As new Presiding Bishopric second counselor, Bishop Keith B. McMullin has rolled up his sleeves and gone to work - a trait fostered since his boyhood on the family farm in Leeds, Utah.
Hard work is nothing new or intimidating for Bishop McMullin, his wife, Carolyn, and their eight children (three married). Both parents have roots in rural settings, with their daily staples of chores, and they have worked together as a family since the children were small."There is nothing flashy about us, but we have been blessed with a wonderful family," said Bishop McMullin in a Church News interview, following the Dec. 27, 1995, announcement of his call. "We do everything possible to fulfill what the Lord has called us to do and will give our all in this new assignment."
Bishop McMullin knows well the heavy responsibilities carried by the Presiding Bishopric, having worked closely with them for 20 years in Church Welfare Services, the past 10 years as managing director.
With his years of service in Church welfare, Bishop McMullin brings to his position much experience. Under the direction of the First Presidency and general Church Welfare Committee, he managed Welfare Services as its scope and mission broadened to include the providing of humanitarian assistance in many areas and times of desperate need. In that role he has traveled the world and seen much of suffering, yet also much of relief and succor as help has been appropriately provided in the Lord's way.
"This calling, like all callings in the Church, is both demanding and wonderful at the same time," he added. "I was humbled by the fact the Lord would look to us for such a thing. After all, we consider ourselves to be just small-town folks who have a deep love for the Lord. A long time ago we gave ourselves to Him and find it the greatest of privileges to wear out our lives in His service. With that in mind, we carry on and pray that He will sustain us.
"I think we've become accustomed, through the experiences that have been extended to us, to the reality of the promise that the Lord sustains those whom He calls."
Sister McMullin added that they have learned to "just say yes and do it" when new opportunities are extended their way; to, in words she attributed to Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve, "place exclamation points and not question marks behind callings, both in those we sustain and in our own assignments."
While Bishop McMullin was filling youthful assignments well in southern Utah, then on a ranch in Montana and later in Salt Lake City, Sister McMullin was growing up in southeastern Idaho's tiny town of McCammon. Due to demands of making a living off the land, both recalled taking very few family vacations in their youth.
"In our growing-up years, recreation and work were intermingled," Bishop McMullin recalled. "There were trips to the farm, and that was always a vacation for me as a youngster, but it was also work. That's why we went."
Sister McMullin also recalled "more work than recreation. Usually for a break from hard work we would go and visit relatives and play with our cousins."
Yet both speak of those days with nothing but fondness and gratitude, citing appreciation for examples of faithful parents, relatives and Church leaders, and for a love of work and of the outdoors that has grown therefrom.
"For me, there is no more relaxing experience than to throw my leg over a good saddle horse," he said. "As a family we have a great love of the outdoors."
Sister McMullin said another carryover of their upbringing is a passion for gardening. "There's nothing more relaxing than working in the soil, and there is always a part of the yard planted in a garden. Growing a garden has taught us a lot of things that are basic, skills that are helpful and important to know, and that provide many spiritual moments of quiet reflection. A few minutes working in the garden or yard can put things into perspective."
The McMullins also skied together as a family as their children came along, with Sister McMullin agreeing to learn as a mother of six. She felt the time together would be beneficial and was a "good sport" for the family's sake.
The trips to the farm Bishop McMullin referred to took place after his family had moved to Salt Lake City. After spending his early years in Leeds, he spent fourth grade on a rugged ranch located between East Helena and Townsend, Mont., with the family keeping its property in southwestern Utah. There he was the only student in his grade at a remote schoolhouse, where a single teacher boarded in small living quarters.
"There were seven of us in the school," he said. "We would buck huge snowdrifts in a jeep to get there in the winter."
After a year or so there, the McMullins returned to Utah, stopping in Salt Lake City to visit Bishop McMullin's married brother and sister. "Dad was anxious to return to Leeds, since that was where our roots were, where we had property and could make a living. Mother, however, had other ideas. She felt Salt Lake City would provide opportunities for her children not available in a small town. We settled here and Dad took a job at the stockyards loading and unloading livestock. We continued to take care of the property in Leeds, returning to it and working the land."
Following high school, Bishop McMullin began studies at the University of Utah in banking and finance. In the meantime, Carolyn Gibbs was attending BYU, majoring in elementary education. She graduated, taught for a year in California and was called to serve in the West German Mission.
Prior to this, Bishop McMullin had been called to the South German Mission and put his schooling on hold. Within a few months after his arrival, missions in Germany were realigned, and Elder McMullin and Sister Gibbs ended up in the West German Mission. Bishop McMullin eventually served as a counselor in the mission presidency.
Following their missions, they both returned home and became better acquainted. After dating and courtship, the McMullins were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on June 22, 1964.
"We have had an eventful and full life together," said Sister McMullin.
Bishop McMullin finished school at the University of Utah while working part-time as an early morning seminary teacher and insurance adjuster. Sister McMullin taught elementary school. As they were getting started, they didn't have money for his tuition payment. Drawing upon experiences on the family farm, he borrowed his brother's cattle truck, drove to southern Utah and filled it with peaches. He brought the fruit back and sold it, making just enough for a quarter's tuition at the university.
Upon graduating in banking and finance, he was offered a job with Ford Motor Co. in Michigan in 1966. They packed up and made the move, settling in the small town of Ypsilanti. There they found a number of other young families, Church members from the West who were also there to work for Ford.
"We learned after we got there that priesthood leaders were going to close the languishing branch because it had struggled for years," Bishop McMullin said. "The branch president had asked the stake president to give them 60 days, and the branch held a special fast that the Lord would send people there. Many young couples began to move in, nearly all of them to work for Ford Motor. None of us knew each other before our arrival. We settled into that little town and branch and had a wonderful experience."
Within three months, he was called as branch president, putting plans he had for graduate school on hold while giving every spare minute to help the branch grow and prosper. The branch soon grew into a healthy ward, with Bishop McMullin serving as its first bishop.
"Those humble beginnings were an exciting thing for us to be a part of," reflected Bishop McMullin.
After three years there and while preparing to continue graduate studies, the McMullins were offered an opportunity to become involved in a small business enterprise back in Salt Lake City. They accepted the offer and returned west, spending 1969-75 in several small-business ventures.
"As we reflect upon it now, we realize that was six years of vigorous `graduate school' experience that taught us a lot of things," said Bishop McMullin. "We were involved in many and varied aspects of business. It was a school of hard knocks that left an indelible imprint upon us. Through that process, we came to understand things we never would have learned in school, experiences very precious and tender, that helped us appreciate what was truly important and what was not."
Bishop McMullin went to work for the Church in 1975 as director of financial and administrative services in the Welfare Department and has had countless "wonderful experiences" in welfare since then.
He and his wife returned to Germany in 1980 for three years of service as he presided over the Germany Frankfurt Mission, where they had both previously served as missionaries. They took seven children ages 1-15 with them, and soon after their arrival Sister McMullin gave birth to their eighth child.
"Even though it was a challenge with young children and having the baby, we look back and realize that the family helped bond us with the people and the missionaries," said Sister McMullin. "Our children look back on the mission with fond memories." To date, five of the McMullin children have filled full-time missions, three in Germany.
The family returned home, and Bishop McMullin resumed his work in Welfare Services, was later named as managing director of the Materials Management Department and then appointed as managing director of Welfare Services in 1985. In 1990, he was called as a stake president, where he was serving when called into the Presiding Bishopric.
Through those 10 years, work remained a common thread running through the McMullin household. The family had as many as three morning paper routes at one time. There was farm work for young and old, and employment for the children at various jobs as they grew older.
"We have tried very hard to make work a big part of our lives, because that is what life is made of," said Sister McMullin. "Our children have taken advantage of that and know what it is to put forth their best effort in achieving worthy goals."
That propensity for work is serving the McMullins well as they launch into their new assignment, as does their faith and unwavering commitment to the Lord and to His purposes.
"The learning curve is pretty steep when you receive new callings such as this one," said Bishop McMullin. "But we will do our best, and more, relying on the Lord and His tender mercies to help us succeed."
Bishop Keith B. McMullin
- Family: Born Aug. 18, 1941, in St. George, Utah, to Lawrence and Margaret Savage McMullin; married Carolyn Jean Gibbs on June 22, 1964, in the Salt Lake Temple; parents of eight children: Kirk, Chad, Johanna, Margaret (McMullin) Fullmer, Jennifer, David, Nathan and Nannette; two grandchildren.
- Education: Bachelor's degree in banking and finance from the University of Utah.
- Employment: Welfare Services managing director, director of international and administrative services and director of administration; managing director of Church Materials Management; various small-business enterprises; investment analyst for Ford Motor Co.
- Church Service: Stake president, mission president, bishop, bishop's counselor, high councilor.