“Elder J. Richard Clarke of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 103
“I’m just a plain vanilla sort of guy,” says Elder J. Richard Clarke of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Perhaps. But if that’s true he must be thought of as the kind of vanilla that inevitably stands out for its quality. His character includes a combination of spiritual qualities and administrative skills that he has enjoyed using in Church service for decades.
He has now been called to use them as a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. On October 1, he was sustained to fill a vacancy left by the call of Elder Richard G. Scott to the Quorum of the Twelve.
What does this fund of experience allow him to bring to his new calling? “I bring a testimony of the gospel, a love of the Savior, and a commitment to the work,” Elder Clarke answers reflectively. “I’ve consecrated everything I have and am to the Lord.”
At one time, in the mid-1970s, he seemed headed for the top in the insurance business. His company was headquartered in New York, but he had been instrumental in building its Boise, Idaho, agency into the firm’s largest. With a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a number of years experience in the field, he was sent by his company to Stanford University in 1974 for advanced executive training.
But his personal spiritual development and his service to the Church as a bishop, stake president, and Regional Representative had prepared him for a different kind of administrative role. In October 1976, he was called to be the Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. He was released in April 1985 and called to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Following his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1985, he presided over his old mission from 1985 to 1987.
His wife, Barbara, observes that his administrative ability may draw attention away from his spiritual depth. But her husband is a devoted student of the scriptures. “I can walk into his study almost anytime and, no matter what he’s supposed to be doing, he’s studying the scriptures.”
Elder Clarke was born in Rexburg, Idaho, on 4 April 1927 to John R. and Nora Redford Clarke.
After he had returned to Ricks College, in Rexburg from a mission to South Africa, Richard married Barbara Jean Reed, a farm girl from Ririe, Idaho. Then he attended Brigham Young University, graduating in 1952. He began his career with an insurance company in sales, moving to management five years later.
Elder and Sister Clarke are the parents of eight children. One daughter drowned on a family outing several years ago.
Their family has consistently taken precedence over any other concern. While living in Boise, they bought thirteen acres of land and learned how to raise purebred cattle and thoroughbred Arabian horses. The whole family worked together. “We didn’t know anything about the business. I was like the teacher who is one chapter ahead of the class” in teaching his children what to do, Elder Clarke says. But their purpose was to produce responsible children, not prize-winning animals.
Do they still have the farm property? “No, I sold everything that was any fun,” he says, smiling.
As a member of the Presidency of the North America Southeast Area and a Managing Director of the Church’s Missionary Department for the past year, Elder Clarke has enjoyed the opportunity of working directly with Church leaders in a variety of areas. He will miss that.
But he looks forward with excitement to the opportunities in his new calling. “I think we’re in a very interesting period of history,” he says. “I think we’re on the brink of great growth in the Church.”