General priesthood meeting. The conflict was troubling, but the decision was easy. And the result of choosing the right was a joyous eternal blessing for Elder Clate W. Mask Jr., sustained in April general conference to the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
The conflict arose in the mid-1960s, Elder Mask said during a recent Church News interview. He took Carol Garns home from a reunion of missionaries of the Central American Mission where they both served. After delivering her to her Provo apartment they were BYU students at the time he maneuvered her into agreeing to see him again. She was determined not to date during the school semester, but said he could drop in on her the following evening at 7 p.m. to talk about their missions.
Euphoria turned to despair for the young man as he traveled home when he realized the following evening was the Saturday of general conference and general priesthood meeting began at 7 p.m.
He quickly made his decision, but the problem wasn't easily solved. He didn't have Carol Garns' telephone number and it was too late to go back to her apartment, leaving him only one option. Early the next morning he went to see her. When she answered the door, they looked at each other and simultaneously said, "It's general priesthood."
Being of like mind, the two came to an amiable solution: They would move their non-date back until after the meeting. She asked him to take notes so they could discuss what was said. "So wouldn't you know, they talked about temple marriage," Elder Mask laughed. That's what they discussed, and two months later put the subject into action, marrying in the Los Angeles California Temple.
Sister Mask affirmed, "If he'd have just come to the date instead of going to priesthood meeting that night, it would have been over. I didn't want anybody who wouldn't go to the priesthood meeting."
Elder Mask added, "It was a real good thing that I did the right thing and went to [the meeting] like I was supposed to. The greatest blessing in my life came along and I would have missed out if I hadn't gone to the priesthood meeting like I should. Don't you think all our sons heard that story?"
Elder Mask said, "It's been a real interesting marriage because of both of us loving Guatemala, loving the culture, loving the people, loving our missions. Because we loved our missions so much and always talked about them, our three girls and our three boys all went on missions; they all had desires to go out and serve."
Sharing the Spanish language has been a key asset in their years of service. When he was called as president of a Spanish branch in Southern California, she joined him in fellowshipping the members in their own language. They helped establish Spanish institute classes in Southern California and Arizona. Regarding a call to the Spain Barcelona Mission, Sister Mask said, "It was so nice to be able to go to Spain when he was mission president and know the language and be able to speak to the saints." To which Elder Mask added, "The saints loved her because they could communicate with her."
As a BYU graduate, Elder Mask moved to Southern California with his young wife where he started a career as a salesman. The couple felt assured of temporal comfort from that path, but he couldn't overcome a deep desire to teach the gospel to young people. So he took the classes necessary and moved to the Church Educational System.
Elder Mask's cheery face, easy smile, quick wit and down-to-earth demeanor, along with a caring attitude, make it easy to picture him enthralling youth in seminary and institute classes, sharing with them his knowledge and testimony of, as well as love for, the gospel.
"I've loved trying to inspire and motivate young people to want to serve a mission, to want to marry in the temple, and raise a righteous family," he said.
He teaches principles that have been instilled in him from his own youth.
His father, Clate Sr., was in the U.S. military and his mother, Marva, was the daughter of Andres C. and Minnie Spencer Gonzalez. Brother Gonzalez was the first native of Mexico to be called on a full-time mission, according to an article in the Aug. 12, 1967, Church News.
When Elder Mask was young, his father was away from home most of the time because of World War II and other military actions.
"My momma taught me to pray that my dad would come home safely and that he would join the Church, and he did both," Elder Mask said. That led to a firm testimony of prayer.
He said his father was loving, but as an Army sergeant, was a natural teacher of obedience, discipline and hard work.
His grandparents also influenced his life, since they lived nearby while he was growing up in El Paso, Texas. "Grandma Gonzalez would sit and tell me Book of Mormon stories," Elder Mask said.
And missionary fire was kindled by his Grandpa Gonzalez who told him missionary stories, harrowing tales from the hostile era of the Mexican revolution when his very life was under constant threat.
"He had a tremendous impact on my life," Elder Mask said. "It's interesting how grandparents can be so profoundly important in a little kid's life."
One thing he didn't learn from his mother or grandparents was the Spanish language. When they moved to the United States, they insisted the family speak English. Elder Mask said that when he was called to the Central American Mission he struggled learning Spanish and considered quitting. Then he recalled the stories about the trials his grandfather went through as a missionary in Mexico and recommitted to succeed.
The positive principles that have guided Elder and Sister Mask during their lives have flowed down to their own children, they say.
"We used to get the kids up at 4 a.m. to do two different paper routes," Elder Mask said. "They would fold the papers, then they would come in and we'd have family prayer and we'd read the scriptures together.
"We watch them now and they're reading the scriptures with their kids early in the morning; they're having family prayer with their kids."
"They're doing better than we did," Sister Mask said. "Their little tiny children are gaining testimonies at a much earlier age."