A pivotal moment in the marriage of Elder Richard G. Scott and Sister Jeanene Scott came early on when they suffered a double tragedy.
Elder Scott mentioned this briefly on Sept. 12, 2010, in a Church Educational System devotional address, when he was talking about the rewards of married life. He spoke tenderly of caring one night for his son who was ill with a chronic heart problem.
“I didn’t know then that just a few months later he would pass away,” Elder Scott said. “I will always remember holding him in my arms.”
His youngest son, Michael, enlarged upon that incident in a Sept. 23 interview on the occasion of his father’s passing on Sept. 22. “That happened before I was born,” he said of the tragedy that occurred in the late 1950s. “That was my older brother, Richard, and he was in and out of the hospital his whole life. He died when he was about 2 ½ years old.
“I think for both of my parents, caring for Richard was a sort of defining moment.”
While Richard was hospitalized for open heart surgery, his parents had occasion to comfort another anxious mother in the waiting room whose own child was having surgery as well.
“The doctors came out and said the surgery was successful for my brother Richard, and they were relieved,” Michael recounted. About 30 minutes later, the doctor came back out and said, ‘We lost him.’”
Some six weeks later, Sister Scott, who was pregnant at the time, was delivered of a baby girl who died in childbirth. They named her Andrea.
“Instead of becoming bitter or down, they just seemed more committed and more faithful and more grateful,” Michael said.
“And interestingly, it was that event and the events that followed that led to my grandfather’s — my dad’s dad — joining the Church, and his mother — my dad’s mom — becoming reactivated in the Church.”
The grandparents, Kenneth and Mary Scott, were talking one day when he asked her how Richard and Jeanene could be taking the tragedy so well.
“She turned to him and said, ‘Well, they’ve been sealed in the temple, and they’ll be with their children after this life, but you and I haven’t.’ ”
Michael recounted, “That just worked at them for days, and then my grandfather became interested in the Church, started studying the gospel.”
Kenneth Scott had been influenced by Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then serving as United States Secretary of Agriculture (see accompanying article).
“He joined the Church, later became a sealer in the temple, and when the Washington D.C. Temple opened, the very first day, my grandfather sealed my brother and me, who are both adopted, to my parents.”
Richard and Andrea were the second- and third-eldest in the family, born after Mary Lee. In the subsequent years, Elder and Sister Scott would adopt four more children.
“And it’s interesting,” Michael said, “from the time we were little, they would say, ‘Oh yes, you’re adopted, but don’t worry, that’s just the way Heavenly Father used to get us together. We were always meant to be this family, and that’s just the method He used.’ ”
At the CES fireside cited above, Elder Scott would allude to that attitude when mentioning parents who are not physically able to have children: “I am a witness that the Lord can guide such parents to spirits He would have in their home through the process of adoption. Later, when those children are sealed in the temple by the authority of the holy priesthood, they are in every sense equivalent to children born to that couple in the covenant.”
Michael described his father as “a truly great man.”
“I got to see him both as a public figure and in his private moments, and what I love and respect about my dad so much is that both of those things were completely in harmony.”
Michael told the Deseret News that his father was visited in his final hours by President Russsell M. Nelson and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quroum of the Twelve Apostles, who gave him a blessing, and later, by President Thomas S. Monson, who gave him an additional blessing, expressing how effective the apostle had been in his service and how he was loved by many.
Elder Scott had been Elder Christofferson’s mission president in the late 1960s, so it was meaningful for the two men later to work side-by-side in the quorum.