Foreshadowed life of Church service
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
Grow up a boy in the Mormon Colonies of Mexico and you'll know what it means to work be it outside in the apple orchards, inside chicken coops or while fulfilling a Church calling in the rural corners of northern Mexico.
Elder Daniel L. Johnson's Colonia Juarez upbringing afforded plenty of opportunities to get his hands calloused and dirty.
"I was raised tending fruit trees, gathering eggs and cutting off chicken heads in preparation for Sunday dinner," said the newly called member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He remembers guiding a horse-drawn plow.
But beyond the physical labor, Elder Johnson also adopted the Colonies' distinctive spiritual work ethic that has served him well for almost six decades. While still a little boy, he would tag along as his father, Leroy Johnson, traveled the mountain communities of Chihuahua to conduct Sunday services in tiny, rural branches. Young Daniel was often enlisted to ring the bell at the Pacheco Chapel, calling folks from their homes to worship in the humble meetinghouse.
Indeed, the Mormon Colonies provided a home for Elder Johnson where the fabric of community and Church duty is woven endlessly together. A graduate of the Church-owned Juarez Academy, Elder Johnson learned from his family and hometown a love for the Spanish language, the Latino people and service, service, service. His first ancestor to join the Church was baptized in New York in 1831. His father was a faithful missionary. His mother, Rita Skousen Johnson, taught him to never say no to a Church calling.
So Elder Johnson's decision to serve a full-time mission came long before his bishop extended the invitation. He would labor in the West Mexican Mission, deepening his love for Latin America. His affinity for the area seemed to foreshadow a future life of professional and Church duty south of the USA border.
After returning from his mission, Elder Johnson enrolled at Brigham Young University and studied accounting and economics. During a break from his studies he bought a car and drove to Idaho where a job spraying pine trees was waiting for him. While eating one day at a diner, he noticed a friendly waitress and hoped to see her again. He did, unexpectedly, a short time later when the blind date arranged by friends turned out to be LeAnn Holman, the waitress from the diner.
"I received an impression that something was going to happen between us," said Elder Johnson, smiling.
LeAnn was on a break from school herself. Like her future husband, the Idaho girl knew how to work. Sister Johnson's father, Rulon J. Holman, suffered from multiple sclerosis while she was growing up and was unable to earn a living. Her mother, Marva Weston Holman, was a school teacher. LeAnn learned from her parents that almost any problem could be remedied with hard work and a good education. Brother Holman also taught his daughter valuable lessons on endurance. "He never complained never once said, 'Why me?"
Shortly after that first blind date, Daniel Johnson and LeAnn Holman were engaged. In 1970 they were married in the Idaho Falls Temple. After finishing school, the Johnsons would soon move to Mexico City the first chapter in a series of professional opportunities that included stops in Mexico, Honduras, Uruguay and Venezuela. With each assignment, the Johnsons marveled at the growth and spiritual maturity found throughout Latin America. Small branches in, say, Mexico, where Elder Johnson served as a young missionary, had evolved into two stakes.
"The Lord blesses His people in every way," Sister Johnson said. "If they are faithful, they will develop." She added that the greatest miracle can be found in the development of local leadership.
The Johnsons were also able to participate first-hand in the growth of the Church in Latin America together when Elder Johnson was called to preside over the Ecuador Guayaquil North Mission in 1991.
The couple's six children had long been the beneficiaries of their parents' international lives. They learned second languages and were exposed to many cultures. Still, the Ecuador assignment posed challenges for the family. One teenage Johnson daughter was the only Church member in her school. Many of the students did not practice LDS standards, "so she set her own standards," said Sister Johnson.
Setting one's own standards high is a decision that all young members must make if they live in Ecuador, Utah, or any other place in the world, she added.
Elder Johnson greets his new calling in the Seventy with the same enthusiasm he felt years ago when his dad asked him to ring the bell at the Pacheco Chapel.
"How wonderful it's going to be to dedicate my whole soul to one single purpose I'm excited about that."
E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org