One winter evening in 1951, high school students Cree-L Kofford and Ila Macdonald sat at a kitchen table in Ila’s home and discussed the meaning of life. Ila, the only active member of the Church in her immediate family, bore her testimony to her friend. Cree (as he is commonly known), a less-active member, made up his mind after that talk that he was going to “get serious about what was important in life—namely, the gospel.”
“My conversion to the gospel literally started at Ila’s kitchen table,” says Elder Kofford. “She taught me about righteousness, and then gently led me to thirst for it in my life. My testimony grew gradually. One day, years later, I remember waking up and saying, ‘This is the most important thing in my life.’”
Elder Kofford’s childhood included a wide variety of experiences that prepared him for his new calling. Born in the small Utah town of Santaquin on 11 July 1933, Cree-L was the oldest of three sons born to Cree and Melba Nelson Kofford. The Koffords lived in a number of towns in Nevada, Utah, and California during Cree’s early years, as his father followed construction projects. When he was nine years old, Cree moved with his family to a farm in Fairfield, Utah, where he loved the chance to spend time with his father, since construction jobs in Nevada sometimes kept them apart. “These were World War II years,” remembers Elder Kofford. “We had to use horses and pioneer-vintage plows. It was like stepping back in time one hundred years, and I really learned the value of hard work.”
Three years later, Cree’s father took a full-time job as a construction worker. “I grew up in some pretty tough parts of town,” says Elder Kofford, “and we were totally inactive in the Church.”
But when Cree was fifteen, his family moved to Orem, Utah, where he met Ila Macdonald. Later, two years after their “kitchen table discussion,” Cree and Ila were married on 11 September 1953 in the Manti Temple. Cree earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah in 1956 and taught high school while saving money to attend law school. When the Koffords moved to Los Angeles, Cree attended school at night at the University of Southern California, and also taught high school. He graduated with a juris doctorate degree in 1961. During the early years while Brother Kofford worked to establish his own law practice, he also taught early-morning seminary.
For more than thirty years, the Koffords lived in Monrovia and Arcadia, California, where they reared their five children—Sandy (Kim Chang), Jane (Ford), Bradley, Quinn, and Tracy. Always willing to serve in the Church, Elder Kofford has combined family and career with his service as bishop of the Monrovia Ward, as stake president (twice), and as regional representative. Good literature and Tennessee walking horses have provided diversions for him.
“Sometimes Cree would come home so tired after work,” says Ila. “But he would just put on his Levi’s, boots, and cowboy hat and go for a ride in the hills. When he came back after an hour on horseback, he was a different man.”
Currently serving as president of the New York New York Mission, Elder Kofford is filled with a testimony that the gospel can help Church members meet the challenges of inner-city life. “We have eight and a half million people in our mission,” says Elder Kofford, “and I continually witness dramatic changes in the lives of the more than one hundred new members that our missionaries baptize each month.”
“I think missionary work is the ultimate in Church service,” says Sister Kofford. “It is difficult to describe the power of a sacrament meeting in Queens as ward members from a variety of cultures sing ‘I Believe in Christ’—each in their native language.”
Because of his willingness to serve, Elder Kofford’s testimony has come a long way since that March evening in 1950. “I’ll do anything you ask,” says Elder Kofford, “but if I have a choice, I want the hardest job you can give me. Then I know I’ll have to pull out the best that I have to give in order to meet the challenge.”