Anyone who spends time with Elder Cree-L Kofford and his wife, Ila, can't help but feel the warmth and love that radiates from the couple.
Imagine sitting in front of a warm fireplace on a cold evening and talking to longtime friends. That's the warmth a person feels while visiting with the Koffords.Sustained April 6 to serve in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Kofford - a 6-foot 2-inch, 57-year-old broad-shouldered man with a smile that spreads to the corners of his eyes - is excited for the opportunity to share his love of the gospel in his new calling.
"I hope to do whatever I am asked to do as well as I can possibly do it," he said. "I hope I am asked to do something hard enough that takes the best that I have."
The call came as a surprise to Elder Kofford - presently serving as president of the New York New York Mission - and his family. "It was overpowering once I realized the magnitude of the calling. It is very difficult to describe exactly how you feel, except to know you have a great desire to do whatever your Heavenly Father wants you to do."
Sister Kofford added, "He has tremendous talents and can do anything he sets his mind to. I shouldn't have been surprised when he was called because he is so capable, but I didn't ever expect it to happen.
"My first thoughts were that we would be leaving our incredible missionaries a year early. But one of my favorite scriptures came to mind as I thought, `Be still and know that I am God.' "
The Koffords, from Arcadia, Calif., have spent the past two years in New York, where Elder Kofford will remain until a new mission president takes his place in July.
"We have had a fabulous experience," he remarked. "New York is really the capital of the world with 8.5 million people of every nationality you can think of. Our missionaries proselyte among every nationality and in many tongues using local interpreters.
"The missionaries find the people very receptive to the gospel and their retention is very high once they have made the commitment to be baptized. The missionaries are achieving success that is almost unbelievable. They have set baptismal records almost every month for the last 18 months.
"They are taking the gospel into places that you wouldn't believe and are changing lives in a manner that you have to see to believe. They honestly think they can change New York and so do I.
"I don't believe we have a better force of missionaries in the world. They are devoted and know exactly why they are there. They know it is hard and like it that way."
Elder Kofford was born in Santaquin, Utah. His unique first name - a cause for some curiousity - is a combination of his father's Indian name, Cree, and an initial from his grandfather's name. His mother chose to capitalize the "L" and add a hyphen so people would pronounce his name correctly.
He grew up in a less-active family and didn't really become active until he met his future wife, Ila, during his last year of high school.
"She was very active in the Church," he said. "It is through her that I came to appreciate a need for the gospel and developed a desire to be active in the Church. In a real way she is responsible for my activation."
Sister Kofford was born in Kanab, Utah. Her family, like the the Kofford family, moved to Orem, Utah, where the couple met while attending high school.
Sister Kofford's family was also less-active, but both sets of parents were reactivated and able to go to the temple with the Koffords before they died. "We both come from great stock," she said. "I can't remember when the gospel hasn't been important in my life."
While dating, they continued their education after high school. Elder Kofford attended the University of Utah for undergraduate work while Sister Kofford attended business school. They were married in 1953 after his sophomore year at the university.
Elder Kofford graduated with a degree in political science and with enough credits to get his teaching credentials. He also made plans to attend the University of Southern California Law School.
While attending law school at night, he worked as a teacher during the day to provide for his growing family, consisting of two children at the time.
He taught American government, world history and American history on the junior high and high school levels, and in the afternoons he worked as a playground recreational director.
"I was working 60 to 65 hours plus going to law school and we had two children when I started law school," he said, reflecting on the situation.
After he graduated from USC, the family decided to stay in California and Elder Kofford started his law practice in Los Angeles and shortly after moved the practice to Pasadena, Calif. The family - now complete with five children, three girls and two boys - moved to Monrovia, Calif., and then Arcadia, where they have lived for nearly 30 years.
They look back on their years in California as being "a great advantage for our family," Elder Kofford declared. "Because our children associated with so many non-members, they simply had to grow strong in the gospel in order to have the kind of social experiences they wanted to have."
One daughter currently serves in the Texas Houston East (Spanish speaking) Mission and the rest of the children live away from home with their own families.
Although life always hasn't been easy, the Koffords say they have had 38 wonderful years of marriage. "We have worked hard," Sister Kofford commented. "You have to make marriage the most important thing in life.
"We enjoy each other so much," she said. "There isn't anyone else I'd rather be with. He has a fun personality and a tremendous sense of humor. He also has the patience of Job. He always makes me feel like I am the most important thing in the world. Even when we had little children, he could walk in the room and I knew everything would be all right."
Elder Kofford added, "She is the heartbeat of my life. She led me to activity in the Church and has been the reason for all the joy and happiness I have experienced over these years."
Although time has been limited in the past two years, the Koffords enjoy getting together with family members. Sister Kofford's hobby, for example, is spending "grandma hours" with her grandchildren when possible.
The Koffords also enjoy horses, something that stems back to Elder Kofford's days as a young boy in Santaquin. He started riding horses when he was 4 years old, helping to herd cows for local farmers for 10 cents.
His love for fine horses continues today. Before leaving to serve as mission president, he owned four Tennessee walking horses. The family now has one.
The Koffords also collect antique clocks, which they give to each other as anniversary gifts. One clock dates back to the time of Napoleon.
As they have grown together, the importance of family has always been a strength in their lives. The Koffords motto has always been, "I love you more than yesterday, but less than tomorrow."
Sister Kofford remarked, "We are willing to pay any price to have an eternal family. I can't imagine heaven being any better than this, but if it is I want to be a part of it with the entire family."
Elder Kofford added, "I think the gospel is the only thing in the world that makes sense in life. It is the essence of life, the source of happiness and joy and contentment. As we live life with the gospel we are able to face any challenge or trial that we face with calmness and assurance. I don't know how people live without the gospel.
"As we see the gospel taken into the lives in the city of New York where cultures are so diverse and lifestyles are so different than we are used to in the West, this constitutes a graphic illustration of what the gospel can and does do to people's lives."
Now in his new calling, Elder Kofford looks forward to "a tremendous opportunity to learn and share the joy of the gospel" with others, he said.
"I don't consider this or any other responsibility that we are given as a sacrifice. I believe they are privileges and I'm grateful for the opportunity, and, in a very minor way, to demonstrate my love for my Heavenly Father and my gratitude for the Savior by service in the Lord's Church."
Elder Cree-L Kofford
- Family: Born July 11, 1933, in Santaquin, Utah, to Cree Clarence and Melba Nelson Kofford. Married Ila Macdonald, Sept. 11, 1953, in the Manti Temple; parents of 5 children, they have 12 grandchildren.
- Education: Received bachelor's degree in 1955 from the University of Utah. Earned juris doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1961.
- Employment: Managing partner in Southern California law firm.
- Church service: Stake missionary, gospel doctrine teacher, bishop, stake president, regional representative, mission president, 1989-1991.