“I’ve always felt like a missionary,” says Elder Gene R. Cook, the newest member of the First Council of the Seventy.
Missionary work began for him when he was 12 years old. One night his older brother came home from MIA and told him how his teacher had talked about the importance of testimony and having one of your own. “My brother told me that he wanted to get one, and he began to fast and pray,” says Elder Cook.
“After witnessing the spiritual experiences in our family and my brother’s life during the following week, I knew I wanted to get a testimony too. I began to read the Book of Mormon, and early in First Nephi I began to get those profound spiritual feelings. I read that book many times before being called as a full-time missionary. When you know it’s true, you have to share it. I started by working on my young friends in Mesa, Arizona, to help them read the Book of Mormon and gain testimonies.”
At the age of 17, Elder Cook was so anxious to be a missionary that he was called on a stake mission as junior companion to an older missionary. The next year he was assigned to be the senior companion to a 17-year-old friend whom he tried to teach how to be a missionary.
After that he served a full-time mission in Uruguay-Paraguay under Elder J. Thomas Fyans, now an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. “Elder Fyans gave me training in leadership, and it was a time of much growth and learning,” says Elder Cook. Since then Elder Cook has held many other positions in the Church, including Regional and Mission Representative of the Twelve, counselor in a stake mission presidency, and one of the seven presidents of the quorum of seventy in his stake.
Elder Cook was graduated from Arizona State University with a Master of Business Administration degree. He worked as an insurance salesman, manager, and field trainer and was a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable his first year in the insurance business. But, despite his success, he began to feel restless and to ask himself what he was really doing with his life. “It just wasn’t enough,” he says. After much private contemplation he felt directed to move his family to Utah. Subsequently, he began to work for the Church Personnel Department. “The Lord put what I had learned in the insurance business to good use.”
Most recently Elder Cook has worked as executive secretary to the Missionary Executive Committee and the First Council of the Seventy.
When President Kimball interviewed him about the new calling, he asked, among other questions, if Elder Cook was willing to sacrifice all he has for the rest of his life, even to sacrifice his life, for the gospel. “I was thrilled to be able to answer his questions affirmatively. President Kimball also asked about my wife, Janelle, and if she could answer the same questions. I didn’t even need to ask her. She understands the order of the priesthood. She is truly characteristic of great LDS women—totally willing to follow direction and totally trusting of me as her priesthood leader in the decisions we must make. I can’t do this alone. You know, even though it’s right, it isn’t easy for a young wife when you have committed especially your weekends for the rest of your life to your Church assignment.” Elder and Sister Cook are the parents of four children: Tray, Travis, Terrel, and Jenny. Elder Cook’s widowed mother lives in Mesa, Arizona.
“What led me to this point in my life more than any other thing is that I gained a witness so early,” he says. “When you know it’s true, you desire to live it with all your heart and you’ve just got to share it.”