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How the Mexico temple dedication and the loss of Elder Scott’s wife impacted his apostleship


Editor’s note: The following excerpt comes from a book about special witnesses of Jesus Christ. You can read this chapter in its entirety at truthwillprevail.xyz as well as other chapters as they are posted. This excerpt is republished here with permission. 

The October 1988 general conference was soon to start. “Just two days before conference, after a meeting of the General Authorities in the Salt Lake Temple, President Benson called him into his office,” stated an informative article about Elder Scott.1 Then and there, Elder Scott said of the prophet, “With tenderness and love and great understanding that I will never forget, he extended this call, which would, of course, completely overwhelm anyone. It did me. I couldn’t help crying. And then President Benson very kindly spoke of his own call to give me reassurance. He witnessed how my call had come. I will always remember that thoughtfulness and understanding of the prophet of the Lord.”

As Elder Scott spoke to the assembled Saints in conference, he humbly stated: “It is understandable that when one has received a call and been conveyed a trust that will completely change his life forever, feelings would be sensitive and emotions very near the surface. As I have struggled to begin to understand this sacred assignment and all that it implies, I have spent much time pouring out the feelings of my heart to our beloved Father in Heaven. I have pled that he would guide me and strengthen me that I may serve him and his beloved Son as well as I am able.”3

Elder Scott also related a spiritual experience received while speaking at a temple dedication:

During the dedication of the Mexico City temple, I had one of those singular experiences that readjusts the course of a life. It occurred during the eighth dedicatory session, where many of the men and women leaders of Mexico and Central America were present. When unexpectedly asked to speak, I attempted to convey the strong impressions that poured into my heart. I spoke of those beyond the veil who, in fulfillment of prophecy, had served, suffered, and given greatly to form the foundation which permitted the opening of a new era of the work. I expressed a feeling to plead in behalf of former prophets who had prepared and protected the sacred records of the Book of Mormon. I sensed that they were saddened as they see us walk from place to place with an unopened Book of Mormon under our arm or see it kept in homes where it gathers dust and is not read, pondered, nor its contents applied. The Book of Mormon was prepared by divine assignment for the blessing and enlightenment of all those who receive it. As I spoke, I realized in my heart that all the efforts that I had expended for six years in trying to help those beloved leaders overcome the effects of false traditions and learn to apply the teachings of the Lord would have been better directed had I strongly encouraged them to ponder and apply the teachings of the Book of Mormon.4

Then Elder Scott related what happened after the temple dedication session (one assumes he had President Benson’s permission to relate this experience): “At the conclusion of the meeting, Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, invited me to join him in a private room in the temple. He asked me to be seated, drew his chair close to mine, looked penetratingly into my eyes, and with an earnestness that I will never forget, witnessed of his profound conviction that every member of the Church must learn to use the Book of Mormon as the Lord intended. As he spoke I knew that the Lord had inspired him to have those feelings. I had a witness borne to my heart that he was speaking the will of the Lord.”

In a 1999 general conference talk, Elder Scott carefully explained something that he knew members sometimes forget—who exactly is the head of the Church. He taught and testified: “In a few moments President Hinckley will give the closing conference message. . . . Let us follow his inspired counsel. He has borne witness that he is not the head of this Church. That head is our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ the Redeemer. . . . As one of His Apostles, authorized to bear witness of Him, I solemnly testify that I know that the Savior lives, that He is a resurrected, glorified personage of perfect love. I witness that He gave His life that we might live with Him eternally. He is our hope, our Mediator, our Redeemer. I know that He lives.”6

On another occasion, he explained more: “Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior, our Redeemer. He is a glorious, resurrected being. He has the capacity to communicate love that is so powerful, so overwhelming as to surpass the capacity of the human tongue to express adequately.” And another instance of very similar wording: “I positively know that Jesus Christ lives and as one of His Apostles bear solemn witness that He is a glorified, resurrected personage of perfect love. He guides His Church on earth. . . . He is our Master, our Redeemer, our Savior. I love Him. With every capacity that I possess I bear witness that He lives.”7 Such was his constant affirming and confirming special witness, reinforced by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Influence of Jeanene, His Beloved Wife

When he received his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1988, Elder Scott spoke tenderly of his “gratitude to a beloved, cherished companion and wife and to [his] lovely children.”8 He said, “Jeanene has ever been a model of pure testimony, love, and devotion; she is a tower of strength to me.”9 Of his marriage to her, he said: “On July 16, 1953, my beloved Jeanene and I knelt as a young couple at an altar in the Manti Utah Temple. President Lewis R. Anderson exercised the sealing authority and pronounced us husband and wife, wedded for time and for all eternity.”10 

Yet, as with all mortality, illness and death come and Jeanene was not spared, as cancer took her from him and their family in May of 1995. As with the earlier death of his two children, this loss was devastating (as those who have endured like grief know). In speaking to his children about her passing, Elder Scott said, “I love her with all my heart, but I have never complained (to God) because I know it was his will. I've never asked why, but rather, what is it that He wants me to learn from this experience.”11 

Some 16 years after her passing, as a way to teach gospel principles, he used a general conference address as something of a eulogy for her. To the congregation, he said: “I know what it is to love a daughter of Father in Heaven who with grace and devotion lived the full feminine splendor of her righteous womanhood. I am confident that when, in our future, I see her again beyond the veil, we will recognize that we have become even more deeply in love. We will appreciate each other even more, having spent this time separated by the veil.”12 

Elder Scott’s nearness to his deceased wife sometimes continued, for on occasion the veil was thin and they communicated through the Spirit. To an assemblage of Church employees, Elder Scott explained:

I struggle with things. They’re not serious worthiness issues, but there are things that impact the full and open guidance of the Spirit. And I think that we wouldn’t be honest with ourselves, if that’s true in our life, if we don’t recognize that and try to change it, try and improve it. I’ve got a particular person who helps me, and you likely do too, and that is my wife. She happens to be on the other side of the veil, but that doesn’t hinder her in the least for (laughter) giving me direction in my life through the promptings of the Spirit. And I always am grateful for that. No, not always. (Laughter) If there’s a beautiful piece of chocolate cake and I start to reach for it and she says, “No, Rich, you don’t need that,” I’m not grateful for that. (Laughter) But I am grateful for the counsel she continually gives me. And it’s true that some of you may be in a similar situation with a spouse on the other side of the veil where those quiet promptings come. And sometimes, if there were an individual around when that happens, they might wonder why I say, “Thank you, dear.” And it’s very real. It’s not something that requires an awful lot of insight; it’s a very real part of my life, that guidance. That’s what spiritual guidance is, I think, when we learn to recognize it.13

Such closeness with a loved one who has passed beyond the veil is the consequence of living a pure and unspotted life before God, something that Elder Scott did and encouraged others to do. In September of 2013, while speaking to a group of missionaries gathered in the Provo Missionary Training Center, he interrupted his message and told them why he was feeling so touched: “If I have seemed to be emotional tonight, perhaps I can tell you why. My wife has been on the other side of the veil for some time. I have had the strongest feeling that she has been permitted to be with us tonight, for which I am immensely grateful to the Lord.”14 

Church doctrine teaches that the Holy Spirit of Promise permanently ratifies or seals gospel ordinances for the true and faithful, making them of guaranteed eternal duration (see Doctrine & Covenants 76:53, 132:7, 18-19, 26). This applies to baptism and confirmation, temple ordinances, and priesthood ordinations. This means that if someone does not live worthy of gospel ordinances they have received, those ordinances may not remain efficacious in the spirit world or the resurrection. The particulars of how this process works is not explained by the scriptures in great detail.

For Elder Scott, it meant he must endure to the end in righteousness or risk losing his wife. In recounting why he worked so hard to remain worthy and magnify his apostleship, he talked about the effect on him of his temple sealing with Jeanene (doctrine that might well be prayerfully pondered by all): “I think it has touched every important element in my life. Wanting to be a better person; wanting to live more righteously and do things more elevating and worthwhile. I don’t believe that the temple ordinance [of marriage sealing] guarantees we’ll be together forever. There will be a time before that sealing of the Holy Spirit of Promise makes it eternal where we will be in the presence of the Savior as individuals; and there will be a choice—whether we will continue with the sealing or not. I want to do everything in my power to qualify so that she will choose for that sealing to be eternal.”15 

Read this chapter in its entirety at truthwillprevail.xyz.

Lead image: ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

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