When he was a nineteen-year-old student at the University of Utah, Jim Mason had more on his mind than school—a mission loomed in the future.
“I felt the gospel was true,” he explains. “But I’d never had the experience that Moroni talks about in Moro. 10:3–5. I wanted to go into the mission field not just accepting the gospel, but with a witness that it was true.”
So Jim took a quarter off solely to read the scriptures. One Sunday in a fast and testimony meeting, “a woman got up and said she knew these things were true,” he recalls. “I remember thinking, I wish I could say that. The next thing I knew, she sat down and I was standing up, testifying to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the manifestation of the Spirit that I had prayed for was given me.”
So Jim went on a mission to Denmark. Soon after returning, he married L. Marie Smith on 29 December 1952 in the Salt Lake Temple. Jim (born 19 June 1930 in Salt Lake City) continued his education, earning degrees from the University of Utah and degrees in public health from Harvard University.
He worked at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and became its director in 1983. He also worked as Church commissioner of health services and as the first managing director of the Church’s Unified Welfare Services. Later he served as executive director of the Utah Department of Health and taught at the University of Utah Medical School. In 1989 the president of the United States asked him to head the U.S. Public Health Service, an appointment that required Senate confirmation. He retired from government service last year.
A nationally recognized expert on disease prevention and health promotion, Elder Mason is well qualified to give counsel on healthy lifestyles. “The best advice I can give,” he notes, “is that to enjoy the blessings of peace of mind, health, and happiness, keep the commandments.” He has served as a bishop, stake president, and regional representative. He and his wife have seven children and seventeen grandchildren.