Mark Edward Peterson

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 477–79.

Mark Peterson portrait

Born: 7 November 1900, Salt Lake City, Utah

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 20 April 1944 (age 43)

Died: 11 January 1984 (age 83), Salt Lake City, Utah

A tall, shy returned missionary, Mark E. Petersen, stood beside the desk of the city editor in the Deseret News office. This afternoon was just another of the many visits this young man had paid to the News office within the last six months. He always asked the same question: “Are there any jobs available yet on the newspaper staff?” This particular day the answer was finally yes. The salary was ninety dollars a month for a post vacated by the Church reporter. Mark hesitated—he was earning more than that in his present job of car checker in the railroad yard—but his desire to enter the newspaper profession prevailed, and he accepted his first position in what be- came his lifetime work. He progressed steadily to the top of the News, becoming general manager in 1941 and president of the Deseret News Publishing Company in 1952.

With his twin sister, Mark was born to Danish immigrant parents on 7 November 1900 in Salt Lake City. He attended West High School and the University of Utah. As a youth he helped his father in the building trade and worked as a newspaper carrier. He was called at age twenty to the Canadian Mission, laboring in Nova Scotia, which was, unbeknownst to him, the place where his future wife was born. Later Mark met Emma Marr McDonald in a Salt Lake City ward where he was called as choir director and she was the organist. They had two daughters. [1]

An ardent Church worker all of his life, Brother Petersen served in two stake presidencies, on the board of directors of the Genealogical Society, and on the general board of the Deseret Sunday School Union. When he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in April 1944, he bore this powerful testimony: “I know that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. I know it as well as if I had seen him, and I shall take great pleasure in declaring His word for the remainder of my life.” [2]

Elder Richard L. Evans described some of his fellow apostle’s virtues: “He has a gracious manner, a warm and sincere smile, a handsome, manly bearing, a tremendous energy, and a deep loyalty and devotion to . . . the Lord and Master of mankind for whom he carries the weight of being ordained a special witness, and to whom he offers all that he has and all that he is . . . with an abiding, solid, and settled faith.” [3]

Much in demand as a speaker and known widely as the author of over forty books, many missionary pamphlets, and thousands of editorials in the Church News for more than half a century, Elder Petersen influenced countless lives. A prominent governmental official of another country, deeply impressed during an address given by Elder Petersen, declared: “That man has inner authority—the kind of which I have never seen before. If I were a Christian, I would say God saved him for a special time and a special work in this world’s history.” [4]

On 15 April 1975, Elder Peterson endured the loss of his beloved wife, Emma Marr, who had suffered a decline in health for several years due to a series of strokes. [5] Nearly nine years later, Elder Petersen died of cancer at the age of eighty-three. His close friend and associate both at the Deseret News and among the general authorities, President Thomas S. Monson, wrote, “Mark E. Petersen was a princely man, a noble leader in the Kingdom of God on earth. Around the world, with his gentle, common touch, with spoken words as eloquent as his pen, he lifted lives. He brought men and women, boys and girls, closer to their Heavenly Father.” [6]


[1] Peggy Barton, Mark E. Peterson: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 25–28.

[2] Church News, April 1944, 92.

[3] Richard L. Evans, “Mark E. Petersen,” Improvement Era, February 1959, 117.

[4] “Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve,” Improvement Era, November 1966, 996.

[5] Barton, Mark E. Peterson, 145, 148.

[6] Thomas S. Monson, “Elder Petersen Served News with Dedication, Enthusiasm,” Deseret News, 12–13 January 1984, All; see also Thomas S. Monson, “Mark E. Petersen: A Giant Among Men,” Ensign, March 1984, 6–13.