War II. Elder Perry’s church service began with a mission to the Northern States in 1942. He subsequently served as a counselor in a bishopric in Lewiston, Idaho, counselor in a stake presidency in Sacramento, California, high councilor in the New York Stake and president of the Boston Stake.

He received a bachelor of science degree in finance from Utah State University in 1949 and did graduate work there. His professional career was spent in the retail business, where he served as vice president and treasurer in companies located in Idaho, California, New York and Massachusetts.

Elder Cook said of Elder Perry’s business background, “He was very practical and very pragmatic, and that has blessed the whole church. He was so concerned that the widow’s mite be spent in a frugal way and that nothing be wasted and that there be a plan and there be accountability.”

Elder Perry was preceded in death by his first wife, Virginia Lee, with whom he has two daughters and a son. Virginia Perry died December 14, 1974. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Taylor Dayton, whom he married in 1976.

The church will announce details regarding funeral arrangements as they become available. It is undetermined as to when the vacancy in the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be filled.

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