Elder Daniel Leroy Johnson of the First Quorum of the Seventy was born and grew up in Mexico's Colonia Juarez, and that tells a lot about his heritage and upbringing. The Mormon colonies in the Chihuahua province were settled by saints escaping the unconscionable persecution of those living the principle of plural marriage by the United States government before the Manifesto. They were among the strongest of the strong... hardworking, faithful, and honest. Grow up among their descendants as a boy in the Mormon Colonies of Mexico and you'll also 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. Hard work and an unflinching testimony of the Gospel are traits evident in Elder Johnson.
"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.
Elder Johnson was born to Leroy and Rita Skousen Johnson on December 15, 1946, in Colonia Juárez, Mexico, where he was raised and where a temple was dedicated in 1999. He has seen the temple’s effect on the members there. “Life revolves around temple attendance in that community now,” he says. “It has changed lives.”
Elder Daniel Leroy Johnson believes that the ordinances of the temple are the crowning blessings of the gospel. “Temple attendance affects so many aspects of gospel living,” he says. “If we will go to the temple as often as we can, it can be the single biggest influence for change in our lives.”
Elder Johnson has had the opportunity to see the gospel change lives throughout the Americas. As an Area Seventy in the Mexico North Area, Elder Johnson visited many places where he had served as a missionary in the West Mexico Mission from 1966 to 1968. “Every city where we had missionaries in the ’60s now has at least one stake,” he says. “It’s marvelous to see so many strong leaders.”
Elder Johnson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics from Brigham Young University. He and his wife, LeAnn Holman, were married in 1970 in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.
The Johnsons, who have six children, have lived in Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela; and in Utah, Minnesota, and Texas, in the United States. “We have been able to watch the Church grow,” he says. “It’s a miracle.”
The Johnsons have tried to contribute to that growth wherever they have lived. In addition to serving as an Area Seventy, Elder Johnson has been president of the Guayaquil North Ecuador Mission, counselor in mission presidencies, counselor in a stake presidency, bishop, ward Young Men president, and Gospel Doctrine teacher.
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."