Though he says the call to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was unexpected, Elder Quentin La Mar Cook has been learning to live as a witness of the Savior Jesus Christ from a young age.
“All my life I have been blessed by those who love the Savior,” Elder Cook says.
Born on September 8, 1940, in Logan, Utah, to J. Vernon and Bernice Cook, Elder Cook is grateful for a loving, involved father and a mother who “loved the Savior. They did everything they could to raise us the right way.”
He appreciates his brother and sister and recalls that it was at age 15 during a serious conversation with his older brother, Joe, that he realized that a testimony of the Savior had significant consequences. Joe had to decide whether or not to put off medical school to serve a mission. “After that conversation, the confirmation that I received of the truthfulness of the Church and divinity of Jesus Christ was a defining event for me.”
His brother ended up serving, as did Elder Cook, who served in the British Mission. His mission presidents, including Elder Marion D. Hanks, then a member of the First Council of the Seventy, had a profound effect on him.
“It’s very important to have a testimony of the Savior and associate with people who love the Savior,” Elder Cook says. He found another such person, named Mary Gaddie, whom he married in the Logan Utah Temple on November 30, 1962.
After he graduated from Utah State University with a degree in political science, the couple moved to California where Elder Cook earned a juris doctorate degree at Stanford University. As they raised their three children, Elder Cook worked in business law, became managing partner of a San Francisco Bay Area law firm, then president and chief executive officer of California Healthcare System, and finally vice chairman of Sutter Health Systems.
During that time he served as a bishop, stake president and counselor, regional representative, and Area Authority. While in the stake presidency, he had responsibility for not only English-speaking wards, but congregations that spoke Spanish, Tongan, Samoan, Tagalog, and Mandarin and Cantonese.
“We loved the diversity of the members and their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have been such a positive influence in my life,” he says.
However, in his professional life, Elder Cook worked mostly with people who were not members of the Church. He learned that “there are a great many people outside the Church who love the Savior. Many of them had a positive influence on me as well. So when I talk about associating with good people, I’m not talking about isolating yourself from the world.”
After his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy on April 6, 1996, and his subsequent call to the First Quorum on April 4, 1998, Elder Cook served in the Philippines/Micronesia Area Presidency and as President of the Pacific and North America Northwest Areas of the Church.
His service as a General Authority has reinforced his belief that “you can find good people who love the Savior wherever you are.” Elder Cook believes that the way to find them is to live the gospel humbly but unabashedly.
“I think the biggest mistake that most Latter-day Saints make is hiding who they are,” he says. “Many members don’t tell friends and associates who they are and what they believe and are dragged into very difficult situations. Those who identify themselves as Latter-day Saints and make clear what they believe have far fewer problems.”
He also found that they are better member missionaries when he served as Executive Director of the Missionary Department before being called to the Presidency of the Seventy in August 2007.
In his first conference talk after being sustained an Apostle on October 6, 2007, Elder Cook addressed the problem of members in “camouflage” and encouraged them to live “by faith and not by fear.”
“There are many who are ‘kept from the truth because they know not where to find it’ (D&C 123:12),” he says. “And when someone is forthright in a tolerant, kind way, it’s amazing how many people will respond.”
Elder Cook hopes that people will respond this way to him in his new calling, knowing that in spite of the inadequacy he feels, he must live by faith and not by fear as he lets people know who he is and what he believes as a special witness of Christ.
“I love the Savior,” he states. “I rejoice in the opportunity to bear witness of Jesus Christ in all the world.”