His warmth, wisdom, willingness to serve a blessing to many

As a new General Authority, Elder D. Todd Christofferson is apt to continue his hallmark style of service that has blessed many lives to date: a soft-spoken gentleness mingled with warmth, wit, wisdom and faith.

Though he leads largely by his quiet example of dedication and is, according to those who know him, even-tempered and mild mannered, Elder Christofferson can become rather animated when raising a "warning voice."Like the night he borrowed his roommate's Ford Mustang while a student at BYU, shortly after returning from his mission to Argentina in December 1966. Elder Christofferson wanted to visit a family he had known as a youth in New Jersey that had moved to the Provo area.

While searching for the family on a dark road south of town, he drove the vehicle over a steep-pitched, four-track railroad crossing. The road crossed the tracks at an angle; Elder Christofferson drove straight across, and the car became high-centered on the tracks.

To his dismay, he could see the faint light of an oncoming freight train in the distance. He jumped out of the car and sprinted down the tracks toward the train - intent on raising a warning voice in hopes of stopping it. He yelled and frantically waved his arms as the train roared passed at 50 miles per hour - the engineer not seeing him in the dark. The train hit the car and "blew the thing to pieces," said Elder Christofferson.

The new General Authority smiles as he recalls the event, though it didn't seem too funny at the time.

"The newspaper reported the next day: `Provo man fails to halt train.' My roommate was kind. He just wanted to know that I got out OK. I paid the insurance deductible, and he got another car."

As a father and Church leader, Elder Christofferson's spiritual "warnings," delivered through deed as well as precept, have been much more successful.

His loving, insightful manner has been a blessing to many and melted barriers of misunderstanding toward the Church on both interpersonal and institutional levels.

For example, during his eight-year tenure as president of the Franklin Tennessee Stake in the Nashville area, Elder Christofferson, 48, participated in several interfaith efforts that proved a blessing to Church members and non-members alike. Community efforts he has participated in through his calling, as well as his own initiative, have included efforts to promote literacy, feed and house the homeless and combat pornography.

"Todd felt that it was great to be involved in the community and felt it did nothing but promote good relations between the Church and other faiths," explained his wife, Kathy.

Building bridges of friendship seems to come easily for the new Seventy, who is reticent to relate his personal accomplishments and quick to deflect attention and credit toward others. Many of those same community and religious leaders in Nashville - along with other friends from varied faiths in North Carolina and the Washington, D.C. area - were among the first to telephone and congratulate him on his calling as a General Authority. He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy on April 3.

"One thing that has come out of past leadership positions was an enhanced opportunity to be involved with people in the community," recalled Elder Christofferson. "We were able to meet people of all faiths who were doing a lot of wonderful things. It has been gratifying over the years to see what good people do in association with each other in communities. We have numerous opportunities to be with them shoulder to shoulder, sometimes leading and sometimes supporting, but in all cases working together. Those are some of the fondest memories I have."

Elder Christofferson was born in American Fork, Utah, and reared in nearby Pleasant Grove and Lindon until age 15, when his family moved to New Brunswick, N.J. His father, Paul, was state veterinarian for Utah when he received a job offer from a pharmaceutical company to direct animal drug research and testing.

In Pleasant Grove, Elder Christofferson's grandfather, Helge V. Swenson, had served as a bishop and was stake patriarch when they moved. His example, with that of parents and other immediate and extended family members and friends, had a profound impact on young Todd.

"My grandfather was a great man, a very spiritual man, the kind of man boys in the ward loved and loved to be around," Elder Christofferson reflected. "When we moved to New Jersey, one of the great blessings was having Dad serve as bishop of the New Brunswick Ward. He's one I pattern my own Church service after because he was so good at going after the one. He was not afraid to go find somebody and spend time with them. They would know he really cared."

While spending his high school years in New Jersey, Elder Christofferson participated on two occasions in the Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York with close friends from his ward.

Other memories from the New Jersey years included trips to the Aaronic Priesthood Memorial on the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pa. He often spent time after school chopping wood, a passion still enjoyed whenever Elder Christofferson can find time and a log that needs splitting. And it was at age 16 or 17 that he was in his basement bedroom reading the Book of Mormon one afternoon when, as he says, a strong feeling "just came upon me, a powerful sense and feeling of knowledge that it was right, that it was true and was scripture. Tears came to my eyes, and I felt overwhelmed. I dropped to my knees to thank the Lord for the book and for the testimony. I wasn't at that moment praying and asking for it. I don't even remember what I was specifically reading in the book, but I'll never forget that moment and the feeling."

After graduating from high school, Elder Christofferson attended BYU for a year before serving a mission. After his mission, he returned to the university and did very well excepting his bout with the train. One much more fortuitous run-in occurred at a varsity-alumni football game.

He was in charge of crowd control and his wife to be, Kathy Jacob, was a Cougarette in charge of part of the half-time entertainment. They were both at the stadium early when they walked passed each other. She was stepping onto the field and he was walking up to check the bleachers. They didn't stop or introduce themselves, just saw each other in passing.

"I remembered the face and found it in the yearbook later," Elder Christofferson recalled. "That was in the spring, so the next fall when school reconvened, I had a mutual friend set up the first date, and we went on from there. For her, it was a blind date; for me, I had a picture. That was September 1967, and we married in May 1968."

Sister Christofferson recalls telling a friend when she saw Todd alongside the football field that he was "the kind of guy you run into but never get to meet or date. When he walked off, I was so disappointed, but it turned out that wasn't the end."

The couple completed their schooling and then went to Durham, N.C., where Elder Christofferson earned a law degree at Duke University, graduating in 1972. They then moved to Rockville, Md., near Washington D.C. where he was a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica as the judge presided during the Watergate proceedings. The judge asked him to extend his clerkship to see the Watergate investigation through, which he did before joining a Washington law firm.

"It was a great experience to work with the judge," Elder Christofferson said. "He included me in what was happening; we did things together. It was an excellent working relationship, almost father-son. He died last August, and the family asked me to speak at his funeral mass. It was very special. He was a good man. It was good to have that association, as well as it being a more than interesting time."

Contrary to what might be expected, Elder Christofferson came away from the Watergate experience with his confidence in government bolstered, not battered. He said that despite a few "bad apples," a majority of the people in government are capable and honest, in his estimation.

His career flourished and led him into legal work for financial institutions, necessitating moves to Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. The Christoffersons were blessed with five children along the way - now ages 8 to 22 - who have been "wonderfully supportive" of their father in his Church and other responsibilities, according to Sister Christofferson. The oldest, Todd, has served a mission in Canada.

The latest call, as a General Authority, came as a surprise, but the family is excited about moving to Utah. When the parents called home and told 8-year-old Michael the news, they said his reaction was: "Well, good, see you later." The older children were a bit more excited, surprised but not shocked.

"They say because of his service from when they were young, they don't remember anything else but having their father actively engaged in Church service," Sister Christofferson said. "They're just very pleased."

(Additional information)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Family: Born Jan. 24, 1945, in American Fork, Utah, to Paul V. and Jeanne Swenson Christofferson; reared in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and New Brunswick, N.J., the oldest of five sons. Married Katherine Thelma Jacob in the Salt Lake Temple on May 28, 1968. Parents of five children: Todd, 22; Brynn, 20; Peter, 19; Ryan, 13; Michael, 8.

Education: Earned bachelor's degree in English/international relations from BYU, juris doctorate from Duke University.

Employment: Associate general counsel of NationsBank Corp. in Charlotte, N.C.; former senior vice president and general counsel for Sovran Bank of Tennessee in Nashville; practiced law in Washington, D.C.; served as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica in Washington.

Church service: Regional representative; stake president; stake president's counselor; bishop; stake mission president; high councilor; early-morning seminary teacher; served in the Argentina North Mission, 1964-66.

Community service: Actively involved in Scouting, a recipient of the Silver Beaver Award; chairman of Middle Tennessee Literacy Coalition; chairman of Affordable Housing of Nashville (low-income housing project); active in interfaith organizations in Nashville, Tenn., area.

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