Gregory A. Schwitzer and Jo Ann Elizabeth Rawsthorne grew up 800 miles apart
in different countries. Still they came from very similar backgrounds.
Each was raised by a father who had converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each
participated with his/her family in similar activities.
So when they married in 1971, they shared
"very common experiences."
Driving through Yellowstone National Park after their wedding in the Cardston
Alberta Temple, a young Gregory Schwitzer looked at his wife and said: "Let's always stay close to the
She answered, "And let's always have treats in our home."
It was a recipe that each had experienced growing up - a recipe that included
faithfulness and a pinch of fun. It included water fights in the backyard, storytelling with the family
and years of Church service.
The Schwitzers have applied the recipe again as he accepted a call to the Second
Quorum of the Seventy and the couple embarked on another adventure. As a member of the Church's Europe
East Area presidency, Elder Schwitzer and his wife moved to Moscow, Russia.
Gregory Allan Schwitzer was born in Ogden, Utah, on April 2, 1948. By the time he
was in second grade he knew two things: that when he grew up he wanted to "care for sick people" and
that the gospel of Jesus Christ was true.
One fast and testimony meeting, 8-year-old Gregory felt the Spirit so strong that
"I had to stand and bear my testimony."
However, he continued, "I never finished it." Overcome by the Spirit, "I fell into
my dad's arms and cried. That feeling has repeated itself over and over again."
It was that feeling that sustained him years later as a missionary in the North
German Mission, as a counselor to five bishops, a bishop, stake president and counselor, and as president
of the Russia Yekaterinburg Mission.
Elder Schwitzer met Jo Ann - daughter of Clifford and Thelma Rawsthorne - while
she was studying to be a nurse at BYU. Women in the program went to Salt Lake City, where he was
attending the University of Utah, to complete their nursing studies. Jo Ann's singles ward was made up
of men from the University of Utah and women from BYU.
When Elder Schwitzer, the ward mission leader, needed a referral, Jo Ann
teasingly offered herself. She graduated with an associate's degree as a registered nurse in 1970.
The couple married June 24, 1971, in the Cardston Alberta Temple.
In 1975, he fulfilled his lifelong dream and received his medical degree from the
University of Utah. During the next five years, he completed a residency and internship at the William
Beaumont Army Hospital and the Fitzsimon's Army Medical Center.
After his time in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Elder Schwitzer and his family
returned to the Salt Lake Valley.
"We bought a little home and stayed in it for 29 years," he said.
In 1980, Elder Schwitzer was named Assistant professor of internal medicine at
the University of Utah and later became a physician of emergency medicine at Wasatch Emergency. In 1992
he was named vice president of clinical programs at Intermountain Health Care and remained there until
2005 - when he accepted a call as a mission president. He also helped plan medical services for the 2002
Winter Olympic Games in Utah.
Looking back on his life, he said he is continually amazed that he was able to
meet and associate with such amazing people. "Every single friend has added to our life," he said. "We
have been completely and totally shaped by our associations and work in the Church."
Family has also been important, he said.
"Our life has been full of adventure. We loved our family more than anything else."
Elder Schwitzer said he is grateful for the lessons he has learned from his wife.
One such lesson came while serving as a mission president in Russia.
"When we were on our mission we were looking for those people who were interested
in hearing the gospel," he said, noting that he was focused on his Church assignment.
But, in so doing, his wife also taught him to look into the hearts of the people.
On one occasion, President and Sister Schwitzer came upon an elderly Russian
woman. She used two canes to walk. President Schwitzer looked into the woman's weather-beaten face,
which had deep wrinkles, and walked on by.
But Sister Schwitzer pulled on her husband's sleeve. She went back to the woman
and said, "I just want you to know that God loves you."
As they returned to Eastern Europe - and to a people they love so much - Elder
Schwitzer said he will remember that lesson.
"I think that my wife has been tugging at my sleeve ever since, trying to help me
see deeper than just the assignment and into the hearts of the people," said Elder Schwitzer.
Even so, they admit that they will miss things at home.
First and foremost, they say, they will miss the "chaos of grandchildren" that
comes often as children run through their house and play in their backyard. They will also miss family
dinners which, they add, are a "classroom of conversation."
But, it goes back to an innocent conversation held years earlier in Yellowstone
National Park. On that day they committed to a recipe for life that included faithfulness and a pinch of
"No matter what your focus in life is, if the Lord asks you to do something you
just have to do it," Sister Schwitzer said simply.
Although she didn't add it, one had to wonder if she was thinking: "And, always
have treats in your home."