Recently, L. Tom Perry gave a speech to the students graduating from BYU.
Before I continue, I want you all to know that I really kinda like L. Tom Perry. He’s a grandpa-kinda figure, and seems less caught up in the political mayhem that the other GAs love to create.
But his speech sounded kinda, well, familiar:
Elder Perry said his parents had a tradition, when their children reached their first birthday, of sitting them in the corner of the room and setting four items in front of them: a toy, a Bible, a bank and a bottle. Whichever item they chose and crawled toward signified the area of life in which they would excel.
This sounded dreadfully familiar, and so I thought to do a second search on LDS.org.
We also had family traditions. The experiences gained from these family traditions taught us basic principles. One fun tradition we practiced in our family had a lasting impression on us. When the children in the family reached the age of one, they were placed at one end of a room and the family at the other end. Where the family was gathered, four objects were placed on the floor: a baby’s milk bottle, a toy, a small savings bank, and the scriptures. The child was then encouraged to crawl to the objects and select one of them.
I selected the bank and turned out to be a financial executive. My brother Ted selected the scriptures, was a great lover of books all his life, and became a lawyer. My brother Bob was the well-rounded member of the family. He crawled up and sat on the scriptures, picked up the bank and placed it right at his feet, and put the bottle in his mouth with one hand and held the toy in the other hand. He became an accountant. He lived a well-balanced life.
My parents established a family tradition in our home which was fun for me in my early years and has become even more meaningful as I reflect back on it as the years have passed. On the first birthday of each child the family would gather in the living room. In the center of the living room floor, our parents would place articles for the one-year-old child to select. The selection to be made might indicate an interest the child would pursue in life. The articles were the Bible, a child’s bottle filled with milk, a toy, and a savings bank, filled with coins. The child was placed on one side of the room and the family on the other side. Family members would encourage the child to crawl toward the objects and make a selection. This was all in fun, of course.
I was told that I selected the bank and went into finance as my profession. I watched my brother Ted select the scriptures, and he pursued law as his chosen profession. Over the years he has relied on the scriptures as a basis for his judgments. My youngest brother, Bob, was the well-rounded member of the family. He crawled over, sat down on the Bible, put the bottle of milk in his mouth, and then held the toy in one hand and the bank in the other.
I didn’t hear it at any of these events, but when L. Tom Perry spoke at our Stake Conference. He can take this amusing anecdote and use it for self reliance, or the subject of life choices. He can take this story and turn it to any gospel principle.
The fascinating bits are as follows:
- He doesn’t select the Bible (the book is a Bible in some cases, and just a book in others) and yet became an apostle. One might think this would count as undermining the parents’ ability to prognosticate the future, but no; for some reason his brother is the “book” still.
- He still considers himself a finance guy primarily. That the bank was his, still primarily defines him, and he accepts that with no issue. Every telling of the story, his primary job is an insurance salesman.
- His youngest brother is “well-rounded.” In the Stake Conference re-telling I attended, he mentioned they forgot to give the test to the youngest brother until he was significantly older. Hence why that baby could fetch all the items at once.
- L. Tom Perry only has brothers. I can’t help but wonder if the same ritual would have been done for sisters– if they would have been encouraged to pursue careers had they chosen the bank, or if the items would have been switched.
Another interesting tidbit is that Tom Perry served in World War II. He served as a marine that landed on Saipan, and remained there for about a year (After Tomas Monson’s friend got himself killed for misbehaving on the ship- see previous post; Tom Perry was sent in on the ground). He was also sent into Japan to help rebuild and occupy the ground.
He worked in retail for years.
He does mention his military experience in one Ensign article, and it is mentioned in his biography, but he really doesn’t identify with that so much as being an insurance salesman.
Again, nothing earth-shattering. No monumental lies that rock people to their core, but an interesting look into the psyche of an individual who has run one of the largest corporation-churches in the world since 1974.