“Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the Second Quorum of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1989, 98
“There’s never been a time in my life when I’ve ever had any doubts about the truth or divinity of the Church,” says Elder Merlin R. Lybbert, a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
His confirming testimony came as a missionary in the Eastern States Mission. He spent sixteen months in the mission office as mission secretary, then served as a counselor in the mission presidency. Under the tutelage of his mission president, Roy W. Doxey, Elder Lybbert gained his foundation knowledge of the gospel and the scriptures. “He has been a role model throughout my life,” he says.
Merlin Rex Lybbert was born to Charles Lester and Delvia Reed Lybbert on 31 January 1926 in Cardston, Alberta. During his childhood, his parents homesteaded in Cherry Grove, Alberta, where the closest neighbor lived three miles away. The family had few possessions, but “every night was family night and mother would read from a book of Bible stories,” he reflects. He learned much about hard work, integrity, and self-reliance. “It was a time of great family unity and happiness in spite of physical hardships.”
After high school, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, completed his mission, then waited for his sweetheart, Nola Cahoon, to finish nursing school at the University of Alberta. They were married 26 May 1949 in the Alberta Temple.
The Lybberts then moved to Salt Lake City, where he attended the University of Utah. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in law in 1953, and a Juris Doctor in 1955. For almost thirty-five years, he has practiced law in Salt Lake City and has devoted many years to the Utah State Bar. He was elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers, and recently served as chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Supreme Court of Utah on the Rules of Professional Practice. He was named Utah Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1981–82.
Elder Lybbert has served as a bishop, as a counselor in a stake presidency, and as a stake president. For the past three years, he has served as a Regional Representative. He likes to tell animal stories with principles applicable to daily living. He tells one story of a crow that had hatched and grown among the chickens on his cousin’s ranch. One day he heard chicken noises coming from high in a tree. The crow, thinking it was a chicken, had learned to sound like one. “Choose your associates carefully,” he teaches. “Their behavior soon becomes your own.”
Sister Lybbert says her husband has many qualities that will help him in his calling. “In addition to his administrative skills and his kindness in dealing with people, he has a sense of humor,” she says.
The Lybberts joke that when they were first married, they had six theories about raising children. But after ten years, they had six children and no theories. Their children are Larilyn (Dirkmaat), Ruth (Renlund), Merla (Berndt), Louise (Nygaard), Perry Reed (deceased), and Clark Merlin. They laugh about having four international sons-in-law—a Dutchman, a German, a Swede, and a Norwegian—whom the girls met in the Lybberts’ home stake in Salt Lake City. “We’re an international family, and we’ve had wonderful traditions passed to us,” says Sister Lybbert.
When Clark and Louise were serving missions, Elder Lybbert wrote them long letters each week explaining gospel principles that he had been studying. One time Clark received a letter exactly in time to answer an investigator’s question to which he hadn’t known the answer.
Elder Lybbert’s study of the gospel has paid off in other ways. “Although I don’t know more surely now than I did during my mission that the gospel is true,” he says, “I certainly understand it and my relationship to Christ much better.”