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Location: Weston, Florida, United States

Obtained a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's in ancient scripture, and a doctorate in educational psychology from BYU. Served with the LDS Church Educational System in Hayward and Palo Alto, California; Athens, Georgia; and Miami, Florida. Served as bishop in Newark, California, and Athens, Georgia, and as stake president of the Sugar Hill Georgia Stake. Served as president of the Mexico City North Mission 1996-99. After retiring from CES in 2004 have served four other missions with my wife: As CES area director in Central America 2004-2006; in Panama 2007-2009; again in Guatemala 2009-2011, this time as executive secretary to the Central America Area Presidency; and finally as a counselor in the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple presidency, 2013-2014. After returning home, we served in the presidency of the Fort Lauderdale Temple from 2014-2017 and continue to serve as sealer and ordinance worker, respectively. Feel free to email us at, and please check out our new website at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wonderful week with seven general authorities

From January 14 through the 22nd we were privileged to enjoy the visit of Elders M. Russell Ballard and D. Todd Christofferson of the Council of the Twelve, Elder Jay E. Jensen, of the presidency of the Seventy, and Bishop H. David Burton, the Presiding Bishop of the Church, all of whom came for the Central America Area annual area review and to conduct priesthood leadership meetings in two locations in Honduras as well as in Guatemala City and Managua, Nicaragua. In between the two weekends of priesthood leadership conferences, the brethren spoke at numerous firesides and other meetings and also, with the participation of the Area Presidency, conducted special stake meetings (similar to stake conferences) in a total of twelve stakes. It was mentioned that this could be the first time in the history of the Church that seven general authorities have been in the same place at the same time outside of the U.S., though I think there may have been times in the earliest days when there were as many or more in Great Britain at the same time.

I had the privilege of being heavily involved in helping prepare agendas and other materials prior to their arrival, but my role while they were here was primarily to take minutes of selected meetings and afterwards to help consolidate a multi-page list of action items for follow up and training of Area Seventies, mission presidents, and stake and district presidents. Virginia and I got to go to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where I took minutes of the priesthood leadership meeting there and where we were able to attend a special stake meeting the following day where Elder Ballard spoke. The following Monday through Wednesday we got to be at a lovely golf resort outside of Antigua, Guatemala, called La Reunion, where we had two days of meetings and a half day of recreation. One highlight was to be in a three hour meeting with just the seven general authorites and myself, in my capacity of area executive secretary. Tuesday evening we got to attend a fireside at which Elder Christofferson spoke.

Later in the week we were in two other firesides with Elder Ballard (one with Elder Burton present), and I was in two other meetings at which I took minutes--one with district and mission presidents from Guatemala City, and the other a priesthood leadership meeting in Guatemala City on Saturday. We had some wonderful spiritual experiences with all of these brethren--especially with Elder Ballard, as we were with him the most. We were delighted to renew our acquaintence with Elder Christofferson, who had been our Area President during our first year in Mexico, and with Elder Jensen, who visited our institute in Hayward, California, when he was one of the leaders of CES. His brother, as some of our children may remember, was Alma Jensen, who was first a member of our stake presidency in the Fremont Stake and later the stake patriarch, who gave blessings to several of our children. I had met Elder Ballard before in Atlanta, but only briefly. This was our first association with Bishop Burton.

All seven of these brethren, including our Area Presidency, remind me of the Savior's declaration that "ye shall know them by their fruits." All are great leaders and great speakers, and we were much uplifted and edified by the experience and feel very blessed to have been part of the area review and related activities. Following are a few photos of some of the activities. It was not appropriate to take pictures inside the chapels, of course, and photos can't depict the spiritual depth of these men or the inspiration of hearing them speak, but they may convey a sense of the physical surroundings, at least. Click on any of them for a larger image.

A visit to the future Tegucigalpa, Honduras Temple. On the left is Elder Jensen, next to him is the project manager, then Elder Ballard, Elder Clarke, and, I think, Elder Laboriel, an Area Seventy.
A better view of the temple construction but a more distant view of the visitors. I'm the one who didn't notice everyone else had his vest closed up!

We saw the special stake meeting in the Tegucigalpa Stake via closed circuit TV, as by the time we arrived all the seats in the main chapel area were full, but at least we were able to get a picture here that we couldn't have taken in the chapel itself.

Closed circuit transmission in Tegucigalpa

Elder Ballard shaking hands after the special stake meeting.

View of the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa from our hotel balcony at the Marriott.

Looking the other direction from our hotel balcony (and using a bit of a zoom), you can see the Tegucigalpa cathedral. Just below it, you can see the institute of religion (right under the KFC sign), next to which the temple originally was to have been built. But the Catholic folks were understandably a bit opposed to having it so near their cathedral, and fortunately an even better site was found across town.

Photo of the visiting authorities, the Area Presidency, and some of the support staff during the area review meetings at La Reunion. Monday morning they met with the Area Presidency and the Area Seventies. Monday afternoon was dedicated to reports from the DTA (Director of Temporal Affairs) and his department managers. Tuesday morning was with just the Area Presidency. The visitors were most complimentary of the work done by the Area Presidency and others in the area. They unanimously agreed they had never participated in a better area review nor seen an area that was doing so well in virtually every measurable area, with steady increases in attendance, in baptisms, in number of missionaries being sent out, and in many innovating things the Area Presidency is doing to improve the Church in Central America. These include prefabricated buildings which can be built quite inexpensively for areas which don't qualify for a regular building but where available rental facilities are inadequate; a pocket planner for returned missionaries; use of videoconference technology; innovative humanitarian projects; development of a consolidated welfare center in what used to be the institute building where I was officed on our previous Guatemalan mission; programs to teach English to missionaries and others; and much more, in addition to giving superb leadership to the standard programs.

Meeting room at La Reunion prior to the meeting with the Area Seventies.

Dinner at La Reunion. L to R: Caziers, Jensens, Burtons, Martinos, Falabellas, Christoffersons, Clarkes, Elder Ballard, Luis Ochoa (translator)

Volcano smoking next to La Reunion.

Outdoor dining area at La Reunion, next to our meeting room.

Patio of our room at La Reunion, with our very own small swimming pool. (All rooms had them.) Golf course is in the background.

Inside of our room. I should mention that the Church gets a very good rate at this facility, compared to the list price. Otherwise, the Brethren would never have agreed to stay here.

View of what La Reunion specializes in--its golf course. Bishop Burton said he had played at Pebble Beach and a lot of other golf courses around the world, but never at one as fine as this.

View of another volcano and moon at sunset at La Reunion

Virginia with volcano in the background

We got to drive golf carts to get to our rooms from the meeting/dining area. Virginia can now say she has driven in Guatemala!

Wednesday morning Elders Jensen, Martino, Ballard, and Burton got to enjoy a round of golf. Elder Clarke is greeting them.

Tuesday afternoon the group went with the temple president and former general authority Clate Mask to see a museum in Santa Lucia and see a large stone he feels has special significance. In the evening the brethren spoke at well-attended firesides in two nearby districts. Left to right are President Mask, Elder Ballard, and Virginia.

Across from the small museum was a quaint old church, with a lovely young lady in front.

Seven current and one former general authority next to the stone at Santa Lucia, Guatemala.

Shot of the group from behind the stone. Virginia is on the far right carrying an umbrella for the sun. The physical facilities men had made a "road" through the sugar cane field to get us as near as possible and had made a sawdust path to keep the visitors' shoes as clean as possible as they walked from the buses to the stone.

Elders Christofferson and Ballard

The stone, which President Mask believes could have name glyphs for both "Lehi" and "Zoram" and depict the descent of seven tribes from a common ancestor. The Book of Mormon speaks in several places of seven groups (as does the D&C). See Jacob 1:13, for example. So do Mayan traditions.

Deacons at the Santa Lucia chapel shined our shoes prior to the fireside as a service project for their Duty to God award.

Wednesday morning those who opted not to go golfing got to go on a canopy ride. Here is Elder Christofferson in flight.

Yours truly with Elder Christofferson, Elder Clarke, and Elder Falabella. The video below of one of my rides was taken by Elder Falabella


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