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A RESOLVE TO SERVE BEGAN EARLY IN LIFE
HIS MISSION SOLIDIFIED COMMITMENT TO GOSPEL

SHARE A RESOLVE TO SERVE BEGAN EARLY IN LIFE
HIS MISSION SOLIDIFIED COMMITMENT TO GOSPEL

On Elder Carlos E. Asay's desk in his office is a wooden pen set with an inscription on a brass plate paraphrasing a scripture: "For heT had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach." (Ezra 7:10.)

Elder Asay, 63, who was sustained Sept. 30 to the Presidency of the Seventy, is reminded of that scripture on a daily basis. He also remembers the beginning of his resolve to follow its precepts.Part of that resolve stemmed from what could have been a fatal accident near his boyhood home of Monroe, in central Utah's Sevier County. When he was about 11, he was helping neighbors haul hay when the load shifted and he was thrown from atop a moving and loaded wagon onto a pile of rocks. The fall itself could have killed him, but he also faced the possibility of suffocation as the load tumbled on top of him. He remembers how he prayed desperately as he frantically clawed his way clear of the hay to fill his lungs with air. He also remembers feeling he had been spared for some reason.

Years later, after he had graduated from college and was beginning his first year as a teacher and had a wife and two small children to support, the feeling resurfaced as he was thrust once again into a near-death situation when his appendix ruptured and peritonitis set in. "According to the doctors, I wasn't supposed to live," Elder Asay recalled. When he recovered, his doctor referred to him as the "miracle patient."

"I felt my life had been preserved once again," Elder Asay reflected. "That was quite a refiner's fire. I was in the hospital for several months, and it took me more than a year to recover. When I realized how ill I was, I found myself pleading with the Lord that if He would preserve me I would serve Him."

In reality, the bargain he made with the Lord was redundant - he already had committed himself to serving the Lord.

A talented 6-foot-2-inch athlete (he was on the University of Utah basketball team that won the National Invitational Tournament in 1947), he missed the opportunity to serve a mission at the standard "missionary age." Drafted into military service at age 18 during World War II, he returned home at 21 and began making plans to marry his long-time girlfriend, Colleen Webb, who also had grown up in Monroe, Utah.

Just after they set a wedding date, he was called to serve in the Palestine-Syria Mission. They put their wedding plans on hold. However, when Colleen accompanied him to Salt Lake City when he reported to the Missionary Home, Don B. Colton, who headed the home, encouraged them to go ahead and get married.

They were married in the Salt Lake Temple Oct. 20, 1947. Three days later, he left for his mission. From New York, he and his missionary companion sailed on a Russian ship that was taking American-Armenians to resettle in the Soviet Union. Because the Palestinian harbor at Haifa was closed to the Soviet ship, Elder Asay and his companion were lowered onto a barge that took them to shore. They arrived in the midst of a cholera epidemic.

They were the first LDS missionaries to go to the mission since it had been closed in 1939 at the onset of World War II. They did not know where they could find their mission president, Badwagon Piranian, an Armenian who had been living in Switzerland at the time of his call. The two young missionaries began a search that eventually took them to Beirut, Lebanon, where they located the mission president and his wife. "They had arrived only a few days before we got there, and although they knew we were coming, they did not know when or how we would arrive," Elder Asay said.

"My mission was a marvelous experience. The gospel had always meant a lot to me, but that experience of being a missionary really committed me."

When he returned home from his mission, he was interviewed by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Council of the Twelve. Sister Asay, who accompanied her husband to that interview, remembers that Elder Kimball emphasized "the things that should be important in our lives." He counseled the young couple to be active in the Church, accept every call that came to them, to live the gospel and to pray.

"He committed us on every point, on every principle of the gospel," said Sister Asay. "Neither one of us ever forgot that interview. When we left his office, we were both committed that the gospel came first, before career or educational pursuits."

Elder Asay continued his college education and then embarked on a career in education. He served as a mission president and regional representative before he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy. (See box on page 6.)

He served in the presidency of that quorum from 1980-1986, was executive director of the Missionary Department and has served as executive director of the Curriculum Department. He presided over the Europe Area from 1986 until his recent call to the Presidency of the Seventy.

One of the major challenges of presiding over the Europe Area, said Elder Asay, was the large number of different languages. That challenge, however, sometimes prepared the way for some faith-building experiences, such as one that occurred at a meeting attended by several investigators.

"Before the meeting, I asked the investigators why they had not joined the Church," said Elder Asay. "Nearly all of them said they would be baptized when they received a spiritual witness."

During the meeting, Sister Asay addressed the congregation before Elder Asay did. As she was speaking, he realized her interpreter was having difficulty translating from English into the local language. Elder Asay whispered to the mission president and asked who would interpret for him; it was to be the same person who was trying to interpret for his wife. He was told there was no one else qualified to interpret.

When it was his turn to speak, Elder Asay excused the interpreter and pointed to a local young man on the front row and invited him to come to the podium. The young man was a returned missionary but he was not fluent in English.

"I said, `You're going to interpret for me,' " recalled Elder Asay. "The young man just went white and said, `I can't do that.' I said, `Yes, you can, and you will.' Then we watched a miracle. He stumbled on the first sentence only. Pretty soon, he was so good I even forgot he was there. When an interpreter can speak without pausing to think, can interpret so well that members of the congregation have tears in their eyes and are brought to the edge of their seats, you know everything is being communicated.

"When we were through, I put my arms around him. He shook his head and said, `What happened?' Two investigator families came to me afterward and said, `We have had our spiritual witness. We are ready to be baptized.' "

After telling of that incident, Elder Asay pointed to a stack of binders and books in his office and said, "Our records are full of special experiences."

His journals contain not only accounts of experiences that have spiritual overtones, but also of some of his and Sister Asay's accomplishments. Among those records is a log of their daily walks, averaging four to eight miles nearly every morning. "A reasonable estimate is that we walked 3,800 miles in Europe," said Elder Asay. "Walking helps us keep physically fit, gives us time to be together to talk and visit, and enables us to meet people. We have walked in rain or shine, snow or sleet."

For many years, one of Elder Asay's favorite pastimes was watching basketball and football games on television with his five sons and two daughters, but now that they are grown and on their own, it is only occasionally that he gets to enjoy a game with any of them. Sister Asay said her family became so involved in the games that "they cheered and yelled so much I began to worry about what the neighbors might think." Although she does not particularly care for the games, she has begun to sit with him so he doesn't have to watch alone. "I started knitting again," she said.

A phrase from a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier has been a motto that Elder and Sister Asay have used throughout their married life: "Me lift thee and thee lift me, and we will both ascend together."

When asked what advice he would give a young man contemplating the course he should take to achieve success, Elder Asay replied: "Marry a woman as good as my wife."

"That goes two ways," Sister Asay countered. "One of the things that impressed me about Carlos when we were young was his willingness to help out in the home. His mother and father really loved each other, and his father set a great example by helping their mother in the home. I didn't realize at the time that I would be the recipient of that same kind of affection and consideration."

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(ADDITIONAL INFORMATION)

Elder Carlos E. Asay

- Born: June 12, 1926, in Southerland, Utah

- Married: Colleen Webb of Monroe, Utah, Oct. 20, 1947, in Salt Lake Temple.

- Education: Graduated from South Sevier High School, 1944; received bachelor's degree from the University of Utah, 1953; master's degree from Long Beach State in California, 1958; and doctor of education degree from the University of Utah, 1967.

- Military service: U.S. Army, 1942-44.

- Church service before called as General Authority: Regional representative, president of the Texas North Mission, member of Sunday School general board, bishop, high councilor.

- Employment: Executive assistant in the office of the Presiding Bishopric; BYU professor of education; chairman of BYU's Secondary Education Department; assistant dean, BYU-Hawaii; supervisor in the Granite School District and assistant superintendent in the Jordan School District.