Get to Know New General Authority Seventies Sustained in April 2016 Conference
Contributed By Church News staff writers
The following General Authority Seventies were sustained April 2, 2016, during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference:
Elder W. Mark Bassett, General Authority Seventy
Every summer as a little boy, W. Mark Bassett would travel with his family from their home in the Sacramento, California, USA, area to visit his maternal grandmother in Alabama. Among their days traveling there, the family would regularly make a point to visit Church historic sites.
Whether it was visiting the historic grounds of Nauvoo, Illinois, USA, or walking through the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York, USA, Elder Bassett remembers the powerful feelings he had—even as a young boy—as he visited those sacred places.
“We felt something there,” he said. “That’s how my testimony was formed, through little experiences.”
That testimony gained as a young man has been a source of strength for Elder Bassett throughout his life.
Born August 14, 1966, to Edwina Acker and William Lynn Bassett in Carmichael, California, USA, Elder Bassett is the second oldest of five children. Serving in the Church and living the gospel were important priorities in his family.
After serving in the Guatemala Guatemala City Mission (1985–1987), Elder Bassett moved to Provo, Utah, USA, to attend Brigham Young University. He married Angela Brasher in the Salt Lake Temple on December 20, 1989. They are the parents of five children and have two grandchildren.
In 1991, Elder Bassett earned a degree in accounting from BYU and later moved with his family back to the Sacramento area to work in the wholesale auto auction industry. He worked as controller at Brasher’s Sacramento Auto Auction and as the CFO and co-owner of West Coast Auto Auctions, Inc., where he operated automobile auctions throughout the western United States.
Elder Bassett has served in many capacities in the Church, including as Young Men president, bishop, high councilor, stake president, president of the Arizona Mesa Mission (2007–2010), and Area Seventy. At the time of his call as a General Authority Seventy, he and his family were living in the Granite Bay First Ward, California Rocklin Stake. (Read a longer feature on Elder Bassett.)
Mark A. Bragg, General Authority Seventy
When Mark Bragg was 14 years old, friends from his Little League baseball team introduced his family to the Church. Mark was baptized, and his mother, who had been a member of the Church in her youth, became active.
“It changed our lives,” said Elder Bragg.
Mark Allyn Bragg was born April 16, 1962, in Santa Monica, California, USA, to Donald E. and Diane Bragg.
While attending the University of Utah, Elder Bragg was called to serve in the Mexico Monterrey Mission, under the direction of mission president Roy H. King and his wife, Darlene O. King.
When Elder Bragg completed his missionary service, he began dating his mission president’s youngest daughter, Yvonne. They married in the Los Angeles California Temple March 17, 1984.
After the untimely death of Elder Bragg’s father, the couple returned to California to start his career in the banking industry (he completed his career as senior vice president of Bank of America) and to be close to Elder Bragg’s mother.
It would be seven years before children would join the Bragg family. “At times we felt out of place, even in our family,” recalled Elder Bragg.
Then—“on the best day in the world”—Sister Bragg gave birth to the first of four children. “I remember … thinking there couldn’t be anyone happier than I was at the moment.”
Life has not always been easy for the family, however. The day after Elder Bragg was sustained as a bishop in the ward where he grew up, his mother was tragically killed during a car hijacking. Her funeral was the first one he presided over as a bishop. The outpouring of support from the same ward that had nurtured Elder Bragg’s testimony as a youth sustained his family. “The Relief Society was there for our family every day,” he recalled.
Those lessons of love, service, and empathy would guide Elder Bragg through his future service in the Church—as a stake president, Area Seventy, and temple ordinance worker. (Read a longer feature on Elder Bragg.)
Elder Weatherford T. Clayton, General Authority Seventy
Elder Weatherford T. Clayton is extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve. He feels a great love for people and strong ties to his family. The work of the Lord is a priority for him.
Born March 1, 1952, to Whitney Clayton Jr. and Elizabeth Touchstone Clayton, Elder Clayton gained a strong testimony of home teaching in his youth. Because of the efforts of a home teacher, he, at age 12, and his family accepted sacred covenants and were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1964 by then-Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“With the gospel of Jesus Christ we can all gather home,” said Elder Clayton. “My family has felt the influence of those who have gone before. They are as real as those who are present.”
Thinking about ways the Lord prepared him to serve, Elder Clayton said he was often inspired by the example of others. “I watched how friends and family dedicated their lives to the Lord and found their joy in the service they offered to God,” he said.
After serving in the French-speaking Canadian Mission, he enrolled at the University of Utah, where he met Lisa Thomas Clayton. They were married March 16, 1976, in the Salt Lake Temple. Elder Clayton earned a degree in psychology and completed medical school at the University of Utah. He worked in a private medical practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist from 1985 to 2013, prior to his call to serve full-time as a mission president.
Elder and Sister Clayton are the parents of five children. He served as ward mission leader, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Young Men president, family history consultant, youth Sunday School teacher, bishop, high councilor, councilor in a stake presidency, and stake president. He was serving as president of the Canada Toronto Mission at the time of his call. (Read a longer feature on Elder Clayton.)
Elder Valeri V. Cordón, General Authority Seventy
From his mother, who joined the Church at age 16, Elder Valeri Vladimir Cordón Orellana received a foundation in the gospel that served him well when he moved 95 miles (150 km) away from his hometown of Zacapa, Guatemala, to attend high school in Gutatemala City and study computer science.
“The most important thing I received from my mother was to be very reverent about all the sacred things of the Church,” recalled Elder Cordón, who is the son of Ovidio and Ema Orellana Cordón.
Elder Cordón was born February 19, 1969, in Guatemala City and spent his boyhood in Zacapa. His father went to Chicago, Illinois, in the United States to work. While there, he was influenced by Church members and received the message of the gospel from missionaries. The family was sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple in 1972, when Valeri was three years old.
Elder Cordón said he grew to love the gospel as he heard his mother frequently singing Church hymns and songs such as “I Am a Child of God” and “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission.”
Elder Cordón served in the El Salvador Mission (1987–1989). Three of his four siblings also served missions and, ultimately, his mother served a mission in the Guatemala Guatemala City Temple.
He married Glenda Zelmira Zea Diaz March 25, 1995, in the Guatemala Guatemala City Temple. Having had a fervent testimony since childhood, Sister Cordón said she had intended to serve a mission herself, but her plans changed when she met Valeri. Later she recognized him as having caught her eye when she saw his photo in a Church magazine years earlier. They have three daughters.
Elder Cordón received a bachelor’s degree from Mariano Galvez University in Guatemala in 2010 and an MBA degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. He worked as an information systems director at GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company, and, since 2012, at Pepsico Foods Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean.
At the time of his call, Elder Cordón was serving in the Fourth Quorum of the Seventy in the Central America Area. He served in the presidency of the Costa Rica San José East Mission (1998–2000). (Read a longer feature on Elder Cordón.)
Elder Joaquín E. Costa, General Authority Seventy
A matchmaking friend set Joaquín Esteban Costa on the path that led to his conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a temple marriage, and leadership in the Church, including his recent call as a General Authority Seventy.
Joaquín Costa and Renée Varela were university students in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when a mutual friend, Alin Spannaus, now an Area Seventy, introduced them. A second-generation Latter-day Saint, Renée hesitated before accepting a date with the 21-year-old, who was not a member of the Church. After three dates she decided she “liked him too much” and felt they shouldn’t date anymore. At the end of the school year, he returned to Entre Rios, Argentina, where he was born March 8, 1965, to Eduardo J. Costa and Graciela M. Fassi.
Renée accepted a call and served in the Chile Osorno Mission. After she returned home, Brother Spannaus arranged for the couple to attend the same party, at which Joaquín asked her for a date. “I prayed and decided to give him a chance,” Sister Costa said.
Soon, Joaquín was learning about the Church. As he studied with the missionaries, Renée asked him to pray and read the Book of Mormon from beginning to end.
“He didn’t make it to the end before he received a strong testimony,” Sister Costa said. “He didn’t get baptized just to please me. We dated one more year and then married in the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple in 1989.”
Elder Costa received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1987 from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. As a young couple, he and Sister Costa moved to Provo, Utah, USA, where he received an MBA in 1994 from Brigham Young University. They and their growing family, which includes four children, lived in Chicago, Illinois, as he worked for a multinational investment banking and financial services corporation. His banking career took his family back to Argentina for a few years and then to the Czech Republic and the Sultanate of Oman in the Middle East. For the past two years, he and his family have lived in Lima, Peru, where he has been working with a Danish investment firm focused on microfinance. (Read a longer feature on Elder Costa.)
Massimo De Feo, General Authority Seventy
Shortly before accepting his full-time mission call, Elder Massimo De Feo learned key lessons of sacrifice and love from his father, Vittorio De Feo.
The De Feo family had few financial resources, and neither Vittorio nor his wife, Velia, were Church members. But the elder De Feo respected his son’s desire to share the gospel.
“My father asked me, ‘Do you really want to do this?’” remembered Elder De Feo. “I said, ‘Yes, with all my heart I want to serve the Lord.’”
Vittorio promised to do all he could to help cover the cost of his son’s two years of service in the Italy Rome Mission.
“I considered that money to be sacred—it was the fruit of great sacrifice from a man who did not believe in the Church,” said Elder De Feo. “So I served my mission with all my heart, might, mind, and strength because I loved the Lord and I loved my father.”
Gospel principles such as sacrifice, hard work, family, and service have helped define Elder De Feo.
Born in Taranto, Italy, December 14, 1960, Massimo De Feo learned of the Church at the age of nine when two missionaries knocked on the door of his home. Massimo and his older brother, Alberto, were soon baptized.
The De Feo boys enjoyed the love and support of devoted branch leaders as they attended Primary and, later, Mutual. Massimo also made lifelong friends with other youth in the branch—including fellow convert Loredana Galeandro, whom he would marry after his mission. They were sealed August 14, 1984, in the Bern Switzerland Temple. The De Feos have three children.
Prior to becoming a General Authority Seventy, Elder De Feo lived in Rome and worked more than 30 years for the U.S. State Department. He has served as a branch president, district president, stake president, and Area Seventy. Read a longer feature on Elder DeFeo.
Elder Peter F. Meurs, General Authority Seventy
Elder Peter Fletcher Meurs was born December 21, 1956, in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia, to Frederik and Lois Jones Meurs.
One of their next-door neighbors operated a “fix anything” shop for farming equipment. Young Peter Meurs spent much of his time with his best friend in the shop building minibikes and go-karts and tinkering with the equipment. His passion for building and creating things soon led him to study mechanical engineering at Monash University in Melbourne.
When he was 18 and pursuing his studies, 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 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, he said, ended up being “the best education I’ve had.”
The gospel has taught him that “helping people be successful is the most important leadership principle.” Adhering to that and other gospel truths has helped him throughout his career, he said.
After completing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Elder Meurs worked as project engineer for ESSO Australia and was a founding partner of WorleyParsons Limited. He recently served as director of development for Fortescue Metals.
Following his mission, Elder Meurs married his “best friend,” Maxine Evelyn Thatcher, January 2, 1979, in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. They have four children and nine grandchildren.
Elder Meurs has served in many callings, including elders quorum president, ward organist, ward and stake Young Men president, public affairs director, branch and district president, bishop, stake president, and Area Seventy. (Read a longer feature on Elder Meurs.)
K. Brett Nattress, General Authority Seventy
Elder K. Brett Nattress and his wife, Shauna Lee Adamson Nattress, describe themselves as “imperfect people looking for perfect moments.”
They have found many such moments over the course of their lives—all are connected in some way to the Savior and the Atonement, said Elder Nattress.
Elder Nattress said he was born of goodly parents, David and Judy Sorensen Nattress, and remembers his mother reading the Book of Mormon to the family every day.
On one occasion he was home on a break from college. He was focused on upcoming finals and was not feeling right, though he didn’t feel physically ill.
“If you’re feeling well and don’t feel right,” his mother told him, “you need to go serve somebody.”
Brett threw a snow shovel in the back of the family pickup and went around shoveling the driveways of the widows in the ward. He felt much better.
“I was so focused on myself and the finals, I had forgotten that the real purpose of life is to serve others,” he said.
Elder Nattress was born March 4, 1965, in Pocatello, Idaho, USA. The family moved to Lehi, Utah, where he and his five siblings experienced life on a small family farm.
He met his future bride while they were both seniors at neighboring high schools. After he returned from serving in the California Sacramento Mission (1984–1986), they were married in the Salt Lake Temple April 24, 1987. They have seven children.
He attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah in 1990 with a degree in physical therapy. With his brother David, he cofounded Advanced Health Care Corp. in 2000.
Elder Nattress has served in numerous Church callings, including as ward Young Men president, bishop, stake Young Men president, stake president, and Area Seventy. At the time of his call, he was presiding over the newly formed Arizona Gilbert Mission. (Read a longer feature on Elder Nattress.)
Elder S. Mark Palmer, General Authority Seventy
In 1992 time was a precious and limited commodity for Elder S. Mark Palmer and his wife, Jacqueline.
Elder Palmer was serving on the stake high council at the time. He was also working hard to build his professional career. Sister Palmer’s time was stretched just as thin. The Palmers were raising six children in their Austin, Texas, home—including a six-month-old baby boy.
When their stake president invited them to serve as workers at the Dallas Texas Temple, they didn’t know how they could handle one more duty. But they accepted the call—and then prayerfully asked for the Lord’s help.
Making a monthly bus trip to serve all day in the temple required sacrifice and careful planning. “But it blessed our lives enormously,” said Elder Palmer.
Serving in the temple, he added, prepared him spiritually for future priesthood callings. It also made him a better husband and father—and he found balance in his busy life.
“Going to the temple often helps you reset your priorities and be reminded of the covenants you have made,” he added.
Stanley Mark Palmer was born February 11, 1956, in Te Puke, New Zealand, to Kenneth and Jill Palmer. His family joined the Church when he was a young boy. He served a full-time mission in the New Zealand Wellington Mission.
After earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Auckland, he enrolled in the MBA program at Brigham Young University. While living in Provo, Utah, he met a returned missionary named Jacqueline Wood on a blind date. They were married December 18, 1981, in the Salt Lake Temple. The Palmers have six children and nine grandchildren.
Elder Palmer is the founder and president of SMP Ventures, a real estate development company. He has served as bishop, stake president, president of the Washington Spokane Mission (2009–2012), interim president of the Australia Sydney South Mission (2014), and Area Seventy. (Read a longer feature on Elder Palmer.
Gary B. Sabin, General Authority Seventy
Three Christmas trees stand out in the memory of Elder Gary B. Sabin.
The first was a beautiful Christmas tree of his youth. When Gary scaled the tree trying to reach a candy cane, the entire tree crashed to the ground.
The second was an evergreen branch he found as a missionary in Belgium, where he served from 1973 to 1975 in the Belgium Brussels Mission. Elder Sabin and his companion took the branch home to their apartment and propped it up around the Christmas cards they had received from home.
The third was a tree made of Christmas lights strung on the IV stand next to his daughter’s hospital bed. One of three Sabin children to suffer from cystic fibrosis, his daughter had received a double-lung transplant one year after the death of her brother from the same disease.
“We have learned a lot more from our children than they have learned from us,” said Elder Sabin.
As a General Authority he will remember the Christmas trees and the lessons he learned from them. Each tree highlights portions of his journey—from a young boy wanting a candy cane to a missionary teaching the plan of salvation to a father who relied on the plan and the Savior’s love to sustain his family through mortal trials.
Gary Byron Sabin was born in Provo, Utah, USA, on April 7, 1954, to Marvin E. and Sylvia W. Sabin. He married Valerie Purdy in August 1976. They are the parents of five children; a sixth child was stillborn.
After graduating from Brigham Young University in Provo, Elder Sabin earned a master’s degree in management from Stanford University.
Elder Sabin has served in numerous Church callings, including as bishop, stake president, and Area Seventy. He has worked as a founder, chairman, and CEO of several companies, including Excel Realty Trust, Price Legacy, Excel Realty Holdings, and Excel Trust.
In 1993, Elder and Sister Sabin formed Sabin Children’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to addressing the medical needs of children. (Read a longer feature on Elder Sabin.)
Elder Evan A. Schmutz, General Authority Seventy
Elder Evan Antone Schmutz is grateful for the revelatory experiences entrusted to him by the Lord. His conversion to the gospel has been deepened through regular scripture study, service in the kingdom, and obedience to his commitments to God.
Born June 6, 1954, in St. George, Utah, to Richard and Miriam Schmutz, Elder Schmutz learned early about the power of prayer. As a Cub Scout he sold $17 worth of tickets to a jamboree but couldn’t find the money when it was time to turn it in. After he followed his mother’s encouragement to pray, the Lord revealed to him exactly where it was. It was a strong confirmation of God’s love and awareness for him.
At 18, Elder Schmutz lost his older sister to an auto accident. Her death had a tremendous impact on him, bringing about significant spiritual experiences.
Shortly thereafter he was called on a mission and reported for training. He prayed for a personal witness of the gospel. While observing some instructors teaching about the First Vision, he said, “I received a testimony so powerful that I could hardly stay in the room.”
After serving in the North Carolina Greensboro Mission, Elder Schmutz made a point of continuing to study the scriptures every day for the rest of his life. “I have found great joy, personal learning, and understanding through early-morning study for a long, long time.”
Elder Schmutz married Cindy Lee Sims on February 3, 1978, in the Provo Utah Temple. Elder Schmutz earned a degree in English and a juris doctorate from Brigham Young University. He worked professionally for several law firms from 1984 to 2016.
While managing with his wife the demands of five children, Elder Schmutz served as a high councilor, bishop, member of a stake presidency, president of the Philippines Cebu Mission (2011–2014), MTC branch president, and Area Seventy. (Read a longer feature on Elder Schmutz.)