SALT LAKE CITY — A top-ranking Mormon leader who died from cancer was remembered Friday at a public funeral as an eternally optimistic and charismatic man who inspired thousands.
L. Tom Perry died Saturday at the age of 92 after serving 41 years on the faith’s highest-governing body, the Quorum of the Twelve. He was the oldest member among the church’s top 15 leaders and was the quorum’s second-most senior member.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas S. Monson said Perry “could teach, persuade, warn, explain, encourage,” while adding the he was one of the kindest and most considerate men he knew.
A replacement will be chosen by Monson, considered the religion’s prophet, sometime in the next couple of months and possibly announced at the church’s next conference in October. Members of the faith believe those decisions are guided by inspiration from God.
About 3,000 people filled the historic Tabernacle in downtown Salt Lake City for the funeral, which was held on the church’s sprawling grounds called Temple Square. Many more watched from overflow areas or at home a live broadcast by KSL-TV, the Mormon-owned NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City. In addition to Monson, Perry’s son and three other leaders spoke.
M. Russell Ballard, a fellow member of the quorum, said Perry didn’t let anything impede him from cherishing every day, not even the death of his first wife or daughter.
“Through his unshakable optimism and his faith in God’s eternal plan, he would often declare, I’ve never had a bad day in my life,” Ballard said.
Born in Logan in 1922, Perry was a Marine and had a career as an executive in several retail companies before being named to the quorum in 1974.
Perry brought his business acumen and desire for efficiency to his church calling, Ballard said, challenging fellow church leaders to do more, do better and do it faster.
Perry delivered countless speeches at semi-annual church conferences and met hundreds of thousands of people during his time as a church leader.
“This is audience is filled with people who were loved, motivated and directed by this wonderful man,” said quorum member Dallin H. Oaks.
His son, Lee T. Perry, and Oaks both referenced his final speech at the Mormon conference in April when Perry spoke about the importance of family. He drew criticism after that speech from LGBT groups who took umbrage with him saying that the church would continue to advocate for traditional families and oppose “counterfeit and alternative lifestyles.”
But speakers Friday didn’t mention that part of the speech, instead highlighting the part where Perry said “the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness.”
Lee T. Perry said his father lived a hard-charging life with devotion to his family, country and God.
“He embraced a life that was always full speed ahead,” Lee T. Perry said. “He immersed himself so completely in everything he did that he forgot until very late in life that it was necessary to slow down.”
Lee T. Perry and other church leaders referenced the Mormon religion’s belief that families are eternal and rejoined in the “spirit world” and that death isn’t the end of one’s journey.
Church President Monson ended his speech by saying, “Tom, God be with you until we meet again.”