Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Wood finished `with high honors'

Published: Saturday, March 15, 1997

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At funeral services March 12 for Elder Lowell D. Wood of the Seventy, President Gordon B. Hinckley and others praised his devotion to the kingdom, his productive life and his humility.

Elder Wood, president of the Pacific Area of the Church, died unexpectedly March 7, while on assignment to create the Pago Pago Samoa Mapusaga Stake. He experienced chest pains and died soon after being taken to a hospital.Elder Wood, 64, was living in Sydney, Australia, the Pacific Area headquarters, with his wife, Lorna. They have five children; all but two of their 15 grandchildren were born while the couple was serving overseas.

His death capped a lifetime of service, including director of temporal affairs in the Asia and Pacific areas of the Church, regional manager for the Presiding Bishop's Office in New Zealand, a position with Church Welfare Services in Salt Lake City, co-founder and first director of the Ezra Taft Benson Food and Agricultural Institute at BYU, faculty member and department chairman at BYU, and operator of the family farm in Cardston, Alberta.

The funeral at the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake Center was conducted by stake Pres. Ray H. Wood, a third cousin. In addition to President Hinckley, speakers were Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy, and a son, R. Scott Wood. A choir of returned missionaries who had served under the presidency of Elder Wood in South Africa from 1979 to 1982, provided music. A daughter-in-law, Aren R. Wood, performed a vocal solo.

Seated on the stand were many of the General Authorities of the Church, including President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency; President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency; and most of the Quorum of the Twelve.

President Hinckley described Elder Wood's hometown of Cardston, Alberta, as a small, placid town, "a place of peace and comfort, and a place where it's easy to be satisfied with what you have."

The prophet then summarized Elder Wood's life accomplishments: education at BYU, University of Montana, then University of California at Berkeley, where he obtained a doctorate; a mission in South Africa, where he later was mission president; teaching at BYU; and working for the Church in the Pacific as director of temporal affairs and later area president.

"He traveled far and wide from that little town of Cardston," President Hinckley remarked, "and brought honor to the town as he brought honor and respect to himself."

President Hinckley mentioned Elder Wood's grandfather, Edward J. Wood, a former Alberta Temple president, whom he described as having great spiritual capacity.

"And I think Lowell picked up many of those characteristics that were a hallmark of his grandfather's life," he commented. "His life has been constructively lived in a remarkable and wonderful way."

He noted that Elder Wood passed away at what seems a very young age. "But I guess he lived his mission; he had served faithfully and well. It takes some of us a lot longer to serve as faithfully. He made his contribution. He gave his gift, and it was acceptable, and the Lord has taken him home, in really a beautiful and quiet and wonderful way."

Elder Wood served for five years as a member of the Seventy and would have reached the conclusion of that service this year, President Hinckley observed. "He finished with high honors. He has blessed the work of this Church in that vast and remarkable area of the world. . . . He was loved and respected and honored by all."

Quoting Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar," President Hinckley said, "I'm sure that has been his great privilege, to see his Savior and his Redeemer face to face, as he has crossed the bar."

Elder Wood now goes to join his father, grandfather, and forebears, President Hinckley said. "I think there'll be a lot of stories told among them that will be interesting to listen to for those who are eligible to listen."

President Hinckley quoted scriptures about death and resurrection, including the reference, "Those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them." (D&C 42:47.)

He added: "It's my testimony that for him, this has not been a bitter thing. This has been a good and sweet and wonderful experience without suffering. What a tremendous blessing it is to so go."

Elder Wirthlin read a letter of tribute from the counselors to Elder Wood in the Pacific Area Presidency, Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and Elder Phillip B. Mitchell, area authority.

" `The members and leaders of the Church here in the Pacific Area are all stunned and saddened by the unexpected death of Elder Lowell D. Wood," the letter read. "Elder Wood was a devoted husband and father, priesthood leader and faithful servant of God, a fair judge, a wise counselor, and a compassionate friend. He was so bright, yet so meek; so strong, yet so gentle; so firm, yet so tender. How we will miss him. How we thank our Father in Heaven for Lowell Wood's commitment to the cause of Zion which has blessed the Pacific Area with genuine spiritual renewal in the last few years. We send our warmest Pacific embrace and our sympathy to Lorna Wood and to her children, Brett, Tony, Paula, Lisa and Scott and their families.

" `We wish it were possible on the day of Elder Wood's funeral to have representatives of all of our 99 stakes, and 13 missions there with you to shower the Woods with unique flowers, songs, skits and other rich tokens of appreciation that bespeak the love we all feel for Lowell and Lorna. From the blue-green waters of Tahiti to the rain forests of Samoa, to the palms of Tonga, the beaches of Fiji, the mountains and rivers of New Zealand and the cities and vast expanse of Australia, these beautiful lands are even lovelier now with chapels, stake centers, missionaries, temple patrons, and Latter-day Saint homes in greater abundance than ever before, directly because of Elder Wood's influence. He led the Latter-day Saints with bold courage and loving insight, and they responded to him by drawing closer, not only to him but more importantly to the Lord and to each other.

" `May God bless the Wood family, the Saints of the Pacific and all others who knew Lowell Wood that we may emulate his memorable example of what it means to be a humble follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.' "

Expressing whole-hearted agreement with the letter, Elder Wirthlin declared Elder Wood was an effective area president.

"Every phase of the work in the Pacific area improved. Because he had many years of Church experience he made inspired decisions in presiding over the affairs of the Pacific, which is the largest geographical area in the Church. He was always fair. He loved all the people regardless of their station in life. He was always uplifting. He was sociable and kind to those with whom he spoke. Those who worked with him wanted to be like him. He was well educated but humble and contrite."

When Elder Wood arrived almost five years ago, there were 58 stakes in the Pacific Area, Elder Wirthlin noted, contrasting it with the 99 there today. "This growth came about because the leaders of the stakes were well versed in the doctrines of the kingdom," he added. "He taught the priesthood how to preside. He was a student of Church welfare, having been an outstanding director of temporal affairs. He was extremely competent."

Elder Pace said he met Elder Wood 21 years ago when they both went to work for Church Welfare Services. "We went through a lot together as the Church Welfare Program was modified to meet current needs and resources. Lowell's mind and his spirit were a valuable tool during this intense review. At the same time he maintained a great sense of humor, not to mention, I think, an endearing dose of mischievousness."

Citing a John Donne poem about death and eternity, son R. Scott Wood said the metaphor of a compass describes his father's relationship with Christ and the family's continued relationship with their father.

"Dad's life was centered in Christ," he said. "Growing up a farm boy on the Alberta prairie he learned at a young age who the Savior was and what it meant to have faith in Him. Dad always spoke with utmost love and respect for his mother and father and often told how they taught him the importance of work, the necessity of obedience and the comfort of faith. No matter how far into the world Dad traveled, he never felt far away from that farm in Canada and the lessons he learned there sustained him for a lifetime."