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Life guided over critical switch points

For Elder Gerald N. Lund, pulling a handcart over the jagged trail of Rocky Ridge in Wyoming was an ideal setting to teach the gospel to seminary teachers.

Gerald and Lynn Lund.  April 9, 2002. (Submission date: 04/09/2002)
Gerald and Lynn Lund. April 9, 2002. (Submission date: 04/09/2002) Photo: Photo by Laura Seitz

"We have taken many groups of seminary teachers off the beaten path and gone up and down actual parts of the pioneer trail by pulling handcarts," Elder Lund said.

"We did it so teachers could capture the same spirit of commitment and keeping covenants of the early saints."

On April 6, Elder Lund, 62, was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy during the 172nd Annual General Conference.

For 34 years, Elder Lund taught in the Church Educational System — first as a seminary teacher, than as an institute instructor. He later wrote curriculum material and served in administrative positions.

But it was his ability to teach the gospel and train other teachers that distinguished his career.

"I love to teach," he said. "After retiring, my wife, Lynn, and I moved to Highland, Utah, to be closer to family. I thought I'd just sit back and write."

Reflecting on his life, Elder Lund finds that a simple conversation with his father years ago has proven to be the blueprint of his life.

"I grew up on the west side of Murray, Utah, near the railroad switching yard. One day we were crossing when my father pointed out a switch on the main line.

" 'This is really interesting,' my father said. 'If you notice there isn't even a quarter-of-a-inch difference between the tracks. If the switch is to the left, you'll end up in San Francisco. Turned to the right, you'll end up in Chicago. People on the train don't even know they've crossed over that switch point.'

"That's how our lives have been," he said. "We've had critical switch points along the way that, [at the time] we didn't know we were crossing."

An early switch point came after high school. He wanted to stay home to serve a stake mission. His father challenged him to make his mission call a matter of fasting and prayer. With this on his mind, he opened the hymn book to, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go."

Startled by the Lord's awareness of his needs and His willingness to give counsel, Elder Lund reshaped his desires and served in the Western Central States Mission in Billings, Mont., from 1960-62. "I look back and wonder where I would have ended up without that experience," he said.

After his mission, he returned to work construction. "I thought this was great. I was making good money and had bought a new, white Chevy." Then his boss assigned him to clean cement forms with a power brush. "By Friday afternoon, I slammed the brush down and said this is not what I want to do with my life."

He entered Brigham Young University where he eventually earned a bachelor's and master's degree in sociology. Along the way, he became reacquainted with a young lady he had met several years previously.

They had met one Sunday during his mission when he and his companion stopped in Great Falls, Mont., to attend sacrament meeting after a mission conference. As Elder Lund entered the meetinghouse he was introduced to Lynn Stanard, who was leaving the next day to attend BYU as a freshman. Energetic and personable, Lynn distinguished herself at BYU as a popular piano player at mission reunions. They married in 1963 in the Idaho Falls Temple and raised seven children. Life for the Lunds centers around their family. "Building strong families takes lots of work," Elder Lund said.

He lulled his children to sleep by making up his own bedtime stories. The plot centered around two children from a wealthy Carruthers family who were trying to rescue their parents from their kidnappers. In their adventures, the children used a magic pouch given to them by the housekeeper.

"Every night he made up a new chapter," Sister Lund said. "The kids were hypnotized by the stories. These are still some of their favorite memories."

During the course of his career, Elder Lund learned that he liked writing, which became an extension of teaching. In 1988, he was approached by a friend in North Carolina to write a novel of historical fiction about the Restoration of the Church.

Elder Lund's friends, Kenneth I. and Jane Moe, persisted. In time, Elder Lund also gained strong feelings that a series should be written and they formed a partnership.

"I wanted to help readers understand what it must have felt like to be a part of those events," he said.

Publication of The Work and the Glory series extended over a decade. "I had no idea" what good this series would do, he said.

The story line of the series, and the names of the fictional characters, became the subject of many evening meals around the Lund dinner table. "The kids were involved all those years. Some of the names of the characters were taken from our children. They wanted to know what was happening to their characters," Sister Lund said.

Elder Lund's gift for expression is matched by his wife's ability to compose music; she has composed nearly 70 pieces for choir. "One of the sweetest experiences my of life," she said, came after a seminary teachers history tour of Nauvoo. They had just completed a stirring testimony meeting in the Seventies Hall and had returned to their hotel room.

"I was reading the scriptures and contemplating the references of the 'marvelous work that was about to come forth' when music came to my mind. I kept getting bits and pieces the next day on the bus. By the time I arrived home, it was pretty much composed."

In retrospect, Elder Lund acknowledges that his calling comes after years of heavenly guidance through myriad critical switch points.

"This [calling to the Seventy] caught us by surprise," he said. "We never expected anything like this."

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