“We are just ordinary people,” Elder LeGrand “Lee” Curtis told the Church News two days after he was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy during general conference. “But we will do our best.”
Coming from a legacy of Church leadership, as the son of Elder LeGrand Curtis Sr. who served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Curtis was taught from a young age the importance of serving and living a personal testimony of Jesus Christ.
“I learned a lot about devotion to the Lord and the Church from watching my parents serve in the Church,” Elder Curtis said. “And then, being involved with them as they did it.”
Whether it was watching his mother spend many hours preparing a lesson for Church or listening from around the corner in the hall of their home to “cottage meetings” his dad had with the priests in their ward, Elder Curtis learned as he saw the gospel in action within the walls of his own home. As the third of eight children — the older siblings all being boys — Elder Curtis spent much of his childhood playing sports and looking up to the examples of his older brothers.
“Life in our family was really a lot of fun,” he said. “With all of the older kids we did a lot of sports things and with the girls later there was a lot of music in our home, but the Church was always the paramount thing.”
It was making Church and serving others the first priority that taught Elder Curtis the importance of worship and living the gospel.
“It was a huge part of life in my home with Dad being very devoted to Church service,” Elder Curtis said. “A lot of what I learned about being a bishop was from going with my dad to visit the widows and elderly people — just watching the tenderness he had in dealing with people.”
It was the constant example of his parents’ commitment to the Lord that stays with Elder Curtis today.
“If we went on vacation, we would find where to go to Church and would go,” he said. “There were a lot of things like that which really taught me devotion to the Church.”
Although he was taught the principles of the gospel as a young boy, it wasn’t until after he read the Book of Mormon for the first time for his ninth grade seminary class that Elder Curtis realized he had a personal testimony of the gospel.
“That was just a real landmark kind of event for me, reading the Book of Mormon for the first time,” he said. “It was after that I realized I had felt the Spirit and had experienced encounters of the Spirit many times throughout my life.”
Several years after attending a stake conference as a young boy, Elder Curtis remembered standing by his parents and singing the hymn, “The Spirit of God.” As he reflected on that experience, he recognized the same Spirit he had felt when reading the Book of Mormon and realized he had felt the Spirit on many occasions throughout his life.
“So, a more accurate view as to how I got my testimony was from going to Church meetings, having family home evening in my home and reading the scriptures and praying as a family together,” he said. “Experiences since then have just filled in the gaps and strengthened it. I am very grateful for that testimony.”
That testimony continued to grow so when the time came to serve a full-time mission Elder Curtis was eager to serve the Lord. For him, serving a mission was a privilege he had looked forward to all of his youth.
“My dad hadn’t gone on a mission because of World War II so I was raised with this kind of notion that if you are lucky enough that the world is not at war and you can go on a mission that would just be the greatest thing that you can experience,” he said. “It ended up being a great blessing and wonderful thing.”
After returning home from his mission, Elder Curtis went to BYU where he continued his schooling and also married Jane Cowan. They met in the fifth grade and grew up around the corner from each other. They went all through school together — including time spent attending BYU. They finished their schooling in Provo and then headed to Michigan for Elder Curtis to attend law school.
“She has always loved the Church,” Elder Curtis said of his wife.
That common love of the Church has blessed Elder and Sister Curtis as they have raised five children of their own. Whether it was the demands of school, work or Church, whatever they are asked to do, they gladly accept.
“My favorite calling is wherever I’m at the moment,” Sister Curtis said.
Both Elder and Sister Curtis said that the opportunity to serve together as he presided over the Italy Padova Mission was a great experience for their entire family. At that time, all seven of them were involved in missionary work in some form — two children were serving full-time missions in Albania and France, one son was serving as mission leader in his ward, and two of their boys were with them as they presided over the mission.
“We were serving lots of missions together and it was such a joyful thing,” Sister Curtis said. “All five of our children were supportive of our mission then, and all are supportive now.”
Although their new assignment will mean leaving their 12 grandchildren, sporting events, snowshoes and the mountains — all some of their favorite things — behind for a season, Elder and Sister Curtis are excited to devote all of their energy to serving the Lord.
“We have wonderful families who have been supportive and very influential in our own testimonies and growth,” Sister Curtis said. “I feel like I am representing them. We are just ordinary, but we are blessed with great support and legacy.”
For Elder Curtis, who was recently assigned to be the second counselor in the Africa West Area presidency, this new calling is an exciting opportunity to dedicate his service to the Lord full-time again.
“I take great delight in going wherever and doing whatever the Lord wants us to be and do,” he said. “We are just ordinary people that are really willing. We have a willing heart and a willing mind and try to do whatever we are asked.”
Family: Born in Ogden, Utah, to LeGrand R. Curtis Sr. and Patricia Glade; married Jane Cowan on Jan. 4, 1974, in Salt Lake Temple. Five children: Tom (Stephanie) Curtis, Jessica (Scott) McKay, Matt (Barbie) Curtis, Jonathan (Jamie) Curtis, Sam (Amy) Curtis; 12 grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor of arts degree in economics from Brigham Young University, 1975; and juris doctorate from the University of Michigan, 1978.
Career: Worked as an attorney at Jones, Waldo, Holbrook and McDonough, 1978-88; Holme Roberts and Owen, 1989-97; Manning Curtis Bradshaw and Bednar, 1997-2011. Adjunct professor of law at Brigham Young University Law School.
Church service: Full-time missionary service in the Italy North Mission, 1971-73; bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, president of the Italy Padova Mission, 1998-2001; Area Seventy.