More than 700 members of the Payson Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assembled on Sunday, Jan. 31, for their semi-annual conference to receive counsel from church leaders and to witness the reorganization of stake leadership. Since 2000, J. Fred Hollobaugh has presided over the Payson Stake, which includes wards (or congregations) in Payson, Pine, Tonto Basin, Happy Jack and Christopher Creek.
Attending Sunday’s meeting were LDS general authorities, Elder Lance B. Wickman (Salt Lake City) and Elder Dennis C. Brimhall (Englewood, Colo.). Acting under the direction of LDS President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Wickman announced the new Payson Stake Presidency: David B. Cluff as stake president, Christopher J. LeSueur as first counselor, and Gordon H. Gartner as second counselor. Church members in attendance voted unanimously to accept and support the new presidency.
Elder Wickman likened the process of selecting new leadership to the Old Testament Prophet Samuel’s calling of King David. He cited 1 Samuel 16 to explain that while men may look at countenance or stature, the Lord looks on the heart. Elder Wickman endorsed Cluff’s new leadership role, saying that Cluff is a man who possesses “the spirit of devotion, love, and conviction.” Elder Wickman offered equal appreciation for Hollobaugh, stating “there is virtually no one who would not agree that his or her life has been affected by President Hollobaugh’s ministry.”
Former Payson Stake Presidency leaders briefly addressed the congregation. Hollobaugh expressed his gratitude to God for showing “love and tender mercies” toward himself and his family. He committed to uphold his religious duties and thanked congregation members for blessing his life with countless offerings of love. Former first counselor Kenny J. Evans declared that his heart was swollen with joy and testified that he has seen God’s blessings poured out upon the Payson community, particularly the town’s widespread effort to feed its needy citizens, coupled with the much-needed moisture that has replenished our land.
Cluff, who had served since June 2008 as second counselor under Hollobaugh’s leadership, thanked the members of the past presidency “for conviction to do what’s right and determination to do service,” principles he vows to advocate as stake president. His new counselors echoed similar heartfelt messages. LeSueur said that he is “excited by the empowerment to be a better servant and friend.” Gartner expressed gratitude for “the strength and encouragement that comes from helping others.”
David B. Cluff, D.O., is a family practice physician with Banner Health. He and his wife, Cheryl, have eight children. Their oldest son, Duke, recently completed a two-year church mission in Houston, Texas.
Christopher J. LeSueur, D.O., is an internist for Payson Healthcare. He and his wife, Linda, have five sons and are expecting their ninth grandchild.
Gordon H. Gartner retired as police chief after 28 years of service with the Payson Police Department and now operates his own private investigation firm. He and his wife, Nancy, have five children. Their youngest son, Jonathan, is currently serving as a full-time missionary in Leon, Mexico.
Performing at this meeting under the direction of Juli Davies was a choir of 50 Payson Stake members, who sang songs of devotion, including “Faith in Every Footstep,” a favorite hymn of Hollobaugh.
The Payson Stake Presidency presides over 1,900 members in the Payson area as part of the LDS church’s unpaid ministry. The word “stake” originates from Isaiah in the Old Testament, meaning sticks, or stakes, which held up the ancient tabernacle, but the LDS term refers to spiritual strength that comes when church members unite for a common good.