Elder and Sister Stevenson: Leaders Will Be Blessed to Balance Family, Mission Responsibilities

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 11 July 2017

Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Sister Lesa Stevenson address couples attending the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents on the subject of balancing family and missionary responsibilities. In the background are Elder D. Todd Christofferson, President Russell M. Nelson, and Elder Dallin H. Oaks. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Article Highlights

  • The mission president’s family is the most important priority.


As new mission presidents and their wives begin their combined ministry, one of the great miracles they experience will be the ability to balance their family and their assigned missionaries in a way that will bless them in remarkable ways, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife said at the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Sister Lesa Stevenson spoke June 27 to the 127 departing couples gathered at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

An illustration was displayed of a balance with one stone on the left representing “Your Family Unit” and several stones on the right titled “Missionaries.”

Commenting on this image, Elder Stevenson said the miracle is possible “because the Lord is the fulcrum, with divine interest in all of His children over whom you have been given spiritual stewardship, both your family and missionaries, and also in the work, because it is His work.”

Elder Stevenson emphasized that the promise is predicated on the couple’s appropriate focus and effort to find balance.

“It seems rather ironic, at least from my observation and personal experience, that the natural tendency is for a mission president to tip the scale toward the missionaries,” he said, “perhaps because this is where the flames seem to be burning closest and hottest. But the counsel with respect to families is constant and complete.”

Sister Stevenson then cited Mosiah 4:14–15, enjoining parents to provide for their children and to teach them to walk in ways of truth and soberness and to love and serve one another.

“This counsel is also consistent with instruction found in the Mission President’s Handbook,” she said.

With the aid of PowerPoint slides, Elder and Sister Stevenson built a “hierarchy of responsibilities” pyramid for mission presidents: presiding over member districts; supporting local leaders in activating the less active; baptism, confirmation, and retention of new converts; well-being of missionaries; and, at the top, “the well-being of you and your family.”

“Isn’t that instructive and comforting?” Elder Stevenson asked. “Great care is required so as to not mis-prioritize these very important roles.”

He read this passage from the handbook: “Your family is your most important responsibility. You must devote adequate time, energy, and attention to caring for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You should ensure that the experience during your time in the mission is rewarding and inspiring for your wife, any children who accompany you to the field, and any members who remain at home.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Sister Lesa Stevenson address couples attending the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents on the subject of balancing family and missionaries. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Sister Stevenson said, “There is also counsel for us sisters.”

She also read from the handbook: “Caring for your family is your primary responsibility. The number, ages, and needs of your children who are with you determine the extent to which you are involved in the mission. You are not expected to sacrifice family needs in order to participate in mission activities.”

After reading the passage she said: “I find this to be very comforting. Each one of you have different family circumstances. Outside of the Lord, no one knows this as well as you do. Clearly, the priority for you is spelled out. No one will ask you to do anything that is different than what we have just reviewed. Each of you will find inspiration in how to apply this.”

Sister Stevenson said that when she and her husband arrived with their sons, ages 9 and 15, to preside over a mission in Japan, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi was the Area President. “He sweetly reinforced this teaching, giving me such a sense of peace in knowing that I did not need to attend every minute of every zone conference and every stake and district conference.”

Concluding the presentation, in which advice obtained from several former mission presidents and their wives was featured, Elder Stevenson said: “The Lord is aware of your unique sacrifice. He has seen such sacrifice for His work throughout this dispensation and has pronounced blessings upon those participants in His kingdom. With your service, you now qualify for those same blessings.”