Elder R. Conrad Schultz's great-grandfathers were Protestant circuit preachers on the Columbia River in the northwest states. "They would go from little town to little town for three or four months and preach and then they would move on. My great-grandparents were all very religious people," said Elder Schultz, one of the newest members of the Church's Second Quorum of the Seventy.
This family heritage of faith and prayer must have passed down to Elder Schultz, for even though he was not raised in any one faith, he has always known how to pray. "I remember as a little boy, I always said my prayers. I've always known that there was a Heavenly Father."
His voice cracking with emotion, the new General Authority, sustained during the April general conference, said he does not remember who taught him to pray. Just that he knew how. Growing up in Tillamook, Ore., near Portland, the little boy slept in an attic loft. His bed was a thick mattress on the floor, the rafters were bare and he had a pull-string light bulb hanging from the ceiling. "I remember I would crawl up those little stairs. I knelt and prayed to my Heavenly Father. It felt very good, felt very comfortable. I've just always done that."
Indeed, the tall, slim 63-year-old has spent his life turning to the Lord for guidance and strength. He did so when joining the Church at 17 years old; he prayed about serving a full-time mission; he prayed over the decision to marry; he has prayed over his various Church callings, including as bishop and stake president, and most recently, as president of the Colorado Denver South Mission. And he's praying about his new responsibility. "I'm excited. I'm concerned. I'm scared, and that always has been the case when I was called to be bishop or the stake president or whatever. I've always wondered if I can do it, if I can do it well.
"I'm really looking forward to doing whatever Heavenly Father wants us to do in this new calling," Elder Schultz said during a Church News interview. "Whatever we can do to help is what we want to do."
The we in his vocabulary includes his wife, Carolyn, the mother of their five children and grandmother to their nine grandchildren with one on the way. They've known each other since they were teenagers in Eugene during the 1950s, but their lives began differently. She was born and reared in the Church in Eugene; he was reared during his early years in Tillamook in a non-LDS logging family.
"My grandparents, my parents, and all my aunts and uncles were all involved in logging. As a matter of fact, when I was 14, I started working in the woods myself [during the summer]. It was hard work. We would get up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning and ride what we called a 'crummy,' it was a bus-like thing, and we'd ride it almost two hours to where the work was and start about daylight and work until 4:30 p.m. and ride a couple hours back."
Whatever spare time he had he grabbed his fishing pole and headed to the river a couple blocks from home. Casting in the line for some fresh trout was his favorite activity besides basketball. When he was in high school, he moved with his family to Eugene. He tried out and made the high school basketball team, which was a state-championship contender at the time.
Then something occurred in his life which to this day makes him scratch his head in bewilderment. One night during practice, he got upset over something. He doesn't remember what, but he quit the team. "I just quit. I don't quit on anything," he recalled. "Even now, I wonder."
Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "Except I know now. A couple days later, a young man who was a member of the Church asked me if I wanted to play on the Church basketball team. That's a big step down from an A-rated high school basketball team to a Church team, but we won the region and we came to Salt Lake and played in the all-Church tournament."
During the tournament, which took several days, the young men attended a banquet during which President Joseph Fielding Smith, then-president of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke to them. "I couldn't tell you to this day what he said, but I remember how it made me feel."
A young Conrad Schultz went home and contacted the missionaries, took the discussions and then fasted for two days to know if the Book of Mormon were true and if Joseph Smith had been a true prophet. "I remember I was home alone," he said, recalling the answer to his prayers. "I went in my little bedroom and I knelt down to pray. And I started to cry. I couldn't even ask the questions; I knew the answers."
He was baptized in January 1956. After attending BYU for two semesters, he left in 1958 for the Gulf States Mission, returning in 1960. He entered the University of Oregon and resumed a relationship with a young woman he began dating in high school. That woman, Carolyn Lake, would become his wife. After she graduated from BYU with a degree in nursing, they married on June 12, 1961, in the Salt Lake Temple. They returned to Eugene to finish his schooling, including earning a juris doctorate.
They lived most of their married lives in Eugene, where he practiced law and built his own law firm, from which he retired in 1999 to begin his calling as a mission president. Sister Schultz recalled how waiting all those years to be married was a challenge. "By today's standards, people would say, 'You were just too practical in your thinking.' But I think all of that was necessary. You have to wait for the good things."
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