Elder W. Christopher Waddell: Trust in God is personal, family motto
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Stenciled wording above a door leading out of the home of Elder W. Christopher Waddell and Sister Carol S. Waddell reads "Return with honor." But, Elder Waddell said, their implicit family motto, as much as anything else, has been "Trust in the Lord" (see Proverbs 3:5).
To Elder and Sister Waddell, the two sayings tie in together. "You do things the Lord's way, and things will work out just fine; we will be able to return to Him with honor," he explained.
It was a belief instilled within him during his youth in Los Angeles by good parents who were converts to the Church after marriage and by stalwart local Church leaders.
These included his bishop, Elbert Steele, who would ask Christopher, a college athlete returning home on breaks from San Diego State University, not "How's volleyball going," but "How are you doing? Are you saying your prayers, staying strong, staying active in the Church?"
"I really appreciated those questions that didn't have anything to do with sports, but with the things that were important," reflected Elder Waddell, who was sustained at general conference in April as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Such values would be solidified as Elder Waddell served in the Spain Barcelona Mission from 1978-80.
"It was, up to that point, no question, the most influential experience of my life," he said of his experience as a young missionary. So influential, in fact, that his former mission president, David Doxey, was the first person he called after his father to spread the news that he would be returning to the mission in 2006 as its president.
"It just cemented everything from daily scripture study and daily prayer to temple work."
Sister Waddell, in fact, recalls the occasion just after their honeymoon when she awoke to find that he was in another room reading the scriptures. "I asked, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I always read my scriptures at this time.' He said, 'This is what I learned on my mission, and it's a habit I want to keep.' It's something he's done our whole married life."
Elder and Sister Waddell met while he was attending San Diego State on a volleyball scholarship, having learned the sport as part of youth activities in his home ward. He was an All-American player his last year at the university and played in the World Club championship tournament in Argentina in 1983.
"We met at a Church young adult dance in Long Beach," she recalled. "He asked me to dance."
They were both home for the summer. They went back to their respective universities, she at BYU, and kept up a long-distance relationship, one that culminated in marriage in the Los Angeles Temple almost two years to the day after they met in 1982.
The Waddells would experience again and again what he expressed in these words: "We have in our minds sometimes how we want things to happen, but when we trust the Lord and we're willing to accept His will, we usually don't get what we want, we get what we need.
And, fortunately, He gives us what we need more often than what we want."
A couple of incidents illustrate that, one occurring before and during his mission.
He had played volleyball at a junior college and then submitted his papers pursuant to a mission call.
Thereafter, he received a call from the volleyball coach at Pepperdine University, where he had always wanted to attend and play. The university offered him a scholarship. When he said he would be gone for two years, the university offered to hold his scholarship for him.
"And so I thought, 'This is great; the Lord's going to bless me for serving Him,' " he said. But about midway through the mission, there was a change in coaching staff at the university, and Elder Waddell received a letter informing him he would have to qualify for the scholarship based on how well he could perform at the time of his return.
"For a few days, it was a test of my faith," he said. "I finally realized, 'I just need to trust the Lord. I'm on my mission; He's not going to abandon me for serving Him.' I asked for forgiveness and got back to work. And it was probably two or three months later that I received a letter from the coach at San Diego State offering me a full scholarship, sight unseen."
A former high school and junior college teammate had talked about him at San Diego State, and the school needed someone in the position Elder Waddell played.
The other illustrative incident happened early in their marriage. They wanted to move to San Diego and, almost as an afterthought, prayed about it.
The clear answer was no.
Things progressed in his banking career, and the opportunity to move to San Diego came a year later. This time, the clear answer to their prayer was yes.
"We learned that had we tried to move a year earlier, it wouldn't have worked," he said. The door would have been shut on career advancement, perhaps permanently. "We didn't know that though; the Lord knew."
Elder Waddell draws this lesson: "Sometimes the Lord wants to take you from Point A to Point B, and we think it's a straight line. But sometimes He has to move you to C or D first and then back to B, and you just don't know that at the time."
Family: born June 28, 1959, in Los Angeles, Calif., to Wayne and Joann Waddell. Married Carol Stansel on July 7, 1984, in the Los Angeles California Temple. Four children: Lauren Renee (Russel) Marsh, Rebecca Joann (Gerrit) Winkel, Marc Christopher and Jonathon William.
Education: bachelor's degree in history from San Diego State University; graduate work in BYU executive MBA program.
Career: first vice president of investments at Merrill Lynch, working in international division since 1986 with clients primarily in Mexico.
Community Service: board member of the International Community Foundation based in San Diego, Calif., and working primarily with philanthropy across the border in Mexico.
Church Service: full-time missionary in Spain Barcelona Mission, 1978-80; Area Seventy; president of Spain Barcelona Mission, 2006-2009; stake president and counselor; mission president's counselor; bishop and counselor.