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

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

“In more tribal societies there is a more natural veneration and gratitude for the older generations,” he continued. “Our society encourages us to think that if you’re older than Barbie and Ken you’re not very interesting. But I see such strength in these mature, seasoned workers. They set such an example for me that you can serve with all your heart wherever you are, and whatever stage of life you are in.”

And that, Elder Hafen says, is the essence of service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“My view of church service is there really isn’t a hierarchy of service — I think it’s more horizontal,” he said. “I’m not saying that as a way of trying to be brave and cheerful about being an emeritus general authority. I really believe that you serve in whatever role the Lord needs you to serve in, and in that role you have the opportunity to see the spirit of the Lord and its power in people’s lives. That happens everywhere, in any calling we have. And wherever the spirit of the Lord is active and present, that's where the spiritual action is.

"Of course, that 'action' is found in what general authorities do," Elder Hafen continued. "But I have also found that same closeness to the spirit of the Lord as a full-time missionary, as a member of a stake presidency, as a gospel doctrine teacher and as a father and husband."

Board of Regents

Elder Jensen isn’t aware of any new church assignments that await him, although it was announced in early August that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has nominated him to serve on the state Board of Regents, which oversees higher education in the state.

“That was a total surprise,” Elder Jensen said of the governor’s appointment. “I wanted to have something to retire to, not just from, so this will be a wonderful way to render public service.”

Beyond that, he said, he’s looking forward to devoting himself to “securing my eternal family.”

“By virtue of the demands of the calling there are many things you’re not present for, many family things you have to let go,” Elder Jensen said. “My wife (Kathleen) is an absolute angel, and she has never once complained. But two weeks ago we went to a birthday party together, and then we watched the BYU-Utah football game together. At one point she looked up at me, and with emotion in her eyes, she said, ‘I can’t remember the last time we’ve had an evening like this together.’

“Relationships take time,” he said, “and I haven’t had time — at least, not the kind of time that I would like to have. I always want to keep my serving edge and my learning edge, but I’ll be looking for ways to do that within the family circle.”

And not, he said, in politics. For many years, Elder Jensen has been widely known as one of the most prominent Latter-day Saints belonging to the Democratic Party. With his impending emeritus status, he said he has been approached to run for political office.

“It took me just a minute to say, ‘Thank you, but I have no desire,’” he said. “I don’t know that I would ever have that interest.”

What he is interested in, he says, is continuing to live on the family farm in Huntsville, feeding the horses, tending the chickens, hauling the hay, going to home evenings with his eight children and their families, watching his grandchildren play soccer and reading the scriptures with his wife.

'All work is equal'

“The Amish have a saying that ‘all work is equal,’” he said. “If we’re thinking straight, then the work I’m going to do with my family is just as important as the work I’ve been doing in the church for most of the past 25 years.

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