One of eight newly appointed full-time leaders for the LDS Church has a background in working for extractive industries and is currently the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.
According to a biography released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Jack N. Gerard, 60, was sustained as a general authority Seventy on March 31.
The biography also states that Gerard, originally from Idaho Falls, has worked as CEO of several companies, including McClure, Gerard & Neuenschwander, a D.C.-based consulting firm that specializes in telecommunications, energy and mining, as well as the National Mining Association, America Chemistry Council and, most recently, the American Petroleum Institute.
The LDS Church did not provide additional comment.
The Washington, D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute describes its mission as lobbying for “a strong, viable U.S. oil and natural gas industry.”
Gerard, who holds political science and law degrees from George Washington University, announced his intention to leave his institute post in January, according to a news release issued by the firm. The release says Gerard opted not to renew his contract, but intended to stay on with the institute through August.
A company spokesperson confirmed that Gerard is still overseeing institute operations. He said Gerard was not immediately available for an interview for this story.
The institute’s release does not mention Gerard’s appointment to LDS Church leadership, and it’s unclear if that was the reason for his departure from the company, which he headed for 10 years.
“I’m ready for my next challenge and want to ensure that [American Petroleum Institute] will have time for an orderly transition to plan for its next decade,” Gerard said in the news release.
In the same release, Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods praised Gerard, saying he “navigated a number of significant public policy challenges to a successful conclusion, including: the end of the crude oil export ban; the preservation of a pro-development and refining tax and regulatory framework; and the creation of a Center for Offshore Safety.”
The center, based in Houston, is an industry-sponsored group focused on safety in offshore drilling operations on the U.S. outer continental shelf.
Activists with the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, or MESA, declined to comment on Gerard’s selection. The Utah-based group did note Gerard’s service on a “corporate council” organized to serve as a sounding board for The Conservation Fund, which aims to “redefine” conservation by “creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense.”
A spokeswoman for The Conservation Fund confirmed that Gerard sat on the corporate council for about 10 years, before it was discontinued in 2010.
MESA has in the past expressed a desire to see LDS Church leadership make bold statements about the faith’s teachings on environmental stewardship.
“Latter-day Saint teachings have long emphasized that we have a responsibility to be wise stewards of the Earth and all of God’s creations,” LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins has said.
However, the church has not focused as intensely on those teachings in recent years. Scholars attribute this to social and political factors, as well as the personal interests of current church leadership.