clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NEW SEVENTY DESIRES TO `PRESS FORWARD,' BE FAITHFUL SERVANT

Fourteen years ago, in a little town on the coast of Spain, Bruce D. Porter realized he wanted to consecrate his life to the service of the Master.

Thus, he was prepared for the unconditional acceptance of a call to be the newest member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. He was sustained in general conference on April 2.With his wife, Susan, and two toddlers, he was living in Germany 14 years ago. The family took a vacation to the coast of Spain. Somewhat isolated in a little town called Roquetas del Mar (meaning "Roquetas on the ocean") on the Costa de Sol, he spent much time in prayer and meditation.

"I came back a profoundly changed person," he reflected in a recent interview. "It was then, more than at any other one time, that I wanted to give my whole life in all dimensions to the Lord. And I understood it was possible to do that not just on Sunday or in Church service, but in all dimensions of life."

His resolve is consistent with a Book of Mormon passage from which he draws strength and guidance. It is 2 Ne. 31:17-21, with particular emphasis on verse 20: "Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting on the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

The qualities listed in those verses were engendered in young Bruce by loving and fathful parents when he was growing up in Albuquerque, N.M., the eldest of five children. Utah natives, his parents moved to Albuquerque before he was born, where his father, a stake president and later a regional representative, worked as an engineer for Sandia Labs.

"When I was 14 or 15, we moved to Washington, D.C. for just one year," Elder Porter recalled. "That move had a big impact on me. It widened my horizons. We belonged to an excellent ward, where I was embraced by the other youth. I also had the opportunity of going home teaching with my father. We had to travel long distances, which resulted in lengthy discussions about the gospel. That experince played a significant role in developing my testimony."

A diligent and gifted student, he focused on math and science until his senior year at Manzono High School in Albuquerque. His history teacher, James Murdock, influenced him greatly, and by the time he arrived at BYU on a David O. McKay scholarship, he had decided to major in history.

"My freshman year, I was asked to teach the gospel doctrine class," he said. "But for some reason, they didn't have a manual. The extra effort of preparing lessons without a manual led me to spend many hours studying the scriptures. It was late in the year, during a long evening of study and preparation, that I came to receive a personal witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and significance of His atoning sacrifice." That testimony, he said, "has been the guiding star of my life ever since."

Missionary service in the Germany Dusseldorf Mission from 1971 to 1973 not only solidified his commitment to the gospel but also stirred the beginning of his later professional interest. His two mission presidents, Walter Kindt and Rudolph Poecker, were both native Germans who had immigrated to the United States shortly after World War II. Both had fought in the war on the Russian front. Both talked about taking the gospel to Russia. One had been a prisoner of war there and had learned to speak some Russian.

"The part of Germany where I served had many East European refugees, and the combination of my mission presidents' experiences and influence and working with people from Poland and other East European countries led me when I returned from my mission to study the Russian language and ultimately to make a career in Russian affairs," he reflected.

Back at BYU, in a religion class taught by Bruce C. Hafen, who is now BYU provost, he met Susan Elizabeth Holland, a chemistry major who grew up in Corning, N.Y.

"My best quality is that I chose her for my wife," he said. He spoke of her loving, unselfish nature and her devotion to serving others.

"Another quality that attracted me to her from the very beginning was that she's very peaceful and patient, with a sense of serenity that is profound."

He said she is easily touched by the Spirit. "Often, when we kneel down for family prayer, she has tears in her eyes."

She remarked: "Early in our dating, I was touched by his commitment to the gospel. Since that time I have seen that commitment bless my life and the lives of our children. We have been uplifted countless times when he has shared insights from the scriptures or has taught gospel principles in our home.

"From the day we were engaged, he has let me know that I am the most important person in his life. As a result, we have a very close relationship."

Sister Porter remembered one occasion when, as a busy branch president in Germany, he had his executive secreatry cancel all appointments for the evening because he sensed she needed him. Later, while serving as a bishop and working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., he regularly turned down evening engagements so he could spend time at home.

The family likes to engage in swimming, basketball and games, and the children are computer enthusiasts.

"They range in age from 16 to 7, so during the week they're off doing their own various activities, but they have been raised to know that the Sabbath day is holy," Sister Porter said. "It's amazing to see how the four of them pull together to enjoy each other on Sunday. It's been great to see their friendship develop, encouraged by the Sabbath Day."

Elder Porter holds a master's degree in Russian Studies and a doctorate in political science from Harvard University. Since 1993, he has been associate professor of political science at BYU. Prior to joing the BYU faculty he was the Bradley Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Affiars at Harvard, a position that largely entailed research and writing

The Porters were in Washington, D.C. for eight years, five of which he spent as executive director of the Board for International Broadcasting, a Presidentially appointed body that overseas Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Those are the two broadcasting stations that penetrated the information blackout in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Earlier, living in Germany, he had worked for Radio Free Europe.

The experience deepened his appreciation for the power of mass media to bring about good or ill.

"I went to Poland in 1989 and met with Lech Walensa and other Polish leaders. I was there as part of a delegation to negotiate the opening of a news bureau in Warsaw for Radio Free Europe. We were greeted like liberators because these people for so many decades had looked to that radio station as a beacon in their lives. I think it was not just the power of technology. It was the power of truth. Ultimately, what people need is access to truth, and you can't really exercise moral agency without it."

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the need for truth has been especially evident in that area of the world, he said.

"I've visited Russia many times in the past few years. I have a great love and admiration for the Russian people, who have suffered so much. What Russia needs today - and I think this applies to all peoples of the world - is a moral foundation for its society. That was destroyed during decades of Communist rule, with the result that a generation of youth has been raised with no clear compass or anchor for their lives."

While some solutions may be found in politics, the ultimate conclusion is that the teachings of Christ are the real answer, he said. "The Church, both in Russia and throughout the world, has more potential than any other organization to change both individual lives and nations for the better."

In line with that objective, Elder Porter said his main desire as a General Authority is to be a totally faithful servant of the Lord and of the Brethren who preside over him.

"I want to always be there where I'm supposed to be. I want to be a worthy ambassador for the Church and for the Lord Jesus Christ. I bring no personal agenda of any kind to this calling. According to the scriptures, the Seventies work under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is the whole desire of my heart to be an obedient and faithful servant and to magnify this calling according to the instructions given me. I can conceive of no privilege higher than being in the service of the Lord."

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Elder Bruce D. Porter

Family: Born in Albuquerque, N.M., Sept. 18, 1952, to Lyle Kay and Wilma Holmes Porter. Married Susan Elizabeth Holland in the Washington Temple Feb. 2, 1977. Parents of four children: David, 16, Christopher, 15, Lisa, 13, Jennifer, 7.

Education: Bachelor's degree in history from BYU, 1976; master's degree in Russian studies from Harvard University, 1978; doctorate in political science from Harvard University, 1979.

Employment: Associate professor of political science at BYU, 1993 to present; Bradley senior research fellow at Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, 1990-93; acting associate director of Olin Institute for Strategic Studies during fellowship at Harvard; executive director of Board for International Broadcasting (a government agency), 1985-90; corporate analyst for Northrop Corp., a defense contractor in aviation, 1984-85; aide to Sen. Henry Jackson and the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, 1983-84; analyst with Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany, 1980-83.

Church service: Counselor in presidency of BYU 1st Stake; former stake mission president, bishop and counselor, branch president and counselor.