Janette C. Hales and others in the former Young Women general presidency and staff had gathered for a farewell celebration. A close group, they stood arm-in-arm, expressing their love and appreciation for each other.
Sister Hales, soon to be called as the new Young Women general president, made a quiet observation. “I really don’t like closed circles.”
“Are you claustrophobic?” someone asked.
“No, I just want people to feel there is always a place for them.”
Reaching out to others is important to Sister Hales because, she says, “people have always reached out to me.”
In fact, it was a Primary president in Spanish Fork, Utah, who literally put an arm around eleven-year-old Janette and invited her to be baptized. She’d attended Primary occasionally with neighborhood children, but it was a few years before anyone realized she wasn’t a member. Although she was young and didn’t understand a lot about the gospel, she did know she felt included in Primary, so she decided to join the Church.
“Although my father wasn’t a member and my mother wasn’t active, they supported my decision. They’d always taught gospel principles in our home,” Sister Hales recalls. “They taught me to be kind, honest, and loving, and they supported me in everything I ever did.”
And Janette Hales, born on 7 June 1933 to Thomas L. and Hannah Carrick Callister, has done much in her lifetime. She married Robert H. Hales in 1955. A few of her greatest “accomplishments” are her five children: Ann Nevers, Thomas C. Hales, Jane Ricks, Karen, and Mary.
She has also served on the Primary general board, as ward Primary president, as stake Primary president, and in the Utah State Legislature. For the last two years, she has served as second counselor in the Young Women general presidency.
“And that was a great experience,” she observes. “The Young Women program and its theme and values are based on fundamental principles that can be a blessing in the lives of young women, their families, and the leaders. It’s not just a program; it’s a way of implanting values in an appealing, approachable way.”
Sister Hales learned what she calls “one of life’s greatest lessons” when her husband died of cancer four years ago.
“I felt an overwhelming responsibility to my children to provide safety. At the same time, however, I realized that I wouldn’t always be there for them. It was at this time that I realized that complete safety in our lives is not an option.
“Once I realized that, I immediately felt freedom,” she continues. “There is a certain risk involved in living and loving, but life is empty without those things. When we truly realize that complete safety isn’t an option, we can turn to the Lord and do all that he wants us to, regardless of the cost.”
Turning to the Lord will be an important part of Sister Hales’s new calling as she leads a program that involves approximately 480,000 young women worldwide.
“The potential—seeing young women make choices that bring them to Christ—makes all this worthwhile,” notes Sister Hales. “The gospel and the Church can make a difference in lives.”
Sister Hales’s first counselor, Virginia H. Pearce, echoes that conviction. Raised in an environment of trust and love, she recognizes the importance those elements play as children grow up.
“During my childhood, there was an incredible amount of freedom to discover who I was,” she recalls. Born 8 February 1945, the middle child of Gordon B. and Marjorie Pay Hinckley, she learned from her parents that she could be whatever she wanted to be.
“My parents taught by example. The rules in our home were never really discussed, they were just obvious and evident and we obeyed them. When we didn’t, we knew there were consequences.”
An early experience illustrates that matter-of-fact approach to life. Neighborhood children had been throwing rocks on the roof of a home, and Virginia eagerly took her turn. Unfortunately, she tossed her rock right into a bedroom window where the owner lay sleeping.
The owner didn’t sleep for very long, and she was obvious about her disapproval of young Virginia’s behavior. “She told me that if I were her little girl,” remembers Sister Pearce, “I’d spend the rest of the day sitting on a chair in the kitchen. So I went home and sat on a chair in our kitchen for the rest of the day.
“I didn’t need to tell my parents, I didn’t need to argue or complain. I just realized I’d done something wrong—and if this neighbor thought my punishment should be sitting on a chair all day, that’s what it would be.”
Although Sister Pearce has always felt close to her Heavenly Father, she felt a deepening of commitment to him as a teenager.
“I was fifteen, that awkward age where you really don’t feel that you belong anywhere or that anyone really cares,” she explains. “I remember consciously making a decision to hold on to the gospel. I knew that I wanted to be with my Heavenly Father.”
Sister Pearce met her future husband, James R. M. Pearce, on a blind date. They immediately became friends but didn’t date seriously until a year later. Married in 1965, they now have five daughters—Rosemary Olsen, Emily Fox, Laura Jenkins, Heidi Jenson, and Amy—and one son, James.
Her strengths—a listening ear, a loving heart, and an ability to accumulate information gathered from that listening and loving—have served her well as a parent and will serve her well as she contemplates her new assignment.
“I’m most excited about listening to the youth,” she comments. “Adolescence is a time of discovering who you are, what you want. The young women know what works for them, what challenges they are facing, what they want to accomplish. I look forward to hearing and learning from them.”
As second counselor, Patricia P. Pinegar is also committed to making the Young Women organization work. A woman who loves the outdoors and people, Sister Pinegar knows what an important time those teenage years can be.
“I had always wanted to do what was right, but when I was eighteen, I felt a real desire to know my Heavenly Father.
“Of course, I’ve had to continue to make efforts to grow spiritually.”
But opportunities for spiritual growth have always been there, she notes. Born on 3 February 1937 to Laurence and Wavie Williams Peterson, Patricia met and married Ed Pinegar nineteen years later. Many of her growing opportunities have come as she has raised their eight children: Karie Bushnell, Steven, Kelly Hagemeyer, Kristin Gubler, Brett, Cory, Traci, and Tricia.
“I’ve learned so much as I’ve grown in my marriage, in our family, and as I’ve served in various church callings. I just keep growing and stretching and saying, ‘Ouch.’ It isn’t always easy, but I have an absolute faith that Heavenly Father lives and that he knows me personally. That gives me the desire and faith to keep saying yes, to keep growing, and to keep trusting.
“Even though we often feel inadequate, unworthy, or scared, if we will do all that we can, the Lord will do the rest to make us successful in what he has asked of us.”
Sister Pinegar has helped others learn this same principle. While her husband served as mission president of the England London South Mission and as director of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, she encouraged the missionaries to say yes and obey.
Another thing she tried to teach missionaries is a love for the scriptures. “I challenged them to read the scriptures every day and look for a scripture idea or principle that they could apply in their lives that very day,” she explains. “And I did the same thing. Every day I posted a card outside my office door that had a scripture and a personal application of that scripture. It’s crucial that we learn how the scriptures can help, strengthen, and guide us.
“I’m thrilled with this new opportunity,” she continues. “I took the Young Women’s theme home a few nights ago and read it over and over again. I’d heard it before; I’d even said it. But it was as if I were reading it for the first time.
“Our young women need to say this theme, to understand it, and to feel it. I’ve never read anything so powerful in such a few words. If a young woman will follow these words, she’ll have the armor of God, the shield of Christ, the protection that she needs to get through the challenges and trials of life.”