President Marion G. Romney Turns Eighty
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“President Marion G. Romney Turns Eighty,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, 86–87

President Marion G. Romney Turns Eighty

Upon his head the

Weight of eighty years

Rests as a crown.

His hair is snowy white.

And in his face the peace

Which comes from work

Well done,

From having heard

And having learned to hear

The Son of God’s own voice.

Have you heard him

Speak about the Lord?

Or how the doctrine

May affect our lives?

Each word is carefully

Weighed before it’s spoken.

He turns the wisdom

Of the Lord outward

To the light for all to see

And understand the

Meaning of eternity.

(From a tribute written to President Romney by Elder S. Dilworth Young of the First Quorum of the Seventy)

He has been a General Authority since 6 April 1941, when he was sustained first among the first five Assistants to the Twelve. Now, after turning eighty on September 19, President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency can look back on a longer term as a General Authority than any other of the Brethren today—except Elder LeGrand Richards of the Council of the Twelve, who was Presiding Bishop from 1938 until 1952. (President Romney shares this distinction with Elder Alma Sonne, who also was sustained as one of the first five Assistants.)

What has been the most important change in the Church during President Romney’s thirty-six years of service as a General Authority? “The growth of the Church,” President Romney says without hesitation. “Before I was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1941, there were only twenty-six Brethren serving as General Authorities. Today there are sixty. The Church was so small that when I was a child, two General Authorities would come to each quarterly stake conference. And when I went to Mexico to supervise the work there in the 1950s, there were only 11,000 members—and now there are more than 200,000, I believe.”

Marion G. Romney was born 19 September 1897 in Colonia Juarez, It’s a Young Church in … Mexico, in a community of Latter-day Saints who had fled persecution years before and then came to consider Mexico their home. He spent his childhood there in the hard frontier life. “We raised our own food, everything we ate. We worked hard, even as children.” But there were pleasures, too. “We children played Run Sheepy Run, Stink-Base, Pomp-Pomp-Pullaway—we swam and fished. It was a very free, hardworking, wonderful childhood.”

Then, when young Marion Romney was only fifteen, the Saints were driven out of Mexico as revolution swept back and forth across the country. “We came away with only one trunk holding the belongings of a family with seven children.” Yet despite the uprooting in his adolescence, he went on to receive his LL.B. and Juris Doctor degrees and launched a distinguished career as a public attorney in Salt Lake City, including service in the Utah Legislature from 1935 to 1936.

Church service was important to the Romneys—even from the time of President Romney’s birth. Eight days after he was born, his father left on a mission for the Church and was gone for two years. Later, President Romney served a mission in Australia and then was called to be a bishop and a stake president.

As a General Authority, President Romney served quietly and well as assistant managing director of the Church Welfare Program from 1941 until he was called in 1959 to serve as general chairman. In October 1951 he was ordained to the Council of the Twelve. And always his lively sense of humor, “which I inherited from my mother,” he says, has helped make hard work a pleasure.

But then, President Romney has always been pleased to work hard in the Lord’s service. “I’ve never wanted to use any position to promote myself,” he said to the Ensign’s interviewers. “I just want to serve, like you serve in your Church position, and if I do a good job, the Lord knows it—and if I don’t, He knows it. Either way I don’t want to be talking about it.” And then he laughed, said “Adios, hermanos,” and went on with his day of service to the Lord and the Saints.

Photography by Eldon Linschoten