I have interrupted my regular blogging over the last couple of weeks, because I have been attending to responsibilities following my Dad’s recent death. In fact, he died the day of my last post, in the afternoon. This post, while out of the ordinary in what normally might appear here on Messenger and Advocate will be my final tribute to the man I called Dad. Since the thoughts about my Dad implicate and revolve around LDS issues and doctrine, I have no hesitation on posting them here. They are an expansion of remarks I made at his funeral services in Los Alamitos, CA (1/13/06), and Murray, UT (1/16/06).
Photo Courtesy Owen R. Murray
[T]he time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream . . . .
As I pondered life with my Dad, I wondered where did the half century plus of years go that I came to know and love this man? Indeed it was as though my time with him passed away like as it were a dream. While I always knew this day would come, I could scarce believe its reality when it did.
My Dad taught me many, many things in life. I have over 50 years of priceless memories that I will cherish until we are one day reunited in another time and place. I want to just comment on three of the most important concepts or lessons he taught me over my lifetime. I tried to organize them in order of importance and found I was unable to do so, as they are inextricably intertwined one with another. So I post them on no particular order other than for sake of discussing and outlining them.
My father once described himself as having been raised in a religious home; however, he was not necessarily religious. He was set to marry his high school sweet heart, Carol (my mother) right after high school graduation. He went to get a Temple recommend, and his Bishop told him that as soon as he had fulfilled a mission for the Church he would be happy to give him a Temple recommend for marriage. My mother told Dad that she would be waiting, and sure enough, upon completion of an honorable mission to the British Isles in 1952 he and my mother were married for Time and all Eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple.
I recall on at least one occasion, my Dad told me in his youth, he never had much use for the Church. While he was not antagonistic, he was not yet really converted. This began to change upon completion of his mission to Great Britain. It also changed through the 53 years of marriage to my mother, who had the most profound influence on my Dad than any other mortal soul. By the end of his life, my Dad had served a full time mission, served in a bishopric as a counselor, and a Bishop, served on the Stake High Council, and also as a Temple Worker during the last five years of his life. By the end of his life, Dad was fully converted to the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and lived its precepts.
His life was a powerful example to me of the critical importance of God and Church in a person’s life, and the positive and important changes God and the Church can make in one’ s life. Like my Dad, there was a time in my life while having been raised in a religious home, I was not religious. I was too intellectually mature to be bothered by religion. I was an intellectual want to be. God, Church and Commandments had no place in my life, because I knew better. I had more and better answers than those called to receive Revelations directly from the Source of all knowledge.
To this day I am eternally grateful to my Dad who through his example continued to show love, kindness, and respect to me during a rebellious phase of life that did not include Jesus Christ, or His Gospel restored. His continued commitment played no small role in my eventual “conversion” and return to Christ’s Church. I let Christ and his Gospel Restored back into my life, which changed me forever.
My Dad was a life long professional educator. He began his career as a teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District, and retired as Principal of Millikan High School. He spent over 30 years in the service of faculty, staff and most importantly students. My Dad was an educated man, having obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from the University of Utah, a Master’s Degree in History from Cal State University Long Beach, and his Doctorate in School Administration from Brigham Young University.
Following in his footsteps, I too completed a college education, and a professional degree, J.D. in law. While my Dad’s temporal educational accomplishments were indeed impressive, it was the spiritual implications of his education that impressed me more. Most directly impacting my life was Jacob’s teaching about education and the counsel of God:
O that cunning aplan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.
My Dad exemplified this principle, which for many years I did not, until I learned from his example why it was true. In comparing my life with his, it was clear I thought I was wise; but, because I hearkened not unto God’s counsel. I was in fact foolish. It was my Dad’s example of having become learned and hearkening unto God’s counsel that produced true wisdom, from which I learned by example. One that I hope will save my eternal soul.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
We are also commanded:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
One of the most comprehensive scriptural passages about education, learning, light and truth was revealed to man in 1833 by the Prophet Joseph:
Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
There was a time I was seduced by the world’s argument that the primary object of learning was to get gain–to be a financial success by earthly standards. It was not until I observed my Dad’s educational accomplishments and his own example, through the lens of latter-day revelation that I truly began to understand the critical, eternal and revealed importance of learning and education:
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
We are placed here on earth to learn, even by study and by faith not so that we can make more money than our neighbor, but to prepare us for the worlds and life to come. We are commanded to learn, to obtain and act upon light and truth so that we will be better prepared to face Eternity and become like our Eternal Father and His Son.
Long before there was a Proclamation to the World about the family, I was taught and lived the principles contained therein as exemplified by my own mother and father, including but not limited to:
[M]arriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.
Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
I benefitted in my own life because my own mother and father embodied and taught these principles and concepts in my own life as I grew up in a Christ centered home. I hope I can do as well in my own life and family as a parent.
While I miss my Dad, I am comforted by the knowledge that there will come another time and place, not in this sphere, but in a more exalted sphere where I will have an opportunity to reunite with him again, and continue learning from his example. In the interim I will and do miss him already. Yet, I will continue to strive to live a life based on the examples which he taught me.
Death tries one’s faith. It is much easier to speak about life eternal, and the Resurrection in the abstract. I have found it much more difficult when faced with the reality of the physical separation death brings in one’s own life. Yet, while my Dad’s death has tried my faith, it has not shaken it. I remain convinced that the principles upon which his life was based, and which he taught to me, are in fact true and eternal. I firmly believe that one day our entire family will once again be reunited to enjoy each other’s association.
So to the man we call, Wendol, Dad, and Pupps, we all look forward to seeing you again. And till that happy occasion, may God bless and keep you in his care and work. I am certain you continue in your role as a teacher in the next life, utilizing your time and talents to their fullest as you did here on earth as a wonderful father and example to us all.
Below is a copy of my Dad’s obituary as it essentially appeared in the Press-Telegram, Deseret News, and Salt Lake Tribune:
Wendol Maurice Murray 1930–2006, Long Beach, CA. Wendol Murray, 75, died peacefully on January 7, 2006 at his daughter’s home in Nipomo, CA . The fourth of four children, Wendol was born to Robert and Milda Murray on April 21, 1930, in Tooele, Utah. He graduated from Murray High School, where he played football for the Murray Spartans (Smelterites). He also met his life long sweetheart Carol (a cheerleader) at Murray High, whom he would later marry after serving an LDS mission to The British Isles. After serving his mission 1950 to 1952, Wendol and Carol were sealed September 10, 1952 for Time and all Eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple. Wendol joined the United States Army in 1954. He completed basic training in California, and then spent 18 months in Germany, serving his country. Learning the importance of a good education on his mission, Wendol began his formal education at the University of Utah graduating with a BS in History and Political Science in 1958. He continued his education graduating with an M.A. in History from Cal State Long Beach in 1966. Wendol completed his formal education earning an EdD in School Administration from Brigham Young University in 1976.
Wendol was a life long educator serving as a counselor, teacher and an administrator at several schools throughout the Long Beach Unified School District including: Teacher at Lindberg Jr. High School, Counselor at Rogers Jr. High School, Instructor Long Beach City College; Vice Principal at Washington Jr. High, Poly High School; Principal at Newcomb Academy, Jefferson Jr. High, Hughes Jr. High and finishing his career as Principal at Millikan High School. After retirement, Wendol continued to substitute at various Long Beach Schools for several years.
As a life long member of the LDS Church, Wendol served in many capacities, including LDS Missionary, Bishopric Counselor, Stake High Council, Bishop and Temple Worker in the Los Angeles Temple. Wendol and Carol also served two years in China with the BYU Teacher’s Exchange Program.
Wendol is survived by his high school sweetheart, Carol; sons, Guy (Daphne) and Bryan (Kristine); daughter, Wendy (Brian); nine grandchildren; brother, Fenton; and sister, Myerta. He was preceded in death by his father, Robert; mother, Milda; and brother, Leo.
Services will be held January, 13 2006 at 11:00 a.m. at the LDS Long Beach East Stake Center located at 4142 Cerritos Avenue, Los Alamitos, CA. An additional service will be held on Monday, January 16, 2006 at 11:00 a.m. at Jenkins-Soffe Funeral Home located at 4760 S. State Street, Murray, UT. Friends and family may call from 10:00-10:45 a.m. prior to services. Interment will be at the Murray City Cemetery immediately following services at 5490 S. Vine Street, Murray, UT.
As a follow up article on my Dad’s life, the Long Beach, Press-Telegram also published the following article on my Dad’s life:
Murray left mark on LBUSD
Caryn Fugami, Staff writer
Time waits for no man. But love often will.
During the late 1940s, Wendol Murray, a center on his Utah high school football team, could not keep his focus entirely on the field and fell in love with Carol, a cheerleader. Plans to marry after high school were thwarted, however, when Murray was called on a mission to the British Isles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Murray dutifully went and when he returned two years later, Carol was there.
“She waited for him,” son Guy Murray said. Wendol and Carol were married Sept. 10, 1952, in the Salt Lake City Temple, a marriage that thrived 53 years until Jan. 7, when Wendol Maurice Murray died in Nipomo near California’s central coast, at his daughter’s home. He was 75.
Born in Tooele, Utah, Murray served in Germany with the U.S. Army before enrolling at the University of Utah and earning a bachelor of science degree in history and political science in 1958. After being offered a teaching position at Lindbergh Junior High School, he moved his family to Long Beach, where they eventually bought a home in El Dorado Park Estates.
Murray soon transferred into administration to continue what would become a lifelong commitment to education in Long Beach schools that spanned more than three decades. His positions included counselor at Rogers Middle School; instructor at Long Beach City College; vice principal at Washington Middle School and Poly High; and principal at Newcomb Academy, Jefferson Middle School, Hughes Middle School and Millikan High. He retired in 1991 while at Millikan High.
Along the way, Murray continued his own education, receiving a master’s degree in history at Cal State Long Beach and his doctorate in school administration from Brigham Young University in Utah.
“He was a legend,” Don Keller, co-principal of Millikan High, said of Murray.
Keller recalls Murray’s boss, Edward Eveland, referring to Murray as “the most dynamic principal” he knew.
“(Eveland) said he had vision and could implement change for the good. He was extremely bright, extremely organized, and had great interpersonal relationships with all he came into contact with. He was a true gentleman, and he was a hard worker.”
Keller still remembers the time Murray fell off a fence, severely breaking his leg.
“That did not stop him,” Keller said, “even though he was up in age. He cut off the leg to his pants and he came to work in a suit with his leg exposed with the different pins and screws and paraphernalia on his leg.”
Despite the demands of his career, Murray persisted in his dedication to family and church. He and Carol, also an educator, taught English for two years at Shandong University in China as part of a BYU teacher’s exchange program. Murray also served in the LDS Church, Los Angeles Temple in different capacities, including missionary, Bishopric Counselor, Stake High Council, Bishop and Temple Worker. And in his retirement years, Murray and his wife built a do-it-yourself cabin on property they owned in Brian Head, Utah.
“It was a family affair type of thing,” Guy Murray said.
When asked what his father’s legacy was, his son responded without hesitation.
“His legacy was his family his children, his grandchildren, his wife and his service to the community and church. … It’s a difficult time, but we are certainly uplifted by his life and his memory, and the fact that he did so much for people that he enjoyed working with in the community and in education.”
In addition to his wife, Carol, and son Guy, Murray is survived by his daughter, Wendy; and son, Bryan; brother, Fenton, and sister, Myerta; and nine grandchildren. Services were held Friday at the LDS Long Beach East Stake Center in Los Alamitos. An additional service will be held Jan. 16 at 11 a.m. at the Jenkins-Soffe Funeral Home, 4760 S. State St., Murray, Utah. Interment will be at the Murray City Cemetery.
Caryn Fugami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (562) 499-1337.
I am grateful for a life well lived, and examples well taught. In a very real way, my Dad’s death has been a re-birth of my own life. So, Dad, till we meet again . . . a fondest farewell and God speed.