This biographical sketch adapted from the "News of the Church: Elder
James O. Mason of the Seventy" from the Ensign, May 1994.
When he was a nineteen-year-old student at the University
of Utah, Jim Mason had more on his mind than school—a mission loomed in
“I felt the gospel was true,” he explains. “But I’d
never had the experience that Moroni talks about in Moro. 10:3-5. I wanted
to go into the mission field not just accepting the gospel, but with a
witness that it was true.”
So Jim took a quarter off solely to read the scriptures.
One Sunday in a fast and testimony meeting, “a woman got up and said she
knew these things were true,” he recalls. “I remember thinking, I wish
I could say that. The next thing I knew, she sat
down and I was standing up, testifying to the truthfulness of the gospel
of Jesus Christ; the manifestation of the Spirit that I had prayed for
was given me.”
So Jim went on a mission to Denmark. Soon after returning,
he married L. Marie Smith on 29 December 1952 in the Salt Lake Temple.
Jim (born 19 June 1930 in Salt Lake City) continued his education, earning
degrees from the University of Utah and degrees in public health from Harvard
He worked at the National Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and became its director in 1983. He
also worked as Church commissioner of health services and as the first
managing director of the Church’s Unified Welfare
Services. Later he served as executive director of the Utah Department
of Health and taught at the University of Utah Medical School. In 1989
the president of the United States asked him to head the U.S. Public Health
Service, an appointment that required Senate confirmation. He retired from
government service last year.
A nationally recognized expert on disease prevention
and health promotion, Elder Mason is well qualified to give counsel on
healthy lifestyles. “The best advice I can give,” he notes, “is that to
enjoy the blessings of peace of mind, health, and happiness,
keep the commandments.” He has served as a bishop, stake president,
and regional representative. He and his wife have seven children and seventeen
On August 15, 1996, Elder Mason was named President
of the African Area in connection with his calling in the Seventy. On August
15, 1998, he was named President of the Africa West Area. On August 15,
1999, he was named Second Counselor in the North America East Area.
Having filled his five-year call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy with distinction, Elder Mason was released therefrom on October 7, 2000.