Elder Ronald E. Poelman Of the First Quorum of the Seventy


“My husband is a great Gospel Doctrine teacher. I think there are going to be some disappointed people in our ward when he’s not there every Sunday morning to teach their class.” And Sister Claire Poelman was only half joking.

Claire S. and Ronald E. Poelman

Claire S. and Ronald E. Poelman.

Although Elder Ronald E. Poelman, newly sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, has had administrative experience in the Church—including seven years as counselor in a stake presidency, two years as bishop, one year as high councilor, and one year as bishop’s counselor—his principal calling for the past eight years has been as a Sunday School teacher.

“I love to teach, and I particularly love to teach from the scriptures. The Gospel Doctrine class has been ideal for my Church service,” he affirmed enthusiastically.

When he received a telephone call at his office in California where he worked as vice-president and secretary of Consolidated Freightways, Inc., this contented Sunday School teacher was “taken aback.”

“President N. Eldon Tanner, with whom I have been associated in business, informed me that President Kimball wished to speak with me personally. When he asked what my schedule was for the next couple of days, I said, ‘For President Kimball, my schedule is very flexible.’”

After an interview—which seemed more like a visit—with President Kimball, and after President Tanner had also entered the President’s office, Elder Poelman asked if he could telephone his wife in California for her response to his calling. President Kimball said he thought that would be most appropriate. Then he said, “Please use my telephone. President Tanner and I will step outside.”

“I called home and we talked for several minutes. I was still on the telephone when the door opened very quietly and President Kimball put his head in. ‘Ron,’ he said, ‘you take all the time you want. Don’t be embarrassed. We’ll just be waiting out here.’ Then he very quietly closed the door again. That was very touching to me. He was so gentle, so gracious, and so sensitive.”

How did Sister Poelman feel? “Overwhelmed!” But after struggling for ten years with cancer, Sister Poelman knows what it means to trust in the Lord. Today they have four children and three grandchildren.

Elder Poelman received his law degree from the University of Utah in 1955 and later, in 1965, graduated from Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.

Both he and his wife are also active in community affairs. Elder Poelman is a member of the San Francisco Symphony Foundation, Commonwealth Club of California, and World Trade Club, and is on the Board of Arbitration of the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Sister Poelman, a graduate of BYU, has served as a consultant to Stanford Research Institute and, for five years, as chairperson of the “Reach to Recovery” Program in Santa Clara County. During the past ten years, she has counselled cancer patients daily.

Born 10 May 1929, of active members of the Church, Elder Poelman always assumed that he would serve a mission and gladly accepted a call to the Netherlands Mission. But his testimony at that time was more a testimony of the Church than of the gospel—that is, until one Sunday when illness kept him in while his companion was at a conference.

“Fairly early in the day, the awareness began to come over me that the key to all that I was involved in was whether Jesus Christ was the Son of God. As I read in the New Testament, I periodically slid out of bed onto my knees and asked my Heavenly Father to confirm to me whether or not the things I was reading were really true. By the time I had finished reading the four Gospels and praying the entire day, I knew without a doubt—and I have never doubted for a moment since—that Jesus is the Christ. The rock foundation that Jesus is my Savior is the basis for everything else.”