As a third-generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons, Iowa native Gary Pence was raised with a deep knowledge of the church’s 13 articles of faith.
He was baptized at the age of 8 and later graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, before returning to Iowa nine years ago. Two years ago, he was named stake president of 14 congregations in the Des Moines area, including West Des Moines, in which he oversees their budgets, buildings, activities and a congregation of about 4,300 members.
“People don’t realize this, but I’m a volunteer minister,” says Pence, 58, who juggles his pastoral duties while working full-time at Wells Fargo. “They might not also know that there are many Mormons in our communities, and that our church is very mission-minded.”
Pence says a president and council of 12 apostles govern the church, which boasts a worldwide membership of 14 million people. In Iowa, he says, there are about eight stake presidents, each of whom oversee several wards.
“We believe in God, the Eternal Father and his son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost,” says Pence. “We also believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.”
The church also has about 250 missionaries, who dress in white shirts and ties and wear name tags, who spread the church’s gospel by combing neighborhoods and knocking on doors.
While the church’s mission work in other countries is well documented, it also is active locally, says Pence. Recently, as many as 330 members installed smoke detectors in homes throughout the metro, working closely with the American Red Cross and Des Moines Fire Department.
“It was a very rewarding experience. We believe in community service,” says Pence.
On Dec. 15, the West Des Moines church will host a Christmas concert at 7 p.m. that will be open to the public.
“We love the month of December because we worship Jesus Christ,” says Pence.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
3301 Ashworth Road
Sundays: 9 and 11 a.m.