The First Annual Meridian Leadership Awards
By Scot Facer Proctor
Publisher of Meridian Magazine

What a better way to celebrate Meridian’s 4th Birthday today than to honor some outstanding leaders among the “community” of Latter-day Saints! About a month ago we asked for nominations from the vast readership of Meridian. We received scores of worthy and wonderful nominations. The narrowing-down process has been painful and painstaking. In fact, when we got to the finalists we decided that instead of only giving five awards, as we had announced, we would give six Meridian Leadership Awards and an additional six Meridian Leadership Honorable Mention Awards.

In our founding statement about Meridian (a statement that has never been removed from the magazine) we quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley on leadership. His admonition was part of the drive that helped us form Meridian: “I urge you with all the capacity that I have to reach out in a duty that stands beyond the requirements of our everyday lives, that is, to stand strong, even to become a leader in speaking up in behalf of those causes which make our civilization shine and which give comfort and peace to our lives. You can be a leader. You must be a leader…” That bold statement constantly motivates us here at Meridian to press forward at all hazards.

We looked for people in the midst of the myriad nominations who were common folk like you and us, yet uncommon in their devotion to a cause, unrelenting in their pursuit of service, and unswerving in their devotion to principles of righteousness. We have chosen some people you will likely recognize, but mostly they are people that we have chosen to recognize-people who probably haven’t been given a prestigious leadership award in their lives and probably didn’t care to receive one, but who deserved it long ago.

Meridian’s own Rodger Dean Duncan and Ed J. Pinegar wrote a fitting statement that says much about those we are about to introduce you to: “In every sense, great leaders in the Church are Christ-centered Saints. While their personalities, styles and skills may vary widely, the common thread of their character is faithfulness, devotion, love unfeigned, sacrifice and consecration. They live as though their lives depend on their character, because they do.”

Such is the case as we announce the following six Meridian Leadership Awards and also introduce you, tomorrow, to six more who are being honored with the Meridian Leadership Honorable Mention Awards. Congratulations to all 12 of you. We honor you. We thank you for your service. We hope that our small token of appreciation will bless and lift you.

Susan Roylance
of West Jordan, Utah and Nairobi, Kenya

She’s called by many the “champion of the family.” This unassuming mother of seven and grandmother of 22 has traveled to 35 countries and participated in 21 international conferences to fight the never-ending battle to preserve the family.

Susan’s life changed the day she was “laughed and sneered at” during the Fourth World Conference of Women. “When I introduced myself in a caucus meeting as being from United Families I was shocked that they hated families so much, and thought that motherhood was such a demeaning role for women. That day I decided to get more involved – to represent motherhood, and the family, in a positive way.”

One of Susan’s special interests is working with orphans and street children. Perhaps that’s why she and her husband of 42 years, Bob, are now officially “bi-continental,” living in both West Jordan, Utah and in Africa. The work Susan and Bob are doing in Africa is an extension of the public policy work Susan has done at the UN for so many years.

Everything that Susan has accomplished seems to have prepared her for her latest and perhaps greatest contribution to the pro-family movement-the compilation of the United Nations Negotiating Guide. This miraculous 480-page volume collects under one cover twenty-two key international treaties and UN conference documents and identifies, organizes, and indexes the family-supportive language. UN ambassadors and delegates have begged for copies.

Dr. Richard Wilkins says of her: “Susan Roylance is an inveterate ‘do-er.’ In fact, I have never seen anyone work so hard, so long, and so effectively on as many projects as Susan. Furthermore, she doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed when the odds are against her. She simply (and in a clear, systematic manner) sizes up the task that lays before her, determines how best to tackle it, and then goes to work. She doesn’t stop until the task is done. Sometimes I wonder whether she needs sleep. As a result, lives are blessed and miracles occur in her wake. Susan is a true latter-day hero.”

Susan is the co-founder and former president of United Families International, and president and/or director of numerous other organizations including: Reach the Children, ChildHelp International, Women for Integrity in the Nation, Coalition for Religious Liberty, Utah Association of Women, Children’s Museum of Utah, and the PTA.

Elaine Cannon
of Salt Lake City, Utah

“It is her leadership in the home that is most remarkable to me,” reports Holly C. Metcalf, daughter of Elaine Cannon. “Mother managed to be a full-time mom and still handle a full load of Church and employment responsibilities because she would get up at ‘the crack of dawn’ and write her daily newspaper column or the manuals for various auxiliaries, leaving her many hours to run the house, maintain the yard, sew, cook, and help her children with their needs. Her six children can speak of her ability to manage, juggle, prioritize, and inspire.”

Elaine Cannon may be best remembered for her service as General President of the Young Women, on the Church Correlation Committee, or as assistant editor for the New Era magazine, which she helped create.

The last decade or so has been marked by one heartache after another for Elaine and her family. She has lost three grown children to various diseases, and then lost her husband, for whom she had cared for 18 years while he struggled with the effects of a stroke. In spite of these potentially faith-wrenching and body-breaking trials, Elaine has provided an example to all her posterity of submissiveness to God’s will, steady endurance, and has shown the way to ‘carry on’ (which happens to be one of her favorite hymns). As an example of her optimism, when her own health problems become cumbersome she always replies when asked how she is, “Things are looking up, thank you.”

Holly reports further: “At age eighty she was just released from her calling as Stake Relief Society President to serve as a teacher in her ward Relief Society.”

Strangers and friends alike are impressed with her magnetism, warmth, energy and charm. Audiences and readers have been entertained and inspired by her words of instruction and testimony. “But it is to her family that she leaves the greatest legacy,” says Holly.

Donald Deshler
of Overland Park, Kansas

Donald D. Deshler, Ph.D., is Professor of Special Education and Director of the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas. He teaches graduate courses on instructional methodologies for teachers of adolescents and young adults with learning disabilities. The Center for Research on Learning is an internationally recognized research and development organization noted for creating solutions that dramatically improve quality of life, learning, and performance, especially for those who experience barriers to success. The Center has received $45 million in grants and financial assistance to fund its research and work.

Brother Deshler is former President of the Lenexa Kansas Stake, and presently serves as Director of Multi-Stake Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the greater Kansas City area. His leadership in public affairs is stellar. He has great vision and expresses his vision in leadership to public affairs councils in six LDS stakes. Rodger Dean Duncan, coauthor of “Leadership for Saints”, and Meridian Magazine contributor, is a member of Don’s multi-stake council. Rodger recently commented that he had been involved in public-affairs-type councils in many areas of the world, but he had not observed one of higher caliber or more successful than the council headed by Don Deshler.

His church service has touched thousands of lives directly and continues to touch many lives indirectly. His professional research and work have touched thousands of teachers and many thousands more students whose lives have been greatly improved as they overcome their learning and achievement barriers.

Don is modest about his achievements and will not discuss openly his professional accolades and successes, although they are numerous. Consequently, this information, though known to a few, is virtually unavailable.

Linda King
of El Paso, Texas

Linda King is an amazing woman. If you ask any Latter-day Saint in the El Paso area if they know Linda, they probably will. “She has done much for the community in this area,” says friend Anne Pratt, “and she has built up the name of the Church here tremendously.”

Linda is a mover and a shaker. She is currently serving as Stake Community Relations Specialist. She goes way above her “job description.” She spends 30-40 hours each week volunteering for or organizing different projects for various non-profit organizations.

She started a program where missionaries go to a shelter and cut the hair of the homeless each week. This has been on-going for nearly 2 years now and the word is out because there is a long line every week for haircuts.

For the last 4 years she has organized a luncheon for more than 30 non-profit organizations in El Paso. She asks them what they need for the coming year. She takes their suggestions and is a prime mover and resource for each ward in her stake as to service projects, and eagle scout and laurel projects. She makes sure that each year all of these organizations are helped at least once, and usually multiple times. Some of these are Red Cross, Salvation Army, YWCA, Candelighters, Child Crises Center, and United Way.

She came up with the idea to paint a wall on an entire city block here. She helped the youth in our area design it and they painted it for Youth Conference. It is a beautiful and permanent addition to El Paso’s landscape.

She has helped the city receive thousands of pounds of canned goods from the Humanitarian department of the Church for the Martin Luther King annual food drive several years running.

She has orchestrated monthly birthday parties for the Children’s Day Care Center (a place to help low income single women get education and gainful employment while their children are taken care of). These children have nothing, and are so appreciative of the parties that Linda delegates and/or oversees.

In each case she has received great press for the Church in both newspapers and TV spots. Largely for her efforts the Church is seen in a very positive light here. In everything she does, Linda is not afraid to represent herself as a member of the Church.

Last year, Linda experienced a great tragedy. Her daughter was murdered. Instead of stopping her efforts, she has worked with even more tenacity. “The service is good therapy for me.” She says. Since that event, she has been asked to speak at many high schools teaching teens ways to avoid abuse. She has been an advocate for “Battered Women’s Shelter,” and other abuse/help organizations as well because of this soft spot in her heart.

Beverly Carmen Spencer
of Torrance, California

Sister Beverly Spencer has a mission to make others feel warm with her quilts and the love that she puts into them. She has spent a lifetime making quilts for anyone in need. In the last 4 years since her husband’s untimely death she has made and sent the Humanitarian Department of the Church more than 400 hand made quilts.

One young girl in her ward has an illness and has to attend church in a wheel chair. Sister Spencer noticed that she had a blanket over her legs to keep warm so she went home and made her a lap quilt for every holiday so that she could change blankets each month.

She has also donated quilts for the local Police Department to hand out to children in need. According to her son, David Spencer, “My mom lives her life in serving others and always thinks and ponders on how she can give of herself to those in need. She will drop everything when someone is in need. She will go without in order that her loved ones have.”

Sister Spencer has also made personal quilts for all of her 29 grand children and her 2 great grandchildren.

Sister Spencer has served as Relief Society President, Primary President, Early Morning Seminary Teacher, Temple Preparation Teacher, Sunday School Teacher, Relief Society Teacher, Visiting Teacher, and she was a major support to her husband when he was the Stake Patriarch, transcribing over 500 blessings.

Garry Matson
of Chubbuck, Idaho

Garry Matson has fulfilled his calling as a home teacher ever since he was called. He has taken the stewardship of this great calling very serious and has always believed that this is the most important calling one can be given in the church.

According to his daughter, Debra Layman, “he is the most faithful home teacher I have ever known. He never misses a month, unless he is gone out of town. He does his very best to be there for those people to whom he has been blessed to visit and makes sure that they know he is their home teacher. Even when our mother suffered a stroke at 30 years old and has struggled with health problems ever since, even working three jobs to support his growing family, he never missed his home teaching.”

Garry Matson is also known for his honesty. His daughter tells this story of him: “My Father is the most honest person you will ever meet. When I was a newly employed young woman, my parents wanted to take me out to lunch. We went to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful lunch filled with talking and enjoying each other’s company. My father received the check and he always checks it over to make sure that everything is correct on it. I remember him saying that they didn’t charge him for my meal. He looked at it, double checked it and realized that they totally missed it. We went up to the counter to pay for it and he told the cashier that they had missed a meal that we had purchased. They went to the waitress and sure enough, it had been left off. The cashier was so impressed with my father’s honesty that he gave him his next visit to the restaurant free. My father said that wasn’t necessary. But he insisted. The cashier told my father that he wished more people would be as honest as he was. I could do nothing but smile and beam at my father.

“He has always been an example to all of us children and grandchildren, but what he told me has never left me in my life, ‘Debbie, the Lord expects us to be honest in all our dealings, that means everything we do we are to be honest. We got a nice lunch. That waitress works hard for a living. She would have lost out on that meal because she missed it. You should never try to get something for free when you were planning on purchasing it anyway.’ I always remember my Father and how he has taught me to be honest.”

Garry Matson has been married nearly 46 years, has five children (all married in the temple), and 15 grandchildren. He and his wife, Glenis, are temple workers in the Idaho Falls Temple.

Don’t miss Meridian’s Thursday edition (tomorrow) where we will highlight the six Meridian Leadership Honorable Mention Awards.

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