Eight new General Authority Seventies were announced and sustained on March 31 during the Saturday afternoon session of the 188th Annual General Conference.
Following is a brief sketch of each of the newly called leaders:
Elder Steven R. Bangerter
During a childhood camping trip, Elder Steven R. Bangerter and his family rode dirt bikes to the top of a mountain. On the way down, he lost his way and became separated from the others.
As he knelt that afternoon and pleaded with his Father in Heaven for help, in his mind’s eye he saw the trail he had lost. Just as he started down it, “my brother reached the top of the trail on his motorcycle, embraced me, and guided me back through the dark to the camp, which was hours away.”
That incident is just one of many that made him feel loved during his early family life. “There was never a moment in my life that I wondered whether I was loved or cared for,” Elder Bangerter said.
Elder Bangerter was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Max E. and Thelma R. Bangerter on July 29, 1961. He grew up in Granger, Utah.
Within weeks of returning from serving in the Canada Vancouver Mission, Elder Bangerter met Susann Alexis Hughes. A “deep sense of a humble desire to serve that I saw within her on our first date” prompted him to propose to her on their second date. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on March 17, 1983. They are the parents of six sons.
After his mission, Elder Bangerter earned a bachelor of arts degree from Arizona State University in religious studies and a juris doctor degree from Western State University College of Law. For the past 25 years, Elder Bangerter has represented churches and faith-based organizations in law practices in Southern California and southern Utah. He was a partner at Cooksey, Toolen, Gage, Duffy, and Woog from 1993 to 2003 and became a managing partner of Bangerter, Frazier, and Graff in 2004.
Elder Bangerter has served as an Area Seventy, stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, bishop, elders quorum president, and ward Young Men president.
Elder Matthew L. Carpenter
Elder Matthew L. Carpenter remembers the first time he recognized feeling the Holy Ghost. He was a young boy, about seven years old, sitting in junior Primary. A light was coming into the room, and he had a feeling of warmth he had not recognized before.
“I felt stirrings in my heart — and not because I was warm,” he said. “I knew God is real; I felt it.”
When he was 11 years old, he attended a session of general conference in the Tabernacle with his father. It was the first time he was in the same room as a prophet, President Joseph Fielding Smith.
“When I saw him,” he said, “the Spirit bore witness to me that he was the prophet.”
These simple spiritual confirmations at a young age helped him look to the Spirit as a guiding principle throughout his life.
“My testimony has not been one singular angelic experience,” said the General Authority Seventy who was sustained March 31, “but it has developed and evolved over time.”
Matthew Leslie Carpenter was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 21, 1959, to Leone Erekson and Robert Allred Carpenter. He is the youngest of the couple’s eight children, and he grew up in a household with five older sisters.
In his last month of high school, he met Michelle “Shelly” Brown. They started to date but put their courtship on hold while he served in the Swiss Geneva Mission from 1979 to 1981. After his return, the couple married in the Salt Lake Temple on July 9, 1982. They are the parents of five children.
Elder Carpenter earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Brigham Young University and a master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School. Most recently he was the managing director of the Foundation Specialty Financing Fund.
Elder Carpenter has served as a bishop, counselor in a bishopric, stake young men president, high councilor, stake president and Area Seventy.
Elder Jack N. Gerard
As a boy, Elder Jack N. Gerard woke every day around 5:00 a.m. to help care for the family’s dairy cows. Growing up in a small farming community near Mud Lake, Idaho, taught him not only to work hard and take responsibility but also to recognize the worth of all individuals as children of God.
“Everyone had a role to play and everyone was here for a purpose, regardless of status or stature in life,” said Elder Gerard, who was sustained March 31, 2018, as a General Authority Seventy. That lesson has been a gift throughout his life.
His career, which has included prominent leadership roles for several entities — such as the National Mining Association, the America Chemistry Council, and, recently, the American Petroleum Institute — has provided him with opportunities to associate with people from all walks of life.
Elder Gerard was born in 1957 to James and Cecil Gasser Gerard. After serving in the Sydney Australia Mission, Elder Gerard attended the University of Idaho, where he received an internship and then a full-time position on the staff of an Idaho congressman.
While working in Washington, D.C., he met Claudette Neff, who was working as a staff assistant to a Utah senator. “She radiated the light of the gospel,” Elder Gerard said of their meeting. The two were married April 4, 1984, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have eight children and four grandchildren.
Elder Gerard received both a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a juris doctor degree from George Washington University.
Elder Gerard has served as a bishop, stake president, Area Seventy, Gospel Doctrine teacher and Sunday School president.
Elder Gerard said he and his wife share a desire to do the Lord’s will. “As weak mortals, we are committed to whatever the Lord would have us do, and we are humbled and honored … to consecrate our time and efforts to the work of the Lord.”
Elder Mathias Held
Elder Mathias Held and his wife, Irene, could aptly be called personifications of a global Church.
Both are Colombians of Germany ancestry. Jobs and schooling have taken them from their South American homeland to Canada, Germany, Guatemala, Brazil, and, finally, back to Colombia. In each country, they’ve adjusted to new languages and cultures.
“But the Church was exactly the same wherever we went,” said Elder Held, who was sustained as a General Authority Seventy on March 31, 2018.
That spiritual “sameness” anchored the couple while raising three children and growing in the gospel.
The Helds were childhood classmates at a German-language school in their hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. They were married in 1985, after Mathias earned a mechanical engineering degree in Bogotá and a master’s degree in business administration in Canada.
Work opportunities later took the young couple to Hanover, Germany, where Sister Held received a powerful impression that their lives were about to change.
“I told Mathias I had a feeling that we would get a message from heaven,” she said. That heavenly message arrived on a rainy afternoon in 1987 with a knock at the front door. Standing outside were Mormon missionaries speaking German with American accents.
For the next 10 months, the Helds studied with the missionaries and made friends in the local LDS congregation. After much prayer, they received spiritual confirmation of the gospel’s truthfulness and were baptized in 1988.
Elder Held worked for more than 25 years for auto manufacturer Daimler-Benz, with his management duties taking him around the world. The Helds have relied upon the Lord at each stop.
“It does not matter what trials you are going through,” he said. “If you are communicating with heaven, you will be all right.”
Born on June 5, 1960, to Michael and Elisabeth Held, Elder Held has served as a counselor in a stake presidency, a counselor in a bishopric, and an Area Seventy in the South America Northwest Area.
Elder David P. Homer
One of Elder David P. Homer’s earliest recollections pertaining to the gospel is being assigned at age 14 as a home teaching partner to a member of his ward who “took an unusual approach to home teaching,” said Elder Homer. “It wasn’t about getting in the home and visiting people, it was about ministering to their needs.”
As a companionship, they would pray for and talk about their assigned families, not as an adult to a youth but as peers in priesthood service. “I learned that the Spirit comes with and is associated with service,” said Elder Homer.
That lesson has stayed with him throughout his life and subsequent service in the Church, whether serving as an Area Seventy, nursery leader, or bulletin board specialist — a calling he fulfilled while he and his wife lived in Melbourne, Australia.
David Paul Homer was born April 25, 1961, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Frederick and Phyllis LeNila Homer. After his mission in Hong Kong from 1980 to 1982, he met Nancy Dransfield, a graduate of Brigham Young University, at an institute fireside in Salt Lake City, where she was working. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on July 31, 1984. They have reared five daughters and a son.
Elder Homer received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
During his 30-year career as an executive with General Mills, he and his wife lived in Miama, Florida, USA; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Burlington, Ontario, Canada; and Saint-Sulpice, Vaud, Switzerland.
Elder Homer has served as a stake president, bishop, elders quorum president, and ward executive secretary. As an Area Seventy, he began his service in Canada and continued it in Europe, where he served the past four years before being sustained as a General Authority Seventy on March 31.
Kyle S. McKay
Besides his family and the Church, Elder Kyle S. McKay’s greatest passion is being on his horse in the mountains.
“It’s not my religion,” he said, “but there’s no question it has strengthened my faith. I alternate between the Lord’s mountains and the mountain of the Lord’s house. He meets me in both places.”
Elder McKay likens the mountains above Huntsville, Utah, to the waters and forest of Mormon and their importance for the people of Alma — they are where, in his youth, he came to a knowledge of his Redeemer.
Elder McKay was born February 14, 1960, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, to Barrie Gunn McKay and Elaine Stirland McKay, whom he credits for shaping him into the person he is.
He took a break from his studies at Brigham Young University in 1979 to serve a full-time mission in Kobe, Japan. Shortly after returning from his mission to complete his degree in English, Elder McKay met Jennifer Stone, who had recently returned from the England Bristol Mission. She was also studying English. The two were married in the Oakland California Temple on June 12, 1984.
With family at the center of his life, Elder McKay says, he and Sister McKay derive their greatest joy from their posterity. While the McKays reside in Kaysville, Utah, they regularly spend time with their nine children in Huntsville, where his ancestors settled in the early 1860s.
Elder McKay graduated with a juris doctor degree in 1987 from the J. Reuben Clark School of Law at BYU and immediately accepted a job with a large regional law firm in Portland, Oregon. He later returned to Utah to pursue an opportunity with another law firm before accepting a position with the Kroger Company. He worked as a vice president for both Smith’s and Fry’s, two Kroger divisions in Utah and Arizona, from 2000 to 2017.
Elder McKay has served previously as a bishop, high councilor, stake president, and Area Seventy.
Elder Juan Pablo Villar
Elder Juan Pablo Villar’s introduction to the Church came in Santiago, Chile, when his eldest brother, Ivan, announced to the family that he had been baptized without his parents’ permission and later said he planned to serve a mission. When asked why, Ivan shared his testimony and desire to serve.
“I didn’t understand all the meaning of that,” recalled Elder Villar, then age 17. “But at that moment, he put a seed in my heart.”
That seed was given a chance to grow when his brother referred him to the missionaries. During his first lesson, Elder Villar received his own testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
“For myself, it was not necessary to kneel down and pray, because the moment they shared their testimony, I knew in my heart it was true,” he said. “When I knew that, everything else had to be true.”
Ivan, serving in a neighboring mission, received permission to baptize Elder Villar in 1988. Later, his mother and his other brother, Claudio, also joined the Church.
A year after his baptism, Elder Villar began serving in the Chile Viña del Mar Mission, beginning a life of service that has since included serving as a stake president, bishop, counselor in a bishopric, counselor in the Chile Santiago East Mission, and Area Seventy in the South America South Area. He was sustained March 31, 2018, as a General Authority Seventy.
Elder Villar was born September 11,1969, in Valparaiso, Chile, to Sergio Villar Vera and Genoveva Saaverdra. He married Carola Cristina Barrios on March 31, 1994, in the Santiago Chile Temple. They are the parents of three children.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in social communications and public relations and a master’s degree in marketing, he worked in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry. In 2007, he added a master’s degree in business administration degree from Brigham Young University. Then he returned to Chile to work for Orica, a mining services company, most recently as a senior manager.
Elder Takashi Wada
The question from an American missionary asking for directions to the local postal office caught Takashi Wada off guard.
The 15-year-old had been warned by his father to avoid Mormons, who had been visiting with people on the streets of Nagano, Japan, just three minutes from their home. But Takashi was impressed with the American elder’s Japanese.
A few days later, another LDS missionary stopped Takashi. This missionary had not been in Japan long. In broken Japanese, he tried to share the story of Joseph Smith.
Takashi did not understand everything, “but I felt that I should listen.”
The missionaries taught him the discussions and the steps to prayer. He attended church meetings and was touched by the testimonies of local members. Feeling constrained by the expectations of his Buddhist family, Takashi kept telling the missionaries, “I can’t join the Church, but I would like to learn more.”
Two years later, before Takashi left to study in the United States at age 17, his parents consented, and he was baptized.
After being sustained as a new General Authority Seventy on March 31, 2018, Elder Takashi recalled his baptism and the impact of meeting a missionary on a cold November day.
Elder Wada, who was born February 5, 1965, to Kenzo and Kazuko Wada, received a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics in 1990 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1996 from Brigham Young University.
He served a mission in the Utah Salt Lake City North Mission and married Naomi Ueno on June 18, 1994, in the Tokyo Japan Temple. The couple has two sons.
Elder Wada’s professional career included several positions for multinational corporations in the United States and Japan, as well as the position of director for temporal affairs for the Church in the North America West, North America Northwest, and Asia North Areas. Elder Wada is a former bishop, high councilor, and seminary teacher. He served as president of the Japan Tokyo South Mission from 2013 to 2016.