Johanna Kirk, Deseret News archives
Then-Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy speaks at Brigham Young University on March 2, 2003.

SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald L. Staheli of the LDS Church's Draper Utah Temple and a former member of the church's Second Quorum of the Seventy, died Saturday, May 29, in his St. George home. He was 78.

President Staheli was a corporate officer who served for more than nine years in the LDS Church's Second Quorum of the Seventy.

He was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 1997 and served in the presidencies of the North America Northeast and North America Central areas. He later was North America Central president. He was released from the Seventy on Sept. 20, 2006.

He and his wife, Afton, were called to be the first president and matron of the Draper Utah Temple, which was dedicated March 20-22, 2009. They were in the second year of serving in their temple assignments at the time of President Staheli's passing.

Because of his corporate experiences in the People's Republic of China, he spent time both during and after his tenure as a general authority helping foster relationships between China and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Donald Lafayette Staheli was born on Oct. 19, 1931, in St. George to Lafayette and Grace Sullivan Staheli. He was the eldest of four sons and a daughter.

President Staheli spoke once in general conference — in April 1998 when he told the Sunday afternoon session that regardless of one's age or stage in life, daily obedience to gospel principles is the only sure way to eternal happiness.

"A year following my birth," he told the Church News after his sustaining as a general authority, "we moved to Hurricane, where my father was beginning his career as a high school teacher. Mom was a very tender, loving spiritual woman who was the center of our family.

"My parents were humble in means but very close to the Lord and taught each of the children accordingly," he said.

In his junior year at Utah State University, he was elected national president of the Future Farmers of America and in that capacity traveled for the better part of year to major cities throughout the nation. During his travels, he met with the president, Cabinet members and heads of corporations.

Unable to get a military exemption to serve a mission because of the Korean War, President Staheli completed work on his degree and was named the outstanding graduating senior. Also during his senior year he married his high school sweetheart, Afton Stratton, on Sept. 24, 1952, in the St. George Temple.

They are the parents of four children — three daughters and a son.

At the suggestion of a visiting professor, President Staheli did graduate work at the University of Illinois and within two years completed requirements for a doctorate, working part time on an assistantship and going to school full time. Afterward, he served two years as a first lieutenant in the Air Force.

The Stahelis lived in Chicago and Iowa during the first part of his career, then for 20 years in New Canaan, Conn., much of that time as president and chief executive officer of Continental Grain.

He also has been chairman of the U.S. China Business Council, American Feed Industry Association, International Business Leaders Advisory council for the mayor of Shanghai, director of the U.S. China Society, National Committee on U.S. China relations, U.S. Russia Trade Council, New York City Partnership and International Executive Service Corp.

President Staheli also served on corporate boards and was chairman of the Points of Light Foundation. His gift of $1.5 million established the Donald L. Staheli Chair of International Management at Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management.

In LDS Church service, he was president of the Yorktown New York Stake, a counselor in the two other stake presidencies, a high councilor, bishop's counselor, high priest group leader and stake and ward Young Men president.

Funeral arrangements are pending.