‘Servant Leaders’: Lessons Learned From Elder And Sister Cook

‘Servant Leaders’: Lessons Learned From Elder And Sister Cook

Elder and Sister Carl B. Cook have recently departed the Africa South East Area as Area President and wife. As they depart, some of those who worked and served closely with them reflect on the lessons they learned.

“One of Elder Cook’s greatest strengths is his ability to listen to what others have to say.  He is thoughtful and strives to follow the voice of the Spirit,” said Elder Kevin Hamilton, who served as Elder Cook’s counsellor and now takes his place as Area President.

Thomas Dube, Publishing Manager for the Area, said he learned humility. “Elder Cook prefers to keep things simple and is not a person who draws attention to himself,” said Thomas. “Instead, he always emphasised the importance of following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He did this in practical ways, said Thomas. For example, he encouraged church employees to choose less ‘glamorous’ accommodation when travelling. “He led by example, by choosing to stay in more humble accommodation.”

Sean Donnelly, Public Affairs Director for the Area said that Elder Cook represented a “servant leader”.  “He was one of the best leaders I have worked with, and at the same time one of the best followers.”

Elder and Sister Cook were known to show love and kindness to all those with whom they interacted, from non-members to missionaries, and everybody in between. “They loved the missionaries. Whenever they met some or addressed them, he and Sister Cook had huge smiles on their faces,” said Sean. “They loved meeting non-members and were so honouring of them.”

Said Thomas: “I always loved to watch Elder and Sister Cook’s interaction with ordinary members of the Church irrespective of who and where they came from. I could sense the deep love they had for the African saints. There was always a deep and genuine connection in their conversations.”

The Cooks conveyed a powerful example of unity in marriage. “I observed in the temple what a celestial marriage looks like when Elder and Sister Cook enjoyed time in the Celestial room,” said Paul Bester, Area Finance Manager.

Bryan Jackson, a member of the Area Legal Counsel, said: “Elder Cook taught us that one roofing rafter can carry approximately 270 kilograms of roofing material, but when two roofing rafters are joined together with nails, they can carry a whopping 2000 kilograms, or eight times that amount. This concept can be applied to the increase in strength that can come when two worthy children of our Heavenly Father are sealed together in His holy temple.  They are stronger by several multiples when they are joined together.”

Elder Cook taught that “if you start right, you will stay right,” said Paul Graf, Associate Area Legal Counsel. “He strove to follow the ultimate example.”

“One of the main things I learned from Elder Cook has been to emulate the Saviour by being kind and thoughtful of others,” said Elder Hamilton. “He has reached out many times to others in need.  We will never fully know of all the things that he has done because he does them quietly and without fanfare. He is focused on being a disciple of Christ.”  

The Cooks made a “lasting contribution” to the Area, said Elder Hamilton. “We will be ever grateful for their leadership and friendship.”

Elder Cook

Additional reporting by Virginia Graf