Editor's note: In honor of President Gerald R. Ford, the following tributes are offered to readers.
Though not of our faith, President Gerald R. Ford spoke often of his "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence" and that "the source of our blessings is a loving God, in whom we trust."
He understood the values of the Church and expressed thoughtful consideration for our beliefs, holding Latter-day Saints in high respect. Several of us were privileged to serve on his White House staff, and others elsewhere in his administration.
During his presidency there were many occurrences important to Latter-day Saints, but two are especially representative of the relationship between President Ford and the Church.
On Independence Day weekend of the American Bicentennial in 1976, President Ford hosted President Spencer W. Kimball and 200 Primary children at the White House. With tenderness President Ford praised Latter-day Saints as "so devoted and so dedicated to the Christian sacrifice and the American adventure."
In accepting a bronze statue of a family presented by President Kimball on behalf of the Church, the President of the United States offered a moving tribute to early Mormon pioneers and to the modern family when he said the statue "is symbolic of the many, many people who crossed this continent and came to a very difficult land and through their individual work and collective efforts turned Utah into a garden spot of the United States and, in fact, the world; not only a garden spot in what we see in material things but a real home for the family and for the kind of ideals and the kinds of principles that are good for America."
The next evening President Ford showed exceptional respect by inviting President Kimball and Sister (Camilla) Kimball, Elder L. Tom Perry and Sister (Barbara) Perry, and J. Willard and Alice Marriott as his guests in the Presidential box at the nationally televised Kennedy Center gala. Of all Americans the President could accord such a signal honor, he chose six Latter-day Saints each a devoted American patriot. This was not just any evening; it was a once-every-two-hundred years national celebration, complete with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
That same year, through quiet efforts by LDS members of President Ford's staff, Missouri Governor Christopher S. Bond rescinded the "Extermination Order" signed in 1838 by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, formally apologizing for suffering caused the Latter-day Saints, 138 years after a terrible injustice was committed against the Church, with President Ford's blessing these faithful Church members, one a descendant of those in Liberty Jail with the Prophet Joseph, brought about correcting a horrible wrong.
This week as the United States of America buried its 38th President, Gerald R. Ford, the Church lost a good and faithful friend.
Stephen M. Studdert
In Remembrance of President Gerald R. Ford
Upon assuming the presidency of the United States, Gerald R. Ford said of himself that he was a "Ford not a Lincoln." History will be far kinder to this man who healed a nation by bringing a sense of decency and honor to the office, and wisdom to the policies that led America out of one of the most divisive times in our nation that had paralyzed the institutions of government. If President Ford had any motto, it was: "Promise only what you can deliver, but deliver all that you promise." That he did.
The President was a man of deep religious beliefs, but never for show. He taught by example the principles of Christian living. Secure within himself, he was completely without vindictiveness, and had the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, while treating with respect those whose opinions he did not share. His years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives gave him a wealth of knowledge, experience and relationships across America and the globe, to make possible his transition into the Presidency one of the most remarkable in our lifetime.
The President was a devoted family man. His love for Mrs. Ford and his children was always evident, and he served as a model father to us all. As a family, the Fords exemplified to the world the best that was America, and the stability and trust that is required for families to succeed even in difficult times.
There were many Latter-day Saints who served the President and the nation during that challenging time. Among them were Brent Scowcroft, David Hoopes, Bob Wolthius, Roger Porter, Theodore Tuttle, Stephen Studdert, Greg Newell and Doug Blaser. Many more served with distinction yet, without fanfare, making their imprint on a grateful nation.
Larry Eastland, staff assistant to President Ford, 1973-1977, and Ashby Boyle of the President's Advisory Committee on Refugees
Among the Latter-day Saints who filled various assignments iaint the funeral proceedings of President Gerald R. Ford on Jan. 2 was U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Slaughter of the Arlington Ward, McLean Virginia Stake. He was one of the eight military pallbearers who carried the casket from the hearse into the National Cathedral for services, then returned to the hearse the casket prior to its being flown to Grand Rapids, Mich., for burial.
Brother Slaughter was selected a year ago for such an assignment based on experience. His official duties include participating in military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
After several days of intensive training, Brother Slaughter said carrying the casket into the lofty cathedral with its large stain glass windows was a solemn experience. With only the striking of their heels against the stone floor to break the absolute silence, he said it was imperative that the march be precise.