Elder Peter F. Meurs: Finding Success in Living Gospel Principles
Contributed By Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writer
- Elder Meurs’s parents were the first converts in Warrnambool, Australia.
- He decided to serve a mission, even though he thought he would have to sacrifice his education to do so.
- Elder Meurs freely shares his faith-building experiences with everyone.
“The thing I’m most grateful for is that I’m sealed to my best friend and that we just have a wonderful, loving, and supportive relationship. That makes everything possible.” —Elder Peter F. Meurs, General Authority Seventy
As a youth in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia, Peter Meurs spent much of his free time with his best friend at the next-door neighbor’s repair shop. Together they built mini-bikes and go-carts and tinkered with farm equipment.
“I have always loved fixing things and finding solutions,” he recalled. His passion for building and creating things soon led him to study at Monash University in Melbourne, where he fulfilled his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. He went on to work for ESSO Australia and fulfilled another dream by starting his own business as one of the founding partners of Worley Parsons Limited.
He recently made national headlines in his native country by resigning his executive position with one of Australia’s largest mining companies to serve full-time as a General Authority Seventy after being sustained during the April 2016 general conference.
Although he loved his work, Elder Meurs said his testimony, his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his family “are the greatest blessings” in his life. He was able to find success in business, he said, by applying gospel principles. “Everything I’ve loved about my career I learned in church,” he said. “Relationships really are everything. Helping people be successful is the most important leadership principle.”
The foundation of his faith was laid by his parents. Peter’s father, Frederik Meurs, a “fiery Dutchman,” and Peter’s mother, Lois Jones Meurs, a “strong-willed Australian,” became the first converts in Warrnambool when Peter was 18 months old.
“What I saw over the years was how the gospel softened both of [my parents],” Elder Meurs said. “They became such a loving and supportive couple. They did amazing things in the Church and would do it with great energy.”
Growing up, a group of about 10 to 15 members met every Sunday in the Meurs’s home. One of Elder Meurs’s earliest memories was of his father blessing the sacrament. “When he would bless the sacrament, I just remember he would often tremble and pause during the prayer because the Spirit was so strong for him that he couldn’t continue.”
Growing up in a tiny branch afforded young Peter ample opportunities to serve in various capacities, beginning with his call as the branch pianist at age 8. His mother could play hymns from a simple book that included only a few hymns. “The branch had been singing only 22 hymns for seven years, so they asked me to play the piano so they could sing some new things.”
Sister Maxine Thatcher Meurs and Elder Peter F. Meurs, General Authority Seventy. Photo by Scott G. Winterton. Elder Meurs met his future wife when he was 15 years old and moved to Melbourne to attend boarding school. After attending a tiny country branch, he felt intimidated going to the large ward in the city. Because he felt uncomfortable, he would sometimes attend his sister’s ward. After missing a couple of Sundays in his assigned ward, he received a note from the Sunday School class president, Maxine Thatcher.
“It read, ‘Dear Peter, we missed you at church. Is there anything I can do to help you? Give me a call.’” He and Maxine started to get to know one another and became good friends.
The decision to serve
When he was 18 years old he informed the university he needed a two-year break to serve a mission for his church. He was told that he would be allowed to defer for only one year or lose his place in his program. He decided not to go.
A short time later, he listened to the general priesthood session of general conference and heard President Spencer W. Kimball proclaim that every worthy young man should serve a mission.
“It was like he was speaking to me. It just went straight through me,” Elder Meurs recalled. He decided to serve, and one week before he left, he received a letter from the school allowing him to defer the two years.
His mission ended up being “the best education I’ve had,” he said. His service taught him, among other things, persistence, how to handle rejection, and living for other people’s success—important lessons he tried to apply to his business practices.
It was also during his mission that he developed a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Upon his arrival in the mission field, he realized he hadn’t ever received a confirmation that it was true. “I read the Book of Mormon five times in the first year of my mission, seeking this miraculous spiritual witness. I guess the Lord was patient with me.”
About 12 months into his mission as he was sitting in a fast and testimony meeting, he felt a prompting to open to 3 Nephi 17. “I just read some of my favorite verses [and] had this overwhelming spiritual witness, just a complete top-to-toe witness.”
Looking back, Elder Meurs said he’s grateful he had to struggle. “It has been an anchor to my testimony that the Church is true, that there is a plan for me, that Heavenly Father knows me and loves me.”
A year after he returned from serving in the New Zealand Auckland Mission, he married Maxine (who had written him throughout his two-year service) on January 2, 1979, in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.
“The thing I’m most grateful for is that I’m sealed to my best friend and that we just have a wonderful, loving, and supportive relationship. That makes everything possible,” he said.
They have four children and nine grandchildren.
Grateful for his faith
Elder Meurs said the spiritual assurance he received as a missionary has helped him face challenges throughout his life and bolstered him as he has shared thoughts about his faith and the role it plays in every facet of his life. “I don’t have any trouble talking to people about it,” Elder Meurs said. “I’ve freely talked about my experiences always, and it’s so much easier.”
In both an interview with Engineers Australia in September 2014 and in an “I’m a Mormon” video posted on Mormon.org in 2012, Elder Meurs attributes his success to principles he learned from the gospel.
In his “I’m a Mormon” video, he explained, “In the Church we learn about Jesus Christ and we are taught to follow Him and try to be like Him. Principles like love one another, care for each other, I’ve translated into principles in business. I think most successful leaders in business help other people to be successful. They work to strengthen and support others and take responsibility for their actions and work hard and do the very best they can. And to me they’re the fundamental things when we learn about Jesus Christ.”
Through the years, Elder Meurs has served in many callings, including elders quorum president, ward organist, stake and ward Young Men president, public affairs director, branch and district president, bishop, stake president, and, most recently, as an Area Seventy. During his call as an Area Seventy, Elder and Sister Meurs had the opportunity to meet with members on the many islands of the Pacific.
“It is absolutely humbling to visit and see their love and commitment and faith,” he said.
Sister Meurs added, “You see their struggles but you can learn so much by how they care for each other and love each another and live the gospel.“
Those types of experiences remind them of what really matters, Elder Meurs continued—maintaining sacred family relationships. “They’re the real blessing in life. The other stuff really doesn’t matter.”
Family: Born December 21, 1956, in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia, to Frederik and Lois Jones Meurs. Married Maxine Evelyn Thatcher on January 2, 1979, in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. Four children and nine grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor of engineering from Monash University and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.
Employment: Project manager at ESSO Australia; founding partner/general manager at Worley Parsons Limited; director of expansion and development projects at Fortescue Metals.
Community service: Chairman of a fundraising campaign for a new Ronald McDonald House in Perth, Australia.
Church service: Elders quorum president, ward organist, stake and ward Young Men president, public affairs director, branch and district president, bishop, stake president, and Area Seventy.