What putting the gospel first instead of his career meant to this late emeritus General Authority

LDS Church Sunday School General Presidency. (l to r) Elder Glenn Pace, 1st Coun., Elder Harold G. Hillam, Pres. and Elder Neil L. Andersen, 2nd Coun. Photo/Don Grayston Credit: Deseret News archive
Elder Glenn L. Pace Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

In 1985 I wrote an article about Glenn L. Pace, who claimed he was an “unknown entity” among the greater population of the Church. He told of the time four years earlier when he arrived for an appointment in the Church Administration Building. A secretary tapped on the office door of the General Authority with whom he had the appointment and announced, “Glenn Pace is here.” The General Authority asked, “Glenn who?”

That was probably the same reaction many members had on April 6, 1985, when the name of 45-year-old Glenn L. Pace was presented in general conference as second counselor to Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales.

During an interview after he was sustained, Bishop Pace told me, “If there were an ecclesiastical path — and there isn’t — for becoming a General Authority, I wouldn’t make it. I have never had calling to high positions in the Church. I’ve never been a bishop. I’m just me, and yet I’ve had some wonderful spiritual experiences along the way. A person doesn’t need a job to tell him where he stands with the Lord.”

He grew up in Provo, Utah, the only son of Kenneth L. and Elizabeth Wilde Pace. He had two sisters.

He described himself as having been a good, but not exceptional, student who had to work hard for an A. In high school, he developed an intense interest in business, particularly accounting. At the same time, he was drawn to classes he described as “humanitarian,” those centering on sociology and psychology.

He married Jolene Clayson in 1963, graduated from BYU in 1964 and, in 1965, received a master’s degree in accounting. He worked for two national CPA firms, staying in public accounting four years. He then went into real estate development, eventually becoming chief financial officer for a land development company.

“I never dreamed I would be able to combine business and humanities,” he said. “But that’s what happened.” He began working for the Church Welfare Department in 1981. He was the department’s managing director when called to the Presiding Bishopric.

“If there were an ecclesiastical path — and there isn’t — for becoming a General Authority, I wouldn’t make it.”

Before he began working for the Church Welfare Department, he went through what he described as “an agonizing period of self-evaluation.” Once motivated by a desire for success and a large income, he put work first in his life.

“My work always took a lot of time,” he told me. “I don’t think I ever neglected my family; I was a good family man. But Church, or at least my Church work, was always ‘next year.’ I felt I had to reach a certain career plateau before I could devote more time to the Church.

“My initial goal, which formed in high school, was to become an accountant and be a partner in a large certified public accounting firm. From the time I was a junior in high school until I was out of college, I never changed that focus, even during the two-year interruption from college for a mission.” He served in what was then the New England States Mission.

He became an accountant and businessman but, he said, he knew something was missing. “I started to look around and saw people who seemed much happier, with much less. I stood back and took a look at my total life. I didn’t think I was on the trail of what I would call ultimate happiness. I took inventory. I evaluated. I thought about changing careers. Since I had enjoyed Church callings in which I worked with young people, I thought maybe I would like to teach on a college level.

Elder Glenn L. Pace
Elder Glenn L. Pace | Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“There was an emptiness. What I had was not too unlike the experience of Enos, only he cried all night and I cried for two years. I was trying to hold onto to the ‘gold rod’ with one hand while trying to grasp the ‘iron rod’ with the other. I got to the point in my life where it was basically pulling me apart.”

(The headline on the article I wrote for the July 14, 1985, Church News was “He tried to grasp the ‘iron rod’ with one and the ‘gold rod’ with the other: a change of Pace was needed.”)

He wrote a letter to then Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown. In the letter accompanying his application to work for the Church, he wrote, “I have a feeling that I would like to get into something more humanitarian.” Four months later, he was hired as manager of accounting for the Church Welfare Department. Of his switch from a high-income career, he said, “I had intended that I would work only for a few years, and consider that as a self-imposed mission, and then I would get back to the business world. One thing led to another, and I went along for nine years. Welfare work provided some outlets for love and concern for humanity.”

He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy on Oct. 3, 1992, and named emeritus General Authority on Oct. 2, 2010. He died May 16, 2017.

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