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The oldest Mormon apostle has terminal cancer.

L. Tom Perry, 92, and an apostle for more than four decades, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last month and had begun receiving treatments, but the cancer spread, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday.

Perry, whose unassuming demeanor and optimistic enthusiasm have inspired generations of Latter-day Saints, is second in line for the Utah-based faith's presidency.

"Elder Perry has asked that we share his thanks for the prayers and kindness extended to him by church members and friends," spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a news release. "Despite earlier treatments, cancer has spread aggressively to his lungs and beyond."

Perry, who was hospitalized briefly April 22 after having trouble breathing, is at home and soon will begin receiving hospice care.

"He will no longer attend meetings," Hawkins said, "though he is still receiving visits from members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the First Presidency, and close family."

He received one such visit from the governing First Presidency on May 1. A week later, the LDS Church released a photograph showing Perry at home with his wife, Barbara, along with the three First Presidency members, including 87-year-old church President Thomas S. Monson.

Monson himself is also "feeling the effects of advancing age" the church has announced, but don't expect him or any other top Mormon leader to step aside for health reasons.

"Apostles serve for life," the LDS Church has stated.

Another senior Mormon leader is suffering from serious health setbacks, too.

Apostle Richard G. Scott, 86, was hospitalized recently with internal bleeding from a stomach ulcer. Doctors controlled it without surgery, and he returned home.

However, Scott has experienced "a fading memory incident to age," the church said in a May 8 news release, "and is not fully able to participate in meetings" with his fellow apostles.

A nuclear engineer from Pocatello, Idaho, Scott has been an LDS apostle for 26 years. He did not speak nor attend the faith's April General Conference.

Perry, a Logan native, did speak and made headlines with a spirited defense of "traditional families."

He said humankind is best served when legally married mothers and fathers rear their children together, and warned against the dangers of "counterfeit and alternative lifestyles."

"Strong traditional families are not only the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy and a stable culture of values," Perry said, "but ... they are also the basic units of eternity, and of the kingdom and government of God."

The 6-foot-4 church leader, the tallest current Mormon apostle, took some heat for that sermon from national and Utah LGBT activists, who accused him of "disparaging" their families.

In March, though, Perry stood shoulder to shoulder with gay-rights advocates when the Legislature passed — and Gov. Gary Herbert signed — a landmark measure protecting LGBT individuals from housing and employment discrimination while also providing religious-freedom safeguards.

Perry earned a degree in business from Utah State University and proceeded to climb the business ladder, eventually becoming a top executive in several department stores, before his call to full-time LDS Church service.

He became an apostle in 1974 at age 51.

The three members of the First Presidency along with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — of which Perry follows only 90-year-old Boyd K. Packer in seniority — make up the top two ruling LDS councils.

The average age of the 15 men in those bodies is 80, the oldest it has ever been in the faith's 185-year-old history.