“There often comes a time when a man must decide whether to make a lot of money or to make a great life.” The year was 1946. Elder Albert E. Bowen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was speaking in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.
In the audience, a young man, recently discharged from the Navy, had been fervently praying for direction about his future. Now, as he felt Elder Bowen’s eyes singling him out of the crowd, the words were planted deep in his soul.
“I knew then that sometime in my life I would be confronted with the decision Elder Bowen spoke of,” says Elder Francis M. Gibbons. “Because of that, when the choice did come, I was able to walk away from a lucrative, rewarding career and follow the path outlined by the Lord.”
That path brought Elder Gibbons, at age of sixty-four, to the First Quorum of the Seventy. When the call came, he had been retired for one week from serving as secretary to the First Presidency.
Elder Gibbons is a native of St. Johns, Arizona. A graduate of Stanford University, he received a juris doctor degree from the University of Utah and practiced law for eighteen years.
In April 1970, at the age of forty-eight, Francis Gibbons was a member of a nationally-reputed legal firm, a bishop, a loving husband, and the father of four teenagers. It was then he heard from Joseph Anderson, a member of the ward, that the First Presidency was looking for a new secretary. Elder Anderson had filled that position until he was called as an Assistant to the Twelve. The Brethren wanted a mature individual with Church administrative experience who also knew shorthand. As it happened, Elder Gibbons had trained as a court recorder at the age of seventeen and, though he had never filled that job, had often used his shorthand through his schooling and career.
As he prayerfully contemplated offering his services to the First Presidency, the Spirit confirmed to Elder Gibbons that the time was now. The words, planted in his heart by an Apostle of the Lord almost twenty-five years before, flowered at last.
As he met the following day with the First Presidency, President N. Eldon Tanner asked if he could afford to take the job, as the salary was a fraction of what Brother Gibbons had been making. President Lee answered for him, in words indelibly recorded in Francis Gibbons’ mind: “Frank has come to the point in his life where he can’t afford not to do it.”
Within three days he ended his legal career and began anew.
“I have never regretted that decision,” says Elder Gibbons. “Although our income was radically reduced, the Lord has blessed us, and we haven’t missed it. My association over the years with four Presidents of the Church has been reward enough.”
For sixteen years he took the minutes in First Presidency meetings and in their meetings with the Quorum of the Twelve and other General Authorities in the temple, as well as recording ordinations, blessings, and instructions.
“I have a burning testimony that God reveals his mind and will to the living prophets. I know it; I have been there and have felt the influence of the Spirit.”
Elder Gibbons, who has also served as stake mission president, stake president, and patriarch, has made a lifelong study of the presidents of the Church, writing biographies on seven of them. His wife, Helen Bay Gibbons, is also an accomplished writer. They are the parents of four and the grandparents of thirteen.