Elder W. Mack Lawrence knows firsthand how Church leaders can help members remain active in the Church.
More than 40 years ago, he thought he would be content just attending his Sunday meetings."I really never had any doubt about the truthfulness of the gospel. I wanted to go to Church, but I didn't want a calling," the newly called General Authority explained.
That hasn't been the case, however, for Elder Lawrence of Holladay, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. He has spent a lifetime of service in the Church, culminating with his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, which began Jan. 1.
"What this proves to me is how important leaders are in the Church to fellowship and get people involved," he explained. "We had a lot of people who really helped in that regard. It's just a matter of people caring for others and helping them along the way."
According to his wife, Jackie Lawrence, "It's really a miracle that he is where he is today. One of our early bishops was instrumental in recommending him for a stake mission. It was always my desire that he would become very active."
It was during his stake mission that Elder Lawrence gained a testimony of the gospel and the importance of full activity in the Church. He then served in the stake mission presidency as a counselor to Franklin D. Richards, who served as a General Authority from 1960-1983. Elder Lawrence said he admired and patterned his life after Elder Richards.
Since the time he was a stake missionary, Elder Lawrence has spent his years in numerous positions, ranging from an elder's quorum president to a regional representative.
And his family has been right there to support him along the way.
"The Church provides an avenue for peace and happiness through strong family ties," he commented. "When a family becomes strong and close, it's important to be involved in the Church. I was willing to accept assignments as they came and tried to do them the very best I could.
"Jackie and I are great believers in the importance of family," Elder Lawrence continued. "Our world would be a different place if families were strong.
"It's important to strengthen the family, to have fathers and mothers realize their role and potential to have their children close to them, support them, and participate in activities with them - that's what makes the difference."
Both Elder and Sister Lawrence, members of the Mt. Olympus 6th Ward in the Salt Lake Mt. Olympus Stake, grew up in close-knit families.
"My parents had a great influence on my life," Elder Lawrence said. "My dad was not active in the Church, but he encouraged me to attend and he was proud when I participated. I had a good beginning at home and had great Church leaders."
Sister Lawrence reflected on her home life saying, "The Church was at the center of our family. My parents were always very active. We always invited missionaries for dinner and that made an impact on my life."
Elder Lawrence, 64, was born in Salt Lake City and grew up in Provo, Utah. He graduated from Provo High School and then entered military service at the tail end of World War II.
After the war, he returned to Utah and began dating a girl he had met in junior high school, Jackie Young. They became engaged shortly after and married the day following her graduation in sociology from the University of Utah.
A year later, Elder Lawrence graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in business.
Reflecting on their teenage years, the two have fond memories of a double date they had while in high school - she went with one of his friends, and he went with another girl. Neither one knew what would come from that date.
Sister Lawrence was born in Los Angeles, Calif., and lived in Montana, Idaho, and then Provo, Utah - moving with her family for her father's employment.
Sister Lawrence has also been busy with Church callings, spending time in Young Women presidencies and teaching assignments for 25 years. Relief Society callings have also been a part of her life.
Elder Lawrence's work with US WEST kept them on the move for the first part of their married life. The family moved five times in six years until they finally settled in Salt Lake City. The transient years gave Elder Lawrence a chance to be a high councilor four different times in four different locations.
The moves also gave Sister Lawrence a chance to serve in various wards. "The ward would love to see us arrive because Sister Lawrence was an outstanding youth teacher," Elder Lawrence said.
Although his work assignments have always come with a lot of responsibility, "the Lord made a way for me to have callings and still fulfill my business responsibilities," he added.
Elder Lawrence can best be described as an organizer, a person who has a firm belief in setting goals as individuals and as a group.
"I believe heavily in employee involvement and in having a common goal," he said. "That principle prevails in the Church - having everyone work together as a group, with love and cooperation for others and with understanding. I think my work has helped me immensely to prepare for this assignment."
As they looked forward to his retiring last Dec. 31 from US WEST as Utah vice president and chief executive officer, Elder Lawrence and his wife thought life might slow down a bit. They purchased a new motorhome to relax in. But the call to the Seventy changed their plans and they are excited about what lies ahead.
"I was surprised as I received the call," Elder Lawrence remarked. "I certainly wasn't expecting it. I'm thrilled for the opportunity to be called in such a position, but I'm very humble as I approach the assignment. I know that the Lord provides a way and gives you guidance and direction you need and I have that kind of faith.
"I look in awe at these brethren [General AuthoritiesT and know of their leadership abilities to teach and preach. I am pleased with the call and I will do the best I can."
With his background of service, Elder Lawrence hopes to share with Church members the joy he has found from full activity in the Church.
"I think if you understand other people's feelings and where they are coming from, you are better able to help them see the benefits that come through activity and through faithfulness," he commented.
Elder W. Mack Lawrence
- Family: Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 28, 1926, to Richard Sterling and Thelma McKenzie Lawrence. Married Jacqueline Young, June 15, 1949, in the Salt Lake Temple. Parents of three children; 10 grandchildren.
- Education/military: Served in U.S. Army, infantry division, 1944-45; received bachelor's degree in business from the University of Utah, 1950.
- Employment: Retired Dec. 31, 1990, as Utah vice president and chief executive officer of US WEST Communications after 39 years with the company.
- Previous Church service: regional representative, 1982-1988; counselor in stake presidency; high councilor; bishop; bishop's counselor; counselor in stake mission presidency; elder's quorum presidency; stake missionary.
- Other service and hobbies: served as chairman of the building fund campaign for the new Primary Children's Medical Center, member of the board of directors of the Utah Symphony, was chairman of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the executive committee of the Utah Foundation. Enjoys camping, boating and water skiing with family, and playing golf and tennis.