Thirteen is a favorite number for Pres. William C. Tanner of the Chicago Illinois Mission, and his wife, Althelia. They are parents of 13 children, all of whom were encouraged to marry in the temple as they grew up.
Temple marriage was emphasized not only at home, but was also repeated in countless speeches given by Pres. Tanner over the years while he served as bishop or mission president's counselor.At home, the parents' teachings often centered on the plan of salvation. "The children learned how everything fit in, especially eternal marriage – that was the basis for our teaching," said Sister Tanner.
Family traditions also centered around religious themes. The children enjoyed listening to stories from the Book of Mormon and Bible. They also put on a living nativity scene program for their family and others at Christmastime.
The children were taught that their brothers and sisters were their best friends. Close relationships developed in those early years, and have endured. "Each child knew the family was counting on him or her," said Pres. Tanner.
The children didn't disappoint their parents or each other. Ten – all the boys and three of the girls – served full-time missions. All 13, and all of their spouses, will have earned at least bachelor's degrees when the youngest, Bryan, graduates from BYU this spring.
"I think we were just very blessed," said Pres. Tanner.
But the capstone of the family's achievements came last August, appropriately on the 13th, when Bryan was married to Renae Bake in the Chicago Illinois Temple.
All 12 of the other children had previously been married in the temple. And all 12, with their spouses, traveled to Chicago. In keeping with family tradition, they gathered and told positive experiences about the bride and groom. "It was like a wonderful testimony meeting," said one.
The moment to remember, however, was in the temple, where parents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, gathered in the sealing room and witnessed the completion of one of the family's lifetime goals. Tears were shed as that sacred sealing ordinance was performed by Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Quroum of the Seventy and president of the North America Central Area.
"It was the best day of our life," said Pres. Tanner. "We've never had a better one."