Elder Don Ray Clarke of the First Quorum of the Seventy was born on December 11, 1945, in Rexburg, Idaho, USA, to Raymond and Gladys Clarke. He credited a good home, good friends, and his patriarch grandfather, who lived with his family, for strengthening his testimony as a child.
Elder Clarke received his training in values and principles growing up in Rexburg, Idaho, where opportunities to develop were as expansive as the great outdoors.
Confidence in himself was increased when Hal Barton at the local high school urged him to run for student body office. "Someone believed in me," Elder Clarke said of an experience that, in time, shaped how he viewed his prospects for the future.
Following his mission to the Argentina South Mission in 1965-67, where he said half his baptisms resulted from conversations struck with strangers on the street while lost, Elder Clarke returned to BYU where he taught Sunday School in a student ward.
Mary Anne Jackson, a member of the class, was attracted to this effervescent returned missionary with the engaging smile. She detected in him a sense of determination and leadership that she wanted for her family.
He earned an associate degree from Ricks College (now BYU–Idaho), a bachelor’s degree in business from Brigham Young University, and a master’s degree in business administration from Washington State University. A week after they graduated from BYU, Don and Mary Anne were married in the Idaho Falls Temple on June 5, 1970. They have six children.
"I always told my missionaries that they should become as good as they possibly
could, because they probably wouldn't marry someone better than themselves. But I'm the exception to that rule."
He and Mary Anne raised six children while moving from state to state with his career. Christmas was a community affair, where family was mixed with dozens of missionaries and those from other cultures.
"What's important," he said, "is that we know this work is divine. God leads this work and He cares deeply. He lets us get involved. We love life, and the problems associated with living make us greater people."
He pursued a successful career in retail, filling senior executive positions. Before his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, he served as a member of the high council of the Buena Vista Virginia Stake, stake president, assistant director of Church hosting, bishop, stake Young Men president, elders quorum president, and full-time missionary in the Argentina South Mission.
“I’ve learned along the way that so many of God’s children need help.” He answers their prayers through us, he says, “so that we can receive the great blessings of serving them.”
Elder Clarke had two experiences while serving as President of the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission which cemented his testimony of the Lord's love for the individual. In the first instance, he transferred to mission headquarters an elder who made it clear he would have preferred to finish his mission in another area. Soon after, the elder met a woman looking for a daughter she hadn’t seen in 10 years. When she showed him a photo, this missionary recognized her daughter from a previous area. He played a key part in reuniting a mother and her child.
Commenting on the experience, Elder Clarke explained, “I’ve come to know that God cares deeply about people.”
On another occasion Elder Clarke sat down at his desk to review the paperwork of new missionaries soon to arrive.
Thumbing through the stack, he was surprised to come across the name Chad Godfrey, a high school friend of his son Nathan. His mind turned back to a year previous. Returning home from a stake priesthood leadership meeting during which the brethren had been challenged to share the gospel with someone new, Elder Clarke was mentally reviewing his acquaintences.
They invited Chad to their home where they ate stuffed green peppers and spoke of the Restoration. This simple seed found fertile soil. Chad was baptized.
Elder Clarke lost track of the young man after embarking on his mission assignment. Now, before him on the desk, were the young man's mission papers.
"We never really know the consequences of the little things we do," Elder Clarke said. "We can never foretell the consequences of this work."
As mission president, Elder Clarke taught his missionaries to be fearless in declaring the gospel. "About 90 percent of the missionaries have stood in the front of a full bus and shared the gospel," he said.
"Satan tells us that it is not important to do missionary work," he said. "He tells us that simple things don't matter, that nothing will come of the effort, that it's a waste of time.
"But it does matter. Eternal are the consequences of the one," Elder Clarke said. Boldly proclaiming the gospel has long been a trait of Elder Clarke's.
Through it all, Elder Clarke maintained the energy level of man half his 60 years of age. A week prior to the General Conference in which he was called to the Second Quorum, he was playing basketball with the young men from his mission.
After four years of service in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Clarke was
released and called to the First Quorum April 2011, where, at this posting in 2013, he continues to serve.