He wanted to make a difference in life

After nearly 19 years of marriage, Claudia Cannon was well acquainted with her husband's desire to make a difference in life. It was an item of discussion even before they were married.

Still, it caught her off guard a year ago when her husband, Chris, returned home from work one day and said he was considering running for Congress.She was not overly enthusiastic about the announcement, Brother Cannon said. With all the demands and sacrifice of campaigning, and the energy required to raise seven children, he assumed that the timing for public office was not right.

A short time later, however, she approached him and asked why he hadn't mentioned his candidacy again.

"I'm not going to run," he said.

"But you must run," she countered. "This is your duty."

This was also a moment of truth for the Cannons. Living in the fishbowl of public life added another level of stress to their already busy lives.

Since the day she met Chris at a dinner party organized by her roommates at BYU, she recognized him as one who needed to be challenged, and one who derived satisfaction from contributing to society.

"I occasionally saw him on campus," Sister Cannon said. "Our discussions were always stimulating. He always had enough interesting thoughts that we never had to talk about the weather. In fact, his comments were noteworthy enough to make an entry in my journal.

"It was crazy," she continued. "But running for Congress felt like the right thing to do."

So he threw his hat in the political ring as a Republican candidate in Utah's 3rd Congressional District. After winning the general election in November, he was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 7.

Brother Cannon enters his new role without having previously held public office, but not without a great deal of background in politics, and not without a deep "dedication to the gospel," according to Sister Cannon.

As a high priest in the Mapleton 6th Ward, Mapleton Utah Stake, he is another link in a historical family chain that includes four Congressmen, an ambassador, two generals, an admiral, a federal judge, a president of Brigham Young University and two apostles. He is a descendant of George Q. Cannon who served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young, and who also served as editor of the Deseret News.

He takes to Congress some of the freedom-minded and independent thinking of his ancestors who joined the Church on the Isle of Man in the British Isles and immigrated to America.

Brother Cannon was not born into prominence, however, but rose from humble beginnings, and in the process of learning the laws of life, acquired some of the "tough, gutsy" character traits of his father.

"We struggled," he said, remembering his early years in Salt Lake City. "As a family with seven children, we lived on the low end." His parents, Adrian and Pauline, moved the family to the San Fernando Valley in California in hopes of improving their situation.

"I remember one day," he said, "my father was taking us to downtown Los Angeles for an event. We parked the car a long way away and walked through a hard part of town.

"Suddenly, a woman burst through the door of a house on the side of the street, screaming for help. This brute came charging after her. She ran to a car and tried to get in. He caught her by the hair and was about to strike her when my dad shouted, `Stop that!'

"Now, my dad was not very big, but he was tough. He then walked over to this guy, who towered over him, and told him that what he was about to do was `not right.' It was a pretty tense situation, but to my amazement, the guy backed down. It was a formative experience for me. I learned that right makes might."

Standing for truth, said Brother Cannon, was something his father learned as a young missionary in England when he was among the first to return to preach the gospel in Hyde Park following a period of violence.

Brother Cannon's view of the world and his preparations to serve politically began when he returned from his mission in Guatemala in 1971. He went to Washington D.C. where he worked as an unpaid intern for his uncle, Dr. Mark W. Cannon, who was the administrative assistant to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger of the Supreme Court.

"This was a terrifically informative experience," Brother Cannon recounted. "I spent time with my uncle and the chief justice, great and thoughtful men who were ahead of their time. I learned how to improve institutional processes and to see opportunities to advance the work of the kingdom. I learned that many little things, taken together, can make a big difference."

It was also during this time that his uncle Mark recognized some of Chris' personal and emotional strength. "He lived with us in Virginia," Mark Cannon explained. "One day, we were showing him the steep hill in our backyard and explaining how we planned to move a giant rock from the bottom of a ravine to a higher place on the hill to be a centerpiece of the garden,"

"The next day, we looked out and found that Chris had rolled the rock up the hill by himself.

"Chris is an engaging, stimulating thinker and a doer," he continued. "He is intellectual. He thinks about history. He thinks about social change. He considers the meaning of gospel values in a modern, highly advanced, technical society. His mind conjures up visions of life in the future."

Chris Cannon heads to Washington, D.C., brimming with confidence and enthusiasm that this body of lawmakers will write legislation more consistent with gospel principles and the ideals of the Founding Fathers.

For some, explained Brother Cannon, the peaceful nature of the gospel does not always mix well with the conflict - and sometimes brutal nature - of national politics.

"One day, while [I was] talking to a class of political science students at BYU," Brother Cannon recounted, "a student asked how I could be a member of the Church and run for political office, since much of what happens in Washington seems contrary to gospel principles.

"Our problems stem from too few people being involved," he said. "All have to be involved. That's where the rubber of individual right meets the road of freedom."

That spirit of improvement has been the story of his life.

"Shortly before I was released from teaching Sunday School to go to Washington, D.C., I wanted the 14-year-olds in my class to understand that they needed to grow in the gospel," he said. "If they were bored, it was because they were bored by what they didn't know.

"My last Sunday with them, we read from the last sections of the Doctrine and Covenants - where some of the real gems of the gospel are. We read about `laws irrevocably decreed' and how learning those laws allows you to choose the blessings you want in life."

As Brother Cannon begins his congressional career, he leaves behind Cannon Industries where he serves as chief executive officer. For his life's work, Brother Cannon invested in small companies. But for his life's purpose, he feels driven to build his country by defending the divine principles upon which it was founded.

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