“Elder Philip T. Sonntag of the First Quorum of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1984, 96
In a drought-stricken area of the Philippines, a district Relief Society president stood to conduct a meeting. “You know we’ve all been fasting and praying for rain,” she began. “Well, the Lord hasn’t sent us rain. But he has sent us the Sonntags. And that’s better than rain, sisters.” For the past year, Regional Representative Philip Sonntag and his wife, Valoy, have been bringing nourishment in the form of basic gospel teachings, leadership principles, and lesson manuals—to Church leaders in the fast-growing stakes and districts of the Philippines.
The calling as a full-time Regional Representative came on the very day Brother Sonntag was released as director of Temple Square, which followed an almost continuous succession of callings as president of the New Zealand Christchurch Mission, stake president, and bishop.
Now a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, this good-hearted man firmly insists that he is not unusual. “We’re just ordinary Latter-day Saints who have found that living the gospel is the only way to true happiness.”
“I knew when I married him that he was completely dedicated to the Lord,” said Sister Sonntag. This is a dedication she has always shared. They married forty years ago, after both returned from missions—he from the Western Canadian Mission, she from the Northern States Mission. In fact, they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple only ten days after Philip returned, with only twenty dollars between them—a gift from Valoy’s mother.
Elder Sonntag grew up in Salt Lake City, Sister Sonntag in Cleveland, Idaho. They have spent most of their married lives in Salt Lake, although several years in the Navy and many Church callings have taken them to the far corners of the earth.
Despite the heavy demands of a family jewelry business and Church callings, family has always been a priority for them. When life got especially busy, Sister Sonntag would pack up the children and a picnic dinner and pick up her husband from work. Then, after an hour of playing and eating in the park, he would be off to a meeting. The whole family still enjoys holidays and special occasions together.
Sister Sonntag describes her husband as at once very spiritual and very practical. “I think I was born with a testimony,” he reflects. When as a young father and bishop he lay near death after a serious automobile accident, he reminded the Lord that he had responsibilities at home—to his sweetheart and children, and to the members of his ward. An unmistakable voice told him that because he had always lived the Word of Wisdom he would “run and not be weary, and walk and not faint,” and that he would be given a special blessing. When Sister Sonntag arrived at his side and found him barely breathing, she took his hand. Then, receiving the same witness, she explained to her worried parents that all would be well.
“I’ve never had a question about whether the gospel of Jesus Christ was true, or whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. The only question I’ve had was whether I would be able to live the gospel as I ought to.”
Elder Philip Sonntag is well on his way to affirmatively answering that question.