Elder Larry W. Gibbons of the Second Quorum of the Seventy had a typical childhood growing up in Logan, Utah. He was one of Andrew and Lola Gibbons' seven children. "We were active in the Church and had a good home life, really good," he said.
And though his family life naturally nurtured a testimony, he said it wasn't really rock solid until he served a mission to Holland. "I wasn't wavering, but I wasn't as deeply rooted as I should have been," he said. While he was away, his father died, and he had to choose between a local university near home to help his mother and the away-from-home challenges of Stanford University. At his family’s urging, he returned to Stanford, where he studied history. Elder Gibbons said he likes to tell people he never graduated from college, having attended Stanford for only three years. But he left there early to start medical school at the University of Utah.
After his third year at Stanford, he returned home to Cache Valley for the summer before heading to medical school and was told by a brother-in-law who was an institute instructor that he needed to meet LaDawn Anderson. She was from southern Idaho and attended Utah State University. He met her and was impressed. He said she had a solid testimony, was a leader, had a sense of humor, was attractive and was an athlete, "and I loved sports. Our first date was playing tennis."
Her impression of him? "He volunteered to help me with an opening social for Mutual in a summer ward," she said. "I thought that's a good one, somebody who stepped up and volunteered to help."
Sister Gibbons finished her master's degree that summer and was off to teach physical education at Rick's College, now BYU-Idaho, for a school year while he completed his first year of medical school. They were then married in the Logan Utah Temple on July 21, 1967 and she continued teaching health and physical education at a junior high school in Salt Lake City until he got his medical degree. He later took a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University. After time in Seattle, San Antonio, and Boston, they settled in Dallas, Texas, USA. They have two children.
During the time of his internship in Seattle, as he was still uncertain about what branch of medicine to enter, the Vietnam War was raging and young doctors were being drafted. Elder Gibbons signed up for an extra year in the U.S. Army so that he could have a three-year assignment in Europe where he could be accompanied by his wife.
Sent to San Antonio, Texas, for military training, he was selected to teach preventive medicine to all the incoming Army doctors and ended up spending his entire three-year commitment there and leaving the Army as a major. Part of that Army assignment included teaching medical students at the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio. He liked preventive medicine and knew that was what he wanted to pursue in his private career, though he'd had no formal training in it.
He filled an opening at the Cooper Clinic in preventive medicine with an emphasis on exercise and, with the exception of a year off to earn a master's degree in public health from Harvard, has been there ever since.
Elder and Sister Gibbons declared that as they were planning their future, the last thing they wanted to do was go in the Army and the last place they wanted to go was Texas. But now, looking back, they see the guiding hand of the Lord and are grateful for it.
They said they landed in a ward in San Antonio where they were immediately swept up and loved. The same thing happened in Dallas, and in Boston while he attended Harvard, and they have made lifelong friends in each place.
"It's just the Church," he said. "The Church makes all the difference."
In Dallas, while he excelled in his career and served in the Church, she primarily nurtured their children and also served in the Church.
Elder Gibbons has a philosophy: “If you have a choice between two challenges, take the toughest—the one that will stretch you most. The times my testimony has grown the most were when I faced the greatest challenges.”
Though we don’t get to choose our callings, choosing to accept them brings stretching experiences as well, says Elder Gibbons. Now a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, he was among the first Area Seventies. He says, “Accompanying members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—studying together, kneeling together, and receiving revelation on calling a new stake president—that was a time of tremendous spiritual growth.”
Elder Gibbons has also grown as a regional representative, stake president, stake president’s counselor, seminary teacher, and others.
To make good choices and take on the right challenges, Elder Gibbons says, it’s important to establish priorities early. “Spend your time and your best efforts on things that matter eternally.”
The inherent value of spiritual and physical health are well known to Elder Gibbons; he has spent much of his life studying both.
Not only does he, as a Church leader, encourage spiritual strength, he is also a renowned doctor of medicine who is a strong advocate of physical health.
"I think getting control over your physical body and taking good care of it is inherently spiritual," Elder Gibbons, who was sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy during April 2006 General Conference, said during a Church News interview. Gaining a physical body is one of the major reasons we've come to this earth, he pointed out, adding that living a healthful life is important in taking care of a family and serving in the Church.
Having risen to the position of president and medical director of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas, he lectured worldwide and writes for professional journals and other publications on topics related to his specialty of preventive medicine.
He freely shared counsel on physical health, including his personal keys: rising early to get the day started right — including scripture study, getting to the office early to get some work done before the phones start ringing, and taking care of himself.
"Stay active, exercise regularly and eat right and you'll be more productive," as well as improving the prospects of living longer, he said. He said that as a doctor, "What I'm doing most of the time is just teaching the Word of Wisdom to people who don't know it's a revelation from God."
After serving with distinction and honor, Elder Gibbons was granted an honorable
release from the Second Quorum of the Seventy October 2012.