Eight months ago, there were only about 16 men who attended priesthood meeting at the Salt Lake Home Branch. Today, attendance has nearly doubled. And Branch Pres. Joseph Gunn claims one of the reasons behind the improved attendance is 101-year-old William O. Clark.
The spry centenarian spends much of his time on Sundays wheeling wheelchair-bound residents to and from their Church meetings. Those meetings are held in the lobby of the Salt Lake Home, a residential home for senior citizens."He goes more than the extra mile when he goes to meetings," explained Pres. Gunn. "He always calls for the others on his way to the meetings. He goes and fetches them, bringing them in wheelchairs and helping those who walk with walkers and canes.
"It's quite a sight," Pres. Gunn remarked. "It's inspiring to see Brother Clark pushing those people who are sometimes 20 and 30 years younger than he is. He's incredible."
Clark has been a resident at the home only since April, but he's already a familiar sight as he makes his rounds, cheering up others and giving of himself. "He's such a dynamic person," the branch president continued. "He lives the gospel – he's always looking for ways to help others at the home and wherever he can."
But Clark doesn't see anything out of the ordinary about his actions. "We all help each other," he insisted. "You know, it's the good old Mormon way of doing things. When you see something you can do for others, you do it. It's that simple."
To Clark, life is simple. "This is my life," he declared, pointing to the dozens of pictures that decorate the walls of his room at the home.
The pictures begin with a bright-eyed baby picture of Clark, born in Georgetown, Idaho, in 1887. A century later, those same bright eyes sparkle as Clark speaks about the memories that the photographs evoke: memories of his New York mission, his years as a traveling clothes salesmen, and, dearest of all, the memories of loved ones.
Gesturing to a prominent display of holiday greetings on a nearby shelf, Clark observed: "I think those cards and the people that sent them are worth all the money in the world. You can spend money and then it's gone, but the love that is behind those cards is always there."
The cards were sent by family and friends. Clark and his wife, Myrtle Dalrymple, who died 10 years ago, had four children. The couple's only son died when he was 5. Three daughters lived to adulthood and Clark smiles proudly as he talks of them, their 10 children, and his 21 great-grandchildren. In addition, Clark has many friends from his years as a traveling salesman.
"I used to travel all over the western part of the country selling happiness and giving clothes away," he said, with a smile. "When you can fit a man or a woman in a suit of clothes that fits them perfectly, you've made them happy."
The gospel has always played a major role in Clark's life. He claims the secret to his long life is obeying the commandments and living the gospel.
"You can't be alive and alert today without reading the scriptures," he declared. "Those books are full of beautiful, worthwhile things and reading those sacred books is part of working out your own salvation."
Clark likes to share his knowledge and testimony with others, too. "We're all supposed to be missionaries, you know," he said. "We all need to take part in letting others know what the gospel is all about."
Clark definitely does his part in the small branch. "There are between 90 and 100 people at the home," explained Pres. Gunn. "I would guess that 80 or 85 of them are members. Brother Clark takes a personal interest in each of them, and he enjoys talking and spending time with those that aren't members. He sets a quiet example for all of them to follow.
"The gospel is his life and you can see that," he continued. "He goes around and mingles with all the people. It's kind of like a little neighborhood and he goes from room to room, helping others and cheering them up and encouraging them. He's a great missionary. He just gives 100 percent in everything he does."
That total commitment is important, according to Clark. "If I can't be converted to something, I don't want to do it," he said. "It's just like with clothes. A cheap suit can't be compared to quality merchandise. That's the way life is. Money and possessions and fame and fortune can't be compared to the gospel and family and love. And once you find what is really quality, you need to be totally committed."