President Faust: Never looks back after he puts his hand to the plow

President James E. Faust, 74, who was introduced March 13 at a news conference as the second counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley, is a Church leader who is fully committed to the admonition to not look back once his hand has been put to the plow.

He remembers vividly the day nearly 23 years ago when his career in the practice of law ended abruptly because of that commitment. President Harold B. Lee, who had called to him as an Assistant to the Twelve in October 1972, told him he could remain in his law practice long enough to wind up some probate cases he had been working on."President Lee told me I could leave my name on the door to my law office," President Faust said. "But I told him I had been called, was putting my hand to the plow, and I didn't want to ever look back. I felt being called as a General Authority was more than enough challenge for me. A few weeks after I was called, I took a razor blade and went out and removed my name from the glass door. As a young lawyer some 20 years before that, I had been so pleased to see my name painted onto the door. I felt I should be the one to take it off."

He was sustained to the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy Oct. 1, 1976, and to the Council of the Twelve Sept. 30, 1978.

He determined that the rest of his life would be spent in full-time service to the Lord and the Church.

Participating in the programs and duties of His Church have been foremost in President Faust's life. Even when the opportunity was not there to participate in Church activity, he created ways to worship the Lord and participate in Church services.

During World War II, when he was in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he was the only Latter-day Saint on a ship while being transferred to the South Pacific. Off the coast of New Zealand, his ship was ordered to pull a tanker that had burned out. The stricken vessel was larger than the ship he was on. Towing it took 83 days.

For nearly a dozen Sundays, he worshiped alone after having searched for places where he could sing from a pocket-size hymnal, read scriptures, meditate and pray in private. He had served 33 months as a missionary in Brazil before he was drafted into the military, so the Sunday activities were important to him. "Most often, I would go way up in the front of the ship, out in the open, where the waves would drown out my singing, and I would have my own service as best I could," he said.

He once commented to Church News that he hopes he will be remembered "as a workhorse in the kingdom, rather than a show horse."

A "workhorse" he has been: He has served as a bishop's counselor, bishop, high councilor, stake president's counselor, stake president and regional representative. After he became a General Authority, he presided over the International Mission.

His General Authority assignments have included managing director of the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, director of the Church Welfare Services, Zone Adviser over South America, executive director of the Church Curriculum Department, editor of Church magazines, and chairman of the Welfare and Public Affairs committees.

President Faust feels a sense of personal responsibility to carry his share of the load in building the kingdom. He has ancestors who played key roles in helping establish the Church in the West. "My Grandmother Faust was a great influence in my life," he said. "She remembered when Brigham Young was the president of the Church. She used to tell me about going to conference in the Tabernacle and listening to Brigham Young. Imagine that – my grandmother saw Brigham Young! She taught me stories about men who weren't blessed and didn't prosper because they turned their backs on the Brethren.

"My Grandfather and Grandmother Finlinson also had a big influence on me. They were good, faithful people, great souls."

When President Faust talks about the "great souls" in his family, he mentions first his wife, the former Ruth Wright. They met while students at Granite High School in Salt Lake City, and were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 21, 1943, while he was on a brief military leave before he shipped off to the South Pacific. They became parents of three sons and two daughters. They have 22 grandchildren.

"Ruth was able to go back east with me for a while while I was in the military," he said. "When I got out of the military, I had to decide where I was going. My father had been a lawyer and a judge. I suppose it was natural for me to gravitate into the law."

Before he left for his mission to Brazil in 1939, he had enrolled at the University of Utah in 1937, and was a member of the track team there in 1938. After his mission and military service, he re-entered the University of Utah in 1945, enrolling in its Law School. He graduated in 1948 with bachelor of arts and doctor of laws degrees.

He began practicing law in Salt Lake City and continued until his appointment as a General Authority in 1972.

While practicing law, he often learned gospel principles. He once related an experience in which a lawyer in another state engaged him to take care of a legal problem for him in Utah. After the matter was adjusted by the payment of a sum of money, President Faust forwarded the check to the other lawyer, with the understanding a portion of the check would be returned to settle part of the obligation in Utah. The money was not his, but President Faust felt honor bound to make good the payment. Months passed, and he heard nothing from the other lawyer. Letters, telegrams and telephone calls were not answered. The obvious solution was to file a complaint, but President Faust considered another approach.

"I recalled how, as a boy, I had been taught by my mother the words of the Savior . . . that tell us that true Christians are supposed to pray for those who despitefully use them. (Matt. 5:44.) I certainly felt that I had been despitefully used," he wrote of the incident in To Reach Even Unto You.

He prayed for the well-being of the other attorney. "The prayer seemed to have been almost instantaneously heard and brought dramatic results. In the time that it takes for an airmail letter to come . . . there arrived a communication from this man, containing the promised money. In the letter was an explanation that he had been seriously ill, had been in the hospital, and had had to close his office, but was now doing better. He asked our pardon and apologized for the inconvenience that this caused."

During his career, President Faust served as a member of the Utah Legislature from 1949-1951; as an adviser to the American Bar Journal and was president of the Utah Bar Association in 1962-63. He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights and Racial Unrest.

He is vice president of the board of directors and chairman of the executive committee of the Deseret News Publishing Company.


Pres. James E. Faust

  • Born July 31, 1920, in Delta, Utah, to George A. and Amy Finlinson Faust.
  • Served mission in Brazil, 1939-1942.
  • Entered U.S. Army Air Corps, 1942.
  • Married Ruth Wright in the Salt Lake Temple, April 21, 1943; parents of three sons, two daughters, they have 22 grandchildren.
  • Graduated with juris doctorate from University of Utah Law School, 1948.
  • Sustained as Assistant to the Twelve, Oct. 6, 1972.
  • Sustained as a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Oct. 1, 1976.
  • Ordained an apostle, Oct. 1, 1978.
  • Set apart as second counselor in the First Presidency, March 12, 1995.