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Was Mitt Romney the 'quintessential' Mormon stake president?

A look at volunteer LDS leaders

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23 2012 4:21 p.m. MDT

The international growth of the church is also reflected in the locations where new stake presidents were called to serve. Two of the three most common locations were outside the United States: Brazil, with 29 new stake presidents, and Mexico with 24. Utah, predictably, had the most, with 52 new stake presidents called. There were also a number of new stake presidents called in Idaho (18), Peru (16), the Philippines (13) and Arizona (13). And three new stake presidents were called in Massachusetts — the same state where Romney served as stake president.

All of that said, it appears Romney would actually not be "the quintessential example" of a stake president based on the sample of stake presidents called during the past year. Based on the average age, the most frequent occupations and the most common locations for the stake presidents called during the past year, that honor would probably go to Kenneth Taylor Gibby, a 46-year-old business executive who was called as the new president of the Saratoga Springs Utah Crossroads Stake last December.

"I don't consider myself to be an 'average' stake president," Gibby said. "I think most stake presidents are much better at it than I am. I'm still learning."

That learning curve since he was called to the position last November has included a crash course in church organization and administration. Like Mitt Romney, he had served as a bishop prior to being called to serve as stake president. But unlike Romney, he was called to lead a brand new stake, which means he didn't inherit an existing organizational structure from his predecessor; rather, he and his colleagues in stake leadership have had to create an entire stake organization from the ground up.

"We're getting there," he said. "But it's taken a while."

Gibby agrees with Elder Clayton that he spends more time on his assignment as a stake president than he did when he was a bishop. And the work he does is more administrative than ministerial.

"You work so intimately with people when you're a bishop," he said. "I still do that as a stake president, but there are a lot more administrative duties to go with it."

Still, there are joyful times for Gibby in his assignment. Recently he spent three days at his new stake's first girl's camp for teenage girls. He helped to haul equipment up to the camp, he helped to chaperone an overnight hike with some of the older girls and he helped with some lake-front activities.

"Some of the girls tried to throw me in the lake," he said, chuckling, "but I'm much bigger than they are."

Although the time Gibby spends as a stake president means time away from his wife, Lisa, and their four children, he considers it a blessing in his family's life.

"I've had a very happy life, and I attribute that to God," he said. "As a family, we feel a tremendous obligation, because of everything with which we've been blessed, to do whatever the Lord asks us to do."

Blessings of heaven

And that, Elder Clayton said, is one thing all stake presidents have in common: the desire to serve their God.

"These are men who love the Lord and want to serve him," Elder Clayton said.

Gibby agreed.

"I've often said that if anyone aspires to be a bishop or a stake president, they ought to make them one," he joked. "Whatever compensation there might be to the ego, it isn't sufficient for all of the time and energy and stress. But if you love the Lord and you truly appreciate all that he's done for you, then there's no question about your answer when he calls you."

For Grant Brimhall, that call came twice: once to be president of the Newbury Park California Stake, and once to be president of the Thousand Oaks California Stake. Now retired from his professional work as a city administrator and recently released as president of the LDS Church's Los Angeles Temple, Brimhall looks back on his service as a stake president during the 1980s as "a very holy, very educational experience."

"There are so many marvelous experiences that you have, working with bishops, working with members, developing personal relationships with people during significant and meaningful times in their lives," Brimhall said. "There was the tremendous time demand, but the Lord kept blessing my family in my absence."

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