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Emeritus General Authority Seventy Elder J. Richard Clarke remembered for his generosity, hard work and commitment to the gospel


Elder J. Richard Clarke, an emeritus general authority, died Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Alpine, Utah. He was 95 years old.

Elder Clarke served as a general authority for more than two decades. He was called in 1976 as the second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and then, after eight and a half years, accepted a call to the Quorum of the Seventy in 1985. In 1988 he filled a vacancy in the Presidency of the Seventy when Elder Richard G. Scott was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

After being given emeritus status in 1997, Elder Clarke and his wife, Sister Barbara Jean Clarke, served as the president and matron of the Laie Hawaii Temple from 1998 to 2001 and of the Boise Idaho Temple in 2005.

When asked about his various experiences in Church service, Elder Clarke responded reflectively, “I bring a testimony of the gospel, a love of the Savior, and a commitment to the work. I’ve consecrated everything I have and am to the Lord.”

Although he once described himself as “a plain vanilla sort of guy,” his commitment to the work of the Lord led him to remarkable places and experiences throughout his life. 

John Richard Clarke was born in Rexburg, Idaho, on April 4, 1927, the youngest of seven children of John Rolland and Nora Redford Clarke. He was raised in a good home with parents who practiced teaching correct principles and “letting us govern ourselves,” he once said.

His first job was running a shoeshine stand in a barbershop. As a young man, he also stocked shelves at a grocery store and worked at a lumber mill. During high school and college, he hired out as a farm laborer. 

His experience playing basketball in high school drilled into him the importance of the fundamentals. A beloved coach taught him that if you paid the price of hard work and discipline, you would succeed. 

“Whether you’re trying to win in basketball, succeed in business or be a good missionary, the same principles apply,” he said in a Church News article in 1985 when he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy.

After serving in the South Africa Mission, he returned to Ricks College where he played basketball and met Barbara Jean Reed from nearby Ririe, Idaho. After the two married, he transferred to BYU, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

The importance of hard work and discipline he had learned in his youth was something he and his wife also tried to instill into their eight children. Despite a demanding career in the management of an insurance company, he purchased a 13-acre farm in Boise, Idaho, and the family learned to raise thoroughbred Arabian horses and purebred cattle. 

“One of the main reasons for buying the farm was to give the children something to do,” he told the Church News. Boredom was never a part of their family culture. Besides the yard work and chores associated with the farm, the family also spent much time together playing softball and basketball.

“My family has been my greatest love, source of enjoyment and recreation,” he said.

Many years after completing his mission in South Africa, Elder Clarke was able to return to the South Africa Cape Town Mission, this time as mission president, with his wife at his side.

Aside from his time as a general authority, mission president and temple president, he also served as a bishop, stake president and regional representative. 

His biographical article when he was called to the Seventy reported that he was known for his generosity. “The exuberant 6-foot-1 inch general authority is as likely to do a carpentry job for a family he home teaches or to clear snow from a widow’s sidewalk … as he is to perform some extra service in his calling.”

Funeral services are pending.

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