The following biographical sketch is adapted from
the "News of the Church: Elder Philip T. Sonntag of the First Quorum of
the Seventy" published in the Ensign for May 1984 on the occasion
of Elder Sonntag's call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
In a drought-stricken area of the Philippines, a district
Relief Society president stood to conduct a meeting. “You know we’ve all
been fasting and praying for rain,” she began. “Well, the Lord hasn’t sent
us rain. But he has sent us the Sonntags. And that’s better than rain,
sisters.” For the past year, Regional Representative Philip Sonntag and
his wife, Valoy, have been bringing nourishment in the form of basic gospel
teachings, leadership principles, and lesson manuals—to Church leaders
in the fast-growing stakes and districts of the Philippines.
The calling as a full-time Regional Representative
came on the very day Brother Sonntag was released as director of Temple
Square, which followed an almost continuous succession of callings as president
of the New Zealand Christchurch Mission, stake president, and bishop.
Now a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy,
this good-hearted man firmly insists that he is not unusual. “We’re just
ordinary Latter-day Saints who have found that living the gospel is the
only way to true happiness.”
“I knew when I married him that he was completely
dedicated to the Lord,” said Sister Sonntag. This is a dedication she has
always shared. They married forty years ago, after both returned from missions—he
from the Western Canadian Mission, she from the Northern States Mission.
In fact, they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple only ten days after Philip
returned, with only twenty dollars between them—a gift from Valoy’s mother.
Elder Sonntag grew up in Salt Lake City, Sister Sonntag
in Cleveland, Idaho. They have spent most of their married lives in Salt
Lake, although several years in the Navy and many Church callings have
taken them to the far corners of the earth.
Despite the heavy demands of a family jewelry business
and Church callings, family has always been a priority for them. When life
got especially busy, Sister Sonntag would pack up the children and a picnic
dinner and pick up her husband from work. Then, after an hour of playing
and eating in the park, he would be off to a meeting. The whole family
still enjoys holidays and special occasions together.
Sister Sonntag describes her husband as at once very
spiritual and very practical. “I think I was born with a testimony,” he
reflects. When as a young father and bishop he lay near death after a serious
automobile accident, he reminded the Lord that he had responsibilities
at home—to his sweetheart and children, and to the members of his ward.
An unmistakable voice told him that because he had always lived the Word
of Wisdom he would “run and not be weary, and walk and not faint,” and
that he would be given a special blessing. When Sister Sonntag arrived
at his side and found him barely breathing, she took his hand. Then, receiving
the same witness, she explained to her worried parents that all would be
“I’ve never had a question about whether the gospel
of Jesus Christ was true, or whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
The only question I’ve had was whether I would be able to live the gospel
as I ought to.”
Elder Philip Sonntag is well on his way to affirmatively
answering that question.
Elder Sonntag served in the First Quorum of the Seventy
until released and called to the newly created Second Quorum of the Seventy
on April 1, 1989. There he faithfully served until released as a General
Authority on October 1, 1989.