Following the call issued this week by Church president Thomas S. Monson to serve as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Elder Ronald A. Rasband said a New Testament scripture came to mind that night as he pondered and prayed about the new assignment. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16).
“I had a spiritual impression that there’s nothing about this that was politically motivated, nothing about it that was an election, nothing about it that was a vote, nothing about it was my desire. It was the Lord’s decision and … I needed to understand that and have it confirmed to me just like President Monson told me. And Sister Rasband and I received that [witness] in our first prayer through that very verse,” he said.
Because he was the first of the three apostles to receive his “call,” his place in the Quorum of the Twelve will reflect that seniority. Quorum members’ seniority is based on when they were called to service, not their age.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 6, 1951, Elder Rasband says the scriptures have been a lifelong source of personal guidance for him. As a 19-year-old he received a call to serve as a missionary. He hoped to be called to Germany, where his brother and his father had served. As he privately opened the letter he was perplexed to learn he would be serving in the Eastern States Mission headquartered in New York City.
“Ultimately I decided that I needed to get a testimony of this or I was going to be in a real sorry condition. I knelt down by the side of my bed and I prayed. You know, I’m just a 19-year-old; I didn’t have that much experience in the scriptures, but I grabbed my Doctrine and Covenants and it opened at the 100th section and I began reading.
“‘Therefore, follow me, and listen to the counsel which I shall give until you. … And an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land. … Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people’ (D&C 100:2–3, 5).
“I had a witness come across me that not only should I be enthusiastic about that call but I knew it was exactly where the Lord wanted me to go. And I went from depression about my call to elation about my call that fast.”
In 1973 he married Melanie Twitchell. They are the parents of five children, all married, and have 24 grandchildren. He attributes who he is to his companion of more than four decades.
“My wife has taken me like potter’s clay and molded me into something that really matters,” he said. “She knows when to draw me back, slow me down, and get it right. In large measure, it’s her spiritual influence that has led to not only this beautiful and special calling but to everything that I’ve done spiritually. She’s kept me spiritually grounded.”
A longtime successful businessman, he became president and chief operating officer of Huntsman Chemical Corporation in 1987. He credits the experience as helping him be more effective in life and in Church service. “I learned that people are the most important asset. I learned that if you take good care of your people they’ll take good care of you. I learned many, many leadership skills from the people that I worked with that have served me well as a general authority.”
His service in the Church is extensive: bishop; mission president; supervised the North America West, Northwest, and three Utah areas; a counselor in the Europe Central Area Presidency; executive director of the Temple Department; a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy since April 2000 and senior president of the Quorums of the Seventy since April 2009.
“The calling that brought me to my knees the most … was serving as a mission president,” he said. He oversaw hundreds of missionaries in the New York City area, serving with his wife. “My view is that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in business. It doesn’t matter what your occupation has been in life. There is really nothing that can completely prepare you or even closely prepare you to be a mission president and companion. So I really learned to rely on the scriptures.”
“I really learned to rely on the Lord. I was on my knees more on that assignment than ever before in my life,” he continued. “I was caught in situations that I had no experience in, things I didn’t know how to deal with, and the Lord spoke to me through the Holy Ghost and I knew what to do. So I began to understand and learn the power of being spiritually dependent on a higher source.”
The various assignments as a general authority for the past 15 years have provided many opportunities to meet members of the Church worldwide. “One of the great joys about this new assignment is we love the Latter-day Saints so very much. My wife has a cute phrase. She says, when we come home from one of these foreign trips, we are often asked, ‘Did you get to do any sightseeing?’ and my wife will say quickly, ‘No, we didn’t get to do much sightseeing, but we did a lot of Saint seeing.’
“Wherever we’ve been in the world, we’ve loved the Latter-day Saints,” he said. “We’ve rejoiced with them. We’ve cried with them. We’ve celebrated with them. We’ve blessed them. We’ve just had experiences that are part of our fabric now. We’ve seen a lot of the wonderful Saints.”
As a special witness of Christ through serving as an apostle, Elder Rasband said, “I can’t ever remember not believing in Jesus Christ. I have loved him since I learned of Him from the knees of my mother sharing scriptures with me and reading stories. I have just grown up in the Lord. I’ve always loved Him. I’ve always had a desire to serve Him. I love the Lord; I know He is God’s living Son, Jesus the Christ. I’m honored beyond my words to express to have been called to serve Him up to this very moment, and I will devote my time, my talents, everything I have now till the day I die. I’m committed to do it. I’m honored to do it.”