It is no surprise that Elder Paul Edward Koelliker of the First Quorum of the
Seventy, as the father of seven children and the former managing director of the Church’s Temple
Department, said that family is everything and that the temple is all about nurturing and sustaining
“The Lord in His tender mercies has really blessed our lives,” said Elder
Koelliker. “We have regular family gatherings, and we go to the temple. Our children have their
grandfather’s gift for storytelling, and they keep us laughing for hours.”
Born on March 12, 1943, in Pittsburg, California, Elder Koelliker was the oldest
of five children born to Edward C. and Lois B. Olson Koelliker. The family moved to Salt Lake City,
Utah, in 1945.
Elder Koelliker attended high school with his future wife, Freda Ann Neilson, but
they didn’t date until they were students at the University of Utah in 1964. By then, Elder Koelliker
was back from his mission to Berlin, Germany. He and Ann married in the Salt Lake Temple on March 18,
Of his mission, he says, “We met with people who had been thrust out of their
homes. The meaning of family became evident to me as we taught families whose parents were on the
other side of the Berlin Wall.”
A common comment over the years by children of Elder Paul E. Koelliker as they
visited their father in his office in the Church Office Building was the neatness of his desk.
They marveled that at the end of the day their father, whose desk would often
be buried under stacks of paperwork of the day, took time to carefully and thoughtfully organize each
bit of paper into tidy piles for filing.
Orderliness, he said, tends to peace and harmony — crucial qualities of spirit
for the director of the Church's Temple Department.
He wasn't obsessive compulsive about order, says his wife, Ann. Nor was he
finicky. But in being organized, detailed and orderly, he created a calm at home and in the
Given Elder Koelliker's demonstrated propensity to neatness and order, Sister
Koelliker said she learned to deal with such exacting standards, and sees her role in life as the one
who "gives balance."
Elder Koelliker, whose call to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy was
announced April 2, 2005 during general conference, radiated a deepened sense of peace and contentment
that comes of standing in holy places — including assisting President Gordon
B. Hinckley in the dedication of 69 temples.
As managing director of the Temple Department, Elder Koelliker stood at the
confluence of the greatest temple-building activity in the history of the world.
Named managing director of the department in November 1997, he was still figuring
out his new bundle of keys when President Hinckley announced ambitious plans to construct 30 temples.
There were 51 operating temples at the time. When the dust finally settled nearly
three years later at the end of the year 2000, there were 102. Another 18 have since been dedicated.
The story of this epic temple-building period, according to Elder Koelliker, was
not told in the occasional 23-hour work day, or in the 23-day work period, but in the vision of the
Witnessing up close and firsthand the prophetic mantle of President Hinckley,
Elder Koelliker shared a tender testimony of a humble servant of the Lord who learned after years and
years of service how to do what the Lord wants.
"He is the exemplar of hard work and steadfastness," Elder Koelliker said of
President Hinckley. "The rest of us are just trying to emulate."
With the work of building so many temples shared with the Presiding Bishop's
Office and the temple construction department, Elder Koelliker focused on preparing members to perform
temple ordinances in places where previously there had been no temples.
"The challenge," he said, "was preparing people, who, in some cases, had little
background in the temple ceremony. We learned in training sessions that some hadn't received their own
endowments. They would be excused to attend a session for their endowments, then they would return to
complete their training to become ordinance workers."
Elder Koelliker's experience after participating in nearly 70 dedications was that
each was unique and specific for the area.
"A powerful, uplifting spirit was felt at each," he said, recounting how one woman
of another faith returned 20 times during an open house, wondering what she felt and why she didn't want
Elder Koelliker was born March 12, 1943, in a military tent hospital in Pittsburg,
Calif., while his father served in the military. He was reared in a hardworking family by parents
deeply devoted to the gospel.
A testimony came easily to him in his youth. But it wasn't until serving a mission
in 1964 in "a little bastion of freedom" in West Berlin, Germany, then something of an island of
freedom inside the geographical borders of East Germany, that the truths of the gospel were seared to
There was something about living with a people surrounded by those who threatened
their peace that brought the Cold War to stark reality for him and helped him cherish the blessings of
He remembers tracting with his companion one Sunday morning and meeting a family
with two children. They told how the swift construction of the Berlin Wall about three years earlier
had separated them from their newborn daughter who was recuperating with grandparents in a neighboring
They told of the heroics of their young son who, one year later, snatched the girl
from the communists by grabbing her and carrying her from the East German side of the train station to
the West German side where the family awaited.
After three weeks of missionary discussions, the family was baptized.
Later, still as a missionary, Elder Koelliker accompanied the mission president
to visit members in East Germany, the first visits they'd had in 10 years. One visit was made to
Freiberg where they met on Primary-size chairs built out of the resourcefulness and skill of the members.
While there were no spiritual premonitions that a temple would be built in this
rural city — a temple that would prove to be a great blessing to members long separated from the main
body of the Church by the government — Elder Koelliker recognized these members as "a sacred set of people."
He remembered two sisters coming from Czechoslovakia to attend their first
sacrament meeting since they had been baptized five years earlier.
"I'm convinced that the building of the temple in Freiberg had a lot to do with
opening the doors of the Church to Eastern Europe," he said.
In 2002, Elder Koelliker returned to Freiberg with President Hinckley for the
rededication of the temple originally dedicated in 1985 by President Hinckley. There he renewed old
acquaintances and witnessed the hand of the Lord in harvesting seeds planted years earlier.
Grateful for his opportunities to serve in the Church as a stake president and
bishop, Elder Koelliker acknowledged that those experiences helped prepare him for his work in the
“I love serving in the Temple Department,” said Elder Koelliker, who, with a
degree in business administration, worked for the Church in a variety of positions since 1966.
“Sixty-nine temples have been built since I have been in this position. I have witnessed firsthand
the mind and energy of President Gordon B. Hinckley. I believe his heart is with the work of the temples,
and I sustain him in this sacred trust. He is a man for this season and a resource of truth. My witness
of his prophetic call is strong.”
After his mission, Elder Koelliker met Ann Neilson during institute activities at
the University of Utah. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on March 18, 1966, and raised seven
children, "each a great blessing and unique in personality."
On October 5,2013, Elder Koelliker was released from the First Quorum and
designated an Emeritus General Authority. A grateful Church gave hime a unanimous vote
of thanks for his services.