Paul Yost: The Admiral’s Anchor Is the Gospel
Entering the hushed hallways of the headquarters of the U. S. Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., you at once feel a sense of history. The polished brass chandeliers, burnished wood trim, and old paintings of founding fathers on the walls reflect years of tradition. The feeling continues inside the office of Admiral Paul Yost, Commandant of the Coast Guard—but the aura of proud tradition continued mingles with a hint of new traditions begun. Admiral Yost is the first Latter-day Saint in history to head a branch of the U. S. military service.
That unique position has brought with it many opportunities and responsibilities. “It’s not a secret in Washington or anyplace else that I am a member of the Church,” says Brother Yost. “I’ve got to be an even better example of the gospel than is expected, and I realize that. I’m happy to have that anchor of the gospel in my career and life.” As head of the Coast Guard, he commands the forces that protect the United States’ borders—a responsibility that includes law enforcement and search and rescue.
Brother Yost is known as an honest, fair, and sensitive commander. “He tries to work with people so that no one comes out the loser,” says Marylyn Poppe, who served as his secretary for several years while he was commander of the Atlantic area and based in New York City.
“The gospel is an added help to me in performing my duties,” he says, adding, “I don’t make big decisions that affect a lot of people’s lives without prayer and meditation.”
To understand Brother Yost and his success in the military service, you have to know his wife, Jan. She is a bubbly, bright woman whose support and enthusiasm has been an asset not only in raising their two daughters and three sons, but also in what the couple considers their joint career.
The Yosts met in 1950 during Paul’s last year at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where Jan was in her freshman year of college. They were married on 2 June 1951—only weeks after he graduated—and were sent to Hawaii for their first tour of duty. Less than four years later, while the Yosts were living in Hawaii, two missionaries knocked on their door.
“It was a one-in-a-million chance,” says Brother Yost. “We are one of the success stories.” Because of that experience, the Yosts decided that it was important to support their sons in serving missions; all three have served.
Brother Yost himself has an opportunity to do missionary work on a daily basis. He makes no secret of the fact that he is a Latter-day Saint, and although he doesn’t do overt missionary work, he nevertheless takes opportunities to explain what he believes to others. “When I am asked, and I very often am, I am forthright in what I believe and why, and I encourage people to look into it,” he says. He often takes opportunities to talk about the Church with those he meets on airplanes or while traveling.
The Yosts find that the Word of Wisdom often sparks conversations about the gospel. Although they often entertain, the Yosts serve nothing stronger than sparkling grape juice at their parties. “When people come to my house, they don’t expect to have a drink,” says Brother Yost. Sister Yost recalls that shortly after Brother Yost became an admiral, a senior officer’s wife asked her whether or not the Yosts would begin serving alcohol at their parties. “I just told her we would be doing the same thing we had always done,” says Sister Yost. “It wouldn’t change because Paul had a higher rank.”
Brother Yost agrees. “We’ve stuck with those principles, and it has not hurt us in our career. People have accepted it, and some even admire it.”
While his Coast Guard duties are demanding, Brother Yost has also served in several bishoprics and on two high councils. He has found that when he puts the Lord first in his life, he is better able to serve his country. Once, while commanding 25 percent of the U. S. Navy Coast Guard troops in Vietnam, Brother Yost learned a great lesson about serving the Lord.
“I went to the servicemen’s group the first Sunday I arrived, and it was in disarray,” he remembers. “The leader had just been transferred, and no one had been able to come down from Saigon to replace him. So I conducted the meeting, then called Saigon and asked them to call a group leader. I felt I had a combat command and didn’t have time to worry about administering the group. I had a war to fight. I was leading men into combat four out of every seven days.”
Three weeks went by, and then Brother Yost was called to be group leader. “I said, ‘You have got to be kidding. I don’t have time.’ Then I thought to myself, ‘Hey, here I am out in combat. I need all the help I can get from the Lord, and I’m saying to the Lord I don’t have time.’ So I decided to accept the assignment.
“Since then I’ve realized that if the Lord will use me and needs my efforts, I will serve no matter how busy I am.” He says that he has learned to live by a familiar saying: “There is nothing that is going to happen today, Lord, that you and I together can’t handle.”
“The principles of the gospel are everlasting and should be used every day in our lives,” says Brother Yost. According to Sister Yost, her husband is a prime example of that philosophy. “The gospel is an intricate part of his life,” she says. “His belief in God is him. It is in everything he does and says.”
Richard Gunn: Helping Students “See”
It was the first big art museum young Richard Gunn had ever visited. Inside, he saw a man sitting on a little canvas stool, looking at a painting. Richard looked at the man and the painting for a few seconds, then went on to see the rest of the exhibits. As he left the museum, he saw the same man, still sitting on the stool and looking at the same painting. “What did I miss?” Richard wondered. “I had seen every piece of art in the museum, and he was still looking at the first picture.”
That experience proved to be an important moment in Richard Gunn’s life. “That man had seen beauty that I had not seen,” he says. Since then, he has learned not only to observe and search for beauty, but, as a teacher of art, graphics, and art history at Brigham Young University, has helped students learn to become better observers as well. He helps whomever he meets to see more clearly.
Richard Gunn was born in 1918 in Salt Lake City. Some of his pioneer ancestors had assisted in the construction of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and even as a boy he exhibited the same love of good craftsmanship that they put into constructing the Tabernacle. “I remember standing in front of the building and thinking with a certain degree of pride that some of my ancestors had knocked the dowels into place,” he says.
Richard attended the University of Utah, where he met his wife, Jeanne. He soon knew that he wanted to marry her, but she was determined to complete her education. So she finished school, and a long engagement followed while he served a mission and she taught school in Provo. When Brother Gunn returned from his mission, the couple were married.
During World War II he enlisted in the army and was sent to India. After his military service, Brother and Sister Gunn lived in Salt Lake City, where he worked at an advertising agency. A short while later, they returned to Provo so that he could complete his art studies at Brigham Young University. It was there, while he struggled to finish his schooling, that the superintendent of Provo schools asked Richard to teach art at Dixon Junior High. When Richard protested that he didn’t yet have his art degree, the superintendent told him he could work on his degree while teaching.
After one year of teaching, Richard was invited to be the Springville, Utah, Art Gallery curator, a position he held for many years. During those years, the Gunns were also busy raising their family—which would eventually number six children. Brother Gunn received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from BYU, then taught art education there—taking time off long enough to complete a Ph.D. at Stanford University. He then returned to BYU, where he taught commercial art, drawing, and art history. He has been named Professor of the Year and has received the Maeser Award and other teaching awards. “His dedication to teaching is an inspiration,” says Sister Gunn. “He gave up many lucrative job offers to be a teacher.”
One of the things Brother Gunn likes best about teaching is the opportunity not only for his students to learn from him, but for him to learn from them. He recalls one particular experience that occurred while he was teaching at Dixon. He and several students had driven to central Utah to paint. Their car broke down in a small town on the way, and the students took some time to look around the area while he waited for the car to be fixed.
One student excitedly ran up to Brother Gunn, asking him to come with him. Thinking that one of the students had been injured, Brother Gunn went with him immediately. “I chased after him as fast as I could,” he recalls. The boy stopped at an old, fallen tree and said simply, “Look!”
“I looked,” says Brother Gunn, “and there was a beautiful texture in that tree. Time after time, students have opened doors for me to see.”
After thirty-five years of teaching at BYU, Brother Gunn now works for BYU Travel Studies, where he helps students learn to really see the world and appreciate art in such places as the Louvre in Paris. He often stops and poses or acts out a painting or a sculpture for his students to help them realize that the artist has been touched by the beauty of life and is trying to help others to see what he or she has seen.
He feels that as people learn to be sensitive to art and the world around them, they can become more sensitive to the Spirit—and thus grow closer to their fellow human beings and to God. Brother Gunn recalls an example of such sensitivity in Helen Keller, who, during World War II, visited a military hospital where he was hospitalized. The wounded men were frustrated and despairing. But, recalls Brother Gunn, “as this remarkable woman reached out with her words and her radiant being to sculpt new faces on these men, the hard glint in their eyes softened, their faces started to glow, and the bitter lines melted, reflecting the rebirth of spirit.” (Search for Sensitivity and Spirit, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981, pp. 3, 6.)
It is that kind of sensitivity to art and to the Spirit that Brother Gunn feels a need for Church members to cultivate. “Everything I’ve learned in art has made me more sensitive, has made me understand the scriptures better, has helped me understand that there’s got to be a great Designer,” he says.