Joseph C. Muren and his wife, Gladys, are first-generation members of the Church. “Without growing up in the Church, we have often found ourselves asking each other, ‘Are we doing this right?’” Joseph Muren says with a grin, adding that he thought that being a convert to the Church probably would be useful in relating to other converts, especially now that four times more people join the Church each year than are born into it.
Born in Richmond, California, on 5 February 1936, Joseph grew up in a Catholic home with a mother of Italian descent and a father of Yugoslavian descent. Sister Muren, formerly Gladys Smith, was brought up a Methodist, in Colusa, California.
Joseph attended San Jose State University, where a roommate invited him to institute classes. “I became interested enough to take the discussions, but I promised my parents that I would wait until I was twenty-one to be baptized,” he explains.
An avid reader, Joseph devoured every book or pamphlet the missionaries gave him. Near his twenty-first birthday, he was baptized, not only giving up any hope of inheriting his father’s business but also creating strained relations with his family, who felt that to leave the Catholic church was to leave the family.
As a young man, Joseph had given thought to becoming a priest. “I wanted to serve God with my life, but I also wanted a family,” explains Elder Muren.
Within a year of his baptism, he served a mission in Argentina, adding to his Italian a knowledge of Spanish. Following his mission, he taught high school math and language while earning a master’s degree at San Jose. About this time, Gladys started attending institute classes with her roommate and was soon baptized. The Murens were married in 1963 in the Los Angeles Temple. The next year, Brother Muren began doctoral work at the University of Southern California, which he completed in 1969.
“It was at El Camino College that I began teaching in the institute program,” he remembers. A fourteen-year career with the Church Educational System followed, leading the growing Muren family from Long Beach State to Stanford to Weber State College. They lived in Costa Rica from 1977 until 1980, while Joseph served as mission president there, and where the Murens’ sixth child, Natasha, was born. The family then moved to South America, where Joseph served as director for temporal affairs (DTA) for the Church in Peru, then in Argentina, then in Sydney, Australia. A DTA works under the direction of Area Presidencies, administering the temporal aspects of the Church in the area.
The Murens’ five other children include Cynthia (Bassett) of Houston, Texas; Michael, age twenty-two; Michelle, age twenty; Tricia, age nineteen; and Marshawn, seventeen. Marshawn and Natasha live in England with Brother and Sister Muren, where Elder Muren has been serving as a DTA since 1989.
To those close to him, Elder Muren’s qualifications to serve and lead are quite separate from either his DTA work or being a convert.
“He is a man of great faith who has taught us how important it is to rely entirely on the Lord,” Sister Muren says. “And as I’ve watched him give counsel—as a father, a bishop, or a teacher—I realize he has an uncommon gift.”
“Dad is quite intense and leaves an impression on you when he talks to you,” adds Michelle. “He is the most understanding man I’ve ever talked to.” She describes the family dinner hour as “long and wonderful. All of us learned more in those discussions, probably, than in all the classes we ever attended.
“Everything from world events to personal feelings would come up. What an influence he’s been on our lives and on the lives of many other people!”
Beginning at the family dinner table, continuing outward as he taught institute and Education Week classes and then managed temporal affairs, Joseph C. Muren has shared his witness of Jesus Christ. Now that he is a member of the Seventy, that influence will continue to be felt throughout the Church.