`Let there be beauty for every season'

Virginia U. Jensen loves to garden. For her, gardening is taking part in creation. "You work with the things of nature and be patient, and then the beauty comes forth in time.

"What I've tried to do in my own yard is let there be beauty for every season, even the winter," she explained. "The evergreens are pretty in the winter covered with snow, but in the spring we're so glad to see those tulips and daffodils. In the summer, the full vibrance of color and everything is like a celebration of all God's creation when they're in bloom. Then these creations get ready to rest."Sister Jensen, sustained April 5 as first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, sees the same "beauty in every season" within the sisterhood of the Church. "It's interesting that I should be called into Relief Society because in my family I have quite a few diversities. I have an 80-year-old mother who is a widow, whose health is frail and fragile. She misses my father, who's been gone for 12 years."

Sister Jensen added she also has two daughters who are single and another daughter who was told she would never have children, but now, after years of waiting for the first, is expecting her third child.

"In my personal life, I have seen the evidences of what Relief Society can do for women - for the single woman, for the widowed, the elderly, for the married woman with children, for the grieving infertile woman, to the person who feels she's been discarded and needs validation. There's something for every female in Relief Society."

Sister Jensen said she is a "composite" of what she calls her "simple" life." Reared in Salt Lake City by her parents, Francis L. and Virginia Carroll Urry, Sister Jensen recalled how Church life was her family life.

"I knew early on that the Church was everything. My father was on the general board of the MIA. So every summer for June conference, we'd go to the dance festivals and the speech festivals and the drama festivals. We didn't have a lot of money. The Church was our recreation - the road shows, the ward dinner."

The Urry family, which included three daughters and one son, lived in Salt Lake City all but one year. Her father was an actor. In fact, he appeared in several Church films such as the judge in "Uncle Bill." When young Virginia was in junior high, her family moved to Southern California where her father continued his acting career. He appeared in such TV shows as "Dragnet" and "Mr. President."

Then one day, he was offered a part where he would have to smoke a cigarette. "That was the end," Sister Jensen related. "He said, `This is not for us.' We came back to Salt Lake."

Sister Jensen graduated from high school in 1957 and began studying history and drama at the University of Utah. Soon, for financial reasons, she took a full-time job at the Union Building on campus and took night classes.

One day, she was asked by a friend if she would like to go out with the brother of a student body officer. She agreed, and that week, the brother, J. Rees Jensen, telephoned the Urry home. Virginia wasn't home, so he left a message to save Saturday night for him.

The following Saturday, June 23, 1962, she returned home from playing 18 holes of golf with a friend. "My face got really sunburned, so I put on this hat. My hair got all sweaty underneath. The phone rang and I remembered that he was going to call. I went downstairs to take the call. His voice sounded interesting," she said, chuckling.

"It was like 6:30 [in the evening]. I thought, if he says I'm coming in an hour, I'll say I can't go because I've got to have enough time to wash my hair and put it in rollers. He said, `Any chance you'd be interested in going to a movie at 9 o'clock?' I said yes, and that was that."

They were married less than a year later, on April 11, 1963, in the Logan Temple. From their union have come four children and four grandchildren.

Motherhood was not what Sister Jensen expected. "It was hard for me. I'd always planned things out and organized. That blew that away!"

Laughing, she recalled one Sunday when the children were sick, and she was even sicker. Brother Jensen had to take charge of the children. "It was 10 o' clock in the morning and the doorbell rang. It was the fast offering boy. Rees was still in pajamas and he was mortified. He said, I had to explain to this person that I'd been up for a long time.' I said,Welcome to the world of parenting!' "

Sister Jensen also spoke quietly of family trials faced through the years. "The gospel was the anchor," she declared. "There's a right way and a wrong way. So hanging in there was the right way."

One challenge in particular she related was the birth of her grandson, Peter, now 5 years old. Her oldest daughter, Michelle Davidson, went through seven years of "intensive fertility treatment." Finally, she conceived.

After only a few weeks, Sister Davidson developed severe complications, and doctors said they needed to take the baby to save her life. Sister Jensen recalled, "She said, `You'll have to give me another option because you're not taking my baby.' "

The option was seven months in bed. And that's where she stayed. She and her husband live in Palo Alto, Calif., so Sister Jensen and her daughter's mother-in-law took turns flying to California to help. With emotion, Sister Jensen related how the doctors never thought the baby would survive. "It was hard for Michelle to keep her spirits up, but she wanted this baby so badly."

Finally, at eight months, the baby's lungs were developed enough and he was delivered - a completely healthy baby.

"That was our Peter," Sister Jensen said, struggling with emotion.

Sister Jensen especially speaks in loving tones about her husband, who she says is her greatest support. Soon after Sister Jensen was called to the Relief Society general presidency, she walked into their bedroom at home and found a book by President Boyd K. Packer sitting on her night-stand. Placed in the book, titled "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled," was a bookmark on the chapter relating to the mantle being more powerful than the intellect.

Brother Jensen had placed it there to remind his wife that the mantle of the Relief Society general presidency was now with her.


Virginia U. Jensen

Family: Born in Salt Lake City to Francis L. and Virginia Carroll Urry. Married J. Rees Jensen. Parents of four children: Michelle Davidson, Rees U., Suzanne and Kristin; four grandchildren.

Education: Studied history and drama at the University of Utah.

Community Service/profession: Former secretary of the University of Utah Alumni Association and the University of Utah Union; active in PTA.

Church Service: Director of Church Building Hosting at time of call to Relief Society general presidency; former counselor in ward Relief Society, Young Women and Primary presidencies; on stake boards of those auxiliaries; Relief Society, Young Women and Primary teacher; activities committee member.

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