Elder James E. Faust: Sharing His Love for the Lord


Elder James E. Faust

Elder James E. Faust has served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve since 1 October 1978. (Photo courtesy of Busath Photography.)

In 1940, Elder James E. Faust and I were missionary companions in the city of Curitiba in southern Brazil. We lived in a bare upper room over the Gato Preto, a corner restaurant located on a plaza called Praca Zacharias. Although room and board cost about $12.00 per month, we kept to a monthly budget of $15.00.

Each morning at about 8:00 A.M. as we strode across Praca Osorio, the central park, we would see the other two missionaries, Elder Angerbauer and Elder Hicken, burst from the door of their boardinghouse in friendly competition with us. Each set of elders wanted to be the first to get to the tracting district—and to “put the city on the map,” as Elder Angerbauer expressed it.

The first day Elder Faust and I became companions, we made an agreement to be among the leaders of the mission in our commitment to work. Since at that time his experience in Portuguese was limited, I took the lead that day in our tracting. I clapped at the gates of several houses and briefly explained our purpose to the people who came to the doors. Having no success, I then announced to my companion that it was his turn.

As Elder Faust clapped his hands to call someone from the next house, I turned my back to emphasize that the contact was all his. When I looked around, he was inside the gate speaking in English to a woman at the window. This was the Dedo-Valeixo family—and they soon joined the Church. They were the first of what are now more than ten thousand Latter-day Saints in that city. At a time when the average missionary in Brazil found only one new convert in two and a half years, Elder Faust was successful with his very first contact.

Since that time, James E. Faust has continued to touch and bless the lives of many. His own life is a reflection of the love for the Savior that he felt as a child and as a young man, and that he now feels as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

A firm foundation for faithfulness was his inheritance at birth. A child of pioneer ancestry, he was born in Delta, Utah, on 31 July 1920 to George A. and Amy Finlinson Faust. “My mother loved the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon,” he says. “I wish I knew as much about the Book of Mormon as she did. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be—that’s something of a personal goal.”

Sister Faust taught her children from the scriptures. “But above all,” he says, “she taught us through her example. She was a deeply spiritual, saintly woman who fully exemplified Christlike living. I credit her for the early testimony I had. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a testimony, a personal witness.”

Having grown up with a love for the Savior, Elder Faust says he has found it easy to believe in the Lord and in his church. “I enjoy paying tithing. It hasn’t been difficult to accept the counsel and the teachings of priesthood leaders.” He smiles, “I guess I’m just a believer.”

George Faust moved his family to the Salt Lake Valley, where he served as an attorney and district court judge. He was a no-nonsense man when it came to such things as serving a mission, attending college, and serving in the military during wartime. “There just wasn’t any discussion about it.”

This rigid approach was balanced by an abundance of support and love, not so much through words as through actions. Although George was a busy judge and bishopric member, “he spent a great deal of time with us in support of our extracurricular activities. When we were playing football, he’d drop whatever he was doing and be at almost every practice every night. Not just the games—the practices. And he never missed an in-state track meet that any of us was involved in.”

With such encouragement from home, Jim Faust lettered in both football and track in high school, and in track in college. “In those days there weren’t any scholarships as there are now. We participated because we enjoyed the sports. It was good discipline.”

He learned discipline in other ways, too. He studied hard and was able to skip a year in elementary school because of good grades. And his parents taught him to work hard and to be responsible for “the eternal everyday”: “The cow had to be milked every day, even on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Sunday, and birthdays. And the chickens had to be fed.”

That hard work and discipline soon began to pay off. After graduating from high school and attending the University of Utah for two years, Jim Faust was called to serve a mission in Brazil in 1939. “In those days it was a difficult mission,” he says. “We had hardly any baptisms, and it was very, very discouraging. It took some strength and discipline under those circumstances to work at it and to keep the Spirit.”

As Elder Faust and I have talked about our missions in Brazil, he has remarked that “we didn’t accomplish much except for the changes in ourselves. I feel it was one of the most productive and valuable times in my life.” Indeed, his mission was a time of spiritual growth and maturity. He perfected his use of the Portuguese language and developed a working capacity in German as well—the language of most members of the Church in Brazil at that time. He presided over local Saints as district president and was also called to positions of leadership among the missionaries.

In 1975, almost thirty-five years after his mission, Elder Faust returned to Brazil as an Assistant to the Twelve to preside over the work in South America. From the standpoint of convert baptisms, this second mission was, of course, much more productive. “I’m grateful that the Lord gave me another opportunity to serve there,” he says. “It’s a great source of amazement and personal satisfaction to see how the Lord has smiled upon those peoples and countries where it was so difficult in the beginning.”

While the 21-year-old missionary was preaching the gospel of peace thousands of miles away, his homeland became involved in a world war. His departure from Brazil was delayed by several months because there was no way to get home. Then when he did leave, travel by ship was not safe because of submarine threat—so he came home in hopscotch fashion by air. Six weeks later he was drafted and assigned to the Air Force.

As a returned missionary, Jim had many advantages over the average soldier in experience, knowledge of languages, practical education, and leadership ability. He qualified for officer training and graduated with honors. As he came into contact with other officers—people of ambition and solid values—he learned to appreciate those who were not members of the Church. And he developed his native inclination for friendliness, tolerance, and understanding.

In the meantime, he became reacquainted with Ruth Wright, whom he had known in high school. During a ten-day leave from officers’ training in Florida—given only to the top third of the class—they were married in the Salt Lake Temple, on 21 April 1943. The young couple bought a used car so they could travel together from assignment to assignment and so Ruth could stay with him as much as possible. They crisscrossed the country at least ten times, traveling day and night in order to get to each new base as fast as the train would have taken him. At many of the bases, they were the only Church members with a car—and they would pile in as many people as possible to take them to church.

Then Jim was assigned overseas—to such places as New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, and Egypt. The only Latter-day Saint aboard a military ship for three months, he worshipped alone each Sunday. “People can receive great spiritual strength even though they’re all alone,” he says. “If they’ll say their daily prayers, pay their tithing, and try to remember as best they can the Sabbath day, the Spirit will come to them and settle upon them richly. It will be a great strength and comfort.”

He wrote a letter every day to Ruth, who in his absence had returned to Salt Lake City to work. But the letters were slow to arrive. One day, about ninety of them came all at once. “Mother called me at work,” Sister Faust remembers, “and my boss let me have the afternoon off to go home to read them!”

After three years in the military, Jim wasn’t sure he wanted to postpone life any further by returning to college. It had been almost six years since he’d left the university for his mission. “When I told my father, he said with brutal frankness, ‘What can you do?’ So I went back to school!” Jim received his bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees from the University of Utah in 1948.

For the next twenty-four years, James E. Faust practiced law in Salt Lake City and achieved distinction in his profession. He served as a member of the Utah Legislature (1949–51), as an advisor to the American Bar Journal, and as president of the Utah Bar Association (1962–63). He was a member of the American Bar United States’ Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Committee for Utah, a member of President John F. Kennedy’s Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Racial Unrest, a member of Utah’s Constitutional Revision Commission, and director of the state’s Friendshipping Force.

“There were many satisfactions in my professional life,” he says. “I tell my three boys, all of whom are lawyers, that if I had to do it over, I’d do it just the same way.”

What made his law practice so rewarding? “Solving problems and getting things straightened out,” he replies. He was genuinely concerned for the people he worked with—and that personal interest came through to his clients. According to his son Marcus, he instilled in his boys the idea that people are more important than things—and that we needed to remember that in our own practices.”

Loyalty to the priesthood of God and a total commitment to the callings that come through inspiration and divine authority are part of Elder Faust’s nature. From the time he was seventeen years old, serving in his ward’s Sunday School superintendency, James E. Faust has always been busily engaged in magnifying callings in the Church. He has served in the auxiliaries and as bishop’s counselor, bishop (at age 28), stake president’s counselor, president of the Salt Lake Cottonwood Stake (at age 35), and regional representative.

As he looks back on those years, many wonderful people and experiences come to mind. “Those are great callings because you are close to the people. You have an opportunity to see lives change, to be a part of helping people with their challenges and their problems. If I could do it over, I think I would worry less about reports and paperwork and meetings, and be involved even more than I was in the lives of people.”

Marcus remembers going out to the stake farm with his dad to fill hay assignments. “I always wondered why it was that even though he had so many other responsibilities as stake president, he still filled welfare assignments. He told me, ‘I’m not going to ask any of my brethren to do anything that I’m not willing to do first.’”

One evening, President Faust was to speak at a stake barbecue commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. “It was the kind of occasion where no one really wanted to listen to a long talk,” laughs Marcus. “Dad was always sensitive to that, and he stood up and said, ‘I’m just going to leave you with a seven-word sermon. But you’ll have to remember what I’ve said. The seven-word sermon is “Remember who you are and act accordingly.”’ Then he closed, and we all went about our business.”

Along the way, wherever they’ve been—during his mission, in the military, through his professional associations, and through their various Church assignments—Jim and Ruth Faust have developed lasting friendships. Elder Faust attributes much of that success to his wife. “She has tremendous love for people and is very warm and outgoing,” he says. “She helps me not overlook things that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Indeed, Ruth Faust is a vivid example of happiness, righteous example, emotional stability, and devotion to eternal principles. When women talk of self-fulfillment, they would do well to look to her. She is a complete person, a Christlike woman devoid of selfishness. With her husband, she has tried to rear her family in righteousness—and their children are now contributing positively to society and to God’s kingdom. She is a gracious hostess, as well as a pioneer-type woman who could have crossed the plains.

Elder Faust was recently asked to recall a moment when he was most proud of Ruth. He replied: “That happens every day!” And then he added: “She is a superb wife—and no children in the world have had a better mother. It’s not easy for her to speak in public, but she has worked at it and the Lord has blessed her. I admire how she has submitted herself to the Spirit so the Lord could work in her life and be reflected in her life and in the messages she shares when she speaks.”

Elder and Sister Faust

He is supported in his calling by his wife, Ruth, a gracious woman who “has tremendous love for people.” (Photography by Church Photo Services.)

When the Fausts lived in Brazil, where he served as supervisor of the South American Area from 1975 to 1977, Ruth did not, at first, speak much Portuguese. But that didn’t matter. She communicated through love and the shining light of her cheerful nature. When my wife and I followed them in that assignment, we saw that they had won the hearts of the people.

As a young couple, the Fausts faced four childless years. But after much prayer and fasting and worry—and a priesthood blessing, given at the suggestion of their stake president, by Elder Charles A. Callis of the Quorum of the Twelve—they were blessed with their first baby. “He was born the night before a law test,” Elder Faust remembers with a smile. “I was up all night—and I got a C on the test the next day!”

Their five children were born during the next ten years. All are now married: Jim to Sherry Cundick; Janna to Douglas R. Coombs; Marcus to Susan Hadley; Lisa to Scott Smith; and Robert to Barbara Siddoway. They have eighteen grandchildren.

Even with heavy responsibilities elsewhere, James Faust has made it a habit to stay close to his family. “I have concentrated on being home,” he says. “I look for ways to be involved in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. It’s been a priority.”

As the children were growing up, they had one-on-one time with their parents—while doing such things as folding clothes, working in the garden, shopping, sitting on Daddy’s lap in the evenings, or being tucked into bed.

The Fausts always had big parties to honor family members celebrating birthdays or receiving school, Church, or Scouting awards; the person being honored could select his favorite food for dinner, and then the whole family would go together to a park or a show or to visit cousins.

Each year the family would go on a vacation; one of their favorites was the summer they went to the eastern United States to pick up their oldest son, Jim, from his mission, and then visited Church history sites on the way home.

“Dad wrote me every single week of my mission, regardless of how busy he was or what he was doing,” says Robert, the youngest son. The letters weren’t always long, but they came every week. “He told me that his father had done that for him, and he wanted to do the same for me. And I hope I do that for my sons.”

Jim and Ruth’s efforts as parents have reaped great benefits: “My children have become my best friends in some ways,” he says. Sister Faust agrees. “When we have free moments, the family comes first in our activities.”

Birthdays are still favorite family times. “Tonight we’re going to a granddaughter’s birthday party,” Elder Faust says. “Last Saturday I watched a soccer game one of my grandsons was in. A few nights before that, I watched two of my grandsons play peewee baseball. As much as I can, I try to give the same kind of supporting influence that my father gave me.”

Daughter-in-law Susan says that Grandpa and Grandma Faust keep up on out-of-town family, too, by calling them in Washington, D. C., at least twice a week and visiting as often as they can. “They’re interested in our children and know them very well. And they stay in touch with what we’re doing, too.”

Daughter Lisa tells of a sacred family experience with one of her children who was born with heart trouble. There was a hole between his left and right ventricles, and the doctors said that the baby would soon have to have open-heart surgery to decrease the size of the hole. When Nathan was about two years old, the doctors noticed that the hole was causing too much pressure on the lungs and decided they would have to operate right away. “But then Dad, my husband, and my father-in-law gave Nathan a blessing, with Dad as voice. When the doctor checked the baby again the next morning, he reported that open-heart surgery wouldn’t be necessary after all because the hole was smaller than it had seemed to be earlier. We know that it was the priesthood that made the difference.”

Now when Nathan gets too energetic and Lisa starts to wish he would settle down, “Dad reminds me that his health is a great blessing and that we should be grateful for it.”

When Elder Faust was first called as a General Authority, he invited the children to a special home evening. As the family sat together, he spoke to each person individually, expressing how important each was to him and mentioning special gifts each had been given from the Lord. “Then he told them that he could never be a good General Authority if he wasn’t first a good father,” Sister Faust remembers. “He told them he would never be released from being a father. He said fatherhood is his eternal calling—and his most important one.” He asked them how they felt about the calling and if they could support him. “Of course all of them do,” she says. “He’s a very sensitive person and an easy man to love.”

Elder Faust’s day begins each morning with a half-hour walk at 5:30, usually accompanied by Sister Faust. Until moving into a condominium, he always had at least one vegetable garden and lots of flowers, and he still enjoys “getting my fingers into the soil.” A lover of good music, he frequently listens to albums from his collection. He used to sing baritone in missionary quartets.

In the evenings, he loves to study the scriptures while sitting in his chair—“Grandpa’s chair”—where grandchildren often curl up on his lap and go to sleep. “There’s so much in the scriptures,” he says. “I think we just scratch the surface. The scriptures have to be an anchor in all we do.”

On 6 October 1972, James E. Faust was sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve. He became a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy 1 October 1976, and two years later, on 1 October 1978, he was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

During his assignment as president of the International Mission, Elder Faust became acquainted with members and nonmembers in the far corners of the world. Then, in his first conference address as a member of the Twelve, he spoke of his great love for them: “I was born with partial color-blindness. I have learned to love all of the people in the countries where I have been as a missionary, soldier, or General Authority, regardless of the color of their skins. I hope to be a disciple … especially for the humble, the downtrodden, the poor, the afflicted, the needy, and the poor in spirit. I am mindful that if we forget these, we can in no way be his disciples.” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 20.)

In each of his callings, he has maintained a pattern of personal interest in people. He is often able to remember names and faces from his previous experiences with people. “Hello, Keith,” he’ll say. “How is Helen? And how are your children Arthur, Karen, and Tricia?” He has a gift of feeling sincere love and personal interest—and of showing it. Having visited a stake or a country, he holds the people there in special remembrance.

“The insides of airplanes look about the same,” he says. “Chapels are not that much different. But the Saints are wonderful all over the world!”

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, he bears a moving, powerful witness. “No one has ever come to this calling with a greater sense of inadequacy than I do at this time,” he said eight years ago as the newest member of the Quorum. But, he said, “a chief requirement for the holy Apostleship is to be a personal witness of Jesus as the Christ and the Divine Redeemer. Perhaps on that basis alone, I can qualify. This truth has been made known to me by the unspeakable peace and power of the Spirit of God.” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 20.)

Indeed, he was well qualified to serve. “I felt I became acquainted with the Savior before I came into the Council of the Twelve,” he says. “A calling to the holy Apostleship is a warm spiritual experience and assurance.”

He feels the weight of his commitment to the highest degree: “I have never felt adequate in this assignment. I’m constantly challenged. But I enjoy a great brotherhood and a great association in the Quorum.

“My feelings for this work exceed life itself. There comes a time when testimony becomes more than belief it becomes a part of your sure knowledge. The wonderful thing about it all is—it’s true!”

[photos] James E. Faust as a young boy growing up in Salt Lake City (top), a missionary in Brazil in 1940 (right), and a member of the track team at the University of Utah in the spring of 1939 (far right).

[photos] (Above) The Faust family in 1974: “When we have free moments, the family comes first in our activities,” Elder Faust says. (Left) Jim and Ruth were married during a ten-day leave from officers’ training. (Below) The Fausts display the results of a great day of fishing in the early years of their marriage.

[photos] As a General Authority and earlier as a stake president, Elder Faust has borne powerful witness of the life and mission of the Savior, Jesus Christ.