Time flies, and there is now a generation or two who never knew some of the great characters who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the second half of the 20th century.
One particular church leader we hope we will never forget is Elder LeGrand Richards, who in his final years was a member of our local LDS ward. Stories about this legendary and iconic apostle abound. We are certainly no experts, and there are many who knew him better and know more accounts from his remarkable life than we do. Perhaps they will add some recollections by way of comments to this article — and maybe correct some of ours as well.
One Sunday in our high priests group, someone asked Elder Richards, then 95 years old, to tell us his secret of longevity. With his characteristic twinkle, he said something like, “Well, way back nearly 70 years ago when my wife and I got married, we made a solemn pledge that we would never fight or argue within the walls of our home.”
I was impressed, but thought he must not have heard the question. But after a brief pause, he went on, “That’s how I’ve lived so long — spent so much time in the out-of-doors!”
It was apparently always a little difficult to get one as spontaneous and filled with experiences to stay with the teleprompter in general conference talks, and as he got well into his 90s, he was sometimes asked to give one of the prayers rather than a sermon. Few who heard it will ever forget one sentence from a conference benediction that he offered, paraphrasing, “Please bless all of us general authorities on this stand with a realization of our own nothingness.” He was likely referring to King Benjamin’s great challenge to remember our own nothingness and to the remarkable list of promises that follows in the fourth chapter of Mosiah.
Maybe the best story of all (we hope it is not apocryphal) is about what he occasionally did on airplanes as he left Salt Lake City on stake conference assignments. Seated near the front, he would say, “Excuse me,” and reach for the microphone that the flight attendant was using to make her pre-flight announcements. Looking back at the other passengers, Elder Richards would ask, “Who on this plane are members of the LDS Church?” Some hands would shoot up, others would be raised more timidly.
He would then go on and say, “Thank you. Now, you other folks, these people with their hands up are going to tell you all about our church during this flight.”
What a blessing, over so many years in the church, to have had leaders of such humor, such character, such humility and such devotion. And what a blessing still to have them today.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."