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Jim and Sandy Cook: Blessed to Give

January 2016


For Jim and Sandy Cook, members of the BYU President’s Leadership Council and chairs of the Jesse and Amanda Knight Society, giving to Brigham Young University has meant receiving innumerable blessings.  “We can’t get ahead of the Lord,” says Jim. “Whatever we give, it feels like He gives us more in return. It is unbelievable. For us, giving is not about getting credit for the gift; it’s about the good that happens in other people’s lives.”

Life’s Journey: Finding the Way

Interestingly enough, neither Jim nor Sandy attended BYU; Jim is an alumnus of San Jose State, and Sandy is an alumna of UCSB and UCLA. Each of them joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as young adults, and after both endured the death of a spouse, they met and married 10 years ago. Sandy first became acquainted with the Church when she and her late husband came to Utah on a skiing trip. They visited Temple Square, loved it, and her husband accepted an invitation to see the missionaries. “He was a golden contact, but I wasn’t,” she says. “When they knocked at the door, my life flashed in front of me, and I saw what life would be like if I opened that door. I knew everything was going to change. It changed all right - for the better.” Sandy discovered the faith-strengthening power of giving. “As a widow I paid my tithing - ahead, as often as I could - and I learned to pay a generous fast offering,” she says. “Even during my 14 years as a widow, I was never tempted to not pay the Lord.”

The Secret of Success

Jim’s experience with the Church began when he heard a lecture that changed his life during his time at San Jose State University. “The professor brought up the Church,” he says. “When he got to Joseph Smith’s claim to have seen God and Jesus Christ, the class began to laugh. Through the laughter, the professor said, ‘If you think that’s funny, let me tell you another story. There was a man 2,000 years ago who said He was the Son of God - now you must think that’s hysterical?’ The class fell silent.” That started Jim on a multi-year search to know if the Church was true. He was baptized a year after marrying an LDS girl and being taught by his home teacher. Jim believes that any success he’s experienced is a blessing from God. “I went from just trying to be a kind person to trying to be the kind of person who really helps others,” he says. “Step by step, the gospel has made me into a better person. For example, paying tithing helped me correctly understand money; we’re simply stewards.”

Leaving a Legacy

The Cooks already had BYU in their estate plans when they discovered the Jesse and Amanda Knight Society, which is named for two early BYU benefactors and recognizes those who have included BYU in wills, trusts, life insurance policies, etc. Later Cecil O. Samuelson, who was then president of BYU, invited them to be volunteer chairs of the society and recruit as many members as possible. “We’ve become Knight Society missionaries,” quips Sandy. “We’ve added that to our BYU résumé. It is a great way to give, and we’re telling everyone we know about it.” In addition to their involvement in the Knight Society, the Cooks have provided support for BYU Broadcasting, athletics, and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. “The students here are amazing,” Sandy says. “They do things that really change people’s lives. We love BYU and are thrilled to help where we can.”

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