Elder Richard E. Cook, emeritus General Authority Seventy, dies at age 93

Elder and Sister Cook also served as the leaders of the first mission in Mongolia

This has been updated with funeral information.

Emeritus general authority Elder Richard E. Cook died Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Salt Lake City at the age of 93.

Elder Cook served as a General Authority Seventy from 1997 to 2001 and as president of the first mission in Mongolia, the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission, from 1995 to 1996.

Although he said being called as a general authority was “an absolute, complete and utter shock,” he also shared he was grateful for the opportunity. “I love the Church with all my heart. I have seen, over the years, what a marvelous effect it has on people’s lives” (Ensign, May 1997).

Richard Ernest Cook was born on Sept. 7, 1930, to Ernest William and Clara Blackhurst Cook. Although born in Pleasant Grove, Utah, he spent the first 11 years of his life in rural Cedar Fort, Utah, 15 miles west of Utah Lake.

“It was a wonderful place to live,” Elder Cook recalled in a Friend Magazine article in May 2001. “I had lots of uncles and aunts and cousins nearby. I had only one brother, Gerald, who was eight years younger than I.”

As a boy, he had responsibility over the family’s milk cow and went to school in a two-room schoolhouse. His mother, whom he described as “very loving and kind,” instilled in him a love for the gospel. His father not only taught him how to ride a horse and set traps but also how to work and to always be honest.

As a junior at Brigham Young University, he married his high school sweetheart, Clea Searle, in the Salt Lake Temple on Sept. 13, 1950.

After completing a bachelor of science degree from BYU in accounting in 1952, he served for three years in the Navy as an officer on a destroyer, the USS Doyle. In 1957 he finished a master of business administration from Northwestern University and moved with his wife to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked for the Ford Motor Company for close to 30 years.

It was in Detroit that the couple raised their four children and where Sister Clea Cook became ill with cancer. She passed away in 1984.

Four years later, he married Mary Nielsen in the Salt Lake Temple on July 16, 1988. Sister Mary N. Cook served as second counselor to Young Women General President Susan W. Tanner (2007-2008) and first counselor to President Elaine S. Dalton (2008-2013) and as a member of the Young Women general board.

Elder Richard E. Cook and his wife, Sister Mary N. Cook. | GARY MCKELLAR

In a Church News article, Elder Cook credited the success and beauty of his life to four women — his grandmother; his mother, Clara; his wife, Clea, who was a wonderful mother “completely devoted to their four children;” and Mary, his second wife, who “accepted a challenging role and established her identity in a tastefully, kind, loving and giving way.”

In 1994, Elder and Sister Mary Cook were called to serve as missionaries in Mongolia. About a year into their mission, Elder Cook received a phone call from Church President Gordon B. Hinckley at 5:30 a.m. asking if they would lead the new Mongolia Ulaabaatar Mission.

“My testimony grew leaps and bounds as mission president. I saw the direct intervention of the Lord on many occasions to see that the work went forward,” Elder Cook said.

Through the years, he served faithfully in many capacities throughout the Church, including stake president’s counselor, bishop, stake mission president, stake Young Men president, missionary and teacher.

In 2023, Elder Cook was awarded with Mongolia’s Order of the Polar Star by His Excellency Batbayar Ulziidelger, Mongolian ambassador to the United States. The Order of the Polar Star is Mongolia’s highest award given to a foreign citizen. The award was given to Elder Cook, who served as the chief financial officer of the Perpetual Education Fund, for his impact in Mongolia and for organizing funds for hundreds of young adults to receive further education at BYU–Hawaii.

While serving as a general authority, he testified, “I have experienced how sweet and precious the gospel is. I pray that my own children will always understand the importance of the gospel and that they will raise their children in the Light of Christ.”

He is survived by his wife, Sister Mary N. Cook, four children, 17 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren.

A public viewing will be held on Friday, May 10, 2024, from 6 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, May 11, 2024, from 9:30 to 10:45 am. A funeral service will follow the viewing on May 11, 2024, beginning at 11 a.m. Both viewings and the funeral services will be held at the Monument Park Stake Center, 1320 South Wasatch Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah. Interment will be in the American Fork Cemetery.

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