Emeritus general authorities welcome the chance to practice what they've preached

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Which he believes is a good thing.

"I'm grateful the Lord has made provisions to be emeritus," he said. "I think it's wise. To me, it makes possible the refreshment of the Seventy. You have new Seventies come on board, and they work hard for a number of years and give it the best they have, and then they quietly step down and let new men come in to keep pushing the work along with new energy and vitality."

Others to lead

And now, after 23 years pushing the work along as a general authority, he's ready to let others take the lead.

"The rising generation needs to rise," he said. He paused, then added cheerfully: "I guess that means I'm in the sinking generation. I'm just very comfortable with the idea of getting offstage and being less visible."

And getting some rest.

"Not too long ago I spoke to (Elder L.) Aldin Porter, who has been emeritus for 11 years," Elder Jensen said. "I asked him, 'What did you do for the first couple of months after you became emeritus?' He said, 'I just slept.'

"I can relate to that," Elder Jensen continued. "I was pooped."

Not that he's complaining.

Wonderful blessing

"It's a wonderful blessing to be a general authority, and all of the associations that come along with it," he said. "But it's also very stressful. And exhausting. And darn hard work."

Through the years, he has occasionally heard friends in what he calls "civilian life" speak about working 13-hour days on their jobs. He said he smiles and sympathizes with his friends, but there's a part of him that says: "Wow, how would that be to just work 13 hours a day?'"

All of which makes him admire and respect the members of the church's First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles even more, because for them there is no emeritus status to which they can look forward.

"I pray even harder for those good men who don't get any respite and whose burdens are relieved only by death," he said. "Thankfully they are borne up by the Spirit and the Lord blesses them in extraordinary ways, although I’m not sure that any of us can really appreciate and understand the burden they carry, many of them well into their advanced years.”

What we can understand, Elder Hafen said, is the example the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve set for a lifetime of service in the kingdom, and enduring to the end.

“I don’t really see any shelves in the church, so there’s no way we can be put on a shelf and left to gather dust,” he joked. “Whether you’re an emeritus general authority or a recently released Primary worker, we all have service to give, regardless of our age and experience in the church.”

For Elder Hafen, that service has included two periods when he was working as companions with Elder Jensen: once in 1962 when they were full-time missionaries in Frankfurt, Germany, and again 40 years later, when they were general authorities in the Europe Central Area presidency — once again in Frankfurt.

Temple president

Today his service is with a different companion — his wife, Marie, who serves as temple matron — in the St. George Utah Temple, where “we see a lot of mature church members, many of them with health issues, yet these are among the most faithful people we see working in the temple.”

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