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New Leaders Called

Biographies of New General Authorities and General Officers Sustained in April 2010 General Conference

Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy

From childhood, Elder Kevin Read Duncan was eager to serve the Lord as a missionary. "I was never, ever on the fence. I always knew I wanted to serve a mission," he says.

Well before his 19th birthday, Elder Duncan happened to meet a General Authority serving in the Missionary Department who challenged him to memorize the missionary discussions. He met that challenge and was later called to the Chile Santiago South Mission. His time as a missionary reconfirmed his love for serving the Lord. "I knew I wanted to be a missionary every day of the rest of my life," says Elder Duncan.

Elder Duncan, born in October 1960, is the son of David Henry and LaRene Eliza Duncan. He grew up on a family farm in West Point, Utah. Living on the farm as a boy taught him not only to work, he says, but also to love to work.

That work ethic helped him earn from Brigham Young University a bachelor's degree in accounting, a master's degree in accounting taxation, and a juris doctorate in law. He started his career as a tax attorney and later founded a corporation in litigation technology.

Elder Duncan and his wife, Nancy Elizabeth Smart, were married on June 27, 1986, in the Salt Lake Temple. They are parents of five children, including one with Elder Duncan's first wife, the late Wendy Wallentine.

Nearly 20 years after serving a mission in Chile, Elder Duncan returned on a Church-service mission as associate international legal counsel for the Church in South America. While there, he was called to preside over the Chile Santiago North Mission, living in the same mission home where he had served as a young man.

Prior to his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Duncan served as a bishop's counselor, ward mission leader, high councilor, and Area Seventy in the Utah South Area.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy

Elder Gerrit Walter Gong knows the power of prayer and that Heavenly Father has a plan for His children. When Elder Gong was young, his mother was once seriously ill. He remembers praying "in little-boy words and feelings" that she would live.

"Prayers are answered differently at different times in our lives, but on that occasion, gratefully, I felt and knew that she would be better," Elder Gong says. "I have never doubted from that time that Heavenly Father does hear our prayers and, in His own wisdom and ways, answers them."

Elder Gong has since experienced that tender communication with a loving Father repeatedly, including, he says, in marrying his wife, raising a family, making educational and career decisions, and serving in the Church.

Before his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Gong served as a high councilor, high priests group leader, counselor in a stake Sunday School presidency, seminary teacher, bishop, stake mission president, stake president, and Area Seventy.

Professionally, Elder Gong has served as Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of State at the U.S. State Department and as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador in Beijing, China. He also held positions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., USA. At the time of his call, he was working as the Assistant to the President at Brigham Young University with responsibility for planning and assessment.

Elder Gong was born to Walter and Jean Gong in December 1953 and was raised in Palo Alto, California. He received a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University in university and Asian studies. He later earned a master's degree and a PhD in international relations from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar.

He served in the Taiwan Mission and later married Susan Lindsay in the Salt Lake Temple in January 1980. The Gongs have four sons.

Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy

While living briefly in California, Elder Patrick Kearon stayed with "an outstanding" Latter-day Saint family who introduced him to the gospel. Two years later, back home in England, he met missionaries on a London street and eventually began investigating the Church. He came upon a scripture in the Book of Mormon that read, "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). The scripture resonated with him as he recalled the joy in the home of that LDS family and in the lives of the missionaries teaching him.

"That scripture rang in my ears," Elder Kearon says. "In those I had met, I saw how our lives can be enormously enriched by following the Savior's counsel to be of good cheer."

Since joining the Church on December 24, 1987, Elder Kearon has brought that good cheer to numerous callings, including ward Young Men president, bishop's counselor, branch president, stake president, and Area Seventy.

As a newly called member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, he says that he has always "endeavored to be guided by the Church's principles. I have seen how living those principles can transform lives."

Elder Kearon was born in Carlisle, Cumberland, England, in July 1961, to Paddy and Patricia Kearon. With his father serving in the British Royal Air Force, Elder Kearon was educated in the Middle East and the United Kingdom.

He met Jennifer Carole Hulme while she was studying in England with Brigham Young University. They were married in the Oakland California Temple in 1991. They are the parents of four children, one of whom is deceased.

Elder Kearon has lived and worked in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and the United States in various industries, including politics, health care, and the automotive industry. Before his call, Elder and Sister Kearon ran a communications consultancy in England.

Elder Juan A. Uceda of the Seventy

When Elder Juan Alberto Uceda Andrade began courting Maria Isabel Bendezú—the woman he would eventually marry—he knew she was someone special. Both had converted to the Church as youth, and both had served missions in their native country, Peru.

But it was Sister Uceda's conviction to marry in the temple that made the difference. At the time, the nearest temple was in São Paulo, Brazil. "It took seven days just to get there, using every means of transportation available," Elder Uceda explains. "We traveled by bus, car, boat, horse and carriage, train, truck, and even plane. When we reached the temple, we reached out our hands to touch the walls just to make sure it was not a dream. It was a foundational experience for both of us."

The couple were married in the São Paulo Brazil Temple on April 13, 1979. They are the parents of five children.

Elder Uceda was born in July 1953 in Lima, Peru, to Juan Jose Uceda Perez and Ines Andrade Uceda. After joining the Church in 1972, Elder Uceda studied accounting and public relations at Jose Carlos Mariátegui Institute in Lima. He also studied business administration at the Centro Andino de G.E. Institute and earned a bachelor's degree in public relations from San Luis Gonzaga University.

Elder Uceda has worked in the Church Educational System as area director for Peru and Bolivia. In 2003 he moved from Peru to New Jersey, USA, to help his father develop an educational and language training business.

In addition to his missionary service, Elder Uceda has served as a high councilor, bishop, stake president, president of the Lima Peru North Mission, and Area Seventy. He now serves in the First Quorum of the Seventy.

"I have a strong testimony of the power of personal revelation from the Holy Spirit," says Elder Uceda. "That testimony is continually confirmed by blessings that come from obedience."

Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy

Through various callings and service in the Church, Elder Larry Ray Lawrence has learned to "trust in the Lord with all [his] heart" (Proverbs 3:5).

Born in August 1947 to Argil and Mary Lawrence in Cheverly, Maryland, Elder Lawrence grew up in Tucson, Arizona. He pursued his education at the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural biochemistry and a doctorate of medicine, leading to an ophthalmology career.

He joined the Church in 1970, at the age of 23, and married Laurel Stott in the Mesa Arizona Temple on November 5, 1971.

Before his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, he fulfilled callings including elders quorum president, bishop, high councilor, stake president, and stake mission president.

Elder Lawrence says that just as his life seemed to be winding down, with their six children grown and on their own, he and his wife were called to preside over the Russia Novosibirsk Mission in Siberia in 2001. Elder and Sister Lawrence were required to exercise complete faith as they left their home and family behind to serve in a land where the language, people, and climate were completely unfamiliar.

"It was a great test for us in just putting our trust in the Lord," Sister Lawrence says. "Everything we worried about fell into place, and [the experience] changed our lives."

A sign in the kitchen of the mission home provided a constant reminder to "look unto [the Savior] in every thought; doubt not, fear not" (D&C 6:36).

Elder and Sister Lawrence count their mission experience as among the greatest in their lives and feel it prepared them for their new responsibilities with Elder Lawrence's call to the Seventy.

"We don't know what's ahead, but we know it will be good," Elder Lawrence says.

Elder Per G. Malm of the Seventy

When Elder Per Gösta Malm was 16 years old, he served a Church-service mission helping to build new meetinghouses in Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. He has been diligently engaged in helping to build the Church ever since.

Elder Malm was born in September 1948 in Jönköping, Sweden, to Karl Gösta Ivar and Karin Anna-Greta Malm. He learned many of life's most important lessons from his parents, punctuated by the testimony his father bore before passing away at age 48: "Stay true to the gospel."

"He was teaching us that in the gospel we will find solutions to the things that matter most," Elder Malm says.

Following the 18-month building mission, Elder Malm served full time in the Sweden Stockholm Mission. After his return, he married Ingrid Agneta Karlsson in the Bern Switzerland Temple in October 1969, took over his father's real estate business, and earned a master's degree from the University of Göteborg and a Swedish law degree (LLM) from Lund University.

He worked for the Church as a regional real estate manager. Later, as director for temporal affairs, he was assigned by the Presiding Bishopric to initiate a merger of the temporal affairs functions of the Europe Central, East, and North Areas.

While Elder and Sister Malm raised their eight children, he served as a stake mission president, branch president, high councilor, stake president, mission president, public affairs director for Sweden, and Area Seventy.

His experiences have served to confirm to him his parents' teachings, which he hopes to share through his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. "The gospel is our anchor," he says. "It will, if we stay true to it, produce a peace that goes beyond understanding."

Elder Jairo Mazzagardi of the Seventy

Elder Jairo Mazzagardi knows what it means to make sacrifices in the service of the Lord. In 1990, Elder Mazzagardi received a phone call from President Thomas S. Monson, then a counselor in the First Presidency, who called him to preside over the Salvador Brazil Mission.

"I never dreamed that I would be a mission president," Elder Mazzagardi says. "I had been a stake president less than five years. Things were busy—and good—with our business. Accepting this call would mean leaving everything behind."

At the end of the phone call, President Monson offered Elder Mazzagardi time to consider the calling. But Elder Mazzagardi and his wife had decided years earlier that their lives would be consecrated to the Lord, so he accepted the call on the spot. "Whatever the Lord needs of us, we're ready to go," he says.

Before his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Mazzagardi served as bishop's counselor, high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, regional representative, Area Seventy, counselor in the Campinas Brazil Temple presidency, and president of the São Paulo Brazil Temple.

Elder Mazzagardi, an entrepreneur, spent part of his career in the meat industry and later owned a real estate company. He also served in the Brazilian army as an artillery sergeant from 1965 to 1966. He was born to Antonio and Margarida Mazzagardi in April 1947 in Itú, Brazil. He grew up there and in Jundiaí, Brazil. He and his wife, Elizabeth Ienne, met as children and were married in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA, in July 1970.

Although for years they were not interested in the Church, after the Mazzagardis returned to Brazil, a friend invited them to attend the São Paulo Brazil Temple open house. There, both had powerful spiritual experiences. They were baptized on October 31, 1978, and sealed as a family in November 1979. The Mazzagardis have three children.

Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President

In a world filled with noise and insecurity, children need to discover how to hear the whisperings of the Spirit, says Rosemary Mix Wixom, newly sustained as Primary general president.

"Children can find security in prayer," she says. "They can know that they are never alone, that the Savior walks with them, and that He loves them—even when they make mistakes."

Born in December 1948 to Robert Wayne and Mary Mix, Sister Wixom grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. While she was growing up, her twin sister was her best friend, and her parents taught her to give with a happy heart. "When we walked in the door at home, I felt secure," Sister Wixom says.

When she was 12 years old, her sense of security found deeper roots. While sitting in testimony meeting, she suddenly felt a strong desire to express her feelings about the Savior. "I stood up, and my love for Jesus just came gushing out," Sister Wixom recalls. Her mother helped her understand that it was the Holy Ghost who had prompted her feelings.

"I had never known the Holy Ghost was so powerful and so real," Sister Wixom says. Years later the Holy Ghost gave her an overwhelming feeling of peace while she was praying about one of her children. Her hope now is that parents and Primary leaders and teachers can help children learn to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

Sister Wixom received a bachelor's degree in education from Utah State University. She and her husband, Blaine Jackson Wixom, were married in the Salt Lake Temple on August 18, 1970. They are the parents of six children.

Sister Wixom was a member of the Primary general board before serving with her husband when he presided over the Washington D.C. South Mission. Sister Wixom later served on the Young Women general board, where she was serving until her call as Primary general president.

Jean A. Stevens, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

Jean Alldredge Stevens believes that feeling love early in life has a profound effect on all children. Experiencing love helps children to know and understand the great love that Heavenly Father and the Savior have for them.

Sister Stevens was born in November 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, to Claron and Helen Alldredge.

"I was raised by parents of great faith," Sister Stevens says. "They loved the Lord and they taught the gospel in our home. My mother especially had an amazing ability to love people." She can remember feeling from an early age that her parents loved her and loved to serve the Lord.

Sister Stevens established that same pattern with her own family after marrying Mark Stevens in the Salt Lake Temple on September 12, 1973. They have five children.

Sister Stevens feels grateful to serve the Lord and is particularly grateful for the opportunity to serve Primary children.

"Children have such a sensitivity to spiritual things," Sister Stevens says. "They come into this life with believing hearts. You can feel their divine nature as they come to this earth having so recently left the presence of their Heavenly Father."

Sister Stevens believes Primary leaders and teachers play an important role in helping parents teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. "Primary is a wonderful place for children to feel love and for teachers and leaders to reinforce lessons taught in the home," she says.

Before being called to serve as first counselor in the Primary general presidency, Sister Stevens served on the Primary general board. She has also served as a ward Relief Society president, counselor in a ward Primary presidency, and Gospel Doctrine teacher. Sister Stevens graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a teaching certificate.

Cheryl A. Esplin, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency

Cheryl Asay Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, cannot remember a time when she did not believe in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. "I was taught at a young age to pray," she says. "I remember going in prayer to find help before I did anything else, and I always received answers to my prayers."

Born in October 1944 to Orson and Mildred Asay, Sister Esplin grew up on a farm eight miles (13 km) east of Lovell, Wyoming, USA. As the second oldest of nine children, she was often called upon to babysit. While in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, Sister Esplin remembers praying for her family's safety while her parents were gone.

Sister Esplin graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Brigham Young University. While studying, she met her husband, Max Esplin, and married him in the St. George Utah Temple on September 1, 1967. After graduating, Brother Esplin was drafted into the military, and Sister Esplin taught fifth grade for two years near her family in Byron, Wyoming.

She has served in the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary auxiliaries. Her most recent calling was on the Primary general board. She also served with her husband when he was president of the North Carolina Raleigh Mission.

The Esplins have five children. Sister Esplin loves spending time with her grandchildren; they cook pancakes and waffles, play dress-up, go on hikes, and read stories together.

Sister Esplin loves the message of her favorite scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 84:88: "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." She hopes that children will remember that Heavenly Father is always available to them through prayer.