8 LDS Church leaders who served in the armed forces

Elder L. Tom Perry served in the Marine Corps. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

Elder L. Tom Perry served in the Marine Corps. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

On Friday, the United States celebrates Veterans Day, a day we honor individuals who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have served in the military as well as Church leaders. Here are eight recent general authorities — some living, some recently deceased — who served in the armed forces.

1. President Thomas S. Monson

Major conflict: World War II
Military branch: Navy

President Thomas S. Monson said in a 2007 address, “During the final phases of World War II, I turned 18 and was ordained an elder — one week before I departed for active duty with the navy. A member of my ward bishopric was at the train station to bid me farewell. Just before train time, he placed in my hand a book which I hold before you tonight. Its title: ‘The Missionary’s Hand Book.’ I laughed and commented, ‘I’ll be in the navy — not on a mission.’ He answered, ‘Take it anyway. It may come in handy.'”

It did come in handy. President Monson used the handbook as both a hard object to keep his clothes firm in his bag and as an instruction manual to learn how to give a priesthood blessing when one of his shipmates was ill.

2. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Military branch: German Air Force

President Uchtdorf related the following story about his air force training: “Many years ago I attended pilot training in the United States Air Force. I was far away from my home, a young West German soldier, born in Czechoslovakia, who had grown up in East Germany and spoke English only with great difficulty. I clearly remember my journey to our training base in Texas. I was on a plane, sitting next to a passenger who spoke with a heavy Southern accent. I could scarcely understand a word he said. I actually wondered if I had been taught the wrong language all along. I was terrified by the thought that I had to compete for the coveted top spots in pilot training against students who were native English speakers.”

A local LDS branch was in the process of building a new meetinghouse. President Uchtdorf spent his spare time helping build it, even though some of his instructors thought his time would be better spent studying. In the end, he finished first in his class.

3. President Boyd K. Packer

Major conflict: World War II
Military branch: Air Force

In this video, President Packer remembers when he joined the Air Force and tells of the comfort that came to him through priesthood blessings.

4. Elder L. Tom Perry

Major conflict: World War II
Military branch: Marines

Elder Perry’s military service affected his life deeply. In this video, he shares one particularly poignant experience.

5. President Russell M. Nelson

Major conflict: Korean War
Military branch: Army 

6. Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Military branch: National Guard

Elder Oaks learned the importance of using specific language during his time in the national guard. He said in a 1993 address, “When I was seventeen, I joined the Utah National Guard. There I learned that a soldier must use certain words in speaking to an officer. I saw this as another mark of respect for authority. I also observed that this special language served as a way of reminding both the soldier and the officer of the responsibilities of their positions. I later understood that same reasoning as explaining why full-time missionaries should always be called by the dignified titles of elder or sister, or the equivalent in other languages.” He used this idea to teach the importance of using respectful language in prayer.

7. Elder Richard G. Scott

Military branch: Navy; worked as an engineer on military nuclear power reactors

When Elder Richard G. Scott was called to serve as a mission president, his commanding officer was angry. He refused to even speak to Elder Scott after he told him. Elder Scott related the story this way: “It wasn’t going to be hard for me to leave; I knew I had been called as a mission president by the Lord. … My last day in the office I asked for an appointment with the admiral. His secretary gasped. I went with a copy of the Book of Mormon in my hand. He looked at me and said, ‘Sit down, Scott, what do you have? I have tried every way I can to force you to change. What is it you have?’ There followed a very interesting, quiet conversation. There was more listening this time. He said he would read the Book of Mormon. Then something happened I never thought would occur. He added, ‘When you come back from the mission, I want you to call me. There will be a job for you.'”

8. Elder Robert D. Hales

Major conflict: Korean War
Military branch: Air Force

Elder Robert D. Hales told the story of an important spiritual lesson he learned while serving in the Air Force. “Each unit in the 31st Fighter Bomber Squadron had a motto to inspire their efforts. Our motto, ‘Return with Honor,’ graced the side of our fighter aircraft. ‘Return with Honor’ was a constant reminder to us of our determination to return to our home base with honor only after having expended all of our efforts to successfully complete every aspect of our mission.”


Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

One Comment

  1. Avatarmarie g. brewer Reply

    Some of sisters from our small ward in Delta C0. had g meeting i had recently read the section on Chuch leaders in the military i have 4 sons all served each in the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force, my son in the marines served in Viet Namn, my son in the navy for 30 tears retired as Master chief. my youngest son in the Air force. So0 I saw this article on the miliart men from our church, so I copied it and presented some to the sisters it was enjoyed by all thank you marie brewer

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