Listening to Elder Tad R. Callister, it becomes apparent that an affinity for Chinese Checkers isn't all he inherited from his grandfather Elder LeGrand Richards. He also shares the same zeal for missionary work and the scriptures.
In a Church News interview after he was sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy during April general conference, he spoke of the joy of having the dynamic apostle for a grandfather. Elder Richards loved to spend time with his young grandchildren, including playing one of his favorite games — Chinese Checkers, Elder Callister remembered, saying, "He was a very good grandfather as well as a great leader in the Church."
When Elder Callister was a college student and played in an All-Church softball game in Salt Lake City, Elder Richards showed up to cheer him on. Elder Callister recalled, "I said, 'Grandfather, you have more important things to do,' and he said, 'No, there's nothing more important than to be with my grandson."'
Like Elder Richards, Elder Callister has been a valiant missionary. At the time of his call, he was serving as president of the Canada Toronto East Mission. He has also served as a mission president's counselor and a stake mission president, and served in the Eastern Atlantic States Mission as a young man.
And, like Elder Richards, he is devoted to the scriptures, leading to a depth of study that has resulted in the publication of two books — The Infinite Atonement and The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration. They were a result, he said, of going to his law office about 45 minutes early each morning to pore over the scriptures, taking notes as he searched for answers to questions he developed to guide his study.
"I love the scriptures," he said, a trait he shares with his wife, Kathryn. One of their choicest experiences, they said, was together teaching the scriptures to youth, including some of their own children, as early-morning seminary instructors in California.
"We love the scriptures," Sister Callister said, "and studying the scriptures as a companionship. And our children love the scriptures, and our grandchildren are being brought up the same way."
Elder and Sister Callister were grounded in the gospel by their parents — Reed and Norinne Richards Callister, and Angelo Louis and Fernith Isaacson Saporiti.
Sister Callister is grateful for her father's honest search for the truth while serving in the military during World War II. He was not a member of the Church when he married. But, Sister Callister said, he wanted to know if his wife's church was true and took the missionary discussions in Hawaii. The mission president there delivered the good news by telephone to his wife the day he was baptized.
Sister Callister was a toddler when the family was sealed in the temple and doesn't remember it, but said, "Knowing that we have an eternal family means a lot to me."
Elder and Sister Callister's own eternal family had its roots at BYU. They each attended from California, moving into the same apartment complex and the same ward. They met at a ward snowball dance and got to know each other serving in ward callings. Sister Callister said it wasn't his jump shot she most admired as she and her friends would watch him and the other college men play basketball on the apartment complex court.
Their relationship developed slowly, they said, but ultimately resulted in marriage in the Los Angeles California Temple on Dec. 20, 1968.
They were immediately unified in establishing a gospel-centered home.
In her patriarchal blessing, Sister Callister said she was told to be faithful in family prayer and family home evening, and she took it to heart. "Even before we had children, I would cut out flannel board stories in the Church's old Instructor magazine," she said.
Elder Callister, an audience of one, listened on family night to Sister Callister's flannel board lessons about such scripture stories as Noah's Ark and David and Goliath. By the time their children came, and they came quickly, Sister Callister had a large repertoire of flannel board stories to tell the children, he said.
Living the gospel kept the family close, but one challenge was perplexing to Sister Callister.
As a teenager, one of her sons became obsessed with sports. Since she had never had much interest in sports, she found it increasingly difficult to communicate with him.
"She was praying to know what she should do and the impression came to read a sports magazine," Elder Callister said. "Then she'd talk with our son about what players had been traded, batting averages and things like that and they started conversing all the time. I remember one day walking out the front door with him and he said, 'Dad, mom knows a lot about sports."'
Mother and son became best of friends and he started talking to her more about school and other parts of his life, Sister Callister said.
Staying close to their children was always a priority for Elder and Sister Callister. She said of her husband, "He has always been available for our children. I don't think they would ever be able to think of a time when they needed him when he wasn't there."
Working for a family law firm helped. There, he noted, he had the good examples of his father, as well as his brother, Elder Douglas L. Callister, who is also a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and also had a flexible schedule.
"We tried to go to all of our kids' activities," he said. "We loved being with them."
Now that their children are grown, Elder and Sister Callister are enjoying expanded opportunities to serve in the Church. But Elder Callister believes all callings can be fulfilling. "I think two of our most rewarding years were when we were serving as seminary teachers together," he said. "I think everybody in the Church is important serving in their own calling, and that's the great thing about the Church."
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