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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Skip Daynes sometimes takes Colonel, a therapy dog, on home teaching visits to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Daynes tries to visit Elder Wirthlin a couple of times a week.

When Latter-day Saint home teachers go to visit, they usually do not take The 5 Browns to perform live in a family's living room.

But for Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve and his home teacher, Skip Daynes, visits like these are common occurrences.

Daynes has shown up at Elder Wirthlin's Salt Lake home with musicians The Crimson 4, Josh Wright and The Call Sisters.

"(Elder Wirthlin) got a kick out of them, because, you know, the Call Sisters going to a general authority's house is a different kind of thing," Daynes said.

Daynes, who is the president of Daynes Music in Midvale, said that because he is in the music business, he is able to set up special appointments like these.

"The thing that's really cool is these people are so thrilled to go over and visit him," Daynes said.

But even when there aren't any musicians performing for Elder Wirthlin, Daynes, who has been Elder Wirthlin's home teacher for two years, makes an effort to visit the 91-year-old a couple of times each week, along with taking him to church every Sunday.

"What I can do is help his eight children, who take care of him on a rotation basis, have at least those three hours of time that they don't have to worry about their dad, because I'm there," Daynes said.

And although Daynes does have a home teaching companion from his Bonneville Ward in the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake, he often takes his golden retriever Colonel, who is a member of Intermountain Therapy Animals, along for the visits.

Daynes explained how Colonel, as a pet therapy dog, is very sensitive to people's feelings. He sits on the chair next to Elder Wirthlin on visits, and lays his head on Elder Wirthlin's lap. Elder Wirthlin immediately strokes Colonel's head and says, "Nice dog, nice dog." Elder Wirthlin then gets "that little Wirthlin smile," and a "little rosy part of his cheek that pops up when he's happy," which happens when he pets the 9-year-old dog, Daynes said.

"The blood pressure of a person petting a dog goes down," Daynes said. "It's a factual therapy function that actually works. It's fun to take Colonel over there; he really likes to go see Elder Wirthlin. He sits right up by him and looks at him and shows him the love he really needs."

Among his visits to Elder Wirthlin's home with Colonel, recruiting musicians to perform for the general authority and taking Elder Wirthlin for car rides to places like This Is the Place Heritage Park, which they did a few weeks ago, Daynes keeps busy, said Susan, his wife of 44 years.

"He's been so fabulous," Elisabeth McConkie, Elder Wirthlin's daughter, said about Daynes. "He has gone above and beyond what a home teacher does."

But Daynes said that he simply wants to repay Elder Wirthlin for everything he has done, and felt like his call to home teach Elder Wirthlin has been a great opportunity to do so.

"I'm paying a little bit back to what this marvelous man has given," Daynes said.

Daynes recalled a time when Elder Wirthlin was bishop in the ward, when there were at least 46 priests, including Daynes. Daynes said Elder Wirthlin wanted all of them to serve missions.

"It was a big challenge because, for him to say that, he had to realize that my father was inactive and my mother wasn't a member." Daynes says he was the hardest of the 46 to get to serve a mission. He explains this by telling how he spent time growing up on Jeremy Ranch in Summit County.

"When you're a cowboy and you're off with sheep-herders doing that all summer, while all my friends were playing basketball in the city, I would assume that I would probably be the harder one to get (to go on a mission)."

But Daynes got some extra help from a friend who was serving a mission in Uruguay at the time. His friend wrote Daynes a letter telling about the small branch he was serving in.

"He said, 'I'm down here in Uruguay, and they assigned me a horse. Since you like horses so much, you should come serve a mission here.'"

When Daynes filled out his mission papers, he requested Uruguay three times. And that's where he went.

But "I didn't ever see a horse," Daynes said.

Every priest from that ward ended up serving a mission, Daynes said.

And about a year ago, Daynes organized a reunion of all the priests from that ward.

"This is probably my best thing I did for Elder Wirthlin. People came from Canada, they came from all over the United States. I was totally blown away by all these people that came just to honor this man and recognize what he had done for them when he was a bishop to get them on missions or change their lives."

Even though Daynes and Elder Wirthlin "go way back" — he said they are the two oldest members of the Bonneville Ward — he said it is sometimes difficult to home teach an apostle.

"It's pretty hard to teach an apostle of the church, but they say they need it," Daynes said. "The scary part is, what do you teach one of the Twelve?"

But, he said, there were many times when he taught the month's message, and Elder Wirthlin said afterward, "I learned something today that I didn't know."

"It's only because when you are prepared to teach a lesson, you need to have the spirit with you to be able to try and figure out what you could say to a general authority to help them and motivate them to do a little better, or take a particular subject and have them look at it a different way."

Whether it's taking musicians into his living room, delivering gifts like peaches and apples, or taking him on rides in the car with the top down, Daynes knows what his role is as Elder Wirthlin's home teacher and friend.

"My job is to keep him young-thinking."


E-mail: mwilson@desnews.com