Elder F. Burton Howard has filled a surprising number of positions in the Church—even Relief Society secretary. Since filling that position as a young missionary in Uruguay, he has directed choirs, taught classes and quorums, been a bishop and a stake president, and served as a special representative of the First Presidency, helping to establish the Church in Latin America. In October general conference he was called to give lifetime service as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
A native of Logan, Utah, he has been practicing law since graduating from the University of Utah College of Law in 1959. He and his wife, the former Caroline Heise of Magna, Utah, were married after his first quarter in law school.
In 1962 he applied for a position with the Church Legal Department—and that job has greatly prepared him for his new calling, he says. For the last seventeen years he has worked with President Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency, paving the way for Church growth in Latin America through political and legal negotiations.
During those years, he has seen the Church there more than double in size. “The hand of the Lord is apparent on the frontiers, where the Church is just getting started,” he says.
In addition, working with President Romney has been a process of continual growth and learning. “Brother Romney’s always teaching. I’ve never been with him when he didn’t teach me something very profound.”
This process began the first time the two men met, when President Romney interviewed Elder Howard for the position with the Church Legal Department. President Romney said the new attorney would need to know Spanish, and so he was going to give him a test. Elder Howard, with his mission and years of college Spanish behind him, felt he knew the language. So when President Romney asked him what mañana meant, the young attorney replied—somewhat patronizingly—that mañana means “tomorrow.” Elder Howard relates: “And he leaned across that desk and pointed his finger at me and said, ‘You’re wrong!’ I knew I could be wrong about a lot of things, but not about mañana. So I replied, ‘Well, what does it mean, then?’ President Romney smiled and said, ‘Young man, it means “not today.”’ He was trying to teach me patience.”
Such experiences, combined with a lifetime of service, have given Elder Howard a testimony of the gospel and the Savior. Because of his father’s government work, he lived in many different towns since his birth in 1933. Consequently, “the family and the Church became bigger factors in my life than they might have been had we been more stable. My parents were always able to say to me, ‘Mormons don’t do that.’” Living among both members and nonmembers of the Church, he feels “fortunate to have had insight into both lifestyles.”
His background and experience make him anxious now to bear a firm testimony of the gospel to the world.