Not since Joseph Smith was lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion has there been a General Authority of the Church who was actually a general.
Elder John R. Lasater, sustained in April conference to the First Quorum of the Seventy, becomes the first. A retired Air Force general and F-4 fighter pilot by profession, Elder Lasater, fifty-five, has been serving as president of the New Zealand Auckland Mission. Born 8 December 1931, Elder Lasater married the former Marilyn Jones of Samaria, Idaho. They are the parents of four daughters—Mary Lynn, Leslie Ann, Melanie, and Carolyn, all of whom are married—and a son, Garth, who is at BYU and will marry this spring.
The Lasater family has lived in Germany three times. The last time they were there, Elder Lasater was regional representative assigned to the Servicemen’s Stake—Europe. Before that, he was president of that stake, which covers some sixty-five thousand square miles. President Harold B. Lee called John Lasater to that position and blessed him with a wonderful promise. At the time of the call, Major Lasater thought himself an unlikely man for the job, since he was required to spend nearly all his time flying to various U.S. bases throughout Europe, training and evaluating pilot performance. But President Lee set him apart, promising him that he would be able to preside over and conduct the affairs of the stake without interference from his work. President Lee further blessed him that his advancement in the military ranks would be extraordinary.
The very next day, as Major Lasater was preparing to leave on a routine flight evaluation visit to bases in Europe, he was called in by his commanding general and told he would not be going on that flight; furthermore, his assignment had been permanently changed. From that day on he was to report to that general’s office as his executive assistant. John Lasater did not travel one day after that, which enabled him to serve uninterrupted as stake president. General Lasater attributes his uncommonly rapid rise in rank directly to the Lord’s blessing as well as to the priesthood standards that have guided in his life.
Each of the five points on the stars worn by generals in the military stands for a quality expected of men of that rank: honor, integrity, loyalty, service, fidelity. These high standards are the qualities of a true leader, “qualities that come from within a man.”
As Elder Lasater sees it, military ideals and gospel principles are more similar than most people realize. He sees the military as a “noble profession—though it hasn’t always been—where old virtues are practiced and defended. One advances by living these virtues, rather than by subscribing to any of the myths about war being glorious and soldiers being tough.
Upon his being promoted to general, Brother Lasater remembers telling his superior officer, “I hope I can remember that I can be wrong and that I can be big enough to admit it.”
He has tried to remember this and has depended on the Lord in his major assignments, where much depended on his judgment. As Senior Military Adviser to Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; as U.S. Commissioner to the Standing Consultative Committee at Geneva SALT talks XIX and XX; as commander of the SAC 4th Air Division (responsible for B-52 bombers, ICBMs, and 28,000 men); and then as deputy assistant Secretary of Defense under Caspar Weinberger, Elder Lasater believes he was more effective because he relied on the Lord for help.
The army of the Lord also needs faithful servants who measure up to such standards of leadership.