Nora also instilled in her children the desire to learn through her example of scholarship, especially her gospel scholarship. At the April 2010 general conference, my father showed a visual aid—a notebook his mother had filled with notes as part of her preparation for teaching her class in Relief Society. Ted Perry recalled that her teaching routine began in the bedroom, where she kept her Church books. Ted could hear his mother in her bedroom practicing her lesson material out loud. She would ask herself questions and then answer the questions based on the lesson material. Next, she moved her lesson materials to the dining room, where her preparation became a family activity. In the dining room the interrogator became the interrogated as her husband, children, and even visitors would be invited to ask her questions on the topic of her lesson. Sometimes Nora and Tom disagreed on what was the correct answer to a gospel question. In fact, this was not an unusual occurrence because both Tom and Nora were former college debaters.
Fortunately, the Perrys had an able judge and tiebreaker. Because Tom had spent several years living at the Beehive House, he knew the Joseph F. Smith children well, including Joseph Fielding Smith. Tom would call Elder Smith and ask him the question he and Nora were debating. The Perrys were always willing to accept Elder Smith’s answers as the gospel truth and thereby maintain peace. There were a few occasions, however, when Elder Smith admitted he had not considered the issue Tom and Nora were debating. Each time this happened, he called them back a few hours later with the answer he had obtained from studying the question. On several occasions my father has publicly expressed gratitude to his parents for the spiritual training they gave him as a boy. He once said, “I guess my earliest recollection is being at Mother’s knee before we went to bed. She was a woman of great faith.” When he was older and shared a room with his brothers, his mother would go upstairs with them every night and wait outside the door long enough to be sure her sons had said their personal prayers. At one meal each day, Nora would turn the backs of the chairs to the table, and the family would kneel in prayer before eating. My father recalls, “As we would kneel in family prayer and listen to our father, a bearer of the priesthood, pour out his soul to the Lord for the protection of the family against the fiery darts of the wicked, one more layer was added to our shield of faith.”
My father has also said, “Growing up in the home I was in, it was hard not to have a testimony; it was woven into our lives by our parents.”