New General Authorities Sustained during April 2011 General Conference

  • 14 April 2011

During April 2011 general conference, Church leaders raise their hands to sustain those called to new positions in the Church.

Article Highlights

  • Called to the First Quorum of the Seventy: Elder José L. Alonso, Elder Ian S. Ardern, Elder Don R. Clarke, Elder Carl B. Cook, Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Elder W. Christopher Waddell, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita
  • Called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Randall K. Bennett, Elder J. Devn Cornish, Elder O. Vincent Haleck, Elder Larry Y. Wilson

“I’m grateful and honored by the confidence the Lord has placed in us.” —Elder O. Vincent Haleck, Second Quorum of the Seventy

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called 10 new General Authorities—six to the First Quorum of the Seventy and four to the Second Quorum of the Seventy—during the Saturday afternoon session of the April 2011 general conference.

Also, Elder Don R. Clarke of the Second Quorum of the Seventy was called to the First Quorum.

New Members of the First Quorum

Elder José L. Alonso

Even before he joined the Church, José Luis Alonso Trejo had a testimony of the power of prayer. “When I was 11 years old,” he says, “I nearly died. The doctors had given up on me—I overheard them speaking. So I prayed and prayed to the Lord, and He healed me.

“When I later heard the story of Joseph Smith and learned how a boy only 14 years old spoke with God, I knew it was true. I knew that God could answer our prayers, that He knows us.”

That same feeling of comfort guided Elder Alonso as he studied the Book of Mormon. “Because of prayer and this book, I know with certainty that Jesus is the Christ,” he says.

Elder Alonso was born in Mexico City, Mexico, in November 1958 to Luis and Luz Alonso. As a teenager he moved to the city of Cuautla, Mexico, where he joined the Church. Attending Mutual brought him into contact with strong youth who fellowshipped him and provided him a second home. It was also while attending Mutual that he met Rebecca Salazar, the woman who would later become his wife.

When Elder Alonso turned 19, he served a full-time mission in the Mexico Hermosillo Mission. Following his mission, Elder Alonso and Rebecca were married on February 24, 1981, in the Mesa Arizona Temple. They are the parents of two children.

In addition to serving as an institute director for the Church Educational System, Elder Alonso has a medical degree in pediatric development and worked as a homeopathic physician and surgeon. His career demonstrates a long-held desire to serve and bless others—just as the Lord blessed him when he was sick as a child. “Service to others builds unity and brotherhood,” he says, “and invites the power of the Lord into our lives.”

Prior to his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Alonso served as a bishop, stake mission president, stake president, mission president’s counselor, president of the Mexico Tijuana Mission, and Area Seventy.

Elder Ian S. Ardern

Whenever there’s a phone call or knock at the door, the first words out of Elder Ian Sidney Ardern’s mouth are typically “How can I help you?”

Born to Harry and Gwladys McVicar Wiltshire in Te Aroha, New Zealand, in February 1954, Elder Ardern recounted that it is often the seemingly small acts of service that make the greatest difference in the lives of the giver and the receiver. “Service is not always convenient, but it always blesses your life,” says Elder Ardern.

Elder and Sister Ardern met while attending the Church College of New Zealand and married in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple on January 17, 1976. Their four children grew up in a home where a loving concern for one another and a need to understand and live gospel principles were priorities. “It’s a blessing to see these same priorities in the homes of our married children,” says Elder Ardern.

The Lord expects much of His children, and He provides a way for those expectations to be met. “I am most grateful to all those who have helped our family to follow the Lord,” Elder Ardern says.

Following the teachings of the prophets in the home has been a priority for the Ardern family. Daily scripture study became a habit because the young children made sure it was held so they could take turns placing a red sticker on the calendar to show the reading that day was done. “By small and simple things good habits can be formed,” says Sister Ardern.

Prior to his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Ardern’s Church service included callings as a missionary in France and Belgium, stake Young Men president, high councilor, bishop’s counselor, bishop, stake president’s counselor, president of the Fiji Suva Mission, and Area Seventy.

Elder Ardern received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. His professional career includes many Church Educational System positions, including teacher, director, seminary coordinator in New Zealand, principal of the Church College of New Zealand, and Pacific Area Director.

Elder Don R. Clarke

When Elder Don Ray Clarke was president of the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission, he transferred to mission headquarters an elder who made it clear he would have preferred to finish his mission in another area. Soon after, the elder met a woman looking for a daughter she hadn’t seen in 10 years. When she showed him a photo, this missionary recognized her daughter from a previous area. He played a key part in reuniting a mother and her child.

From this experience and others, “I’ve come to know that God cares deeply about people,” Elder Clarke says. He welcomes surprise transfers and new callings that allow him to help others. “I hope I can minister,” he says of his new calling, “and not just administer.”

Born on December 11, 1945, in Rexburg, Idaho, USA, to Raymond and Gladys Clarke, he credits a good home, good friends, and his patriarch grandfather, who lived with his family, for strengthening his testimony as a child.

He earned an associate degree from Ricks College (now BYU–Idaho), a bachelor’s degree in business from Brigham Young University, and a master’s degree in business administration from Washington State University. He married Mary Anne Jackson on June 5, 1970, in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. They have six children.

He pursued a successful career in retail, filling senior executive positions. He has served as a full-time missionary in the Argentina South Mission, elders quorum president, stake Young Men president, bishop, member of the high council of the Buena Vista Virginia Stake, stake president, and assistant director of Church hosting. He was serving in the Second Quorum of the Seventy at the time of his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.

“I’ve learned along the way that so many of God’s children need help,” he says. God answers their prayers through us, he says, “so that we can receive the great blessings of serving them.”

Elder Carl B. Cook 

As a young missionary in the Language Training Mission (the predecessor to the Missionary Training Center) preparing to go to Hamburg, Germany, Carl Bert Cook struggled to learn German. While he tried to grasp basic vocabulary, members of his district quickly moved on to more complex concepts. 

Frustrated by his lack of progress, young Elder Cook sought divine help through a priesthood blessing and prayer. After one particularly heartfelt prayer, Elder Cook remembers receiving a specific answer: the Lord hadn’t called him to master the German language but to serve with all of his heart, mind, and strength. 

“I immediately thought, ‘I can do that,’” says Elder Cook, recently called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. “‘I can serve with all of my heart, mind, and strength.’ I stood up and felt a sense of relief. All of a sudden, my measuring stick changed from how my companion and district members were doing to how the Lord felt that I was doing.”

Although Elder Cook says that he didn’t necessarily learn the language more quickly after that experience, he no longer felt his previous concerns because he knew that he was doing what the Lord wanted him to do. That lesson, he says, has been important in all of the callings he’s held since, including bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, president of the New Zealand Auckland Mission, Area Seventy, and now in his current assignment. 

Elder Cook earned a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from Weber State College and a master’s degree in business administration from Utah State University. He spent his career working in real estate development.

Elder Cook was born in Ogden, Utah, USA, in October 1957 to Ramona Cook Barker and the late Bert E. Cook. He married Lynette Hansen on December 14, 1979, in the Ogden Utah Temple. They are the parents of five children. 

Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. 

Elder LeGrand Raine Curtis Jr. knows that “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34).

“He loves serving in the Church, and he does it with hard work and a willing attitude,” says his wife, Jane Cowan Curtis, whom he married in the Salt Lake Temple on January 4, 1974. “Service is his greatest wish and desire.”

Elder Curtis was born in August 1952, in Ogden, Utah, USA, to LeGrand R. and Patricia Glade Curtis. His father later became a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy (1990–95).

Before his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Curtis Jr. served in the Italy North Mission and as bishop, high councilor, stake president, president of the Italy Padova Mission, and Area Seventy. He was serving as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy in the Utah Salt Lake City Area at the time of his call to the First Quorum.

Elder Curtis graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in economics and earned his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan. At the time of his call, he was working as an attorney and partner at a law firm. In addition to school and work, Elder Curtis and his wife have raised five children.

After serving as an Area Seventy from 2004 to 2011, Elder Curtis says he has appreciated the opportunity to work with the General Authorities. “I have been blessed to work with some exceptional leaders in the Church,” he says. “Watching them and learning from them has been a great privilege.”

Sister Curtis says Elder Curtis always has had willing hands and a willing heart. “His attitude was always, ‘I will do,’” she says.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:34 ends with these words: “The willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.” Brother and Sister Curtis say they and their children and grandchildren have been exceptionally blessed for serving the Lord.

Elder W. Christopher Waddell 

An unwritten guiding principle in Elder Wayne Christopher Waddell’s family has always been, “Trust in the Lord.”

“As you trust in the Lord, you don’t have to worry about major changes,” Elder Waddell says of life’s unexpected twists and turns. “We know He has our best interests at heart, and we will be blessed. ”

Elder Waddell was born in June 1959 in Manhattan Beach, California, USA, and is the son of Wayne and Joann Waddell. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from San Diego State University, where he also played volleyball. He has worked in many positions in a global investment services firm. 

Elder Waddell married Carol Stansel on June 7, 1984, in the Los Angeles California Temple. They have four children. Unity is paramount in the Waddell family. They attribute that unity to striving to follow the Savior’s gospel in their home. Family activities also have been important—spending time together at beaches near their home and attending sporting events as a family. 

 Prior to his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Waddell served as a full-time missionary in Spain, bishop, high councilor, mission president’s counselor, stake president, president of the Barcelona Spain Mission, and Area Seventy.

Elder Waddell says that one experience has built upon another and each continues to add to the “treasure of testimony” that he relies on to face challenges in life. 

When speaking of preparation for his new calling, Elder Waddell speaks of the temple. 

“What prepared us for this? When we went to the temple for the first time and made covenants, we pledged to be willing to do whatever it was the Lord asked us, even if it wasn’t convenient,” he says. “Going to the temple, serving a mission, making covenants, and then seeing His hand and how He directs the work—that is all you need. We aren’t doing anything unique; we are keeping covenants we’ve made, just like everyone else.”

Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita

Since becoming a young bishop in Fukuoka, Japan, many years ago, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita has learned from the good examples and attitudes of his senior leaders. 

Soon after Elder Yamashita married his wife, Tazuko Tashiro, they moved from Tokyo to Fukuoka, where Elder Yamashita was called as a bishop when he was in his late 20s.

“That was hard for me and my family,” Elder Yamashita says. “We had three young children at the time and were new to the area—but it was also a very good teaching and learning experience for me, and my testimony and faith got stronger.”

 “Of course I had hard times, because my family was young and I didn’t have much experience as a Church leader beforehand,” Elder Yamashita says. “My senior leaders were good examples and taught me many lessons through their attitude and behavior.”

Sister Yamashita says she has seen her husband receive many callings and become a great father and great spiritual leader through the challenges those callings presented. Over time she has seen him change and become a kinder, more loving father and husband. The family enjoys spending time together, including taking long road trips every year.

Elder Yamashita, born in September 1953, is the son of Kiyoshi and Sadae Yamashita. He grew up in Tokyo, Japan, where he found the Church in 1971 through Expo 70, the World’s Fair. 

Elder Yamashita received a bachelor’s degree in education from Saitama University and a master’s degree in sport science from Tsukuba University. He also studied the philosophy of physical education at Brigham Young University. Elder Yamashita has been an instructor and professor at various universities and served in numerous scientific, community, and sports organizations. 

Elder Yamashita and his wife were married on March 29, 1980, and sealed in December 1980, after the completion of the Tokyo Japan Temple. They have six children. 

Prior to his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Yamashita served as a bishop, high councilor, stake mission president, stake president, and Area Seventy.

New Members of the Second Quorum

Elder Randall K. Bennett 

It was at the height of his career as an orthodontist that Randall Kay Bennett and his wife, Shelley, felt “a distinct impression” to prepare to serve missions. This meant that they would need to sell their home right away.

The reason for the prompting didn’t become immediately apparent—it took three years for their home to sell, a process that “took a lot of patience” and required that they “show the Lord that we were really committed,” Elder Bennett says. “We continued to trust in the Lord and tried to stay close to Him through frequent temple attendance, daily scripture study, prayer, fasting, and service to others.”

Shortly after their home finally sold, Elder Bennett was called to serve at the Provo Missionary Training Center and then as president of the Russia Samara Mission. 

“It was wonderful—and very humbling—to know that the Lord had been mindful of us and had been preparing us,” Elder Bennett said. “We have come to know that the Lord is aware of the thoughts of our minds and the feelings of our hearts. We have learned to trust that He knows better than we do, that He knows more than we do, and that He loves us.”

In addition to his callings as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and a mission president, Elder Bennett has served as president and counselor in a Provo Missionary Training Center branch, member of the stake high council, counselor in a bishopric, ward Young Men president, various other callings, and as a missionary in the France Paris and France Toulouse Missions. 

Elder Bennett earned a doctor of dental surgery degree from the University of Alberta (Canada) and a master’s degree in orthodontics from Loma Linda University in Southern California, USA. 

Elder Bennett was born in June 1955 in Magrath, Alberta, Canada. His parents are Donald Kay Bennett and Anne Darlene Long. He married Shelley Dianne Watchman on April 23, 1977, in the Cardston Alberta Temple. They are the parents of four children. 

Elder J. Devn Cornish 

Elder John Devn Cornish knows that every member and every calling in the Church is important.

“It is important to remember when considering callings in the Church that it doesn’t matter where we sit on the plane—it matters that we’re on the plane,” he says. “Being a part of the work matters eternally. Which position we occupy is of very little importance.”

From his call to serve in the Guatemala–El Salvador Mission to his most recent call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Cornish has been engaged in fulfilling his Church callings, including ward Young Men president, elders quorum president, ward executive secretary, high priests group leader, high councilor, bishop, stake president, president of the Dominican Republic Santiago Mission, and Area Seventy.

Born in April 1951 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, to George and Naomi Cornish, Elder Cornish grew up in Utah, Georgia, and Virginia, USA, before returning to Utah for college.

While living in Provo, he met Elaine Simmons at a young single adult activity. They married in the Manti Utah Temple in August 1973.

While raising six children with his wife, Elder Cornish served in the United States Air Force Medical Corp, earned bachelor’s and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins University, and pursued his residency in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School—Boston Children’s Hospital.

Education and work in Idaho, Texas, California, and Georgia, USA, moved the family a lot over the years, but wherever they were, Elder and Sister Cornish say, they loved serving in the Church.

“The work is growing throughout the world, and it is a great blessing to be able to help serve the Lord’s children wherever they may be,” Elder Cornish says.

This call to the Seventy, “like every calling in the Church, will be another opportunity to be a part of the Lord’s work,” Elder Cornish says. “We are grateful for that privilege.”

Elder O. Vincent Haleck

From a young age Elder Otto Vincent Haleck paid tithing, fasted, and studied scriptures—and then he met the missionaries and was baptized.

Elder Haleck’s mother was a member of the Church but hadn’t attended in years. His father wasn’t a member of the Church. Yet the family paid tithing, fasted weekly, read the Bible daily, and gave of what they had to those in need. Elder Haleck comes from a legacy of faith.

Elder Haleck was born in January 1949 in American Samoa. His parents, Otto and Dorothy Haleck, sent him to school in California, USA. At the age of 17, he noticed that some friends in student government were different from other students. “They invited me to Mutual, and the rest is history,” Elder Haleck says.

Elder Haleck received a bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing from Brigham Young University. He owns a number of businesses in American Samoa and is involved in philanthropic work. Elder Haleck and his wife, Peggy Ann Cameron, were married on June 29, 1972, in the Provo Utah Temple. They are the parents of three children.

 Eventually Elder Haleck’s whole family found the gospel. Elder Haleck had the privilege of baptizing his 80-year-old father and seeing his mother return to Church activity after 50 years of marriage. 

Prior to his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Haleck served as a full-time missionary in the Samoa Apia Mission, bishop, stake high councilor, patriarch, stake president, and most recently, president of the Samoa Apia Mission.

Elder Haleck believes that all his life experiences have led him to where he is now. “I look back on my life, and I can say that I can see the hand of the Lord,” Elder Haleck says. “I’m grateful and honored by the confidence the Lord has placed in us. I love the Lord and hope to be a good instrument. I know the Lord will help me.”

Elder Larry Y. Wilson

Balancing the demands of work, Church, and family responsibilities has been a challenge for Elder Larry Young Wilson, but he has made sure family members know how important they are to him.

“The most formative experience I have had is being a husband and a father,” Elder Wilson says. “I rarely missed a child’s performance in an athletic, musical, or other event. I read them bedtime stories and said prayers with them before tucking them into bed at night. It is so important to be there.”

Elder Wilson knows well the demands placed on one who has leadership roles in all aspects of life. He was born in December 1949 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, to George and Ida Wilson and grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, USA. He received a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from Harvard University, and later a master’s degree in business administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Elder Wilson has spent his career as a consultant and executive in the health care industry. Although his career was demanding, Elder Wilson made sure it never took over his life.

“You have to establish boundaries around your work life,” he says. “Otherwise, it will swallow everything else. Practically speaking, the areas of work, church, and family time have to take turns being put on hold. Pray to be guided and you will know which one takes precedence on any particular day.”

Elder Wilson served diligently as a missionary in the Brazil Central Mission and as bishop, stake president, and Area Seventy before being called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

Helping Elder Wilson find that important balance in all his service is his wife, Lynda Mackey Wilson, whom he married on July 10, 1974, in the Logan Utah Temple. The Wilsons raised four children.

“Whenever I left for Church meetings, she would say, ‘Good-bye, honey. Go serve the Lord,’” Elder Wilson says. “She was teaching our children the deeper meaning of my service. Before long they would say, “Good-bye, Daddy. Go serve the Lord!”