Elder Jack H Goaslind, Jr., and Elder Robert L. Backman of the First Quorum of the Seventy were called to the presidency of that quorum October 6 at the closing session of general conference.
They filled vacancies in the presidency occasioned by the call of Elder M. Russell Ballard to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and of Elder J. Thomas Fyans to be President of the South America South Area.
Elder Goaslind and Elder Backman have many years of Church leadership experience and have filled administrative roles through their General Authority assignments for the past several years. In the past, both have served in the general presidency of the Church’s Young Men organization.
The two men talked with the Ensign about their new callings and their backgrounds.
On the Friday before general conference, Elder Jack H Goaslind, Jr., told his wife, Gwen, that his secretary had just informed him she was moving and would have to quit. To a man who develops close ties with those he works with, the news was indeed unwelcome.
But general conference brought even greater changes in his life than he had anticipated. He was called as one of the seven presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
At the time of the call, Elder Goaslind was president of the Church’s North America Northwest Area and a managing director of the Priesthood Department. Prior to that, he served as a member of the Asia Area Presidency, as a Managing Director of the Missionary Department, and as a regional representative.
In 1972, Elder Goaslind was called to serve as a counselor in the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood Mutual Improvement Association. He and his wife, the former Gwen Bradford, were then called to preside over the Arizona Tempe Mission. And in September 1978, he was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Before being called to full-time Church service, Elder Goaslind was vice-president of Affiliated Metals, Inc.
Elder Goaslind was born 18 April 1928, to Jack H. and Anita Jack Goaslind. Following a mission, he graduated from the University of Utah, where he met his future wife. A native of Salt Lake City, Elder Goaslind is an avid skier and loves doing things with his family. He and Sister Goaslind are the parents of three sons and three daughters and are expecting their ninth grandchild.
His father has always been an inspiration to him. One of the memorable experiences of his life was serving first as bishop, then as stake president at the same time his father was serving in both those assignments in the neighboring stake. He felt it was an honor to be associated with his father in that service. “I will be eternally grateful,” he said of his parents, “for their love and its profound influence on my life.”
Since his visit with President Kimball when he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, “things have not been the same. More than ever before,” he testifies, “I feel my total dependence on the Lord and pray earnestly for his Spirit to attend me.”
Elder Backman, too, recognizes a great dependence on the Lord. “I have often felt the Lord’s hand leading and guiding and protecting me,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed such rich experiences as I’ve grown up.”
Born 22 March 1922 in Salt Lake City to LeGrand P. and Edith Price Backman, Robert LeGrand Backman spent part of his boyhood in South Africa, where his father was serving as a mission president. When he was in his teens, the family returned to Salt Lake City, where he completed his senior year of high school. Having attended an all-boys’ school in South Africa, he was painfully shy. He says it was his call to the Northern States Mission that transformed his life and converted him to the principle of service.
“As a boy, I sought happiness as the world measures it,” says Elder Backman. “It was not until I was called on a mission that I discovered that happiness is really a by-product of service.”
Service has been important to Elder Backman ever since. He has served in the Utah State Legislature and in many Church callings, including time as a member of the bishopric and stake presidency, and as general president, counselor, and board member of the Young Men; regional representative; and mission president. He is also a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America and a member of the United States Foundation for International Scouting.
After serving in the army during World War II, he returned to Salt Lake City to study law. His intent was to concentrate solely on his studies, but the principle of service won out. The first day in the city, he met the bishop of his ward on the bus, and he was called as the deacons quorum adviser before he left the bus.
In 1941 he married Virginia Pickett, whom he met in high school. In the years that followed, they were blessed with seven daughters.
He graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 1949, and in 1966 was called to serve as president of the Northwestern States Mission—an opportunity he and his wife enjoyed very much. They were, as they put it, hoping for another mission call when Elder Backman “received another one of those phone calls”—and was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy on 1 April 1978.
At the recent October general conference, he was called to the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. His new calling will provide even more opportunities for service. “A life can never be happy that is focused inward,” he says. “If you are miserable now, forget your troubles. March right out your door and find someone who needs you.” His life exemplifies that philosophy.