It is said that every classroom needs a clown. Could the same be said for every priesthood quorum? If so, Elder Merlin R. Lybbert of the Second Quorum of the Seventy undoubted filled the bill for his term of service. His talk was filled with sparkling bits of humor. He found humor in everyday life and continually brightened the lives of those who were in his company.
Elder Lybbert was born January 31, 1926 in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, to Charles Lester Lybbert and his wife, Delvia Reed. Raised in meager financial circumstances during the years of the Great Depression, he nevertheless was reared in a household of faith. He was baptized as a child and received the Aaronic Priesthood as a youth.
It was while Merlin was serving as President of the Teachers Quorum that the bishop of his small farming community was injured. Jobs on the bishop's farm were divided among the various quorums and it fell the lot of the Teachers to tend to the pigpens, the chicken coops, and the barn. In an interview with the Church News, Elder Lybbert explained, "That wasn't a very novel assignment for a bunch of farm boys, but I learned some great lessons at that time that I didn't even know I was learning. One lesson was that if you're not efficient in delegation, you get to do the work yourself. You can bet that I made sure that the assignments were given and that they were carried out."
Shortly after graduating from High School he met Nola Cahoon. His sense of humor is apparent as he explains, "It was a Halloween Party in 1943. Actually, she was quite disappointed the next time we met to discover that I hadn't taken off my mask."
Sister Lybbert's sense of humor seemed to match her husband's as she gave the story of their first date, "You know," she said, "I should have known what my life with Merlin would be like from our first date. We went to a dance that he was in charge of. We danced the first dance together, but I never saw him the rest of the night. However, his father filled in for him. He has a very supportive family."
It might have seemed that they would never get together. First there was a military obligation to be met during the closing years of World War II. Then there was the matter of a mission. Merlin R. Lybbert accepted a call to serve in the Eastern States Mission. If his convert count seems low, it might be because he spent sixteen months in the Mission Office as Mission Secrtetary. He was then called as Second Counselor to the Mission President. With the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Eastern States Mission behind him, he returned home... to find that now, instead of her waiting for him, it was his turn to wait... for her to complete nursing school. "Before we were married, I really thought my wife was going to fall in love with the postman," Elder Lybbert confided. "We wrote hundreds of letters. There were certainly no tears shed at our wedding - everyone was just thrilled to see us together after five years of courtship."
The Lybberts were married May 26, 1949 in the Alberta Temple at Cardston. They would eventually give birth to six children. Elder Lybbert quipped, "When we were married we had six theories about raising children. Ten years later we had six children and no theories."
Shortly after their marriage the Lybberts moved to Salt Lake City where Merlin enrolled at the University of Utah. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Law. He continued his education and earned a Juris Doctor Degree. Thus armed, he set about establishing himself as an attorney in private practice in Salt Lake. His prestige among his peers might be indicated but his being named the Utah Trial Lawyer of the Year for 1981-82. He chaired the Advisory Committee to the Utah Supreme Court on the Rules for Professional Practice. He was elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers. He represented tthe University of Utah Hospital for many years. His almost thirty-five year career ended in 1990 when he was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
The years between graduation and the call to the Second Quorum were not free of service to the Lord. Over the three plus decades, Elder Lybbert served as Bishop, Stake High Councilor, Counselor to the Stake President, Stake President, and Regional Representative of the Twelve. Thus, he was well prepared when the call to full-time service came. He was ordained a Seventy and sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April of 1989.
As a General Authority, Elder Lybbert spoke in the April 1990 and 1994 General Conferences. He served a term as President and another as Counselor in the Asia Area. After completing his five-year call to the Second Quorum with distinction, Elder Lybbert was granted an honorable release in October 1994.
Elder Merlin Rex Lybbert died on Friday, July 6, 2001 in Salt Lake City, Utah after a short illness.