As a young missionary in Hamburg, Germany, Elder Carl B. Cook desired to receive a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon so that he would be able to strongly testify to the people that it was true. After finishing it, he accepted Moroni’s invitation (see Moroni 10:4) and began to fast and pray.
He didn’t immediately feel like he’d received the answer he wanted, so he continued to fast and continued to pray. Eventually, the discouraged elder offered a simple prayer before leaving the apartment with his companion. “Heavenly Father, help me, bless me. I’m just going to go to work.” As he and his companion walked onto the cobblestone streets, the Spirit came and the Lord answered his prayer.
“I knew of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and offered a prayer of thanks for the beautiful, peaceful assurance that it was the word of God and a testimony of Jesus Christ.”
The experience taught the young elder several lessons. First: “Sometimes when you petition the Lord for an answer, you have expectations in how or when He should answer. … The Lord taught me that He’s the one that answers prayers according to His purposes.”
The experience also reminded the young elder to “pray and then get up and go to work and accept His will.”
It was a lesson he first learned from his mother while growing up in rural Plain City, Utah. When he was six and his youngest sister just three months old, his mother was left to raise five young children.
Watching his mother go to work, go to night school and juggle the demands of raising a family while faithfully fulfilling her church calling had a definite impact on Elder Cook. Besides teaching him how to mow the lawn, saddle the horses and make repairs around the house, she taught him to “trust the Lord, work hard and serve others.”
Now when he is faced with a challenge or daunting task, he thinks about the example of his mother and says, “OK, Mom, I’ll try it. I can do it.”
Today, after being sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy in the April 2011 general conference, he approaches his new calling with humility but is armed with his mother’s example to “trust the Lord, work hard and serve others.”
Despite having limited contact with his father, Elder Cook was blessed in his youth with the love and support of neighbors and extended family. Besides uncles and grandparents, Elder Cook’s oldest sister married a worthy priesthood holder who served as a mentor to the then-16-year-old. Often in the years preceding his mission, his sister Cathy and her husband, Parley, would invite the family over for Sunday dinner. “I was blessed with good role models that stepped in and provided examples and patterns for me to follow.”
At the conclusion of his mission, Elder Cook attended Weber State College where he obtained a degree in business marketing. While there, he applied principles he learned on his mission to help him find a date.
“I called a past mission companion and asked him for a referral. I contacted her within 24 hours, set-up a time to meet and we had a wonderful time,” he said.
The referral was Lynette Hansen, also a student at Weber State College. The couple dated for one transfer and were married the next on Dec. 14, 1979, in the Ogden Utah Temple. Together they have raised five children and now have eleven grandchildren with one on the way.
Elder Cook remarked that most of the influences in his life have been righteous women — first his mother, then his wife. “They’ve been pillars of strength for me.”
As a family, they share a love of the outdoors — including horseback riding in the mountains — and for animals. Elder and Sister Cook currently share their country home with horses, cows, sheep, dogs and a cat about to have kittens.
The directive learned from his mother and reiterated on his mission to “trust the Lord, work hard and serve others” has served Elder Cook and his wife well throughout their marriage. One opportunity to enact that directive came when Elder Cook was applying for a position with the company he ended up having a career with.
“It seemed so perfect,” said Sister Cook. “It looked like the Lord’s hand had been in the process from the beginning but in the end they hired someone else. We thought, ‘What happened? Did we do something wrong?'”
Close to a year later the company hired him for a different position that ended up being an even better situation. “The Lord’s hand was revealed but not necessarily how or when we thought it was going to come,” she said.
Elder Cook added that sometimes it’s only after the trial of your faith that you accept the Lord’s will. In many of the old Western movies that he loves, the defeated party surrenders by raising a white flag. “Sometimes we need to raise a white flag to the Lord and surrender and give up our own will and expectations and just live the gospel with faith,” Elder Cook said.
It is a principle he has tried to teach as bishop, then as stake president and eventually as president of the New Zealand Auckland Mission from 2005-08 and as an Area Seventy.
He told his missionaries, “Stand by your post until the Lord sends you help.”
Elder Cook plans to share simple counsel with the members he comes in contact with in this new calling: Have faith. Trust the Lord, that He will bless you.
“I’ve witnessed the blessings that the Lord pours out onto His children when they love Him, work hard and serve others. … Sooner or later, prayers are always answered for our good.”
Family: Born in Ogden, Utah, to Bert E. Cook and Ramona Cook Barker; married Lynette Hansen on Dec. 14, 1979, in the Ogden Utah Temple. Five children: Camille (Bryan) Bush, Natalie (Nathan) Fredrick, Cameron (Sarah) Cook, Clayton (Jenna) Cook, Marie Cook; 11 grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor of arts degree in business marketing from Weber State College and master’s degree in business administration from Utah State University.
Career: Worked in real estate development for the Boyer Company for 26 years.
Church service: Full-time missionary service in the Hamburg Germany Mission, 1976-78; bishop; stake president; president of the New Zealand Auckland Mission, 2005-2008; Area Seventy.