News of the Church


New Seventies Called; Leaders Speak of War and Peace

At the Saturday afternoon session of the 173rd Annual General Conference, the First Presidency announced leadership changes in the Presidency of the Seventy and the Sunday School general presidency. Also a currently serving General Authority was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, and 5 new General Authorities and 37 new Area Authority Seventies were called.

In view of his recent appointment as president of Brigham Young University, Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. of the Seventy was released as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Samuelson was also released as Sunday School general president.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy was called to the Presidency of the Seventy and as Sunday School general president. Elder John H. Groberg and Elder Val R. Christensen will continue to serve as first and second counselors, respectively, in the Sunday School general presidency.

Elder Bruce D. Porter, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy since 1995, was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The new members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy are Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, Elder Shirley D. Christensen, Elder Clate W. Mask Jr., Elder William W. Parmley, and Elder W. Douglas Shumway.

Also sustained were 37 Area Authority Seventies—4 from Brazil, 2 from Mexico, 2 from Nigeria, 12 from the United States, and one each from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Panama, Philippines, Samoa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tonga, and Venezuela (see a complete list of names in “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” this issue, p. 23).

Elder J. Devn Cornish, an Area Authority Seventy in the North America Southeast Area, was released to fill a calling as a mission president.

During general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley and other Church leaders acknowledged current world strife and offered words of comfort, guidance, and instruction to those on all sides of the conflict.

Answering the question “Where does the Church stand in all of this?” President Hinckley reminded members of the Church that “we have no quarrel with the Muslim people or with those of any other faith. We recognize and teach that all the people of the earth are of the family of God.”

President Hinckley asked Church members to obey the twelfth article of faith by sustaining the laws of their lands and being subject to their governments. He added the caution, “Never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other.”

Finally, he admonished the Saints to pray for those involved in the conflict and to look to the Savior: “When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace.”

In his Saturday morning address, President Hinckley reported on the continued growth of the Church. He noted that the Church builds approximately 400 new chapels each year and continues “to build temples across the earth.” He also reported that some 8,000 young men and women have participated in the Perpetual Education Fund, and they are on average increasing their income some four and a half times through training and education.

The Church announced immediately before conference that missionaries will not be sent to Hong Kong until further evaluations are made regarding the SARS virus. The safety and well-being of missionaries currently serving in Hong Kong are of highest priority and are being monitored carefully. The Asia Area Presidency and the area medical adviser in Hong Kong are meeting daily to keep abreast of developments and to offer timely direction to mission presidents to provide missionaries with appropriate precautionary measures.

A television cameraman covers a session of general conference from a walkway on the plaza level of the Conference Center.

Elder Mervyn B. Arnold

Of the Seventy
Elder Mervyn B. Arnold

If people wore product labels, then Elder Mervyn Bennion Arnold, age 54, a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, would proudly wear one that says, “Homemade in Granger, Utah.”

Born in Salt Lake City on 19 July 1948, Elder Arnold grew up in a farming area on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. “We had a thousand chickens,” he recalls, “and a cow that we kids had to milk. We also hoed a lot of sugar beets.” His parents, John Everett Sorensen Arnold and Jasmine Bennion Arnold, reared five sons and two daughters with a strong work ethic, gratitude for what they had, and a love of family and of the gospel. Family prayer was always followed by the children hugging and kissing their parents. Elder Arnold’s parents frequently read the Book of Mormon to their children. “I learned to love the doctrines of the Church,” says Elder Arnold, “and I love the Book of Mormon.”

Asked how he has gained his testimony, Elder Arnold replies that “it is a gradual process. People enter into your life, starting when you are at a very early age. And they help you get that testimony ingrained in you.” He can name practically every teacher and priesthood leader he has ever had and how he or she influenced him.

Elder Arnold served a mission in northern Mexico. Then he attended Brigham Young University, earning a bachelor’s degree in business and a master of public administration degree. In 1971 in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple he married Devonna Kress, who was raised on a farm in Rockland, Idaho. He describes her as “a wonderful lady with a very strong testimony of the gospel, a great wife and mother.” They are the parents of six children and the grandparents of four. Their family, they say, is “the joy of our life.”

Elder Arnold worked in real estate development and later in banking. From 1985 to 1988 he served as mission president in Costa Rica, Panama, and the San Blas Islands. Most recently, Elder Arnold was director of training and field services in the Church Missionary Department.

As he begins his new calling, Elder Arnold expresses love for the One who has blessed his life most of all: “I know the Savior lives! I love Him so much.”

Elder Shirley D. Christensen

Of the Seventy
Elder Shirley D. Christensen

The morning of 18 May 1980 stands out vividly in Elder Shirley Dean Christensen’s memory. It began as a beautiful, sunny spring day. But by noon the skies over Royal City, Washington, were black, and the once-green fields and orchards were covered in ash. Mount Saint Helens, about 150 miles (240 km) west of Royal City, had erupted.

During the next few days, Elder Christensen watched in horror as the ash-laden trees in his orchards dropped much of their precious fruit. He thought the impact of the catastrophe on his apple-growing business would be devastating.

But the remaining apples were of excellent quality, and the thinning of the fruit had actually benefited his crop. “The Lord really did protect our crop,” he says. “That turned out to be one of the most productive years we’ve ever had.” He links that blessing to his family’s faithful payment of tithing and to their desire to obey the Lord’s commandments. The experience also taught him that adversity sometimes brings blessings in unexpected ways.

Elder Christensen, age 64, a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, was born in Preston, Idaho, to LeGrand and Blanche Naef Christensen on 8 January 1939. He grew up in Idaho and Washington and attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he met Geniel Johnson. They were married on 23 June 1962 in the Manti Utah Temple. They have six living children.

Elder Christensen served a mission in Uruguay from 1959 to 1961, and it was there that he developed a strong testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. “Prior to that I could relate the story of the First Vision. But when I arrived in the mission field and prayerfully and sincerely taught it to others, I came to have a certain testimony of the Prophet Joseph and the restored gospel,” he says. “That testimony came in a vivid and sure way, and I knew what I was teaching was true.”

From 1999 to 2002 Elder Christensen served as president of the Argentina Resistencia Mission. He has also served as a temple ordinance worker, branch president, bishop, and member of a stake presidency.

Elder Clate W. Mask Jr.

Of the Seventy
Elder Clate W. Mask Jr.

Elder Clate Wheeler Mask Jr. knows that nothing happens by chance.

As a young boy in El Paso, Texas, Elder Mask was affected by the service of his father, Clate Wheeler Mask Sr., in World War II. It was a trying time.

That’s when his mother, Marva Gonzalez Mask, taught him to really pray. His father was not a member of the Church. “Our family prayed my dad would join the Church and come home safely,” he says. “As a little boy praying at my mother’s side, I just knew God was there.”

With his father away, Elder Mask spent many hours with his maternal grandparents. “I would sit at my grandmother’s knee as she told Book of Mormon stories. My grandfather would tell about his mission to Mexico,” Elder Mask recalls. “That set the course of my life.”

His father did join the Church and return safely. From that time, Elder Mask’s testimony was firm.

He eventually served a mission to Central America, and just before coming home he was assigned to write a report on some missionaries he had worked with. “One sister was just tremendous in every way, and I realized she was the kind of person I wanted to marry someday,” Elder Mask says.

Following military service, Elder Mask attended Brigham Young University, and there he became reacquainted with that same sister missionary, Paula Carol Garns. They married in 1965 in the Los Angeles California Temple and reared six children.

Elder Mask graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish and has had a 30-year career with the Church Educational System. He has served as a mission president, bishop, bishop’s counselor, stake Sunday School president, high councilor, and branch president.

Elder Mask, age 60, was born on 20 August 1942. He knows his new calling as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy will be as life changing as the other not-by-chance events of his life. “Everything that has happened to him has prepared him for this calling,” says Sister Mask.

Elder William W. Parmley

Of the Seventy
Elder William W. Parmley

The past several months of Elder William Watts Parmley’s life sum up the last several decades. He and his wife, Shanna Nielsen Parmley, made the decision that he would retire from his profession as a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco so they could serve a mission together. As Elder Parmley prepared for a mission—and instead was called to serve as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy—the true impact of his lifelong testimony became very evident.

“They all know of his integrity and his love of family,” says Sister Parmley, speaking of those Elder Parmley associated with daily. “It is very obvious to these people that he loves God.”

Retiring from a profession people often do not retire from, Elder Parmley, age 67, has had many opportunities to share the reason he is setting aside medicine. He recalls a man he recently met at an annual conference. He told attendees why after 39 years he would no longer be involved in the profession. The next day, a colleague approached him and said, “My wife and I couldn’t sleep last night because we were thinking about what you said. Tell us more about this mission.” Elder Parmley did, and the man simply said, “Can we go with you?”

With his call into the Seventy, Elder Parmley is happy to serve. Such response is typical from one whose life has been defined by service as a physician, a husband, a father and grandfather, and a member of the Church.

“As King Benjamin said, that’s what we are really here to do,” Elder Parmley says. “We serve each other, and that’s our service to God.”

Elder and Sister Parmley were married in 1961 in the Salt Lake Temple. They have four children and eight grandchildren. Elder Parmley, the son of Thomas Jennison Parmley and LaVern Watts Parmley, was born in Salt Lake City on 22 January 1936. He served a full-time mission in the Northwestern States Mission and has served as a bishop, stake president, regional representative, and an Area Authority Seventy.

Elder W. Douglas Shumway

Of the Seventy
Elder W. Douglas Shumway

When you ask Elder Wilford Douglas Shumway what defines his family, it takes him about a split second to answer, “Loyalty.” Whether it is through working in a family business, or his daughter caring for his mother before her death, or his eight children caring for each other so he could serve as a mission president in Bolivia, Elder Shumway’s family is loyal to each other and to the gospel. With his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, his family has demonstrated the same immediate support.

“There would be absolutely no way my wife and I could accept this call if it were not for the support of our family,” says Elder Shumway.

Elder Shumway, age 62, is the son of Wilford Jennings Shumway and Mabel Whiting Shumway. He was born on 8 May 1940 and grew up in Saint Johns, Arizona, where he first met Dixie Ann Jarvis. Their parents were close friends, and the two casually dated during high school. When Elder Shumway returned from a mission to Uruguay, her parents encouraged her to give the good family friend a chance. She did, and they were married in the Mesa Arizona Temple in 1963. They have 8 children and 20 grandchildren.

They recently moved from Eagar, Arizona, to nearby Show Low, where their family business includes a hotel and car wash. Devastating wildfires struck the area last summer. Elder Shumway recalls that for three nights in a row, a television announcer stated the fire would be in Show Low by the next morning. The fire never reached the town, and the announcer finally said that there was a power at work higher than he had ever seen—he could not explain it.

“Had the fire come through, I do not think I would be sitting here today,” says Elder Shumway. “It would have been devastating.”

His family and business were spared, and he is grateful for the new opportunity to serve. “I deem it a privilege to go preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he says.