The following biographical sketch is adapated from
the "News of the Church: Elder Francis M. Gibbons of the First Quorum of
the Seventy" published in the Ensign for May 1986 on the occasion
of Elder Gibbons' being called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, and from other sources.
“There often comes a time when a man must decide whether
to make a lot of money or to make a great life.” The year was 1946. Elder
Albert E. Bowen, a member of the Quorum of the
Twelve Apostles, was speaking in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.
In the audience, a young man, recently discharged
from the Navy, had been fervently praying for direction about his future.
Now, as he felt Elder Bowen’s eyes singling him out of the crowd, the words
were planted deep in his soul.
“I knew then that sometime in my life I would be
confronted with the decision Elder Bowen spoke of,” said Elder Francis
M. Gibbons. “Because of that, when the choice did come, I was able to walk
away from a lucrative, rewarding career and follow the path outlined by
That path brought Elder Gibbons, at age of sixty-four,
to the First Quorum of the Seventy. When the call came, he had been retired
for one week after serving sixteen years as secretary to the First Presidency.
Elder Gibbons was privileged to serve under four presidents, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, and Ezra Taft Benson.
Elder Gibbons is a native of St. Johns, Arizona.
A graduate of Stanford University, he received a juris doctor degree from
the University of Utah and practiced law for eighteen years. While a practicing attorney, he began writing articles for law journals. Writing developed into a lifelong passion as he wrote other articles for Church magazines.
In April 1970, at the age of forty-eight, Francis
Gibbons was a member of a nationally-reputed legal firm, a bishop, a loving
husband, and the father of four teenagers. It was then he heard from Joseph
Anderson, a member of his ward, that the
First Presidency was looking for a new secretary. Elder Anderson had
filled that position until he was called as an Assistant to the Twelve.
The Brethren wanted a mature individual with Church administrative experience
who also knew shorthand. As it happened, Elder Gibbons had trained as a court recorder at the age
of seventeen and, though he had never filled that job, had often used his
shorthand through his schooling and career.
As he prayerfully contemplated offering his services
to the First Presidency, the Spirit confirmed to Elder Gibbons that the
time was now. The words, planted in his heart by an Apostle of the Lord
almost twenty-five years before, flowered at last.
As he met the following day with the First Presidency,
President N. Eldon Tanner asked if he could
afford to take the job, as the salary was a fraction of what Brother Gibbons
had been making. President Lee answered for him, in words indelibly
recorded in Francis Gibbons’ mind: “Frank has come to the point in
his life where he can’t afford not to do it.”
Within three days he ended his legal career and began
“I have never regretted that decision,” says Elder
Gibbons. “Although our income was radically reduced, the Lord has blessed
us, and we haven’t missed it. My association over the years with four Presidents
of the Church has been reward enough.”
For sixteen years he took the minutes in First Presidency
meetings and in their meetings with the Quorum of the Twelve and other
General Authorities in the temple, as well as recording ordinations, blessings,
“I have a burning testimony that God reveals his
mind and will to the living prophets. I know it; I have been there and
have felt the influence of the Spirit.”
Elder Gibbons, who has also served as stake mission
president, stake president, and patriarch, has made a lifelong study of
the presidents of the Church, and has written biographies on all the Prophets from Joseph Smith through Ezra Taft Benson, often using sources not readily available to the public. His works have
been critically acclaimed and commercailly sucessful. His wife, Helen Bay Gibbons, is also an accomplished
writer. They are the parents of four.
Elder Gibbons served but three years of his five-year
call to the First Quorum of the Seventy before being reassigned to the
Second Quorum of the Seventy on April 1, 1989. He faithfully fulfilled
the remainder of his call in the Second Quorum, being honorably released therefrom
and receiving a vote of thanks from a grateful Church in General Conference assembled on October 5, 1991.
Grampa Bill is grateful to Elder Gibbons for personal correspondence which amplified and extended the information available from the other sources cited below.