President Marion G. Romney, 90-year-old president of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Friday morning at his Salt Lake home of causes incident to age.
His funeral will be Monday at noon in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.A general authority since April 6, 1941, President Romney served as an assistant to the Twelve until October 1951, when he was called into the Council of the Twelve. He served in that quorum until July 7, 1972, when he was called as second counselor to then-President Harold B. Lee. After President Lee died in December 1973, President Romney was asked to remain as second counselor under President Spencer W. Kimball. He was named first counselor Dec. 2, 1982, following the death of President N. Eldon Tanner.
Upon the death of President Kim-ball in November 1985, President Romney, by seniority and calling, became president of the Council of the Twelve. However, his deteriorating health prevented him from serving full time in that capacity, so another member of the Council of the Twelve, Elder Howard W. Hunter, was called as acting president of the Twelve.
Elder Hunter now becomes president of the Twelve. The vacancy in the council left by President Romney will be filled later.
Throughout his life, President Romney exemplified wholehearted, unwavering dedication to the church and often bore testimony to its divine origin.
"I've never found any other work in the world that I could give my whole soul to, with assurance that I was doing right, other than the work of the church. I wish that every young man in the church could go on a mission and get that kind of testimony and the assurance that would carry him through life," he once said.
On another occasion, he counseled, "If this nation would believe in God, if this people would believe in God and realize they are, in fact, brothers and sisters and that Jesus is the Redeemer, if people would live the Ten Commandments, it would solve all the problems in the nation."
President Romney is probably best remembered for his emphasis on the church welfare program. Welfare sessions of general conference did not seem complete, many Latter-day Saints recall, without the words of President Romney.
Having served as a bishop in 1936 when the church welfare plan was inaugurated, President Romney had had many years of experience with welfare when, in 1941, he was called as assistant managing director of the churchwide program. From 1959 until 1963, he served as general chairman of the welfare program.
In later years, President Romney recalled that President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who supervised the welfare program, emphasized that the welfare program was the beginning of the effort to bring church members to live the law of consecration.
"I believe that," President Romney said. "It is the same fundamental principles that apply today."
Known throughout the LDS Church as a knowledgeable scriptor-ian, President Romney developed an early love for the scriptures - his only schoolbooks as a young boy growing up in northern Mexico.
He was born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, on Sept. 19, 1897, of American parents, George S. and Artemesia Redd Romney - two of the first colonists allowed by Mexican authorities to settle the region in 1885. Eight days after he was born, his father was called to serve a mission, something young Marion thought he himself never would have the means to do.
Because the settlement was young and far-removed from the nearest city, the colonists worked especially hard to ensure that their crops and livestock would grow and prosper. Being the oldest boy in the family, he herded and milked the cows and helped with other chores when he wasn't attending school. The colonists established their own schools, though somewhat informal by today's standards, where students usually studied the scriptures as their texts, because schoolbooks were not readily available.
His family and the other settlers were forced to leave the colony suddenly in 1912, when the Mexican Revolution put U.S. citizens in danger. Young Marion was 15, and his father pulled him aside one day and told him he would be responsible for caring for his mother and brother and sisters, because the men were staying behind. The family fled, leaving their possessions.
The next morning, with young Romney in charge of his mother and five brothers and sisters, the group headed for El Paso, Texas. On the way, however, a group of revolutionary soldiers stopped them and, under the pretext of searching for arms, looked through all the Romneys' possessions. The bandits stole 20 pesos - all the money the family had.
The family members, however, made it safely to El Paso, where they were soon joined by their father. They moved briefly to Los Angeles, where President Romney learned carpentry from his father, who worked in the trade. Soon afterward, the family moved to a 40-acre farm in Oakley, Idaho, where President Romney farmed and did some carpentry work to help make ends meet for his family.
But the family moved to Rexburg, and his father was later named president of Ricks Academy. President Romney managed a carpentry crew and attended the academy, graduating in 1920. He served in the U.S. Army in 1918.
It was upon his return from the military as a student at Ricks that he met his future wife, Ida Jensen, an English teacher hired by his father.
Arriving a few days before school began, Sister Jensen reported to the senior Romney, the school principal.
"I saw her with her golden hair and her smiling face," President Romney later recalled. "I have never seen any girl since that time I cared about."
Though financial circumstances were such that he didn't think he could serve a mission, President Romney decided he could do so after hearing Elder Melvin J. Ballard speak at a conference. He went to his father and asked him to help arrange a bank loan to secure additional funds, and he was called to a three-year mission to Australia, where he served as conference president and mission secretary most of the last two years.
After returning from his mission, he resumed his courtship with Ida Jensen at Brigham Young University. He once told a reporter, "When I went on a mission, I advised her to get married while I was gone. But when I came back she wasn't married, so I took care of that."
They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on Sept. 12, 1924.
President Romney enrolled at BYU with plans to study mathematics and become an engineer. Later, however, he changed to history and political science and graduated from the University of Utah in 1926 with a bachelor's degree. In 1932, he graduated from the University of Utah College of Law.
He practiced law in Salt Lake City for 11 years, serving as assistant county attorney, assistant district attorney and assistant city attorney. During that time he served as a bishop and then a stake president.
He also served a term in the Legislature from 1935 to 1936.
Never afraid of hard work, President Romney supported himself by working full time while attending law school. For three years, he went to school during the day and worked from 3 to 11 p.m. at the post office. He slept until 5 a.m., then got up and studied until it was time to go to school, including a half-hour of scripture study each day without fail.
President Romney's love of the scriptures grew during his mission, and he was renowned as a scriptorian during his years as a general authority.
"I remember one day I went to the library in the University of Sydney on preparation day. I took my Doctrine and Covenants and read the 76th section. It was dark when I got through, and as I walked across the paddock to catch a tram to go to the mission home, I looked into the sky and saw the brilliant stars as they shine in the Southern Hemisphere.
"I seemed to see what the Lord describes in the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. I have never been quite the same since that time."
He once said, "You can't separate doctrine from the scriptures. That's where the doctrine comes from.
"When I became a general authority, I always taught the gospel from the scriptures."
In 1935, President Romney was called as bishop of the Salt Lake 33rd Ward, serving until 1938, when he was called as president of the Bonneville Stake.
Years later, President Romney recalled the 1941 general conference that he was attending as a stake president.
"There was a vacancy in the Council of the Twelve, and, of course, the stake presidents wondered who would be called to the position. President J. Reuben Clark sustained the authorities, and the final man named to fill the vacancy was Harold B. Lee, who had been in a church history class with me.
"Then President Clark made an explanation that it was necessary to call, as had been done in the past, some men to assist the president and the Twelve. The first name he read was Marion G. Romney.
"Right after that I closed up my law business and became assistant managing director of the welfare program."
Ten years later, in October 1951, President David O. McKay called all the general authorities to a meeting in the temple before general conference.
"He called on me to make a few statements about the sacrament, which I did," President Romney later recalled.
"At the conclusion of our part of the meeting I went back to my office. About 5 p.m., President McKay called me to his office. He told me I had been sustained by the First Presidency and the Twelve to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve.
"The call was a very emotional experience."
But awesome is how President Romney described his call to the First Presidency.
"After the funeral of President Joseph Fielding Smith, President Lee asked me to come to his office. I asked him when, and he said, `Right now.'
"When I went into his office he asked me to be his counselor. It was very unexpected, and it is the most awesome assignment I have ever had."
During his years as a general authority, President Romney served as treasurer, board member and chairman of the board of Zion Securities Corp., the church's real estate organization.
He was on the board of directors of Beneficial Life Insurance Co. and Hotel Utah Co., as well as such non-church-owned businesses as Wasatch Lawn Cemetery Association, People's First Thrift and the Salt Lake Knitting Works.
He was also a member of the board of trustees of BYU and the Church Board of Education.
As a member of the Council of the Twelve, he served as an adviser to several church auxiliary organizations. He was active in developing the correlation program and, at various times, headed its adult committee, home teaching committee and family home evening committee. He also chaired the church building advisory committee.
The Mutual Improvement Association presented him and his wife with honorary Master M Man and Golden Gleaner awards in 1961. In 1972, President Romney received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of Utah Alumni Association.
President Romney served as an adviser to the Welfare Division of the Utah State Civil Defense Council during World War II. For several years before his call into the general councils of the church, he was active in the Democratic Party.
In connection with his legal career, he was a member of the Order of the Coif, a national legal honorary society; the American Bar Association; the Utah State Bar; Phi Alpha Delta; and Phi Kappa Phi. In 1975, he received an honorary doctor of law degree from BYU, where he had been instrumental in founding the J. Reuben Clark Law School.
In an address, read by his son, George, on April 2, 1983, President Romney spoke of unity as one of the central themes of the gospel. Quoting heavily from the scriptures, he counseled church members that "those who profess to accept the gospel and who at the same time criticize and refuse to follow the counsel of the prophet are assuming an indefensible position. Such a spirit leads to apostasy. . . .
"The major reason for the world's troubles today is that men are not seeking to know the will of the Lord and then do it. Rather do they seek to solve their problems in their own way. . . . We of this Church can come to a unity and a oneness which will give us strength beyond anything we have yet enjoyed if we will obtain a sounder understanding of the principles of the gospel and come to a unity in our interpretations of pres-ent world conditions and trends. This we can do by prayerful study of the Lord's word, including that given to us through the living prophet."
President and Mrs. Romney were the parents of four children, two of whom died in infancy. Mrs. Romney died March 9, 1979, after suffering a stroke.
President Romney is survived by two sons, Richard J. Romney of Winters, Calif., and George J. Romney of Salt Lake City; 8 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and three sisters, Mrs. Ariel (Artemesia) Ballif and Mrs. John K. (Jasmine) Edmunds, both of Provo, and Mrs. Fred C. (Merlyn) Wolters of Salt Lake City.