Twenty years ago, as president of the Central British Mission, George I. Cannon accepted a challenge to memorize the fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants and recite it each day. He did—and continues to do so.
“It helps me get up in the morning and get going in the right direction,” he says. As verse three of that section [D&C 4:3] says, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.”
Throughout his life, ever since he was called as ward organist at age twelve, George Cannon has had a great desire to serve the Lord. On 31 March 1986, he received another call—this time to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Born on 9 March 1920 to George Jenkins Cannon and Lucy Grant Cannon, George Ivins Cannon grew up in Salt Lake City in a family with a rich heritage of Church service. One of his great-grandfathers was President Heber J. Grant; another was President George Q. Cannon, who was a counselor in the First Presidency for many years.
Elder Cannon’s wife, Isabel, a daughter of Wayne B. and Belle Wilson Hales, also comes from a family that has always been active in the Church. Before she and George met, their families were already well acquainted; his mother was serving as general president of the Young Women while her father was on the Young Men General Board.
Young George Cannon completed a mission in the Eastern Stated and then served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II, where he was an LDS servicemen’s group leader in Italy. He returned to Utah in 1946 to attend Brigham Young University. There he met and dated Isabel, who had recently graduated. But she already had plans to move to Chicago and work on an advanced degree. Undaunted, George visited her in Chicago and persuaded her to return to Utah. They were married the following summer.
Elder Cannon graduated from Brigham Young University and worked for Beneficial Life Insurance Company—where he eventually served as a vice president. He also served as a board member of the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In the Church, he has served as a bishop, as president of the Central British Mission, on the general board and in the general presidency of the YMMIA, as a regional representative, as a temple sealer, and as a patriarch. Five and a half years ago, he was called as president of the Salt Lake Parleys Stake, where he was serving when he received the call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Elder Cannon enjoys Church service. “In serving, you’re constantly experiencing the guidance and direction of the Spirit,” he says. “It’s important to follow those promptings. They come time and time again in your life as you’re trying to represent the Savior and do his work.”
He has had many spiritual experiences—many of them small, quiet assurances. “When you partake of the sacrament or listen to someone’s beautiful testimony, you are touched, and you know that it comes from the Spirit,” he says.
Sister Cannon calls him “a real people person” who motivates others—in his family and in the Church. The Cannons have seven children and sixteen grandchildren. They especially enjoy Sunday evenings, when family members drop in for ice cream and conversation.
Both he and Sister Cannon look forward to serving. “Our lives are so enriched by the opportunities we have have had to serve in the Church,” he says. “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. It’s his work that we’re striving to do.”