The Quorum of the Twelve Before They Were Called: Richard G. Scott

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Richard G. Scott
Richard G. Scott, courtesy of LDS Living

Richard G. Scott serves as an Apostle for the Quorum of the Twelve for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But did you know that as a kid, his parents trusted him and his brothers to fix the family car? They once put a caboose whistle on the exhaust manifold as a joke (“Richard G. Scott”). In this biography of Richard G. Scott, read about how he came to learn and love the gospel, the influence of his beloved wife, and his faithfulness to the Church.

Learning, Following, and Teaching the Gospel

Something Was Missing

Richard G. Scott was not raised in a home that was active in the gospel. His father wasn’t a member of the Church, and his mother was inactive. However, his parents did instill good values and character in their children. Richard’s home teachers and ward leaders encouraged him to attend church. However, he admits that he sometimes did so reluctantly.

But during his teenage and young adult years, Richard felt like there was something missing in his life. Even though he did well in school and participated in many activities, he felt alone. He did not realize that the emptiness was from the lack of gospel influence in his life until he served his mission:

The expanded understanding of the gospel that came from an urgent desire to share the gospel with others filled all the voids of loneliness. I began to recognize that those feelings need not have been part of my life if I had really understood the gospel.

Because of the commitments to the gospel Richard made during his mission, the void he had felt was filled (Ensign article “Elder Richard G. Scott: The Real Power Comes from the Lord”).

Richard G. Scott and his siblings
Richard G. Scott and his siblings, courtesy of LDS.org

Do What Is Right

In college, Richard received the opportunity to join an elect honorary engineering society. At the initiatory event, everyone who attended was drinking. Richard asked for a soft drink, but when he raised the glass to his lips, he smelled alcohol in it. At that point, he realized that everyone in the room was looking at him.

Richard risked their disapproval if he did not drink the beverage. But instead, he chose to be faithful and put the glass down. After he did so, he noticed that some other people did the same. Richard G. Scott later said, “Do what is right and others will follow your example” (21 Principles).

Keeping a Promise

When Richard was on his mission in Uruguay, two young women approached him and his companion and told them that their mother wanted to meet with the missionaries. However, there was a catch. The mother wanted them to teach her about the Church, but not try to convince her that it was true. There would also be a representative from another church there to teach her about his faith. The mother would then decide which of the two religions she liked best.

Richard and his companion went to the family’s home and discovered that the representative from the other church was actually the head of the Jehovah Witnesses for all of South America. His Spanish was flawless and he was well-versed in the scriptures, while Richard was still struggling with the language and learning about his own religion.

In short, the discussion did not go well. Richard and his companion had difficulty trying to teach the family while also not converting them as they had promised. The other representative made the situation even harder by arguing against every single thing that the missionaries tried to teach. Richard later said, “when it was over, I went home feeling terrible. I felt I had defended the Church poorly; I knew my knowledge of the gospel wasn’t what it had to be. I did a lot of praying that night.”

However, he and his companion were surprised when the family invited them back the next day. The family expressed their embarrassment at what had happened and said how impressed they were that the missionaries had kept their promise while the other man had not. They wanted to know more about the gospel and were eventually baptized (Ensign article “Elder Richard G. Scott: The Real Power Comes from the Lord” ; Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy).

Courtship, Marriage, and Family

First Meeting Jeanene

Before Richard’s mission, when he attended college, he thought he had his life all planned out: he was nearly finished with his degree from George Washington University, he was planning on getting a job in mechanical engineering, etc. The plans for the future seemed clear, that is, until he met the daughter of the Utah Senator, Jeanene Watkins.

Richard and Jeanene enjoyed spending time together and grew close. Then one evening, she announced, “When I marry, it will be in the temple to a returned missionary.” Richard had not thought much about serving a mission before, but he sure thought about it now. He prayed about serving a mission that night, and received the impression that he should go. Soon, Richard was graduated from college and off on a mission to Uruguay. Only two weeks after he came home, he married Jeanene in the Manti Temple (“Richard G. Scott”).

Expressions of Love

Richard and Jeanene shared a deep love for each other that would prove everlasting. Jeanene left supportive notes in Richard’s scriptures that he would find while giving messages at church. They were so heartfelt that Richard often had trouble speaking.

In return, Richard would give Jeanene messages. He slipped a note behind the glass of a clock that said, “Jeanene, it is time to tell you I love you.” On one Valentine’s day, Richard painted a watercolor picture on the front of the fridge for her to enjoy. The only problem was that Richard accidentally used a permanent enamel paint rather than watercolor. However, Jeanene refused to let Richard take the paint off.

Richard once created a message for Jeanene using the paper holes that you get from a paper punch. He labeled each hole with a number and on the back wrote the corresponding letter for his message. Years later, after Jeanene passed away, Richard went through her things and found this message and many others he had given her carefully pasted on paper and protected with plastic sheets (General Conference talk “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”).

Richard and Jeanene Scott
Richard and Jeanene Scott, courtesy of LDS.org

“Play with the children”

Richard often traveled for work and remembers a time when he was gone from home for nearly two weeks. When he returned, he had only a few hours of free time before going to a meeting. He decided to put this time to good use by fixing the washing machine.

Jeanene came by and asked what he was doing. He told her he was fixing the washing machine so she wouldn’t have to clean the clothes by hand. Jeanene said, “No. Go play with the children.”

Richard responded, “I can play with the children anytime. I want to help you.”

With more authority in her voice this time, Jeanene said, “Richard, please go play with the children.”

Richard obeyed Jeanene’s command and had a wonderful time playing with the children. At four in the morning, he woke up to find a tiny pair of arms wrapped around his neck and a kiss on his cheek as one of his children whispered, “Dad, I love you. You are my best friend.” Jeanene taught Richard an important lesson in families that day, and Richard grew closer to his (General Conference talk “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”).

Richard G. Scott with his wife, two of his children, and a granddaughter
Richard G. Scott with his wife, two of his children, and a granddaughter, courtesy of LDS.org

41 Years of Marriage

Richard and Jeanene enjoyed spending time together and had many of the same interests: jazz music, South American folk music, painting, hiking, and bird watching. They had seven children, two of whom passed away at very young ages.

Jeanene passed away in 1995. (“Richard G. Scott”). Richard still speaks of her and her powerful influence on his life. In his General Conference talk, “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage,” Richard says:

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.

Richard G. Scott knows that he will be reunited with his beloved Jeanene someday.

Influence of the Spirit

Spiritual and Marital Influence

Richard was driving for several hours on a winding, single-lane road in Bolivia. When he approached a sharp turn, he received the impression, “If my wife were here she would tell me to honk the horn.” Richard did so, and as he rounded the corner, he saw a jeep screeching to a halt. The driver had heard Richard’s warning, and if he had not stopped then they would have crashed.

Richard continued to honk his horn before turning on sharp curves for the rest of the trip. At one point, it was an ambulance that stopped because of the warning. Due to the influence of the spirit (and his wife), Richard and others were protected from harm (BYU Devotional speech “Truth”).

Richard and Jeanene Scott
Richard and Jeanene Scott, courtesy of LDS.org

Prayer and Guidance

Richard served as a mission president in Argentina. One evening, when he was saying his prayers with Jeanene, he received the impression that one of his missionaries was in trouble. However, Richard did not know which one.

Through the night, Richard poured over his missionary files to try to find out who needed help, but to no avail. The next morning, Richard went to the roof of the mission home and prayed fervently that he might know which missionary was in trouble. There he received an impression of where the missionary lived. Richard went there and was able to help an elder who was about to perform an action that would have ended his mission dishonorably (Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy).

Work

Summer Jobs

Richard G. Scott was a very hard worker and earned money for college through summer jobs. One summer he worked on an oyster boat off the coast of Long Island; during another, he cut down trees for the Forest Service in Utah; and a summer after that he repaired railroad cars for the Union Pacific Railroad.

On a later summer, Richard applied to the Utah Parks Service and was rejected because they had no positions available. However, despite this, he traveled from Washington D.C. to Utah. When he arrived, he had only three pennies on him.

He showed up at the Utah Parks Service, and the man he spoke to asked if Richard had received the rejection letter. Richard told him he had, but wanted to work anyway and asked if there was a job as a desk clerk. The man just laughed. Richard asked if maybe there was a job as a bellboy, or even a dishwasher, but the man told him there were no positions available.

Richard was desperate, knowing he couldn’t travel back across the country on only three pennies. So he made a deal with the man. Richard asked to wash dishes for two weeks, and if the man didn’t like his work, then he wouldn’t have to pay him. Richard dutifully washed the dishes, and by the end of the summer he was the number-two cook (“Richard G. Scott”).

Career vs. Mission Part One

When Richard was preparing to leave on his mission to Uruguay, one of his professors tried to persuade him not to go. The professor told Richard that leaving for two years would ruin his chances for a promising career. Despite the professor’s protests, Richard chose the Lord’s way.

A few weeks after Richard returned, Captain Hyman G. Rickover interviewed him for a position with a military project in nuclear energy. The interview was not going very well. Then Richard mentioned his mission and Captain Rickover responded, “What mission? And what do I care about your mission?”

Richard’s approach to the interview changed at this point because his mission was important to him. He later wrote, “Everything I really treasure in life began to unfold because of that mission.” Richard answered the questions more fervently now. When Rickover asked what the last book Richard read was, Richard would faithfully tell him that it was the Book of Mormon and so on.

At the end of the interview, Richard was sure he had failed and stood up to leave. But Rickover said, “Just a minute. I’ve been testing you to see if you could stand up for what you believe. This is not going to be an easy project. We need people who can work with confidence.” Because Richard stood true to the gospel, he was able to get the job.

Richard worked on several projects in this position. He helped to create the first nuclear powered submarine (the Nautilus) and the first commercial, land-based nuclear power plant. He also earned an equivalent to a doctorate degree in nuclear engineering. One day, while looking through the personnel records, he discovered that the professor who had tried to persuade him not to go on a mission now worked three levels under him (“Richard G. Scott”).

Career vs. Mission Part Two

Richard worked under Captain Rickover (who later became Admiral Rickover) for several years. This all changed when Richard was called to be a mission president in Argentina. Many people once again tried to persuade Richard not to go, and the admiral was one of them.

Rickover was very angry when he received the news and did not understand why Richard wanted to leave the program. He told Richard, “You are a traitor to your country. I’ll see that you never have success in this industry. I will not speak to you again. You are finished here. If that’s the way Mormons are, I’m going to get rid of all of them that work for me.”

All Richard could do was promise that he would find a replacement for his position. He was worried about Rickover’s negative reaction and feared that the Church members who worked for the admiral might lose their jobs. He didn’t know what to do, but then the words to a hymn came into mind: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.” Even though he couldn’t see how the problem was solved, he had a feeling of peace.

Richard found a good replacement for his position. When he asked to speak with Rickover one last time, the admiral’s secretary gasped. However, this conversation was very different from the previous one. Richard gave the admiral a copy of the Book of Mormon and Rickover expressed an appreciation for Richard and his beliefs. No members under the admiral were fired and he promised Richard a job after he returned from the mission (Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy ; BYU Fireside talk “Do What Is Right”).

After He Was Called An Apostle

Richard G. Scott would hold several callings including serving as a Regional Representative and a member of the Seventy. On October 1, 1988, he was called to be an Apostle for the Quorum of the Twelve (“Elder Richard G. Scott”).

Current photo of Richard G. Scott
Current photo of Richard G. Scott

Richard G. Scott holds a strong testimony in the blessings of the temple and eternal families. In his CES Fireside talk, “To Have Peace and Happiness,” he says:

Our seven children are bound to us by the sacred ordinances of the temple. Now, Jeanene, and two of our children are beyond the veil. They provide a powerful motivation for each remaining member of our family to live so that together we can receive all of the eternal blessings promised in the temple.

I know that I will have the privilege of being with that beautiful wife, whom I love with all my heart, and with those children who are with her on the other side of the veil, because of the opportunities made possible through the eternal ordinances that were performed in the Manti Temple.

Richard G. Scott lives as an example of faith and love, true to the end in doing what’s right.

To learn more about Richard G. Scott, check out his Facebook Page or visit the links below.

Abby graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelors degree in English and an emphasis in Writing Studies. She enjoys reading, writing, baking good food, and eating it too.

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