Centenarian to spend his 100th birthday at Idaho Falls Temple

By Jerry Borrowman

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 3 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Arthur Jensen at age 100.

Michelle Heaps

Enlarge photo»

If you want to know where Arthur Jensen of Rigby, Idaho, will be on Thursday, May 10, just plan to get up very early and go to the Idaho Falls LDS Temple, where you can join him as he completes at least two temple endowment sessions.

For Art, this is just business as usual, since he spends nearly every workday at the temple — just as he has done for the past 31 years, since being called as an officiator in 1981. That was shortly before his retirement as co-owner of a successful lumber yard, which allowed Art and his two partners, Raymond Ball and Art’s brother Harley Jensen, to supply the materials and, in some cases, to act as general contractor for many of the homes needed in the largely LDS community of Rigby and the surrounding area.

“I spent my life working in home-building supplies, first as a salesman and then as a manager for Boise Payette Lumber Company," he says. "In 1958, I found two partners to join me in building our own lumber yard. I love the smell of fresh-cut wood.”

When honored as 1970 Men of the Year by the Rigby Chamber of Commerce, it was disclosed that they had built more than 570 homes in Idaho, from Island Park to Inkom.

When the three partners sold the business, Art had extra time on his hands, and that started his complete devotion to temple work. That devotion brings this story back to May 10. The only thing that makes this particular Thursday unique is the fact that Art Jensen was born on May 10, 1912, in the Idaho town of Twin Groves, near St. Anthony.

A lot of time and living has passed in 100 years. But Art's enthusiasm for the temple has been constant. On his 100th birthday, he will join a very small group of temple patrons who daily perform temple service after the age of 100.

“Since starting as a temple worker, I’ve completed more than 9,000 endowment sessions,” says Art. “I love this work because the sessions I attend today are always to do the work for someone else, not for me. It’s quite a thrill, and I’ve had a lot of spiritual impressions that these people whose names I take through the temple are glad their work is getting done.”

It’s been a little more lonely for Art the past 10 years, since his beloved wife, Pairlee (Hodge) Jensen, passed away in 2001. They had gone to the temple together since their 1934 marriage in the Logan Utah LDS Temple. But in some ways, getting up early to make the 20-minute drive to Idaho Falls in the years since then actually eases the loneliness. Occasionally he drives north, instead of south, to serve in the Rexburg Idaho LDS Temple with family members who live in Rexburg.

Because of the special feelings that come from temple service, Art doesn’t view his temple service as a sacrifice. “When I’m at the temple, I’m in the world but not of the world,” Art says reverently. “Everybody is courteous and kind there. That’s the way the world should be, but it’s not.”

Not many men live until age 100, but Art Jensen comes from rather special Danish stock. In fact, his mother, Annie Jensen, who lived to age 105, had a very unique experience herself as a 99-year-old in the Idaho Falls Temple.

As recounted in a July 1981 Ensign article, "Anna Elisabeth Nielson Jensen: A Century of Danish Spunkiness," Annie was in the temple in November 1980 when Art’s brother Leonard was to be set apart as a sealer by President Spencer W. Kimball and President Marion G. Romney, first counselor in the First Presidency. The temple president introduced Annie, then 99, to President Kimball, who took her hand, gazed into her eyes for a moment and then asked if she would like a special blessing. Art recalls the joy she said she felt in receiving that blessing of strength and comfort at the hands of a prophet, assisted by President Romney and three of her sons.

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