Few men serve longer or more effectively in the leading councils of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than did Marion G. Romney.

Consequently, few of the Church's General Authorities have had more impact than did President Romney, who died this week after having served 47 years as, successively, an Assistant to the Council of Twelve Apostles, a member of the Twelve, and a counselor in the First Presidency.As one of the Church's most powerful speakers, President Romney had the rare knack of being both profoundly moving and wryly humorous - a trait that added to the force of his words. Though President Romney often said he had difficulty preparing talks, the hard work he devoted to them made his remarks substantial and enduring. His remarks usually went to the heart of the gospel, based closely and fundamentally on the scriptures, and his written addresses still bear reading and re-reading.

As a guiding influence behind the LDS welfare program since its inception, President Romney prompted untold numbers of families throughout the Church to make themselves more independent and self-sustaining.

As chairman of the Church's Home Teaching Committee, with responsibility for the Family Home Evening Program, he helped countless parents mold the lives of their children.

Though health problems kept him from an active leadership role in recent years, he remained a spiritual giant in the eyes of Utahns and of church members throughout the world.

In every office and calling, from missionary, bishop, and stake president to the First Presidency, President Romney served with distinction. His wise words and directives were rivalled by the power of his personal example in terms of making an impact.

Marion George Romney learned both faith and responsibility early as a young boy in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, where he was born in 1897. When young Marion was only eight days old, his father went on a mission for the Church, providing the family with an early example of sacrifice and service, and placing on the youngsters unusual responsibility.

The colony was so isolated that its residents had to conduct their own schools. Lacking the usual school books, they often relied on the scriptures as texts. Much of the learning came outside of class in the form of chores around the farm. Young Marion became so expert in milking cows that he later said he could squirt a stream of milk into the mouth of a cat 20 feet away.

When he was 15 years old, the Romney family was forced to flee because of the Mexican revolution.

Young Marion was in charge of the 200-mile journey. On that trip the family had their last 20 pesos taken from them at gunpoint by revolutionary soldiers.

Despite that experience, Prsident Romney came to have a great love and appreciation for the Mexican people. A half century after his forced exodus, he returned to the land of his birth assigned to administer the affairs of the Spanish-speaking missions of the Church.

As a General Authority, he also traveled widely elsewhere, acquiring a broad knowledge of diverse peoples and their cultures, their needs and their aspirations.

Before entering the top councils of the Church, President Romney practiced law in Salt Lake City, serving as assistant county attorney, assistant district attorney, and assistant city attorney. He also served a term in the Utah Legislature. He later credited his background in the law with providing experience and insights that proved useful in his work as a General Authority.

In 1941, he became the first person called as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. Ten years later he was sustained as the 68th Apostle since the LDS Church was organized. His call to the First Presidency came in 1972.

No account of the life of this remarkable man would be complete without mention of his personal warmth, wit, and humor. Quick witted as well as loving, President Romney was known for his ability to come up with a fast but kind retort and often said "The last thing I want to lose is my sense of humor."

He was speaking figuratively, of course. More literally, his faith came ahead of everything else. The many words President Romney uttered from the pulpit reflected the deep sincerity and intensity of his love for God and for the children of God. In prayer, President Romney was earnest but tender. He also had a special gift for blessing and healing the sick.

The enormous growth of the LDS Church the past four decades is, in many respects, a measure of President Romney's impact and of the depth of his personal committment.

In this connection, a lesson that lasted President Romney a lifetime was one he learned from his father: "You don't quit till you have have hoed to the very end of the row."

Working 11 hours a day even when he was in his 80's, Marion G. Romney hoed _ and endured _ to the very end. It's hard to think of a better epitaph for him of for anyone else.