New Leaders Called, Three New Quorums of Seventy Formed
The 167th annual general conference began Saturday morning with major administrative actions: the sustaining of 12 new General Authorities; the formation of three additional quorums of Seventy, and placing therein 134 brethren in the newly announced position of Area Authority Seventy; and the sustaining of a new Relief Society general presidency and a new counselor in the Young Women general presidency.
Called to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy were four brethren: Elders Gary J. Coleman, Wm. Rolfe Kerr, and John M. Madsen, all of whom have been serving in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and a new General Authority, Elder Carl B. Pratt, who has been serving as an Area Authority and Second Counselor in the South America North Area Presidency.
Elder Gary J. Coleman, 55, was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in June 1992 and is currently serving as First Counselor in the Mexico South Area Presidency. Elder Wm. Rolfe Kerr, 61, is serving as First Counselor in the North America Northwest Area Presidency and was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 1996. In June 1992 Elder John M. Madsen, 57, was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. He is currently serving as President of the Mexico North Area.
Called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy were 11 new General Authorities: Elders Richard D. Allred, Eran A. Call, Richard E. Cook, Duane B. Gerrard, Wayne M. Hancock, J. Kent Jolley, Richard J. Maynes, Dale E. Miller, Lynn G. Robbins, Donald L. Staheli, and Richard E. Turley Sr.
Elaine L. Jack was released as general president of the Relief Society, with her counselors, Chieko N. Okazaki and Aileen H. Clyde. Sister Jack and her counselors had served since 1990. Mary Ellen W. Smoot was sustained as the new general president of the Relief Society, with Virginia Urry Jensen as her first counselor and Sheri L. Dew as second counselor.
Carol B. Thomas was called to serve as second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, succeeding Bonnie D. Parkin, whose husband has been called to serve as a mission president.
In announcing the formation of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy, President Gordon B. Hinckley said that those serving in these quorums will continue in their present employment, reside in their homes, and serve on a Church-service basis. These men will “have a quorum relationship presided over by the Presidents of the Seventy,” said President Hinckley. “They will be known as Area Authority Seventies.” (See pages 5–6.)
Area Authority Seventies serving in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Pacific areas will be assigned to the Third Quorum of the Seventy. Those in Mexico and Central and South America will be in the Fourth Quorum of the Seventy. Brethren serving in areas of the United States and Canada will become members of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy.
“With these respective quorums in place, we have established a pattern under which the Church may grow to any size with an organization of Area Presidencies and Area Authority Seventies, chosen and working across the world according to need,” President Hinckley said.
Of the 134 Brethren who were called to serve in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy (see pages 7–8), 128 were already serving as Area Authorities.
Details on New Assembly Building, Two More Temples Announced
During the Saturday morning session of general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the Church’s soon-to-be-built large assembly hall. “We hope to break ground on July 24 for a new place of assembly which we have not yet named,” he said. The building, to be constructed on the block directly north of Temple Square, will seat up to four times as many as the Tabernacle.
Also announced in the Saturday morning session were plans to build temples in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in Campinas, Brazil.
The Albuquerque New Mexico Temple will be built on a 10-acre site on the northeast edge of the city. Construction is expected to begin within a year and take two years to complete. The temple will serve some 85,000 Church members in 24 stakes in New Mexico and parts of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Texas, and northern Mexico.
The Campinas Brazil Temple district will be located northwest of São Paulo and will include some 60,000 Latter-day Saints in 20 stakes and one mission district.
Elder Carl B. Pratt
Elder Carl B. Pratt of the First Quorum of the Seventy is still pleased that at age 46 he climbed the nearly 20,000-foot-high Mount Cotopaxi near Quito, Ecuador. But he is even happier that as a missionary in Argentina he gained a testimony of the gospel.
“A testimony is the Spirit working on you,” Elder Pratt says. “I can remember very distinctly that one day while I was studying the Book of Mormon I felt the Spirit working on me. I knew that what I was studying was true, and I have never doubted it since.”
A great-great-grandson of Elder Parley P. Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Carl B. Pratt was born in Monterrey, Mexico, on 30 October 1941, son of Barton and Lavern Whetten Pratt. From 1943 to 1947, he lived in Colonia Dublán, Mexico, where his ancestors had lived for generations. After 1947, Arizona became his home. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and a law degree from Arizona State University. In 1969, he married Karen Ann Yeoman in the Arizona Temple; he had baptized her in 1968.
An attorney for the Salt Lake City–based law firm of Kirton & McConkie, Elder Pratt has lived and worked for 19 years in South America—in Montevideo, Uruguay; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lima, Peru; and Quito, Ecuador. He currently provides legal counsel for the Church’s South America North Area.
In addition to raising eight children, currently ages 10 to 25, the Pratts have provided foster care for a number of abandoned South American children, caring for the malnutritioned youngsters until they are healthy.
“I have learned that the gospel gives us hope, so that we don’t despair,” says Sister Pratt.
Between 1988 and 1991, Elder Pratt served as president of the Spain Seville Mission. His other Church callings have included priests quorum adviser, counselor in a stake presidency, Regional Representative, and, most recently, Area Authority and member of the South American North Area Presidency. Of Church service, he says, “Living the gospel simplifies our lives. If we serve with love, our callings bring us joy.”
Elder Richard D. Allred
Though he felt “overwhelmed” at the call as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Richard D. Allred says he and his wife “love the Lord, and we’re pleased to be involved in his work.” Service in the Lord’s work has become a way of life for him and his wife, Gay.
A career officer in the United States Air Force who retired in 1979, he has held a number of executive positions in business since then. These included appointments as general manager of one company and chief executive officer of another. But his tenure in these business positions was not long, usually ending when he accepted another full-time Church calling. He served as a mission president in Quezaltenango, Guatemala, then later was called as president of the missionary training center in Guatemala City. Two years after that mission ended, he was called as president of the temple in Guatemala City.
Noting how actively his wife has served by his side in these callings, he says that she will again be “a great asset to the work” wherever they are sent now.
He was serving as president of the San Antonio Texas East Stake when called as a General Authority. He has also been a Regional Representative, stake patriarch, and bishop.
He was born in Salt Lake City on 3 August 1932. He received a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and later a master’s of business administration from the University of Arkansas.
He married Gay Banner on 19 December 1956 in the Logan Temple. They are the parents of three children and have 12 grandchildren.
“He gives his all, whatever he does in the Church,” his wife comments. “He loves the people, and they know it. He has a great talent for working with people.”
The Allreds have grown used to going wherever assignments take them, first in the military, then in Church service, so this new calling will not alter their lifestyle significantly. “The decision was made a long time ago to serve whenever called,” he says.
Elder Allred says that among the many things he may do in his new calling, it will be a goal of his to carry out the mandate given to the newly called Seventies by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “to bear testimony and to strengthen and establish Zion.”
Elder Eran A. Call
Elder Eran A. Call, a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, learned the habit of priesthood service as a deacon. He remembers “collecting fast offerings, going from house to house in a wagon gathering offerings in kind.”
Indeed, Church service is a Call family heritage. His father served in the bishopric of their ward in Colonia Dublán, Mexico, for 50 years—29 as bishop. Elder Call and his wife have passed this heritage of service on to their children by example.
He has served as bishop, stake high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency (twice), stake patriarch, mission president (Mexico City, 1970 to 1973), and missionary training center president (again in Mexico, 1995 to 1996).
He was born in Colonia Dublán, Mexico, on 2 December 1929. He graduated from the Juárez Stake Academy in Colonia Juárez, Mexico, then moved to the United States to attend Brigham Young University, where he received a bachelor’s degree. He later received a master’s degree in business administration from New York University.
He has been active in business—from managing a department store to developing property—and active in community affairs throughout his life. But his central career has been as a faculty member at Brigham Young University, from which he retired in December 1994. In the early 1980s, he took a three-year leave to serve as director of the Church Educational System in Mexico.
He married Katherine Groesbeck in the Salt Lake Temple on 24 August 1955. They had 6 sons, 3 daughters, and 23 grandchildren at the time of his call to the Seventy, and 2 more grandchildren are expected soon.
“His hobby is working,” says his wife. Seven years ago, she gave him a set of golf clubs so he could learn the game with his sons and son-in-law. The clubs have been used only three times. But his capacity for work will be an asset in his calling, Sister Call indicates, as will his love for people.
He interprets his commitment to the gospel in a way that gives primary importance to eternal relationships—with his wife and their children, Sister Call says. His own words affirm that this is so: “The gospel has always been first in my life and paramount in all things.”
Elder Richard E. Cook
“We’re not born with testimonies,” says Elder Richard E. Cook. “They have to be developed, and they develop in service.”
His own testimony has had ample opportunity to develop in years of service. He has been a stake and ward Young Men president, bishop, stake high councilor, stake president’s counselor, missionary, and mission president. In 1994 he and his wife, Mary, were called as missionaries to Mongolia, and when a mission was organized in that country, he was called as its first president.
He says that this experience as a mission president in a country where the gospel is just emerging will probably be an asset in his new calling, as it is necessary to establish cordial relationships with governments and help people come to know the Church.
His wife says that his capacity for hard work will be another strength as he serves; he has high expectations of himself, and he knows how to motivate others to work hard too.
Elder Cook worked many years for the Ford Motor Company, retiring as its general assistant controller. During those years, he had the opportunity to work with a number of young Church members the company recruited, and he watched some of them grow into leadership roles in the wards and stakes of the Detroit area.
Born on 7 September 1930 in Pleasant Grove, Utah, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s of business administration from Northwestern University.
He married Clea Searle in the Salt Lake Temple on 13 September 1950. Their three daughters and one son have given them 13 grandchildren. Clea died in 1984. He then married Mary Nielsen in the Salt Lake Temple on 16 July 1988.
Elder Cook is an avid golfer. When the Cooks received their mission call to Mongolia, however, he left his clubs behind, except for one that he planned to swing for recreation and exercise. He never touched it; he became too involved in missionary work.
“I love the Church with all my heart,” Elder Cook says. “I have seen, over the years, what a marvelous effect it has on people’s lives.” While the calling to the Second Quorum of the Seventy came as “an absolute, complete, and utter shock,” he looks forward to the work. “I am so glad to be able to give something back.”
Elder Duane B. Gerrard
Elder Duane B. Gerrard, who retired on 1 April 1997 as a pilot has been called to serve in the Second Quorum of the Seventy. He is a former system manager of flight safety for Delta Airlines.
Born on 22 April 1938, Elder Gerrard grew up in Taylorsville, near Salt Lake City, and attended Utah State University. During his junior year he married his childhood sweetheart, Kay Bennion. After graduation Brother Gerrard joined the Air Force, where he trained as a pilot. One of his tours of duty was to Vietnam, where he flew 350 combat hours. His service with the Air Force also took him to Florida, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and finally back to Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
Upon leaving the Air Force, he began flying for Western Airlines, which eventually merged with Delta. While living in Kaysville, Utah, he was called to serve as stake president. Two years after that call, Western Airlines asked him to take over as vice president of flight operations in Los Angeles, and he commuted to southern California for two and one-half years, helping to put the airline on a solid footing while serving as stake president.
During this time he and his wife, Kay, raised their own four children and became foster parents to four other children whose parents, good friends of theirs, had died. “I had just designed and built a home with seven bedrooms,” he explains. “At the time we had only four children. But we had room for four more.”
The decision to take in four more children was made prayerfully, a pattern Elder Gerrard learned to apply early in his life. When he was 19, his father walked him to the car one night as Duane prepared to drive back to the university. Taking him by the shoulder, his father said, “Son, do you pray every day? On your knees and out loud?” Those were the last words he was to hear from his father, who died of a heart attack within a week.
“His words made a lasting impression on me,” says Elder Gerrard. “Every important decision we have made since has been through thoughtful, heartfelt prayer, and we have always received the proper answers.”
In 1989 the Gerrards moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as stake president, then Regional Representative. After returning to Utah, Elder Gerrard was called to serve as an Area Authority in the Utah North Area.
Elder Wayne M. Hancock
Wayne M. and Connie Hancock wanted to make sure that their lives were headed in the right direction and would often fast and pray for guidance. “I was working as an attorney in Arizona and was trying to determine what kind of a career path to take,” explains Elder Hancock, who was born in Safford, Arizona, on 16 July 1931, and was raised in Glendale, California.
“Through a series of seemingly insignificant events, we were led to Midland, Michigan, where I worked 27 years with the Dow Chemical Company. The still, small voice and the power of fasting and prayer have always played a crucial role for us in obtaining the guidance we seek.”
A former stake president, stake president’s counselor, mission president’s counselor, and bishop, Elder Hancock of the Second Quorum of the Seventy has often sought guidance in his callings and professional life. He and his wife have also fasted and prayed often for assistance as parents of eight children. This trust in the Lord has been reassuring during hard times.
“After some of the biggest disappointments in my life have come some of the biggest blessings,” he notes. “Early on, I planned on serving a mission. I had my mission interview and even had a missionary farewell. Then I was notified that the draft board had denied my mission request and said I must be available if needed for military service. I was sorely disappointed but decided to transfer from the University of Arizona to Brigham Young University that summer. Fortunately, there I met my wife.”
After Wayne and Connie graduated from BYU in 1953, they were married in the Idaho Falls Temple on 25 June that year. They headed to California to serve in the military, then were dismayed to find that the call had been postponed. Again disappointment led to blessings, when Brother Hancock ended up attending the University of Arizona law school, where he received his degree three years later.
Elder Hancock feels that with that degree and with the Lord’s guidance, he was able to be of greater service throughout his career.
“I am so grateful that through life’s experiences I have learned to trust in the Lord,” says Elder Hancock.
Elder J. Kent Jolley
At age 19, Kent Jolley felt good about life. As manager of the local meat market, he was making decent money and had a good family and good friends.
“And then one afternoon the Spirit touched my heart,” he recalls. “I knew this wasn’t the thing I wanted to be doing then; it was time to make a change. I went to my bishop and told him I was ready to go on a mission.
“That was a turning point in my life. I loved my mission and the experiences I had serving the Lord. I came away from my mission committed to spend the rest of my life doing what Heavenly Father wanted me to do and serving Him.”
Born on 30 December 1933 in Rexburg, Idaho, he returned there after his mission to attend Ricks College, where he met his wife, Jill Waldram Leishman. “She was quiet and unassuming, but it was obvious she had strong commitment toward the gospel,” Elder Jolley observes.
After marrying in the Idaho Falls Temple on 22 November 1957, the couple went to George Washington University, where he worked full time while earning a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor degree. The Jolleys then returned to their Idaho roots, where he enjoyed a successful law practice and also worked in real estate development.
A former bishop, stake president’s counselor, stake high councilor, and Young Men president, Brother Jolley kept growing and serving in the Church. He and Sister Jolley raised seven children.
Life was good, yet the Jolleys began to wonder if it could be more meaningful. “I guess we wondered out loud,” says Elder Jolley, “because within weeks, I had been called to serve as a mission president.” After serving in the Texas Corpus Christi Mission, Elder and Sister Jolley returned to Rexburg in 1994. He returned to law and real estate development. But they missed the spiritual uplift and blessings of full-time Church service.
Reflecting on his recent call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Jolley observes with a smile, “Perhaps we wondered out loud again about making life meaningful. I’m humbled and thrilled with this new opportunity. We just want to do whatever the Lord wants us to do.”
Elder Richard J. Maynes
When asked to compare his new responsibilities with his more than 20 years of international business management experience, Elder Richard J. Maynes, newly called member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, responded, “The Lord’s work is vastly more important. The eventual results are eternal in nature, not temporal.”
Elder Maynes, born in Berkeley, California, on 29 October 1950, took an early interest in sports. He entered Brigham Young University on a basketball scholarship in 1968 but then realized there were others more skilled. He soon accepted a call to serve a mission in the Uruguay-Paraguay Mission.
“My companion and I had the opportunity to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the mayor of Montevideo and his wife. Their son had just died in an accident, and they were looking for answers,” recalls Elder Maynes. The opportunity to teach meaningful doctrine to the family weighed heavily on Elder Maynes and brought him humbly to his knees. “I received answers to my prayers and was able to help this great family,” he says. “Since that moment of spiritual confirmation, the Lord has blessed me with many testimony-building experiences in life.”
Following his mission, he graduated from BYU. He married Nancy Jane Purrington on 17 August 1974. The couple moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he received a master’s degree in international business management. He and his wife have four children.
He began working for Wiebe Manufacturing, and later, when it was purchased by the Raymond Corporation, he stayed as president. The company engineered, manufactured, and installed automated production line equipment worldwide. Five years into the contract he was called as president of the Mexico Monterrey Mission, where he served from 1989 to 1992.
Following his service in Mexico, the family moved to Utah, where he became CEO and chairman of Fountain Fresh International, Inc. During this period, he served as stake mission president in the Kamas Utah Stake. He has also served on the boards of directors of several companies and foundations.
“I feel honored and blessed to focus my entire attention on the Lord’s work,” says Elder Maynes.
Elder Dale E. Miller
After spending more than 30 years in various management enterprises, Elder Dale E. Miller, a newly called member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, says he is very willing to devote full-time service to the Lord.
Born on 2 April 1936 in Los Angeles, he spent his youth in California until his mission to Uruguay in 1956. “As a young child of five I became aware of the Savior,” says Elder Miller, who, along with two brothers, was raised by his mother. “At the age of 16, I received my patriarchal blessing, which talked of my serving a mission. I hadn’t thought much about it, but by the time I was 18 I knew it was right.”
Following his mission, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, then a master’s degree in international management from the University of Southern California. He married Laurel Lee Chandler on 24 June 1960.
After accepting a position in Palo Alto, California, he served as a counselor to then-bishop Henry B. Eyring in the Stanford Ward. In time he served as bishop, then high councilor. In 1979, he was called to preside over the Venezuela Caracas Mission. Four of the Millers’ five children accompanied them to South America. Upon his return, he was called as president of the Menlo Park California Stake.
He spent 12 years as an executive of Syntex, a pharmaceutical company, then was a cofounder of Zenger-Miller, a management training company. For the past eight years, he has been a business adviser to international high-technology companies in their early stages.
Not long ago, he and his wife felt inspired that they should sell their home, not knowing where they might go. Two days after it sold, he was contacted for a call to serve as an Area Authority in the North America Southeast Area. He and his wife made their home in Puerto Rico, where he has been involved in helping to strengthen the Church, primarily in the Caribbean. Some of his work has been to help introduce the welfare services program into the Caribbean. He has also helped organize two stakes in Puerto Rico.
“I am grateful to use my management experience in serving the Lord by helping to train new leaders,” he says.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins
Missionary work is important to Elder Lynn G. Robbins. He served in Argentina as a young man, and he was serving as president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission at the time of his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. “When you go on a mission and begin teaching others and bearing testimony, the gospel is branded on your heart,” he says. “My mission had a pivotal impact on me, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have my sons do.”
Lynn G. Robbins was born on 27 October 1952 in Payson, Utah, and grew up in nearby Springville. He attended Brigham Young University before and after his mission. He married Jan Nielson on 27 June 1974 in the Manti Temple, and the couple moved to Logan, Utah, where he studied food science and business administration at Utah State University. After learning his wife was expecting, he gave up his restaurant career goals so that his evening and weekend hours would be more compatible with Church and family life.
In 1976, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, and the following year he received a master’s degree at the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Arizona. He and his wife considered living overseas, but they decided to remain close to their extended families for the benefit of their seven children. He worked as a sales representative for a legal publisher in northern Utah and then as a financial consultant in Salt Lake City. In 1983, he became a senior vice president at Franklin Quest Company, from which he retired in 1993.
Elder Robbins has enjoyed painting, fishing in Alaska, and playing Church sports. “Church sports have been a good way to get to know the brethren each time we’ve moved into a different ward,” he says. In addition to serving as mission president, he has been a stake executive secretary, high councilor, and bishop. He and his wife are members of the Centerville 21st Ward, Centerville Utah North Stake.
“I have a strong testimony of the gospel,” Elder Robbins says. “I know the Savior lives. I love him, and I love the gospel. Every commandment, every principle, every teaching is for our happiness here on the earth and for our eternal happiness in the life to come.”
Elder Donald L. Staheli
Having directed businesses in 57 countries on 6 continents, Elder Donald L. Staheli has broad international experience. “I hope the international experiences many of us are having will help us better understand and serve people in various cultures of our rapidly growing worldwide Church,” he says.
Born in Hurricane, Utah, on 19 October 1931, he married Afton Stratton on 24 September 1952 in the St. George Temple. He and his wife have 4 children and 11 grandchildren.
He received a B.S. at Utah State University and an M.S. and a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois and then served for two years as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
His professional life began with Swift and Company in 1958 in Chicago. In 1969 he joined Allied Mills, Inc., where he held senior management positions, including president and CEO.
In 1977 he moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, to accept a position as executive vice president and director with Continental Grain Co., a large, private multinational agribusiness and financial services firm headquartered in New York City. In 1984 he became president and chief operating officer and in 1988 was named CEO, eventually becoming chairman of the board. He has served on several corporate boards.
He is currently chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council and a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Society. He served as chairman of an international business leaders advisory council for the mayor of Shanghai. He is a member of the council on foreign relations and is chairman of the Points of Light Foundation, a national organization that encourages volunteer activities.
At the time of his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, he was president of the Yorktown New York Stake. He has previously served as a high councilor and as a counselor in two stake presidencies and a bishopric.
“I’m grateful for my heritage,” Elder Staheli says. “My parents’ faith, reliance on prayer, and teachings in the home formed the foundation for my testimony. In addition, I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to serve and grow in the Church. I look forward to serving in my new calling.”
Elder Richard E. Turley Sr.
“The gospel is the great plan of happiness,” says Elder Richard E. Turley. “If we want to be happy in this life and have any expectations in the life to come, the gospel is the way to live.”
Born in El Paso, Texas, on 29 December 1930, Elder Turley attended Texas A&M University before serving a mission in Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. He then studied mechanical engineering at the University of Utah. He and his wife, Betty Jean Nickle, were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 1 April 1954.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1955, he worked in Texas at aerospace and natural gas companies. In 1957 he returned to the University of Utah for graduate study, and in 1966 he received a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering at Iowa State University.
While at Iowa State, he served as first counselor in a district presidency. After he moved to Washington state to work as a researcher at Battelle Memorial Institute, he became second counselor in a stake presidency. In 1972 he returned to the University of Utah as an associate professor and helped start Utah’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology.
From 1983 to 1985 Elder Turley served as president of the Mexico Hermosillo Mission. In 1989 he became professor emeritus and was appointed executive director of a technology finance corporation, from which he retired in 1992. He has twice served as a bishop in the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake. At the time of his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, he was serving as a high councilor, as a stake family records extraction director, and as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple.
He and his wife have 7 children and 36 grandchildren. Their son Richard E. Turley Jr. serves as managing director of the Church’s Historical and Family History Departments.
In addition to his family, which comes first, Elder Turley enjoys family history work, golf, travel, and computers. He has written books on family history, a textbook on engineering and statistics, and articles for scientific and engineering journals.
“The only aspiration I have is to be true and faithful in all things,” he says. “We have been blessed in so many ways.”
Mary Ellen Wood Smoot
Family is important to Mary Ellen Wood Smoot, mother of 7, grandmother to 44, and newly called Relief Society general president. She says, “One of the important things we have done as a family is to set up family values, and one of those is, ‘As an eternal family we build, support, and edify one another.’ We believe strongly in that.”
Extending love and support beyond her family is also important to Sister Smoot, who has served with Church hosting since 1986. After serving on Temple Square for one year and in Church hosting for seven years, Sister Smoot and her husband, Stanley M. Smoot, were called as directors of Church hosting for VIPs. “Our primary responsibilities have been to host prominent individuals who visit Church leaders,” says Sister Smoot.
Born in Ogden, Utah, on 19 August 1933, Mary Ellen was raised in Clearfield, Utah, the fifth of six daughters born to Melvin and Lavora Smith Wood. In 1952 she and her husband were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
“With six of our seven children born during the first eight years of our marriage, I was grateful to be a full-time homemaker,” says Sister Smoot, who believes that a mother’s first responsibility is to build confidence in her children.
Sister Smoot, who has been a ward Relief Society president, served on a Church writing committee and also wrote a column for youth for a Davis County newspaper.
In 1983, her husband was called to serve as mission president for the Ohio Columbus Mission. After one year, he was called as mission president of the newly created Ohio Akron Mission. With Kirtland and Hiram as part of this mission, the Smoots were part of the activities surrounding these historical sites, including the dedication of the Newell K. Whitney store in Kirtland. “That’s where I became immersed in public affairs,” says Sister Smoot, who met with the press and out-of-town visitors often, “and I’ve been involved as much as my circumstances would allow ever since.”
Now, as president of one of the largest womens’ organizations in the world, President Smoot will be able to continue to do that which she enjoys doing: providing love and support to others.
Virginia Urry Jensen
“I celebrate womanhood,” says Virginia Urry Jensen, newly called first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. “Women come in all shapes and sizes and from many backgrounds, and I love them all.”
Sister Jensen, a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, attended the University of Utah, and in 1963 married J. Rees Jensen, president of a shopping center development company. “My husband is one of my greatest blessings. He is patient, kind, and charitable. My life’s work has been my family and home,” she says. “I made a point to be there when my children came home.” Her community involvement has revolved around programs that directly affected the family during the years she stayed at home to rear her three daughters and son.
Once her children began leaving home, Sister Jensen turned to volunteer work. Seventeen years ago she accepted her first Church hosting assignment. Ten years later she was asked to serve as assistant director for hosting, an assignment she had for three years. One and one-half years ago, Sister Jensen was asked to become the director of Church hosting for the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Church Office Building, and Relief Society Building on a full-time Church-service basis, managing a volunteer pool of more than 500 people. She now leaves Church hosting to accept her new responsibilities.
Sister Jensen says she feels deeply about the divine nature of women. Because many sisters struggle seemingly alone with challenges of life, Relief Society is in a unique position to help them. She believes that because women sometimes feel that their problems are unique, they need to help each other. Women enrich the world through their natural tendencies for love and nurturing, Sister Jensen explains. “We need to help all women be the best they can be and recognize their divine worth. Through Relief Society, we can create bonds of friendship that will help lead sisters to Heavenly Father.”
Sister Jensen, 57, has served in the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society organizations, with most of that time spent in Relief Society callings. “I have learned that Heavenly Father is always there to help us. These are his programs,” she says. “I am only a tool to do what he would want done.”
Sheri L. Dew
Growing up on a sprawling grain farm in Kansas taught Sheri L. Dew a lot about hard work and harvest. “I drove a tractor almost as soon as I could reach the pedals,” she remembers. “I know how to set an irrigation tube, and I helped with the harvest. I learned the law of the harvest without even knowing I was learning it. On the farm you learn early that you reap what you sow.”
Sister Dew has worked hard and reaped blessings. She practiced long hours and was a star basketball player in high school. She also worked hard at playing the piano. An accomplished musician, she traveled on three USO tours to Alaska, Europe and the Mediterranean area, and the Orient as an accompanist during her college years.
A graduate of Brigham Young University, she spent four years at Bookcraft as an assistant editor, then became associate publisher of This People magazine. For nine years, she has worked at Deseret Book, the last four as vice president of publishing. She also had the opportunity of writing biographies of President Benson and President Hinckley.
Born on 21 November 1953 in Ulysses, Kansas, she says, “I grew up thinking there was such a distinction between the country kids and the town kids. I am innately very shy, and I have struggled with that challenge for years. My work has helped because I’ve had to interview people from all walks of life. But most of all, I’ve learned there’s quite a connection between how we feel about the Lord and how we feel about ourselves.”
A former stake and ward Relief Society president and member of the Relief Society general board, Sister Dew feels the Lord has helped her in her callings. He has also helped her grow and thrive as a single sister in a family-oriented Church. “If there’s any message in the fact that a never-married woman has been called to the Relief Society general presidency,” she says, “it is that all women, regardless of their status or situation, are welcomed, loved, and valued.”
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone,” she says. “We are all significant parts of the whole. I never think of myself as single; I think of myself as Sheri, a member of the Lord’s Church.”
Carol B. Thomas
“I have a passion for the gospel,” says Carol B. Thomas, new second counselor in the Young Women general presidency. “As a young woman, I always wanted to serve in the Church.”
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 6 May 1942, Carol is the oldest of five children born to Karl and Gladys Jacob Burdett. One summer she met medical student Ray Thomas when they both worked at the Grand Canyon. That fall they both attended the University of Utah and were married two years later on 23 March 1962 in the Salt Lake Temple.
Having lived most of her life in Salt Lake City, Sister Thomas appreciated the opportunity to live in California, Washington, and Kansas during the six years her husband completed his medical internship and residency. In 1969 they moved back to Salt Lake City.
Now the mother of 7 children and grandmother to 19, Sister Thomas has had many opportunities to serve in the Church. For nearly 25 years her service has been in various ward Relief Society presidencies and on stake Relief Society boards in the Salt Lake Holladay South Stake. In 1987, she had an opportunity to serve in Young Women—first as an adviser, then six months later as stake Young Women president.
“My years of service in Relief Society, followed by my service in Young Women, have helped me understand the need for a smooth transition from Young Women to Relief Society,” she says.
In 1990 she was called to serve on the Relief Society general board, with her primary responsibility being the worldwide celebration of the Relief Society sesquicentennial celebration. She kept in touch with young women’s thinking during her years on the board because she had daughters attending Young Women, and daughters and a daughter-in-law serving as Young Women advisers in Chicago, New Jersey, and Colorado. Also, her husband was serving as bishop of a young single adult ward.
Now, as she moves from the Relief Society general board to the presidency of the Young Women, the naturally energetic Sister Thomas has been called to do what she has always loved doing: serving in the Church.
Elder Wood Dies in Samoa
While in Samoa on Church assignment, Elder Lowell D. Wood of the Seventy began suffering severe chest pains. He passed away on 7 March 1997 at the age of 64 in an Apia hospital. At the time of his death he and his wife, Lorna, were living in Sydney, Australia, where he was serving as President of the Church’s Pacific Area.
“His life has been constructively lived in a remarkable and wonderful way,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at Elder Wood’s funeral, held on 12 March in Salt Lake City and attended by the First Presidency and most of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “He made his contribution. He gave his gift, and it was acceptable, and the Lord has taken him home.”
Elder Wood grew up on a farm in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. He earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics and joined the faculty of Brigham Young University in 1969. Later he worked in the Church’s Welfare Services Department and oversaw Church temporal affairs in New Zealand and in the Asia and Philippines/Micronesia Areas. He served as president of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. Called to the Seventy on 6 June 1992, he would have completed his five-year assignment this year. He is survived by 5 children and 15 grandchildren.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy spoke at the funeral. Elder Wirthlin read a letter written by Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and Elder P. Bruce Mitchell, an Area Authority, who were serving as counselors in the Pacific Area Presidency at the time of Elder Wood’s death.
“We wish it were possible on the day of Elder Wood’s funeral to have representatives from all of our 99 stakes and 13 missions there with you to shower the Woods with the unique flowers, songs, gifts, and other rich tokens of appreciation that bespeak the love we all feel,” wrote Elders Hafen and Mitchell. “From the blue-green waters of Tahiti to the rain forests of Samoa, the palms of Tonga, the beaches of Fiji, the mountains and rivers of New Zealand, and the cities and vast expanse of Australia, these beautiful lands are even lovelier now, with chapels, stake centers, missionaries, temple patrons, and Latter-day Saint homes in greater abundance than ever before directly because of Elder Wood’s influence. He loved and led these Saints with bold courage and loving insight.”
President Hinckley Continues Focus on Pioneering, Obedience
President Gordon B. Hinckley continued a busy pace in February and March preceding general conference, frequently focusing in his public remarks on the sacrifices made by the early Church members and the importance of Church members’ today following their example.
On 2 February, he spoke to more than 23,000 young adults gathered for a Church Educational System satellite fireside broadcast at Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center. Thousands more watched in meetinghouses throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
He spoke of the legacy of the pioneers, pointing out that whether those in attendance had pioneer ancestry or joined the Church only yesterday, they were part of the grand picture the pioneers dreamed of.
“Theirs was a tremendous undertaking,” he said. “Ours is a great continuing responsibility. They laid the foundation. Ours is the duty to build on it. They marked the path and led the way. Ours is the obligation to enlarge and broaden and strengthen that path until it encompasses the whole earth.”
Palm Springs, California
More than 12,000 members from eight stakes in the San Bernardino/Palm Springs, California, area gathered on 9 February to hear President Hinckley speak during two sessions of a regional conference.
“We don’t have to do anything heroic,” he said. “We just need to live the gospel, that’s all we have to do.” The Church president specifically mentioned the importance of the Word of Wisdom, tithing, family home evening, and honoring and loving spouses and parents.
He also spoke of the Book of Mormon, encouraging members to read and reread it. “How thankful I am for the Book of Mormon, this added witness of the divinity of the Son of God. God be thanked for this marvelous thing which has come forth as a testimony to the nations of the divine reality of the Son of God.”
Cedar City, Utah
On 11 February, he spoke to some 3,500 Southern Utah University institute students. Calling them the “best generation this Church has ever had,” the Church leader answered questions that had been submitted earlier for his consideration.
“University students aren’t concerned with the great theological questions,” he observed, as he began answering the questions. “They are concerned with marriage. They are concerned with going on a mission. They are concerned with their future lives. They are thinking about themselves in very serious ways.”
Responding to a question about the influence of the Holy Ghost, President Hinckley pointed out that “when all is said and done, it is the feeling we have in our heart. That is the test.”
In answer to a question about young women serving missions, the Church President said that if it is the desire of their hearts, “then go. But you do not have to go to live an honorable life in this Church. … If you have an opportunity for marriage,” he continued, “if you desire to be married, you better get married.”
He told those in attendance to talk to their bishop if they’d done something grievous, and then go on with life. “Our Father in Heaven … has great concern for you. Put it behind you. If you do what is right, things will work out for you.”
He also strongly counseled the young people to stay away from pornography, saying it could destroy them. “You live in a world of the greatest filth that has ever been known. Stand tall. Live the gospel.”
Salt Lake City
Speaking at a 19 February dinner sponsored by the Utah Pioneer Sesquicentennial Celebration Coordination Council and the Church Sesquicentennial Committee, President Hinckley used the example of the pioneers to urge people today to move forward and meet their problems.
“The places of their greatest sufferings have become hallowed shrines now,” he said. “Some might wish for a return to the simpler times of the past, rather than face the problems of the future. This cannot be. We will face up to whatever challenges the future may bring.”
Also in attendance at the dinner were his wife, Marjorie; President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances; President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth; and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
There is “a great and sacred obligation to live the gospel, to let it shine through our lives, to be the kind of people we ought to be as members of the Church, the kind of people who are a covenant people,” said President Hinckley on 23 February as he spoke to 12,000 members of six stakes from the Brigham City, Utah, area. One week later, President Hinckley addressed a similar gathering during the Jordan Utah South regional conference.
National Prayer Breakfast
During his 25 February remarks given at a National Prayer Breakfast gathering sponsored by the 96th Regional Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve at Fort Douglas, Utah, he talked of the motto inscribed on U.S. coins and currency: In God We Trust. “When that statement was adopted, it was believed in,” he said. “It came of our great Judeo-Christian inheritance. I think we were then a humbler people than perhaps we are today. The recognition of God, seeking His help in prayer, and giving honor and glory to Him have been characteristic of our nation’s history.”
He noted that the practice of family prayer is disappearing in society and said, “When we fail to acknowledge Deity, when we fail to recognize the Almighty as the ruling power of the universe, the all-important element of personal and national accountability shrivels and dies. I am confident that this is one of the reasons for the great host of social problems with which we deal these days. …
“We are closing the door on the Almighty,” he said in conclusion. “I plead with each of you to add your strength to the enhancement of our trust in God.”
Los Angeles, California
On 6 March, he addressed the largest gathering ever of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He discussed the Church’s growth, humanitarian efforts, missionary force, unpaid ministry, and Relief Society and spoke of the benefits of obeying the Word of Wisdom. He also talked of the contributions made to California by early Church members who traveled to the area. Later, on 19 March, President Hinckley gave a similar address at the World Forum of Silicon Valley, held in Santa Clara, California.
While in Los Angeles, President Hinckley also spoke to about 1,100 missionaries serving in five California missions. He told the missionaries they had a responsibility to make certain the people they baptized were truly converted.
“My brothers and sisters, please, I plead with you, do all you can to see that those who you baptize are not baptisms only but solid, true converts to this Church who will remain so.”
On 15–16 March President Hinckley met with more than 6,500 members from four stakes in a regional conference in Tennessee.
“I hope that everyone here has a living, vibrant testimony of the truthfulness of this great work,” he said. “I hope that every man, woman, boy, and girl in this congregation can stand and say, ‘I know that God, my Eternal Father, lives and that I am His child.’”
Don Baskett of Hemet, California, contributed information to this story.
Church Has Internet Home Page
In early December 1996, the Church quietly activated an official home page on the Internet (http://www.lds.org). The electronic site features information about family history, the Book of Mormon, and the missionary program; statistics about the Church; and statements of the Church’s basic principles and beliefs. On 9 April, conference addresses were available for the April 1997 general conference.
“We are not breathlessly smitten by the Internet, nor are we in any way underestimating its possibilities,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We are just moving steadily, and we think wisely, to consider it along with every other way we know to communicate with each other, teach the gospel, and further the work of the Lord.”
Since the December activation, the home page has had an average of 1,600 Internet visitors a day. The first thing visitors see is a full-color painting of Christ, along with multiple options of things to read and learn regarding the Church.
Elder Holland explained that initially the motivation for providing the home page was to supply information about the Church to the media. However, other visitors can use the information too.
He also counseled those accessing the Internet to use it righteously: “Anything that has the potential for good almost always has the potential for damage and danger as well.”