Elder Quentin L. Cook first realized the implications of knowing the truthfulness of the Church as a high school sophomore in Logan, Utah.
His older brother, Joseph, on the verge of going to medical school, was given the opportunity to serve a mission.In a Church News interview after being sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy April 6, Elder Cook recounted sitting with his brother in the basement of their home and coming to the following conclusion:
“The issue we faced at that time was that if the Church was just a good institution, then my brother might do as much good by going to medical school and helping people.” But, he continued, “if Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind and Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon is true, then we reasoned it would be more important to go on a mission. In our separate prayers that evening the Spirit confirmed the truthfulness of these things to us.”
A few months later, his brother entered the mission field.
Elder Cook, then 15, said this experience has been a significant influence in his life since then. “I realized that if you believe [in the Church] then there are actions that you must take as a result of your beliefs.”
During the next few years, that philosophy affected his choices of friends and his decisions to go on a mission, be active in the Church while attending law school and accept Church callings while dealing with the pressures of being a new lawyer.
Today Elder Cook, 55, who works in San Francisco, Calif., still follows that philosophy as he accepts a calling to the Seventy and leaves his post as vice chairman of Sutter/California Healthcare System – a California health care company with 25 hospitals and more than 26,000 employees.
Elder Cook, sitting in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City next to his wife, Mary, said the Church has given him “an understanding of the purpose of life.”
He then expressed appreciation to his mother for her beautiful testimony and example.
Sister Cook said the couple and their family have learned and accepted one gospel principle at a time. “We have a testimony of every gospel principle we have lived,” she explained.
Elder Cook said he just came to understand at a young age that “decisions have consequences” and he always wanted to make sure his decisions brought about positive consequences.
This lesson, Elder Cook added, is one of the things he learned from his father, who taught his children to set goals and work toward them. He helped his children understand how their actions now could help them later.
Elder Cook’s father took him to visit some law firms after he expressed an interest in pursuing a career as an attorney. His father also encouraged him to be active in his school activities.
At Logan High School, Elder Cook was quarterback of the football team, senior class president, all-region in both football and basketball and involved in debate. Before serving a mission to Great Britain, he continued to be involved as freshman class president and student body business manager at Utah State University in Logan.
Elder Cook called his mission – where Elder Marion D. Hanks served as mission president – a seminal event in his life. There Elder Hanks taught the young Elder Cook by example, sharing with him his knowledge of the Book of Mormon.
Sister Cook described her husband as someone who is “very sensitive to people’s needs, very kind, very honest, very loving and very slow to anger.” She said because he can be soft spoken, many people do not realize the “depth of his convictions” or that he has a “core of steel.”
“People come to him for counsel because he has good judgment, analyzes very well, looks at the big picture and sees the important ramifications,” Sister Cook explained. “He sees the forest as well as the trees. He loves concepts and ideas.”
She also said that her husband is an avid reader who, in the little spare time he has, likes to study books. “When we travel he can spend hours in old bookstores, looking at maps and histories,” she related.
She added that despite his rigid schedule with his work and Church callings – as an area authority in the North America West Area, regional representative, stake president and counselor of the San Francisco California Stake, and bishop – he always made time for family.
Together Elder Cook’s family has taken ski trips to Lake Tahoe, Calif., attended most high school athletic sporting events or activities in which a family member was involved, enjoyed memorable family home evenings and cheered at Stanford football games.
Elder Cook said they also like to get together and listen to his wife sing. “Her love has always been music. She often leads choirs with young people and has performed most of her life. She has an excellent voice,” he said. “I have none of those talents. I am a good audience.”
The Cook children have all had a special time with their father, as he took them, individually, on a family history trip to the eastern United States. There Elder Cook showed each child important family, Church and American historical sites. They took pictures and made scrap books.
“We have several lines that came through New England between 1630 and 1640. We visited some of their towns, went to the library, learned about them and visited some of their graves,” Elder Cook remembered. “It was wonderful to be with my children, one on one, just before their teenage years and convey to them the things that are dearest to me – Church, family and country – in a long trip.”
Being with his family, Elder Cook continued, has brought him his greatest happiness. He stressed that the love and friendship he and Sister Cook share is the joy of his life.
It was just prior to Elder Cook’s graduation from Utah State University in political science, that he and Mary – who he had been dating on and off since high school – were married. They moved to California so he could attend Stanford Law School.
While living in California the Cooks “fell in love” with the Bay Area.
After graduating from Stanford they almost moved back to Utah, where Elder Cook had a job offer. However, Elder Cook decided to go to work for Carr, McClellan, Ingersoll, Thompson and Horn Attorneys at Law. Their family has been in California ever since.
“We felt impressed that the Bay Area was the place we were supposed to be to provide service,” he explained. “One of the highlights of my Church service in the Bay Area is to see people of diverse cultural background unified by the gospel.”
After working as a business lawyer, specializing in mergers and acquisitions for more than 25 years, Elder Cook became president and chief executive officer of California Healthcare System in 1993. In January of this year Sutter Health merged with California Healthcare System.
In a memo announcing his resignation so he could serve in the Church fulltime, company officials said they will greatly miss Quentin Cook, but that they know he will offer “strong leadership in his new role.”
Elder Cook explained that while most of the people he works with are not LDS, they have shown tremendous respect for his decision to dedicate his life to the Church. “I was just enormously pleased by the response and support I received from my colleagues,” he said.
He called his co-workers “exceptionally fine people who have dedicated their lives to health care.”
Speaking of business success in general, he said, “I have found that honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are more important than other qualities that lead to success.”
He also said he will miss his work – but has a great feeling of appreciation for the new opportunity he and his wife have been given.
Sister Cook, who most recently served in the Young Women, said she is excited to become a living example of the Young Women theme, “. . . to stand as a witness of God in all places. . . .”
“As I have repeated the theme, I have asked myself, `do I really believe what I am saying?’ The answer is yes,” she said.
Elder Cook said he accepts his new calling with a feeling of “inadequacy.” He adds, however, that he knows the Lord will bless him as he does the things he knows are right.
“You recognize that there are going to be sacrifices and that you are going to be living the law of consecration and that is going to be an opportunity and a blessing,” he said. “But more importantly, I have a testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and I am grateful for the opportunity to share that testimony full-time.”
Family: Born Sept. 8, 1940, in Logan, Utah, to J. Vernon and Bernice Kimball Cook. Married Mary Gaddie Nov. 30 1962, in the Logan Temple. Parents of three children: Kathryn Cook Knight, 29; Larry Cook, 25; Joe Cook, 22; two grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Utah State University, law degree from Stanford University Law School.
Employment: Vice chairman of Sutter/California Healthcare System; former president and chief executive officer of California Healthcare System (1993-1996); former business attorney with Carr, McClellan, Ingersoll, Thompson and Horn Attorneys at Law in San Franscico and Burlingame (1966-1993).
Church Service: Area authority in the North America West Area; former regional representative, stake president and counselor, bishop and full-time missionary in the British mission.