“Bishop J. Richard Clarke of the Presiding Bishopric,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 139–40
“It’s an overwhelming experience to be called by a prophet,” says J. Richard Clarke, newly sustained as second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. “If it weren’t for the perfect confidence I have in revelation—and I know from experience how real that is—I’d have to wonder if they have the right man.”
Bishop Clarke, born and raised in Rexburg, Idaho, and living in Boise, Idaho, at the time of his call, is a soft-spoken man, quiet, committed, and warm. That warmth shows when he talks about his wife, Barbara Jean Reed, and their seven living children (one daughter died at age eleven). “They’ve been amazing about this call,” he says. “We expected the kids to at least think about what they’d be giving up, but they’ve just expressed their excitement and their support.”
Actually, this reaction was predictable. Ever since Bishop Clarke and his wife began accepting Church responsibilities—and those responsibilities ranged from ward and stake Relief Society and MIA presidencies, ward bishoprics, stake presidencies, and Regional Representative assignments—they have made them family callings. “I’ve always said that I could serve only if had the unity and harmony of the family. Also, that I couldn’t stand for one set of principles and have my family accept another. Honestly, they’re wonderful kids. When my oldest son, Dallan, was growing up, I was always on the stand. We couldn’t have those good shoulder-rubbing experiences in priesthood meeting; and it would have been really hard for me as a father if I hadn’t known that he accepted and supported what I was doing.”
The warmth shows when he praises his parents—John Rolland Clarke and Nora L. Redford Clarke—for the great trust they always showed in him, and his wife’s family—James H. Reed and Maude Armstrong Reed—for their exceptional unity.
It really shows when he talks about Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, whom he had served as counselor in the Boise North Stake presidency before it was divided and he was called as the president of the new Meridian Idaho Stake. “We had ten years of experience in two. He taught me a great deal. He didn’t know about this call beforehand, of course; and I always say they ‘retired the number’ on the uniform after he’s played the position.”
The warmth shows again when he talks about his former employment and his new assignment. As general manager for an insurance company in the Idaho-Oregon-Washington area, he found the company very receptive to the method of priesthood correlation principles that he used, and gracious about relinquishing him to his calling.
“I don’t have favorites among the Brethren,” he says, “but I’ve always had a special love for President J. Reuben Clark, President Lee, and President Romney—those giants of welfare. Meeting the needs of the unfortunate is a great way of witnessing to the principles Christ taught—and we’re still in our infancy there. Until we’re prepared to surrender our physical appetites and worldly possessions—until consecration becomes a motivating principle and stewardship a sacred responsibility—we’ll have a long way to go until we’re prepared as a Church to meet our Master.”
He speaks with unreserved respect of his new colleagues in the Presiding Bishop’s office. “They’re great men. They’d be leaders no matter where they are”—and with equal respect of the membership. “Because of our members’ testimonies, and their respect for priesthood authority, anyone in a leadership position needs to treat that allegiance as a sacred trust, with the utmost sensitivity.” With special affection, he looks forward to working with the Young Women and the Aaronic Priesthood. “We’re in good hands as long as we keep looking at the youth,” he said. “I sure have great faith in their future.”