Friday, October 2, 2015

New Apostles

Article updated September 6, 2015.

The 185th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue on October 3, 2015. It is widely expected that three new Apostles will be called to the Quorum of the Twelve to fill vacancies left by the passing of Elders L. Tom Perry, Boyd K. Packer, and Richard G. Scott.

A great call would be Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the First Quorum of the Seventy, currently serving as President of the Asia Area headquartered in Hong Kong. The W. in his name stands for Walter, his father's name. Walter A. Gong was a Professor of Natural Science at San Jose State University. Gerrit grew up in Palo Alto, California. He was named after Gerrit de Jong Jr., first Dean of the College of Fine Arts at BYU. Gerrit de Jong is the person for whom the de Jong Concert Hall on BYU campus is named.

Gerrit Gong attended BYU as a Joseph Fielding Smith Scholar. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Tennis is his sport. His early career was with the U.S. State Department. He was working in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square uprising in June, 1989. He was later head of the Asia Desk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. For several years he was an Assistant to the President of BYU, in charge of long range planning for the university. He served as a Stake President of one of the BYU stakes, then as an Area Authority. He was called to the First Quorum of Seventy in 2010.

From time to time, the Apostles bring in outside specialists to share their expertise and keep the brethren informed on a wide variety of topics. J. Ward Moody, for example, of the BYU Physics Department, was brought in to teach them about astronomy. One of Elder Gong's early assignments as a Seventy was to identify and arrange for these outside experts to advise the Twelve.

Gerrit is married to Susan Lindsay whose brother is Bruce Lindsay, long-time news anchor at KSL Television and recently released President of the Australia Perth Mission.

Other terrific calls would be Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a former California attorney currently serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, or Elder Kim B. Clark, former Dean of Harvard Business School, former President of BYU-Idaho, and currently Commissioner of Church Education.
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Elder Gong was called to serve as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Clayton was called as the senior president of the Quorums of the Seventy.
Elders Clayton and Gong from lds.org
My interest in these two is personal. Elder Clayton and I served in the Andes Peru Mission under Pres. J. Robert Driggs. Elder Gong and I became friends our freshman year at BYU in 1971.
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The brethren who were called as Apostles include Elder Ronald A. Rasband, former President and COO of Huntsman Chemical, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, co-founder and former COO of Icon Health and Fitness, world's largest manufacturer of exercise equipment, and Elder Dale G. Renlund who did his medical residency and fellowship at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the top-rated medical school in the U.S. My wife and I spent a year living in Baltimore County. While there, a number of impressive young couples come into our ward and the husband announced something like this: "I'll be going to Hopkins, so you won't see me. You may see my wife from time to time and she may be able to accept a calling." The creme de la creme of LDS medical students go to Johns Hopkins. It was axiomatic in the Baltimore area wards that these magnificent young people would be essentially unavailable for Church service. During his five years at Hopkins, Elder Renlund served three years as a Bishop, took care of his wife who developed ovarian cancer, and was the primary caregiver for their young daughter while his wife was indisposed. During his medical practice, he served as a Stake President and Area Seventy. When he was called to the First Quorum of Seventy in 2009, his wife left her law career. They spent the next six years in Africa. These are remarkable people.
Elders Renlund, Stevenson, and Rasband from lds.org
What does this have to do with the Book of Mormon? The risen Lord called twelve disciples to be his special witnesses in the New World. They were exceptional men 3 Nephi 19:4, 4 Nephi 1:5. In the world of Prophets and Apostles, cream rises.