I attended the funeral today for Elder L. Tom Perry.
He was one of the Lord’s Apostles.
I heard on the local news channel that they were expecting thousands for the funeral, so I wasn’t sure if I could get a seat. I stood in a couple of long lines waiting to get in, but I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to get a seat only four rows from the front on the left side of the Tabernacle looking towards the front.
It was a beautiful funeral, and I was deeply touched. I am so grateful I went.
I wanted to go to Elder Perry’s funeral to pay my respect and to show my gratitude to him. When I was baptized in 1978 at the age of 18, Elder Perry was the visiting authority at our Stake Conference in Albany, New York. My baptismal service was scheduled immediately following Stake Conference. Most of the people from my home ward stayed for the service. The room was packed solid with people. My sister Sue and my brother Rob were baptized right after me. Unbeknownst to us, a few missionaries ran out to Elder Perry’s car as he was getting ready to leave for the airport. They told him that a family had just been baptized. We were getting changed out of our baptismal clothes at the time. We took our places back in the room awaiting our confirmation. We were in dry Sunday clothes, but our hair was still wet, an obvious sign that we were the ones that had just been baptized. I couldn’t have been there for more than a minute or two when Elder Perry walked into the crowded room. He graciously took the time to come back into the building even though he was headed out to go to the airport. He walked right over to me and shook my hand and congratulated me. He then shook my sister’s hand and my brother’s hand. He then congratulated my parents who had each been baptized in previous months. He told us that we had done the right thing.
He left as quickly as he came, and then we were confirmed. The Spirit that attended his visit was extraordinary. I have never forgotten that experience. The Lord sent one of His Apostles, a special witness of Jesus Christ, to my baptismal service. That is an extraordinary thing. It just doesn’t happen that way, but the Lord did it for me. I have been most grateful all these years. It was truly a tender mercy.
When Elder Perry died last week, I was reminded of that experience. I told myself that if he could take the time at the risk of missing his plane to stop in at my baptismal service, I could certainly take the time to go to his funeral. How do you thank the Lord properly for something like that?
I wept a lot today as I sat there. I was overwhelmed at being in the Tabernacle with the rest of the Apostles and the Lord’s prophet, President Monson, just a few feet away from me. I cried as the Tabernacle Choir sang “O My Father” and then “O Divine Redeemer.” I don’t think I will ever forget hearing them sing those songs.
I thought back to my early days of being a member of the Lord’s church. I thought of the circumstances surrounding my conversion. I cried as I contemplated the blessings that have come to me since.
I was touched by so many things, but I was particularly touched by the scripture one of the speakers quoted. He said it was how Elder Perry thought, and how he lived his life. It is found in Romans 1:16. It reads, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” I believe that, and because I believe that, I continue to share that message with others.
Elder Perry had been a Marine in his younger years. I was touched when his casket was draped in the U.S. flag prior to being placed in the hearse. I thought of my Dad, also a Marine.
I live close to the cemetery where Elder Perry was buried. I drove past there on my way home. I didn’t see any cars, but if I am not mistaken, I was pretty sure I heard a 21 gun salute as I drove past. I could have imagined it, but either way, it would be fitting. I just smiled.
Rest in peace Elder Perry. Thank you for your kindness to me all those years ago. I have never forgotten it, and I won’t ever forget you.
Funeral coverage begins at timecode 39:17 in the video below.
Actual funeral-about one hour.