‘Cowboy way’ taught him work ethic, tenacity

New member of Seventy reflects on lessons learned on the ranch

As a young teen, Lawrence E. Corbridge stood on top of a hill overlooking a valley on his family's large Soda Springs, Idaho, ranch.

It was cold and quiet. He felt the heat from the body of his horse, Rusty. The sun had barely risen over the ridge. As far as he could see, there were cattle.

It seemed "there was perfect balance in the world."

It didn't matter that he had never played Little League baseball or taken swimming lessons. "At that moment I was doing what I was supposed to be doing," said Elder Corbridge, sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy April 5.

Recalling summers working on the family ranch, Elder Corbridge said he was, in essence, learning the "cowboy way." It was a way that encompassed integrity, humility, hard work and tenacity that can only be described as "pig-headed stubbornness."

"You just never give up," he said. "You just never, ever, ever, ever give up. You just keep at it."

Looking back on his life, Elder Corbridge recalled how that tenacity shaped his work as a missionary in Argentina, his profession in the law, and his service to the Church. In all, he said, his life is quite ordinary. "You are interviewing a couple of pretty ordinary people who have lived fairly ordinary lives," he said during a Church News interview.

Elder Corbridge was born April 6, 1949, in Moscow, Idaho, where his family lived while his father attended school. Later Ivan Corbridge, an agricultural economist, would teach at BYU in Provo, Utah, during the winter and spend summer with his family on the 17,000-acre ranch in Soda Springs — where they dry farmed and raised cattle.

Elder Corbridge remembers a youth filled with hard work and extended family. When he turned 10, his father told him the same words he had heard as a boy. "You are 10 now," Ivan Corbridge told his son. "You are old enough to do a man's work."

The boy interpreted his father's words simply. "What I heard him say was that I was now a man."

In a way, recalled Elder Corbridge, "my childhood ended on that day. I worked hard, as ranchers do."

He grew up with a rope in his hand, sitting on a tractor, or combine, or horse. On the tractor or combine, he prayed for rain. But the weather didn't matter on the back of a horse.

Many days he worked from sun up to sun down.

"I never questioned the hard work. I never resisted it. There were magical moments," he said, recalling the smell of fresh hay or the sight of early morning dew on a leaf. "Those things made it worth it."

As a missionary in Argentina, he was asked by Elder David B. Haight what he wanted to do professionally when he returned. Ranching, he responded, was what he knew.

Elder Haight offered a different career path: "You should be a lawyer," he told the young missionary. "The Church needs honest lawyers."

Those words planted in his mind a seed that was not there before. He determined working in the law was a cause he should pursue.

He returned to BYU and eventually entered the charter class at BYU's J. Ruben Clark Law School.

A year later, while clerking for the public defenders office in Las Vegas, Nev., he met Jacquelyn Shamo. As he got to know her, "my world got very small. From that point on there were only two places in the world: where she is and where she is not."

The couple married Dec. 21, 1974, in the Provo Utah Temple.

After graduation, they moved to Salt Lake City where he went to work for a local law firm. Then, at age 29, he was called to be a bishop. Soon he realized he could not reconcile the time demands of working for someone else with what he needed to do as a bishop. He left the firm and started practicing on his own.

"I earned $28 the first month," he said. "We paid $2.80 in tithing. The next month was not a lot better."

At times, he said, the family didn't have two quarters to use at the laundromat. But they "muddled through," happy to be on their own.

Elder Corbridge said his career has given him the opportunity to help people solve problems they can not solve on their own. "It is a wonderful privilege to be in the position to help other people," he said.

Over the years, five sons joined the family. Elder Corbridge embraced his sons' interests, including rock climbing.

On Sunday afternoons, Elder Corbridge would gather his boys around and give them a lesson. He would teach Church principles. Sometimes he would talk about climbing and the need to depend on one another. Other times he would talk about the "cowboy way."

Not giving up, he said, is one of the key principles of the gospel. "In the end life is pretty simple. All it is, is get on the path and keep on going. Don't ever give up….

"Do whatever you have to do to get and keep the Holy Ghost. Make whatever sacrifice is necessary to keep that in your life. Everything else will work out."

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