During the Saturday afternoon session of April 2020 general conference, Latter-day Saints sustained nine new General Authority Seventies as well as the three members of a new Young Men general presidency and 58 new Area Seventies. President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency announced the calls.
Following is a brief look at each of the new General Authority Seventies, with a more in-depth profile on each to appear in coming weeks.
General Authority Seventies
Elder Jorge T. Becerra
Although Elder Jorge T. Becerra was shy and quiet growing up, his mission president gave him opportunities to lead, and he returned home from the mission field with a desire to be engaged in the work of the Lord for the rest of his life.
More leadership opportunities came sooner than expected. At age 27, he was called into his first bishopric. At age 32, he was called as a bishop. He felt inadequate as people approached him with their problems. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he told his father.
His father’s reply taught him a powerful lesson, reminded him of his mission president’s faith in him and helped prepare him for future leadership callings, including stake president at age 37.
“He said, ‘Son, how old is the Holy Ghost?’” Elder Becerra said. “That was a great teaching moment for me because I knew that I could do anything the Lord asked me.”
The lesson has stayed with Elder Becerra through many years of service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jorge Eduardo Torres Becerra was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Dec. 18, 1962, to Juan C. Becerra and Celia T. Becerra. He was raised in Salt Lake City.
After serving a full-time mission in Arcadia, California, Elder Becerra married Debbie Ilene Schneberger in the Salt Lake Temple on Aug. 10, 1984. They are the parents of five children.
Elder Becerra received a degree in general studies from the University of Utah and an associate of arts degree in accounting from Salt Lake Community College; he also studied business at the University of Phoenix. He became a partner of Allegis Advisor Group, a financial advisory company. Most recently he has worked as an investment adviser for Intermountain Financial Partners. Elder Becerra has served as a full-time missionary in Arcadia, California, Young Men president, counselor in a mission presidency, seminary teacher, bishop, stake president and president of the California Arcadia mission. At the time of his call, he was serving as an Area Seventy and a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy in the Utah Area.
Elder Matthew S. Holland
Elder Matthew S. Holland is no stranger to general authorities or general conferences.
Many Latter-day Saints know the new General Authority Seventy as the son of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Others remember him as a 17-year-old speaking during April 1983 general conference’s priesthood session.
“It has been a wonderful blessing, all of my life, to watch how my mom and dad have lived, what they’ve been committed to and what they’ve been asked to do,” said Elder Matthew Holland, who currently presides over the North Carolina Raleigh Mission.
“Yet, due to these firsthand observations, we know too much about this calling to think we’re adequately equipped for it. Fortunately, we’ve also learned the Lord qualifies those whom He calls, and we’re taking a lot of faith and comfort in that.”
He remembers speaking in conference as daunting. Preparing a message that eventually came “line upon line, precept upon precept” became “an early, reassuring blessing to know that when you accept assignments from the Lord, He will help you and give you the thoughts and impressions of things that need to be shared.”
Matthew Scott Holland was born June 7, 1966, in Provo, Utah, the son of Jeffrey R. and Patricia Holland. He married Paige Bateman on May 20, 1996, in the St. George Utah Temple; they are the parents of four children.
Elder Holland’s educational pursuits include three degrees in political science — bachelor of arts from Brigham Young University in 1991 and master of arts and doctor of philosophy, both from Duke University, in 1997 and 2001, respectively.
An associate professor of political science at BYU (2001-2009), he was named president of Utah Valley University in 2009, serving until his 2018 call as mission president.
His previous Church service includes serving as a full-time missionary in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission, ward Sunday School teacher, high councilor, bishopric counselor, ward mission leader, bishop and ward Young Men adviser.
Elder William K. Jackson
After 23 years as a regional medical officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, Elder William K. Jackson was asked to come up with the top 20 experiences he’d had while living and working in the nethermost regions of the world.
As he mulled over that for weeks before his retirement ceremony, “all 20 of my top 20 were Church- or family-related,” he said. Not exactly what his government employers were after.
William King Jackson was born on March 29, 1956, in Washington, D.C., to E. William and Lois Andrey Jackson. He grew up in Ojai, California, but also did schooling in Honduras, Algeria and Afghanistan due to his parents’ volunteer work.
After returning from serving a mission in Bolivia, Elder Jackson met Ann Kesler in the summer of 1977. “It was love at first sight for me,” Elder Jackson said. “I spent the rest of that summer trying to convince her that I was the one.”
They married on Dec. 29, 1977, in the Los Angeles California Temple. They are the parents of eight children, three of whom are adopted — one each from India, Nepal and Cambodia.
Elder Jackson attended Brigham Young University, earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of California, San Francisco.
After his medical residency, “we took a job overseas, and we didn’t come back for 26 years,” he said.
They spent most of their time among first-generation Church members and witnessed “the unbelievable change in the lives of these people,” Elder Jackson said.
“One of the biggest parts of my testimony of the gospel has been watching what the gospel does to these people that we love. It changes them.”
Elder Jackson has served as a Young Men president, bishop, gospel doctrine teacher, Area Seventy, India New Delhi Mission president (2009-2012) and missionary in the Bolivia La Paz Mission (1975-1977).
Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi
When Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi was a teenager, his 7-year-old sister Kristen contracted a bacteria that attacked her brain. Doctors said she wasn’t going to survive.
Young Jeremy kneeled beside his bed in their Salt Lake City home and pleaded with the Lord to know why she had to die so soon. His sister was given a priesthood blessing and, against all odds, lived.
This was a catalyst for 17-year-old Jeremy to “get himself right with God,” leading him to seriously read the Book of Mormon for the first time. He went on to serve as a full-time missionary in the Ohio Cleveland Mission.
He would return to his knees in desperate prayer years later as his wife, Amy, was in preterm labor with their third child. “At that moment, I felt an overwhelming peace — a peace that can only be described as the loving arms of a Heavenly Father, enveloping me with the warmth of the Holy Ghost,” he said.
That peace carried them through the short time the baby lived and the months of grief that followed with another miscarriage. “We’re all ‘tried’ in our own way,” he said, “but we still ‘count in all joy’ that the Savior has provided a way for us to have peace and happiness” (James 1:2).
Elder Jaggi received a bachelor of science degree in behavioral science and health from the University of Utah and an executive master of business administration degree from Pepperdine University. He was working for Alkermes Inc. and managing commercial real estate at HCA Investments LLC at the time of his call.
He has served as an Area Seventy, president of the Utah Ogden Mission, stake missionary preparation teacher, assistant stake executive secretary, bishop, elders quorum president, counselor in a ward Young Men presidency and ward mission leader.
Jeremy Robert Jaggi was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 23, 1973, to Robert Stanley Jaggi and Judy Anne Roos. He married Amy Anne Stewart in the Salt Lake Temple on June 12, 1995. They are the parents of five children.
Elder Kelly R. Johnson
Elder Kelly R. Johnson remembers being a called as a new bishop at the age of 31 and on the very same day being diagnosed with Bell’s palsy — a condition in which the muscles on one side of the face become paralyzed or weakened. It was a challenging time in life not only because of the discomfort and embarrassment caused by the condition, but also because of the many new responsibilities he had as a bishop. But that difficult time became a blessing, he said.
“Going through that and not knowing what the long-term situation would be, I developed a compassion for individuals that has been with me through the rest of my life,” he said. “I really learned that people go through tough and sad things that they can’t control that impact their abilities and their feelings and their confidence.”
At times, it’s not convenient to serve in the Lord’s Church. But just as the Savior called His disciples and straightway they dropped their nets and followed Him, “whatever we’re asked to do, we’re willing to do it,” said Elder Johnson after being sustained as a General Authority Seventy on April 4, 2020.
That’s the attitude Elder Johnson has had throughout his life. No matter where the Lord calls him or his family, they go with willing hearts and minds — looking to find good no matter their circumstances.
Kelly Ray Johnson was born in Pleasant View, Utah, on Jan. 16, 1963, to Harold Raymond Johnson Jr. and Helen Cragaun Johnson. He grew up in Ogden, Utah, and married Terri Lynn Bartrum in the Salt Lake City Temple on March 27, 1986. They have five children.
Elder Johnson graduated from Weber State University in 1987 with a bachelor of science degree in accounting and received his MBA from Brigham Young University in 1989. He previously worked as a forensic accountant for KPMG and most recently worked as a forensic accountant and partner for Norman, Townsend and Johnson, LLC.
Elder Johnson previously served as an Area Seventy in the Utah Area and as a stake missionary preparation teacher, mission president in the Thailand Bangkok Mission, stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, bishop and elders quorum president.
Elder Thierry K. Mutombo
Elder Thierry K. Mutombo had a strong testimony of the gospel when he received his mission call as a young man. Baptized with his family at the age of 10, he had witnessed the powerful way the gospel changed his family after the missionaries found and converted them.
But even as he prepared to serve a mission in Côte d’Ivoire, he wasn’t certain in his testimony of the Book of Mormon. He had never really read it before.
Through the inspiration of his calling, Thierry’s bishop challenged him to read the Book of Mormon every day before leaving on his mission. He even gave Thierry a key to the local Church meetinghouse so he could study in the peace and quiet of the library there.
For three months, Thierry went every day to the meetinghouse to read. By the time he went into the mission field, not only had he developed helpful study habits, but he had also gained a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.
“The greatest tool that we have to bring people to the light of the gospel and gather scattered Israel is the Book of Mormon,” he said.
Thierry Kasuangi Mutombo was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo on Jan. 31, 1976 to Antoine Kasuangi Mutombo and Marie Therese Matsanga Mutombo. He married Nathalie Tshayi Sinda Mutombo in a civil ceremony on Nov. 29, 2002; the couple was later sealed in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple on Nov. 19, 2004. They have six children.
Elder Mutombo graduated with a degree in business management from the University of Cepromad in 2010, then with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from the same university in 2012. He has worked for the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a supervisor in the Materials Management Department, manager of the Human Resources Department and, most recently, as the manager of the Family History Department.
Elder Mutombo was sustained as a General Authority Seventy on April 4, 2020. He currently serves as president of the Maryland Baltimore Mission and previously has served as a stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, ward mission leader, Sunday School teacher and executive stake secretary.
Elder Adeyinka A. Ojediran
Calling the April 2020 general conference “an unforgettable weekend” for Elder Adeyinka A. Ojediran would be a historic understatement.
Yes, the Church convert was called to be a General Authority Seventy — a first for a Nigerian and West African Latter-day Saint. But his overwhelming gratitude and joy were perhaps enhanced tenfold when President Russell M. Nelson announced in the closing moments of general conference that Nigeria’s third temple would be built in Benin City.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said, smiling broadly. “To hear our prophet say another temple would be built in Nigeria was really, really wonderful. For me, it was a confirmation that the work of the Lord is moving quickly.
“We all have a lot to do to prepare His children for His Second Coming.”
Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, on April 5, 1967, to Amos Adeniyi and Caroline Anike Ojediran, young Adeyinka Ojediran studied botany at the University of Ilorin in 1991 before later claiming a master’s of business administration degree from Ladoke Akintola University and pursuing a career in finance and business administration as a professional chartered accountant.
He was serving as a business finance manager for Shell Nigeria prior to his call as a General Authority Seventy.
Elder Ojediran said he is grateful for every Church calling he has received since joining the Church in 1990 when he was 23, with each ecclesiastical assignment offering personal growth and sacred opportunities to help others develop in their respective callings and duties.
Three years after his baptism, he met Olufunmilayo Omolola at a social function. The two eventually began dating — but employment in different cities meant “we just kept in touch by phone.”
Matrimony ultimately closed the gap. The couple married in Nigeria in 1998 and was sealed in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple on Nov. 14, 2002. The Ojedirans are parents of a daughter.
Elder Ojediran has served as a branch president, bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, counselor in a mission presidency and an Area Seventy in the Africa West Area.
Elder Ciro Schmeil
Elder Ciro Schmeil has always strived to be obedient to the Lord, even if he did not understand the reasoning behind a specific commandment. But he soon learned that “as we are obedient, as we keep the commandments, the Lord will always bless us.”
In fulfilling his callings, he has continued to see blessings from obedience. While serving as a bishop and a stake president, he had many treasured opportunities to see people changing their lives because of their testimony of the Savior and of the Book of Mormon.”
Elder Schmeil was born in April 1971 in Ponta Grossa, Paraná, Brazil, to Bruno and Erica Schmeil, both converts to the Church. He grew up in Curitiba, Brazil, and about the time his parents were called to preside over the Campinas Brazil Mission, he left to serve in the Utah Ogden Mission.
Elder Schmeil earned a B.A. in architectural studies from the University of Utah and an executive MBA from Ohio University. He has worked for Walmart Brasil as head of real estate development , as chief operating officer of Scopel, as general manager of Cia City and as head of real estate for JBSSA.
While attending the University of Utah, Elder Schmeil met Alessandra Machado Louza, a student at BYU, at a devotional. “When we met for the first time at the devotional, she totally ignored me,” he said. But for him, it was love at first sight.
They were married in the São Paulo Brazil Temple in July 1994 and finished their studies in the United States. They returned to Brazil for 20 years before moving to Colorado and then to Florida. Elder and Sister Schmeil now live in Pinecrest, Florida, and are the parents of two children.
Elder Schmeil has served as an Area Seventy, stake president, stake presidency counselor, bishop, YSA branch president and missionary in the Utah Ogden Mission.
Elder Moisés Villanueva
Though he was only 10 years old at the time, Elder Moisés Villanueva still remembers how he felt as the missionaries taught him and his family in Oaxaca, Mexico.
“I remember the Spirit that they left, the peace that I felt in my heart,” said the newly called General Authority Seventy.
Moisés was baptized with four of his siblings, and his mother — a single parent raising Moisés and his seven siblings in difficult circumstances — returned to Church activity.
As 18-year-old Moisés was preparing for his mission, his family continued to face temporal challenges. He doubted his decision to leave and told his mother he wanted to stay and help her.
Her response: “If you really want to help me, go and serve the Lord.”
Kneeling down by his cot at the close of his first day in the Mexico Hermosillo Mission, he felt the Lord was pleased with his decision. He credits his mission for the growth of his testimony of the restored gospel.
“This Church is led by our Savior Jesus Christ,” Elder Villanueva said. “He knows each one of us by name. He knows our needs, our challenges, and our concerns. He also knows our strengths and even the desires of our hearts.”
Moisés Villanueva Lopez was born on Dec. 13, 1966, in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, to Rubén Villanueva Platas and Delfina Lopez Dominguez. He married Leticia Ávalos Lozano in the Mexico City Mexico Temple on June 30, 1995. They have three children.
Elder Villanueva earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southeast Regional University in 1997 and a master’s degree in innovation for business improvement from Tecnologico de Monterrey in 2011. He had been working as the chief executive officer of Sertexa, a transportation company, at the time of his call.
He has served as an Area Seventy, public affairs director, president of the California Arcadia Mission, counselor in a stake presidency, bishop and missionary in the Mexico Hermosillo Mission.