Elder Ronald A. Rasband was easing into adolescence when his mother challenged him to make a grown-up commitment.
Then a deacon, he was about to enter an age when things like tobacco and beer begin vying for young people's company.
Elder Rasband remembers his mother sitting him down and asking: "What are your plans as it relates to the Word of Wisdom?"
"I hope to be able to keep it all the days of my life," he answered. "She said 'I want you to make a commitment to me that you will keep the Word of Wisdom.' "
Elder Rasband, who was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy during the recent April general conference, accepted his mother's wise challenge. Years passed, he served a full-time mission, went to college, married and eventually became a top executive at a large global company but never forgot his sacred pledge.
"I did not want to break the commitment I made to my mother to keep the Word of Wisdom," he said.
Today, Elder Rasband, 49, and his wife, Melanie, share a precious testimony of accepting and keeping spiritual commitments. "Be obedient, put the Lord first blessings will follow" could be their family motto.
Both Elder and Sister Rasband hail from pioneer stock. They are grateful for the sacrifices their pioneer forebears made so they could have the gospel to pass on to their children and grandchildren. "Our families have graves dotted across the plains of lost loved ones," he said.
Elder Rasband grew up in the Cottonwood neighborhood of the Salt Lake Valley. He enjoyed a happy childhood. His parents were equally devoted to faith and family nurturing their son's blossoming faith from a young age.
"A testimony has always been very much a part of my life," he said. "I don't ever remember not having a testimony or questioning the one I have. . . . My whole life has been peppered with spiritual experiences."
After graduating from Olympus High School and spending a year at the University of Utah, Elder Rasband accepted a call to serve in the Eastern States Mission. Full-time proselyting strengthened his gospel convictions and introduced him to a section of the United States that would be regarded as sacred ground by Elder Rasband and his future family.
After returning home and resuming his studies at the university, Elder Rasband met two people that would forever change his life his eventual eternal companion and, later, a future business and spiritual mentor.
First, he became acquainted with a fellow student named Melanie Twitchell through a campus fraternity for returned missionaries. They became friends, dated, and in the fall of 1973 were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple by Elder LeGrand Richards, a great-uncle of Sister Rasband and late member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
The young couple lived in student housing during the early period of their marriage. Money was tight and the Rasbands worked several jobs to satisfy bills. Children soon arrived, stretching every cent even tighter. But the Rasbands remained faithful, found ways to pay their tithing and felt happy and blessed.
"I think the thing that I have appreciated most throughout our marriage is we have been able to be grateful for every step, even for those early hard times," Sister Rasband said. "We've always felt if we could acknowledge the Lord and be grateful to Him for everything we have. . . our opportunities and blessings would stay balanced."
While in college, the Rasbands met industrialist Jon M. Huntsman, a current Area Authority Seventy who at the time was serving in a leadership position in one of the campus stakes. The two men became friends and, later, Elder Rasband accepted a position in Elder Huntsman's business.
Looking back, Elder and Sister Rasband say they are grateful to have been part of a company that spliced sound business with honesty and integrity. Because of Elder Huntsman's work practices, Elder Rasband said he was never asked to compromise spiritual commitments to achieve company commitments. Church, family and business peacefully co-existed.
Elder Rasband would eventually be named the president and chief operating officer of Huntsman Chemical Corporation, a title he held until he was called to preside over the New York New York North Mission. His mission president assignment returned him to the same fields he had once harvested as a young elder.
When the family learned they would be serving in New York, Sister Rasband recalled, "Elder Rasband had tears in his eyes and said 'They've called me home.' "
Three years of missionary service together strengthened the Rasbands' love and appreciation for one another. They relied on each other's respective talents as they taught, loved and strengthened hundreds of young missionaries.
It has now been a few weeks since President Gordon B. Hinckley called Elder Rasband to be a General Authority. He admits he still feels overwhelmed but the Rasbands have again made a commitment to serve faithfully.
"I take comfort in the scripture that says 'with God, all things are possible,' " Elder Rasband said. "I hope I can be molded and shaped into the kind of servant and witness that the Lord would have me be."
You can reach Jason Swensen by E-mail at <a href="MAILTO:[email protected]