The following biographical sketch is adapted from
the "News of the Church: Elder Robert E. Sackley of the First Quorum of
the Seventy" published in the Ensign for May 1988 on the occasion
of Elder Sackley's call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Some years ago, Robert and Marjorie Sackley set a goal
to do full-time missionary work together after he retired.
The opportunity came sooner than expected. In 1979,
he was called as a mission president, and they have been involved in full-time
Church service of one kind or another ever since.
With his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy—he
was sustained April 2—Elder Robert E. Sackley will undoubtedly find new
dimensions to the missionary work he loves.
Elder Sackley has found a way to be involved in missionary
work almost constantly since his conversion more than forty years ago.
He is motivated by a “thorough conviction that every human soul” will have
an opportunity to accept or reject the
gospel. It is “my responsibility,” he believes, to bring that opportunity
to as many as he can. One friend estimates that Elder Sackley has fellowshipped
more than 125 people into the Church.
A native of Australia, he was a soldier recuperating
from wounds of war when he met Marjorie Ethel Orth of Brisbane in 1946.
Her parents, some of the stalwart Latter-day Saints who had been the strength
of the Church in Australia before and during World War II, were instrumental
in converting him. Her mother provided Church literature, and her father
taught him. The two men shared a love of history and Robert Sackley studied
LDS history intently.
But it was the Book of Mormon that led the way to
spiritual assurance of the truth. It touched his heart deeply as he read
it in the hospital. “I committed to memory Mosiah 3:19 [‘For the natural
man is an enemy to God … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy
Spirit …’] on that first reading. It struck me that no ordinary man wrote
that, and that the message obviously came from a divine source.”
Sure of the divinity of the book, he had no difficulty
believing that its translator, Joseph Smith, had been instructed by God
and had been a prophet and seer.
The Sackleys were married 29 March 1947, not long
after his baptism. Shortly after that, he was called to be a district missionary.
Though he has had many other callings, he has always felt impelled to continue
sharing the gospel.
In 1954, the Sackleys traveled to Canada to be sealed
in the temple. They intended to stay for one year. But they became deeply
involved in Church work and never left Alberta. They reared five children,
all now married. They have fifteen grandchildren.
Elder Sackley served as a stake missionary, elders
quorum president, bishop, high councilor, stake clerk, and counselor in
a stake presidency. Sister Sackley’s many administrative and teaching callings
have included Primary president and Relief Society president.
Elder Sackley earned a bachelor’s degree from Utah
State University and a certificate of municipal administration from the
University of Alberta in Edmonton. He also has done graduate work toward
a doctoral degree in history.
When the Sackleys lived in Australia, Elder Sackley
worked as a tax administrator in the civil government. In Alberta, he was
a school business administrator in Cardston and a senior administrator
for the city of Edmonton. From 1973 to 1979, he served as vice president,
then president, of a growing community college in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
When he was called as first president of the Philippines
Quezon City Mission (later the Philippines Baguio Mission) in 1979, the
Sackleys listed their daughter’s Bow Island, Alberta address as home, thinking
the change would be temporary. But in 1982, he was called as administrative
assistant to the president of the Salt Lake Temple, with Sister Sackley
as an assistant temple matron. In 1983, they were called as directors of
the Washington Temple Visitors’ Center, and in 1985 as missionaries in
the Sydney Australia Temple. In 1986 he was called to serve as president
of the Nigeria Lagos Mission; he will be released from that position shortly.
It will probably be some time before the Sackleys
are settled in Alberta again. But they don’t mind. They are still living
their dream of full-time service to the Lord.
The following is from the LDS Church News Archives,
Saturday, February 27, 1993 authored by Gerry Avant.
ELDER ROBERT E. SACKLEY DIES SERVING IN HIS NATIVE AUSTRALIA
Elder Robert E. Sackley of the Second Quorum of the
Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency died Feb. 22.
He was 70.
Elder Sackley and his wife, Marjorie, were
on a Church assignment in the Brisbane area at the time of his death. On
Sunday, Feb. 21, he fulfilled assignments at several wards in the area
and that evening presided over and addressed a fireside in the Eight Mile
Plains Ward meetinghouse. The fireside was attended by many of his and
Sister Sackley's relatives.
He was born in Lismore in northern New South
Wales, and many members of his family now live in the surrounding region
and a little further north in Brisbane. Sister Sackley is from Queensland,
The Sackleys made their home in Canada from
1954 until he began full-time Church service as a mission president in
the Philippines in 1979. Soon after Elder and Sister Sackley returned from
the Philippines in 1982, they were called to serve in the Salt Lake Temple
- he as administrative assistant and she as an assistant matron. In 1983,
they were called to direct the Washington Temple Visitors Center for 18
months. Immediately after that assignment, they were called to serve in
the Sydney Australia Temple.
In January 1986, while in Australia, the First
Presidency telephoned them and asked them to return to Canada to await
another assignment. Within a few months, they were on their way to Africa,
where he presided over the Nigeria Lagos Mission.
On April 2, 1988, he was sustained to the Seventy,
the first Australian to be called as a General Authority. In October 1991,
he returned to his homeland as a member of the Pacific Area presidency,
with headquarters in Sydney.
The fireside over which he presided on Feb.
21 doubled as a family reunion since so many of Elder and Sister Sackley's
relatives attended. A son and a daughter and their spouses came from Canada
to see the land of their birth and meet relatives. After the fireside,
Elder and Sister Sackley went to a resort town about an hour's drive south
of Brisbane, where their son and daughter were staying. Elder Sackley died
there in his sleep about 4 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22.
News of Elder Sackley's death came as a shock
to General Authority colleagues, and friends and associates. Elder Dallin
H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve was in Australia on a Church assignment
when he learned of Elder Sackley's death. "He had not been sick," Elder
Oaks told the Church News in a telephone interview. "He was one of the
conference visitors at a regional conference here last week [Feb. 13-14T.
President Howard W. Hunter presided and Elder
Sackley and I were companion speakers.
"Elder Sackley was active, and fully functioning
in his calling at the time of his death. He didn't have any illness; he
just died in the night after a full and happy Sabbath with his family.
"Elder and Sister Sackley are deeply loved
in Australia. His death was a great shock to everyone here, and has evoked
an outpouring of love and messages of condolence to Sister Sackley and
Elder Rulon G. Craven
of the Seventy and president of the Pacific Area said: "In the last week,
Elder Sackley participated with great vigor in regional conferences of
the Church in Sydney. There was no sign that he would not be with us for
very much longer.
"And yet, it could not have been more fitting
that he finished his sojourn in this life virtually where he started it.
It was a blessing that members of his family were with him at the time."
Elder Sackley was born Dec. 17, 1922, to Cecil
James and Mary Duncan Sackley.
During World War II, he served in the Australian
commando forces and was attached to the Northern New Guinea 5th Commando
Squadron. He and 10 others were ambushed on New Guinea in the Solomon Islands
on Christmas Day 1944. More than half his patrol was killed. Then 22, he
was severely wounded. For hours he struggled to get to safety, but every
time he moved, an enemy gunner fired at him.
About mid-afternoon, he heard someone whisper:
"Lay still until dark, and then roll into the river. Keep yourself afloat.
We've got fellows who will catch you about 100 yards downstream."
He was 30 miles behind enemy lines. After he
was fished out of the river, he was carried on a litter for six days by
New Guinea tribesmen to an American encampment. He was transported to a
hospital in Queensland, Australia. In addition to the serious wounds he
sustained in the ambush, he also suffered from malaria.
In an interview for the April 6, 1988, Church
News, Elder Sackley said: "In the eternal perspective, that ambush was
about the best thing that had happened to me up to that point. Had I not
been injured, I would not have met my wife. And had I not met her, I doubt
I would have learned of the gospel."
While recovering in the hospital, he met Marjorie
Orth, a Church member who had gone to the hospital with a friend to visit
an LDS serviceman. "We became friends and she invited me to go to Church,
so one Sunday I got a pass from the hospital and went," Elder Sackley said
in the interview shortly after he was called as a General Authority.
He was baptized June 16, 1946, and devoted
the rest of his life to serving in the Church. "I made up my mind that
I just wanted to be an active member," he said. He married Marjorie Orth
on March 26, 1947.
Their desire to go to the temple led them to
Canada. They first planned to go to the temple in Hawaii, but they could
not afford the round-trip passage by boat. They realized he would need
to work a year in Hawaii to earn enough money for them to return to Australia.
Since few jobs were available in Hawaii, they decided to go to the Salt
Lake Temple. However, there was a waiting list for Australians to get work
permits in the United States. They decided to go to the Alberta Temple
After they went to the temple, they settled
in Cardston and he began working as an accountant for a national wholesale
grocery company. When the company wanted to transfer him to Medicine Hat
- 150 miles away - he declined to take the position, explaining he had
a desire to do genealogy and temple work. "I didn't come halfway across
the world to move away from something we've dreamed of doing for years,"
he told the company's president. He went to work as business administrator
for a school district in Cardston.
He stayed with the school district 25 years.
Ironically, he spent the last years of his working career in Medicine Hat.
When he was offered a position as vice president of administration of a
government college, the Sackley family - which had grown to two daughters
and three sons - decided he should accept the offer; they felt they could
do more missionary work in Medicine Hat than in Cardston.
He was serving as a bishop when he was offered
the position of college president. Feeling the position would interfe with
his responsibilities as a bishop, he declined. The college's board of directors
drafted him to serve as the institution's president for five years. He
had a contract on his desk to sign for another five-year-term when, in
December 1978, he received a telephone call from President Spencer
W. Kimball and President N. Eldon Tanner
of the First Presidency to open a mission in Quezon City, Philippines.
He spent the rest of his life in full-time Church service.
In the Church News interview after he was called
as a new General Authority, Elder Sackley said: "The Church has motivated
our entire life together." That motivation was reflected in a letter he
wrote to the ministry of education when, in 1982, an inquiry was made to
see if he would consider returning to his career in education. His response
was: "If we have anything left in life, we give it to The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which we owe our allegiance."
Memorial services for Elder Sackley were held
in Brisbane Feb. 22 and in Sydney Feb. 23. Funeral services and burial
were scheduled to be in Salt Lake City Feb. 27.
At the memorial service in Sydney, Elder Oaks
said of Elder Sackley: "We could pay him no greater tribute than to affirm
that he was a great missionary and a man utterly fearless in preaching
the life and works of his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ."
Elder Sackley was sustained April 2, 1988,
to the First Quorum of the Seventy and to the Second Quorum of the Seventy
April 1, 1989. He was second counselor in the presidency of the North America
Southeast Area from Aug. 15, 1988-Nov. 1, 1988; at that same time, he was
also a managing director of the Missionary Department. He served as second
counselor in the United Kingdom/Ireland/Africa Area presidency from Nov.
1, 1988, until Oct. 1, 1990, at which time he was assigned as first counselor
in the Africa Area when that area was created with headquarters in Johannesburg,
South Africa. - Gerry Avant