When Elder Wayne M. Hancock hears the Primary song, "I Am a Child of God," he thinks of his mother.
Growing up in Glendale, Calif., he watched a close friendship develop between his mother, Phyllis Lines Hancock, and Mildred Tanner Pettit, who later composed the music to the well-known LDS hymn. Sister Hancock was a ward Primary leader and Sister Pettit was the stake Primary president.Singing the hymn reminds him of those childhood days - and most especially of his "angel mother" who ensured that her children attended Primary, had a loving home and learned the difference between right and wrong.
His voice choking with emotion, he explained: "When I speak of my mother, it gets kind of tender. She had the ups and downs of a troubled marriage. I'd seen my mother cry, and I didn't want to do anything in my life to hurt her. Whenever there were temptations, I thought of my mother."
During a Church News interview, Elder Hancock, 65, sustained April 5 during general conference to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, spoke tenderly and emotionally of his mother, of his love for gospel and family, and of the impact of loving ward members in the life of a youth.
Although he was reared in Southern California, his roots are in Arizona. His mother, the third of eight children, grew up in the farming town of Pima, Ariz. "She was the first one in her family to go to college, to the University of Arizona. That's where she met my father (Wayne M.P. Hancock)."
The young couple married and moved to San Francisco, Calif. The new wife had her first child, Elder Hancock, in Safford, Ariz., to be near her family. When he was an infant, his parents moved to Southern California, eventually buying a small home in Glendale.
"Those were tough years because it was during the Second World War," Elder Hancock continued. "During the war, I would follow the news, particularly in Europe, by reading the local newspaper. I was a newspaper carrier. I can recall the front pages that would show the battle lines."
Being on the California coast, Elder Hancock vividly remembers air-raid sirens and black-outs. "We always had a pail of sand and a pail of water in the house. The sand to put out fire, and an emergency source of water.
"I don't remember being frightened so much as awestruck. When there was an air-raid warning, we'd pull all the curtains down and turn off all the lights. We would go outside and see the spotlights way across the valley to the top of the mountain where now is the sign that says, `Hollywood.' "
At this time, his father was not LDS. Elder Hancock expressed gratitude for the impact in his life of his grandmother, Eva Lines, and of several bishops of what was then the Glendale West Ward, particularly Bishop Harry V. Brooks, "who was really my surrogate father. I spent a lot of time in his home."
Then, when Elder Hancock was 16, his father joined the Church, and his family was later sealed in the St. George Temple. "This was the highlight of the marriage of my mother and my father."
Elder Hancock speaks lovingly and emotionally of his father, who "taught me the principle of work and achievement."
This work ethic helped the young man earn his Eagle Scout rank at age 14. After high school graduation, he entered the University of Arizona - "the family university." In the winter of 1950, Elder Hancock was one of eight at the institute of religion to turn in mission papers. But the draft board rejected his request for a draft deferment because of the Korean War.
Soon, acting on spiritual promptings, he transferred to BYU, where he was a charter cadet officer in the first BYU ROTC program - which became the largest Air Force ROTC unit west of the Mississippi. He was among the first graduating ROTC class. In February 1952, he needed a date for an ROTC social occasion. He thought of Connie A. Cameron. "It turned out that was the only free night she had that she didn't have a date," he related, chuckling. "I was smitten."
In fact, he said, they had the quickest "pinning" in the history of the Viking social unit (similar to a fraternity) on campus. He received his pin, walked to the parking lot, where his sweetheart was waiting, and "pinned" her. Sister Hancock still has that pin, kept in a safe deposit box.
The two were married June 25, 1953, in the Idaho Falls Temple. From their union have come eight children and 16 grandchildren.
Elder and Sister Hancock received bachelor's degrees at the same time from BYU. Then it was back to Tucson for law school at the University of Arizona for Elder Hancock. After a 1956 graduation, he entered the U.S. Air Force's Judge Advocate General Corps, and was stationed in Munich, Germany, for three years. Upon finishing his tour of duty with the Air Force in 1960 at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, he had a six-year private law practice in Phoenix, Ariz.
It was while living in Phoenix that tragedy struck the family. His parents divorced. One word describes what Elder Hancock learned from his mother during this difficult time - "courage."
Sister Hancock added: "She was never bitter. She never once said anything derogatory."
In fact, Elder Hancock recalled, in 1984, the elder Sister Hancock was seriously ill in the hospital when her former husband came to visit her. The new General Authority wiped away tears as he related, "She verbally forgave him."
Elder Hancock's mother died soon after. His father died in 1994.
Somberly, Elder Hancock said: "I have to say something about this, because I've used this as a means of counseling young people who come from troubled marriages. I tell them, `You can either take pity upon yourself and attribute mistakes and failings to the fact you had a father or a mother who was abusive, or you can commit that you are going to be different, that you're going to make something out of yourself. Early on, I made that commitment."
In 1967, Elder Hancock began a 27-year career with The Dow Chemical Company, which took him to assignments throughout the world, including living several years in Switzerland and Italy.
Elder Hancock explained: "A lot of the success I think I've had was not because I was the most brilliant, which I'm not, but I was blessed with common sense and good judgment and a sensitivity to the feelings of others at any level - whether it's out on the shop floor or in the board room."
Elder Wayne M. Hancock
Family: Born in Safford, Ariz., July 16, 1931, to Wayne M.P. Hancock and Phyllis Lines Hancock. Married Connie A. Cameron in the Idaho Falls Temple, June 25, 1953. Parents of eight children: Kathleen Rowley, Craig Edward (Laurie), David Brit (Susan), Cameron Mitchell (Linda), Shannon, Christopher Cameron (Melisse), Jennifer Ann (Matthew) Richards, Paul Cameron; 16 grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration from BYU; juris doctorate from University of Arizona.
Military service: Captain, Judge Advocate General Corps, U.S. Air Force, 1956-1960.
Employment: Dow Chemical from 1967 to 1993: Vice president and general counsel, 1985-1993; general counsel, 1981-1985; vice president and general counsel Europe, and managing director, Italian region, 1979-1981; director, legal personnel and administrative affairs, Europe, Horgen, Switzerland, 1977-1979; director, personnel relations, USA, 1973-1977; director, labor relations and safety, USA, 1971-1973; attorney, senior attorney and assistant to the general counsel, 1967-1971; private practice, Phoenix, Ariz., 1960-1966.
Church Service: President of Utah Provo Mission, mission president's counselor, stake president, counselor in stake presidency, high councilor, stake mission president, bishop.