Primary Counselor Sister Harkness Relies on Heavenly Father

Contributed By Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer

  • 31 July 2018

Sister Lisa L. Harkness, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, with her husband, Brother David S. Harkness. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • Relying on God came naturally to her.
  • She teaches her children to “process” like Mormon.
  • She loves finding answers to questions.

“Because of His love, we can have the courage to keep moving. It’s pretty simple.” —Sister Lisa L. Harkness, Primary General Presidency

Just after new General Authorities and auxiliary leaders were sustained during general conference on March 31, the new Church leaders made their way from the congregation to the stand. Sister Lisa L. Harkness, who had just been called to the Primary General Presidency, led the way down the aisle with Sister Michelle D. Craig and Sister Becky Craven of the new Young Women General Presidency behind her.

Suddenly, disruptive shouting broke the reverent atmosphere in the Conference Center.

Sister Harkness distinctly remembers, “Without hesitation, I heard the kind, familiar voice of the Holy Ghost say, ‘Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving.’”

This is what Heavenly Father encourages His children to do, she later told the Church News. “Just keep moving. Because of His love, we can have the courage to keep moving. It’s pretty simple. [Heavenly] Father’s love gives us the courage to keep moving.”

Relying on Heavenly Father was something that came naturally to Sister Harkness from a young age. “Because I could go to my parents and I could ask them questions and they had answers, I totally believed and trusted that I could go to Heavenly Father and get answers,” she said.

Sister Harkness grew up in Southern California as the eldest of five children. Her mother came from a part-member home, and her father joined the Church while attending Brigham Young University. She is eternally grateful to her parents. “They kept their covenants so I could have a chance to have mine.”

Thanks to her father’s love for BYU—he would often wake up their young family on Saturday mornings with the BYU fight song—Sister Harkness moved to Provo, Utah, to attend the Church-owned school. There she studied political science, Spanish, and secondary teaching.

Sister Lisa L. Harkness, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 2, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Image by Aaron Thorup.

It was at BYU that she met David S. Harkness, who became her husband. During this time, the two of them served missions. Sister Harkness served in the Baton Rouge Louisiana Mission, speaking Spanish. She spent her entire mission in one area and one branch in New Orleans. It proved to be advantageous as she was able to introduce the gospel to many by developing trusting relationships.

Because of her experience as a missionary, Sister Harkness learned how to take every opportunity to bear testimony to her five children. Whether while pulling weeds or doing dishes or driving, she says she tries to “find every opportunity to … teach the fundamental principles of the gospel.”

The Harkness family has lived in San Diego, California; Provo, Utah; Highland, Utah; and now Alpine, Utah. As a stay-at-home mother, she has kept herself involved in her community serving in school organizations, participating in her local government, volunteering with various art organizations, and even picking up snakes and identifying them when neighborhood boys would bring them to her—a skill she learned while working as a docent at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum when she studied at BYU.

Brother Harkness described her as a researcher. “She’s one that when someone asks her a question that she doesn't know the answer to, she’ll say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll go figure it out.’ And then she’ll study and research, not only getting an answer to her original question but learning many more things beyond that.”

From a young age she taught her children how to “process.”

“That’s what Mormon did,” she said. Throughout the Book of Mormon, the phrase “and thus we see” is used 21 times by Mormon and other compilers of the record. She explained that “he was processing. He was trying to help us understand how to apply important gospel principles.”

Sister Harkness loves learning the answers to questions, which is how her testimony grew. Like Joseph Smith, she always takes her questions to Heavenly Father. “All you have to do is ask our Father in Heaven,” she said. “He will answer our sincere prayers.”

She also pays close attention to the questions He asks her. “When I feel the Holy Ghost asking me questions, I know it is my Heavenly Father teaching me. I have learned so much by seeking to answer these questions. I'm grateful Father in Heaven allows me to study and seek and then listen for further guidance and wisdom.”

Sister Harkness is excited for her new calling because Primary is where one starts on the covenant path. “It’s where you learn how to stay on and stay true,” she said. “Hold on. Keep moving. … We learn how to have the courage to keep moving in Primary.”