Serving in Church leadership callings in his hometown of Burley, Idaho, and elsewhere has given Elder D. Rex Gerratt an appreciation for what he regards as wonderful tutors.
"I have always had wonderful bishops, stake presidents and good friends and neighbors to love and teach me," said Elder Gerratt, sustained at October general conference as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
He said some of his greatest lessons were taught to him out on a ditch bank or sitting on a bale of hay, that that's the kind of men his stake presidents were. Sublime wisdom was dispensed in those and more formal settings, including such pearls as:
"We need to look at people, not for what they are, but what they can become."
"When somebody leaves your office, it won't be very long before they'll forget everything you've said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel."
"People don't care what you say until they know how much you really love them."
"Excuses are plentiful, but they don't get the Lord's work done."
Elder Gerratt said, "All who have callings in the Church have the opportunity to serve well and are entitled to receive inspiration from the Lord pertaining to that calling."
The lessons have found application in Elder Gerratt's leadership style as he has served over the years as stake president, regional representative, mission president and Area Authority Seventy, among other callings
"He has a genuine love of people," attests his wife, Marjorie.
Early leadership experiences involved working with young people in Church callings and in other capacities, such as a 4-H leader. As an Explorer adviser, he took young men on camping trips several times, going often into the primitive areas that abound in Idaho. Such excursions contributed to the development of some insights regarding the needs and challenges of youth.
"They need role models," he said. "They need men who can relate to them." And though they want to have fun, they also want discipline and leadership experiences to help them make proper choices, he added.
He carried his love for the Lord and for people into his service as president of the Philippines Manila Mission in 1996.
"One of the frightening experiences in my life was when the former mission president's car drove out of the yard," he said. "Realizing fear was from Satan, we dropped to our knees asking for our Heavenly Father's help. We were comforted by Doctrine and Covenants 101:16, "Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God."
"As Sister Gerratt and I visited with missionaries in their apartments the following week," he said, "we gained strength and encouragement as we felt the missionaries' love for the Lord and their willingness to do His work."
He said he learned very soon "that this is the Lord's work and He will open the way if we are humble and prayerful."
Having faith in the Lord has sustained Elder Gerratt in his Church callings and throughout his life, he said. "When we are humble and call on the Lord, then get up off our knees and go to work, it always brings good results."
Reliance on the Lord has served Elder Gerratt not just as a mission president but in other Church-service experiences and throughout his life. So has his commitment, Sister Gerratt said. "He's never had a calling where he doesn't just do whatever it takes to perform it," she said.
Such dedication to duty was instilled in him early by his parents. His father had a reputation for being honest and a hard worker. He never sent his sons out to work alone, but rather, was always working and teaching by their sides. His father gave young Rex and his brother the proceeds from one-half acre potato crop for working on the farm. With this money, they each purchased a milk cow. That became the start for a successful dairy and farm operation owned by Elder Gerratt, his brother and some of their children.
Elder Gerratt's family lived in Rupert until he was 11, then moved to Burley. There, he came to know his future wife, Marjorie Crane, as they grew up as neighbors. Her father was bishop, and her mother was his Primary teacher.
Later, in high school, Rex and Marjorie each served as president of his or her respective class. She was a year behind him, and they would have good-natured discussions about whose class was better.
Rex pursued an interest in athletics, playing football all four years and runing the half-mile in track. When school was out in the spring, he cut seed potatoes and thinned sugar beets with a short-handled hoe, then turned around and weeded the same beets for three or four weeks. A couple of days break for fishing preceded another hoeing stint before the much anticipated county fair topped off the summer.
Rex and Marjorie married in the Idaho Falls Temple. In time, nine children were born to the Gerratts. The Spirit of the Lord prevailed in the home. Their children learned how to work each day on the dairy. One of their greatest blessings is having children with effective testimonies, he said, and knowing how to work hard.
"Whenever I have come home from a spiritual meeting, and there must have been thousands of them over the years, the spirit in our home has never detracted from that," Elder Gerratt said. "Our children have grown up that way. They're all very different in their occupations, but they are very, very united. If one of our children has some challenge, they're all there for support."
Eight of the nine children have served missions, and the six boys are Eagle Scouts, undoubtedly stemming from the family's mutual support. That, and some invaluable lessons of leadership and character gained on an Idaho dairy farm.
A member of the Idaho Dairy and Southern Idaho Livestock halls of fame, Elder Gerratt loves to draw plans and build, having constructed many livestock facilities. He was overseeing the building of a new dairy when he was called to his present position. Yet, Sister Gerratt said, he has always been committed to his family and Church responsibilities.
Elder Gerratt said: "We have been very blessed. We have a wonderful family. We have many opportunities to serve our Heavenly Father and to work with wonderful people. We have loved working on the farm. The days have always been too short."
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