The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the calling of six new General Authority Seventies during the 187th Annual General Conference on April 1. Members sustained Elder Taylor G. Godoy, Elder Joni L. Koch, Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, Elder John C. Pingree Jr., Elder Brian K. Taylor and Elder Taniela B. Wakolo. Following are brief biographies of the new leaders:
Elder Taylor G. Godoy
Several years ago, Elder Taylor G. Godoy found himself at a professional crossroads. He was working as a dentist, establishing a practice and anticipating a future in academics teaching dental surgery.
But after a hiring process then a beloved and trusted priesthood leader invited him to work for Church Seminaries and Institutes.
Leaving a burgeoning career was a very interesting choice for the young dentist, who was sustained April 1 as a General Authority Seventy. Many of his colleagues wondered how he could walk away from the profession.
“But I knew it was the right choice.”
Such faithful certainty defines the 48-year-old Church convert. Helping others discover and come to love the gospel has proven to be a life-defining opportunity and blessing.
Yes, a dentist can treat a toothache — “But when you can teach someone from the scriptures you can help to change a life,” he said.
During his Church education career, Elder Godoy served as a coordinator, an Institute teacher and director and a country director. Most recently, he was the South America Northwest Seminaries and Institutes area director.
Elder Taylor Guillermo Godoy Atanacio was born in Lima, Peru, in 1968 to Taylor Godoy and Adalzahinda Atanacio. His father died when he was a young boy and a beloved stepfather, Elias Rebaza, would raise him. Young Taylor joined the Church when he was 17.
After serving in the Peru Lima North Mission, he returned to his hometown of Arequipa. There he developed a friendship with a young woman named Carol Pacheco. That friendship would develop into a relationship between the fellow converts.
The Godoys were married May 31, 1994, in the Lima Peru Temple. They are the parents of two children.
Elder Joni L. Koch
Elder Joni Luiz Koch is a second generation member of the Church from Brazil. His parents, Luiz and Etelca Gascho Koch, visited a variety of local churches in the early years of their marriage to find more spiritual truth.
His mother’s final, heartfelt prayer and promise to follow God brought missionaries to their front door. They arrived just hours after her emotional prayer. In less than six months, they were baptized. The gospel was now part of the Koch family.
Born in 1962, Elder Koch grew up in Joinville, Santa Catarina, Brazil. The influence of Church leaders, such as a dedicated Primary teacher, fatherly bishop and valiant stake president helped him commit to live the gospel.
“My testimony was built gradually over time through spiritual experiences received through gospel living,” said Elder Koch. “The Book of Mormon is one of the main elements in the strength of my testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Church and the prophet Joseph Smith.”
After completing a full-time mission in the Brazil São Paulo North Mission, Elder Koch studied statistics at BYU in Provo, Utah. “On a trip back to Brazil, I visited the ward of a friend where I met my future wife,” said Elder Koch. “She walked up to me and asked me if I was married.” After an eight-month, long-distance courtship — and only 15 actual days together — he married Michelle Ludwig April 26, 1988, in the São Paulo Brazil Temple.
Upon graduation from BYU, Elder Koch worked in international logistics. Over the span of 25 years, he worked for a variety of companies until called to serve full-time for the Church.
Elder Koch is the father of two daughters and two granddaughters. He served in the Church as bishop, stake president and Area Seventy. He was serving as president of the Mozambique Maputo Mission at the time he was sustained as a General Authority Seventy on April 1.
Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella
When Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella was 8 years old, the missionaries began teaching his family about the Restoration of the gospel by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“Even as a child, I had no question that he had in fact seen God and Jesus Christ,” Elder Parrella said, who was sustained April 1 as a General Authority Seventy. “I never doubted that from then on.”
His life since then has been a journey of trying to understand that feeling he had as an 8-year-old, he said. Attending Church, continuing to learn from the word of God and striving to live the commandments has helped broaden his vision from the small glimpse he was given as a child. “This truly is the kingdom of God on the earth.”
Elder Parrella was born in 1962, in Guarujá, Brazil, — “close to the end of the world” on the Atlantic coast near São Paulo — to Fioravante and Vany de Paula Parrella. The examples of his two older brothers, who all served missions, and a loving bishop, Angelino Borges De Freitas, who mentored him in how to be an Aaronic priesthood holder, sparked in him a desire to serve a full-time mission.
Missionary service reiterated to him the lesson from his youth “of the reality of God and His Son and that all of us are children of God.”
After serving in the Brazil Porto Alegre Mission, Elder Parrella attended Brigham Young University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in business administration. Professionally he has worked as the managing director at Kodak Polychrome Graphics and as a partner at Korn Ferry International. Most recently he was a partner at Caldwell Partners.
He married Elaine Finholdt in December 1988 in the São Paolo Brazil Temple. They are the parents of five sons.
Since being baptized in 1971, he has served in many callings, including branch president, bishop, high councilor, stake president’s counselor, Area Seventy and president of the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission from 2009-2012.
Elder John C. Pingree Jr.
“My testimony has been built over time, little by little — through receiving answers to prayers, feeling the Spirit while reading scriptures, repenting, and serving the Lord,” said Elder John C. Pingree Jr., who was sustained April 1 as a General Authority Seventy.
Born in 1966 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Carmen and John C. Pingree Sr., he credits the devotion of his parents in helping shape his life.
“The day after I was born, my father wrote me a letter," Elder Pingree said. "He saved that letter and later, when I left to serve a full-time mission, he mailed it to me. The letter contained several pages of his testimony and lessons he wanted me to learn during my life. As I read it, the Spirit bore witness to me that what I had been taught about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ by my parents was truth.”
Elder Pingree served in the Massachusetts Boston Mission, Spanish-speaking.
He received degrees in English and political science from the University of Utah, and an MBA from Harvard University. He and his wife, Anne, are parents of five children.
He was president of the Texas Houston Mission, 2011-2014, and has served as an Area Seventy, stake president, bishop, elders quorum president, institute teacher, and seminary teacher.
Elder Pingree said Doctrine and Covenants 11:8 has influenced him. "The Lord says 'If you desire you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.' To me, the Lord is saying, 'I can use you to do some good in other people's lives, if you will let me.' If we look for opportunities, Heavenly Father will use us to bless somebody else."
Much of his career focused on helping others. He was president of a medical humanitarian aid organization and a vice president at two health care companies.
Elder Brian K. Taylor
Brian King Taylor and Devin Durrant were teammates on the Brigham Young University basketball squad from 1982-84. Now, they are associates in the general leadership of the Church, where Brother Durrant serves as first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency and Elder Taylor was just called as one of the newest General Authority Seventies.
Elder Taylor was sustained at general conference April 1.
Born in 1964 in Ogden, Utah, to Lowell Moon and Marie King Taylor, he grew up in nearby Kaysville, the fourth in a family of five children that loved fishing and sports.
Older brother Craig had a basketball scholarship at Utah State University and was trying to decide whether to serve a mission or continue his college career.
“It kind of came out of my mouth one night at dinner: I said, ‘Hey, if you go on a mission, I’ll go on a mission,’ ” Elder Taylor recalled. Both brothers ended up serving, with Brian going to the Spain Seville Mission.
It was at BYU after his mission that he met his wife-to-be, Jill Featherstone. She was teaching gospel doctrine in her BYU ward. Invited by his brother, Brian visited her class and met her. A romance blossomed, and they were married April 30, 1987, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have seven children and six grandchildren.
The two youngest children have been with them as he has presided over the Texas Dallas Mission, where President and Sister Taylor will complete their service in July.
Sister Taylor is the only daughter in the family of seven children of Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, emeritus General Authority, and Sister Merlene Featherstone.
“They were just really accepting and kind,” Elder Taylor said of his in-laws. “I felt immediately loved.” Little did the family know that Elder Taylor would follow in his father-in-law’s footsteps as a member of the Seventy in the Church.
With a bachelor’s degree from BYU, Elder Taylor has built a number of businesses, including a company that designed software to coordinate emergency 9-1-1 calls between public safety agencies.
Elder Taniela B. Wakolo
Elder Taniela Biu Wakolo has dedicated every day of his life since his March 1994 baptism to serving the Lord.
Born in 1967 on the small island of Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji, to Taniela Vosa and Temalesi Buadromo Wakolo, Elder Wakolo was the youngest of six children.
“I was raised in a very humble home, but we were rich in terms of love we have for each other,” he said.
At age 12, Elder Wakolo left his parents home to attend boarding school with more than 500 young men, ages 12 to 19.
“That was great training ground for me,” he said. “It is where I learned self discipline.”
While at boarding school he met a cousin whose mother was a member of the Church, but it wasn’t until a few years later when he met Anita Herberta Moimoi, a recent convert, that he learned more. After dating for more than a year, the couple married on Aug. 22, 1987, in Suva, Fiji. They are the parents of two children.
Conversion didn’t come overnight for Elder Wakolo and over the first eight years of the couple’s marriage he met with many missionaries.
“I completed the discussions four times in eight years,” he said. “I have 24 missionaries.”
It was a simple question from a missionary about the name of the Church that changed his mind. “The Church needs to be named after its owner,” he said. “That was it for me.”
He and his wife were sealed in the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple in 1995, just a year after he was baptized.
Service opportunities in the Church came quickly — only two weeks after his baptism he was called to the ward Young Men presidency and to co-teach seminary with his wife. Less than a year after he was baptized, he accepted the call to serve as branch president. He has served as a counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, Area Seventy and at the time of his call as a General Authority Seventy, he was presiding over the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.
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