Elder Hartman Rector Jr., convert to the Church, emeritus General Authority Seventy and former member of the Presidency of the Seventy, passed away on Nov. 6, 2018, in Orem, Utah. He was 94.
Sustained to the First Council of the Seventy on April 6, 1968, at age 43, he served in that position until 1975. From Oct. 3, 1975, to Oct. 1, 1976, he served in the Presidency of the Seventy, at which point he was called to be a General Authority Seventy. He served in that calling until he was given emeritus status on Oct. 1, 1994.
At the time of his call, he was the only General Authority who had been baptized as an adult.
During his time as a General Authority, Elder Rector completed various assignments including: interim president of the Florida Italy Rome Mission in 1969, the first mission president to preside over the Alabama Florida Mission from 1971-1972, mission president of the California San Diego Mission from 1977-1979; counselor in the Young Men general presidency from 1986-1988; first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency from 1991-1992; and in the area presidencies of the North America Southwest Area, South America North Area, and North America Central Area. From October 1991 to August 1994, Elder Rector served as Assistant Executive Director of the Family History Department. He was also the managing director of the Genealogical Department from 1979-1988. He spoke in general conference seven times.
He married Constance Daniel on Oct. 12, 1947, and together they have nine children. He studied at Murray State Teachers College and at the University of Southern California, and enlisted in the Naval Reserve Aviation Cadet program in 1942 and became a naval aviator and was commissioned an ensign in 1945. Although he was released from active duty in 1947, just three years later, in 1950, Elder Rector returned to being a Navy pilot with the outbreak of the Korean War and he remained on active duty until 1958.
At the time of his return to the Navy, he and his wife and two young children moved to San Diego, California. While he was away on a 14-week training course in Hawaii, missionaries knocked on the door of his home and his wife began learning about the Church. After he returned from Hawaii she gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and he began to read.
"I knew the book was true before I had finished 2 Nephi — Nephi had converted one more — and began to attend church in the old Valencia Park Ward in San Diego," he said in his last general conference address in October 1994. "Because of my preparation for deployment, I was not able to study and attend church as I wanted to and longed for the time when I could."
While on an aircraft carrier headed to Japan, he read the standard works of the Church, and said he "was like a starving man who had found food and drink for the first time. I loved it."
While traveling he was able to study with other Church members and upon his arrival in Japan, he received permission to be baptized — despite not meeting the requirement of the time to investigate the Church for one-year's time — after much persisting. He was baptized a member of the Church on Feb. 26, 1952. His wife was baptized that same year on March 1, and upon his return the couple was sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple in May 1953.
Nearly two decades after his baptism, he was called by President David O. McKay to be a member of the First Council of the Seventy. At the time, he was the first convert to be called as a General Authority since John Morgan, who had been called 86 years previously.
Hartman Rector Jr. was born on Aug. 20, 1924, in Moberly, Missouri, to Hartman Rector and Vivian Fay Garvin. Preceding him in death is his wife, Connie, who passed away in February 2015.
"I have found the gospel to be very simple but also very profound," he said in his final conference address. "Once we have sufficient faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we believe He has paid for our sins, then we will repent. And no one truly repents until they believe in Christ."
Funeral arrangements are pending.