The newest apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Saturday that he is humbled and overwhelmed by his new responsibilities.
Elder Quentin L. Cook had no idea the calling was coming but said he knows it came from the Lord. The Logan native, who worked as an attorney and business executive in California before being called as an LDS Church general authority more than a decade ago, will fill the vacancy in the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve left by now-President Henry B. Eyring.
"As you know in the church, we neither seek calls or have any expectation ever that a call will come to us, and I certainly had no idea I'd be receiving this call," Elder Cook said Saturday, just hours after he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. "Neither do we turn down a call, particularly when it comes from a faithful, loving prophet who is so dear to us. And so I accept that call and pledge to do everything that I possibly can to be worthy and accomplish what the Lord would have me accomplish."
Elder Cook, 67, had a "wonderful and sweet and short" meeting with President Gordon B. Hinckley this past week, where the man Latter-day Saints consider to be a prophet extended Elder Cook his new calling.
He said he was glad to hear the news in person, rather than in a phone call.
"I think if somebody would have called me on the phone, I would have been sure that it was a prank of some sort," he said.
Elder Cook had been serving in the Presidency of the Seventy since August, as well as executive director of the church's missionary department.
Born and raised in Logan, Elder Cook was the captain of the high school football team, senior class president, all-region in both football and basketball and involved in debate. He graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor's degree in political science.
But don't call him a Utahn, President Eyring said.
"I hope the people of Cache Valley wouldn't be offended, but I don't even think of him as a Utahn," Elder Eyring said. "He's been everywhere."
Elder Cook has traveled around the world as a general authority, living in the Philippines for two years and the Pacific islands for another three while serving as president of the Pacific island area and a counselor in the Philippines/Micronesia Area Presidency. He served as president of the North America Northwest Area.
He has also lived outside the Beehive State for 33 years as he kept his family home in the San Francisco area.
When questioned about why the church would call someone who is yet another native Utahn to the post when the church has become worldwide in scope, he said, "My life has been significantly with people who are outside of Utah, who I love dearly, who are the majority of the church at this point and who we appreciate so much and we are so grateful for them."
A lawyer by profession, Elder Cook graduated from Stanford Law School in 1966 and worked as a managing partner of a San Francisco Bay area law firm for several years. Subsequently, he worked in business as president and chief executive officer of California Healthcare System and vice chairman of Sutter Health System.
Church leaders described Elder Cook as "an experienced church leader with a strong pastoral, administrative and legal background," according to a news release.
As executive director of the church missionary department, Elder Cook oversaw the church's massive missionary efforts around the world. He was in the media spotlight in February when four LDS missionaries were abducted in Nigeria. The abductors later released the missionaries unharmed.
He said the church's push to "raise the bar" and tighten expectations on missionaries has paid off.
"We've seen people better prepared than they've ever been," Elder Cook said. "We're thrilled with the missionaries that are serving at this time. We'll continue to see faithful, well-prepared missionaries."
An early decision
A turning point in Elder Cook's spiritual progression happened as a sophomore in high school when his brother had to choose between serving a mission and going to medical school. The two brothers reasoned together and debated the two worthy causes, ultimately deciding, "if Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind and Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration and the Book of Mormon is true, then we reasoned it would be more important to go on a mission."
"I realized that if you believe (in the church), then there are actions that you must take as a result of your beliefs," Elder Cook said in a 1996 interview with the LDS Church News.
He has followed that philosophy ever since.
"We've accepted these calls because we believe Jesus Christ is the Savior, believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and believe President Hinckley is a prophet," Elder Cook said. "I pray that I'll be able to serve with distinction in this new calling."
During Saturday's press conference, he was asked how his educational background would figure into his new role as an apostle. He said it would be "a great mistake" for church members or observers "to think there is an educational or occupational requirement to serve in the church. Nothing could be further from the truth.
E-mail: [email protected]