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Sister Jean B. Bingham: Finding opportunities to help and serve others

Sister Jean B. Bingham has been an advocate and source of strength for many over the years — whether for her younger siblings growing up, her own two daughters, foster children, grandchildren or those she has taught in the Church and the community.

Her recent call as first counselor in the Primary general presidency is another opportunity for her to serve the Lord and help others feel the love of their Heavenly Father.

“Every child has wonderful potential, and if we see them through Heavenly Father’s eyes, we can help them become all that He has designed them to be,” she said. “I have always loved children and loved teaching.”

Born on June 10, 1952, in Provo, Utah, to Robert Rowland and Edith Joy Clark Barrus, she was the third of nine children — seven girls followed by two boys.

“Because I grew up in a large family we always had responsibilities,” she said. “I was one of the oldest so I had the fun of taking care of some of the youngest.”

Her father’s employment took the family around the U.S. and by the time Jean graduated from high school the family had lived in five states — Utah, Indiana, Texas, Minnesota and New Jersey. No matter where they lived, her parents were a strength to the Church and taught their children to love the Lord. Jean recalls listening to her mother prepare Relief Society lessons or lead the Singing Mothers, and loved to accompany her father on assignments to far-flung branches.

“We had a lot of fun as a family, singing and camping and working together,” she said of her family life growing up. “We spent a lot of time in the station wagon, traveling to and from the church as my parents faithfully served in their numerous callings.”

The future Primary leader spent her high school years in New Jersey, where there was only one friend her age who was a member of the Church.

“We didn’t even have one class together, but we knew each other was there and it really helped,” she said. “You had to stand up for what you believed because you were one of the very few Mormons in the school.”

It was during that time that her testimony started to grow. She had “wonderful friends” from many different backgrounds, but she recognized the value of the gospel of Jesus Christ and decided she wanted to live what she had been taught by her parents.

“You could see the difference between those who embraced the gospel and those who didn’t have the gospel in their lives,” she said. “Seeing the happiness of those who lived the gospel made me want to continue to be true to the faith that my pioneer ancestors had cherished.”

After high school she attended Brigham Young University. In her second year there, she met Bruce Bryan Bingham from Illinois who had joined the Church as a teenager with his family.

Sister Bingham recalls, “Bruce was a young man with high standards, which I really admired, and a friendliness that included everyone.” They were married in the Provo Utah Temple three days before Christmas in 1972.

The two stayed in Provo while Sister Bingham earned an associate degree in Family Living and he completed his bachelor’s degree. After his graduation, they moved to Illinois to continue his schooling. It was there that their first daughter was born. In the next few years they looked forward to further expanding their little family.

“We had always wanted a large family and it just wasn’t happening,” Sister Bingham said. “We waited and waited, and when our first child was five years old, the doctor said, ‘You know, it is amazing you have even one child; you’d better adopt if you want any more.’ ”

Brother and Sister Bingham went through the process of preparing to adopt a child with LDS Family Services and had just completed the waiting period when they found out Sister Bingham was again pregnant. They were thrilled to welcome a second daughter into their family, but still wanted more children.

“We kept looking for children we could adopt,” she said, “but the Lord had a different plan for us.”

When their second daughter was only six months old LDS Social Services came to the family and asked if they would be interested in doing foster care, since they had already gone through the approval process. They agreed to help, which opened the door to many children living in their home for various periods of time over the next decade and more.

Often, the family hosted birth mothers for the few months before they had their babies and also cared for babies who needed a home for the short time before they were placed for adoption. Not only did the Bingham home become a safe place for visitors who needed a place to stay, it also was a place where visitors were reminded that they were loved.

Holding family home evening, family prayer and family scripture study was a priority, and no matter who was living with them, they were included. Sister Bingham relates that “it wasn’t always easy but it was absolutely essential.”

When her youngest child was in high school, Sister Bingham returned to school and completed a master’s degree in teaching. She has since taught English as a second language to refugees and immigrants, helping their transition to a new country.

“[Jean] brings experiences to the Primary general level that I think are significant,” said Brother Bingham. “She has gone through in her own life what a lot of people are experiencing, and I think that will be helpful.”

Wherever she is, Sister Bingham finds opportunities to help and serve people around her.

“The pattern I have seen in her life over our 43 years of marriage is a consistent adherence to the promptings of the Spirit,” Brother Bingham said. “She has, over and over, done what the Lord would like her to do.”

That adherence to the promptings of the Spirit will be a guide in her new calling in the Primary general presidency.

“There are so many children in the world who have really difficult things to deal with, and when they can feel and know that they are a child of God — that they are loved by Him no matter where they are, no matter what their situation is — that can carry them over the rough spots.”

Family: Born June 10, 1952, in Provo, Utah, to Robert Rowland and Edith Joy Clark Barrus. Married Bruce Bryan Bingham on Dec. 22, 1972, in the Provo Utah Temple. Two daughters and five grandchildren.

Education: Earned an associate degree from BYU in 1974 and earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from National Louis University in 2000.

Employment: Has worked in schools with children who speak English as their second language. Worked at the English Skills Learning Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Community service: Volunteered in schools working with children who speak English as a second language, has been a tutor in the community in which she lived, has served on the PTA and has welcomed birth mothers into her home as well as infants waiting for adoption. Fostered children for many years.

Church service: Stake Young Women president, Primary president, Relief Society presidency counselor, Young Women president, Young Women camp director, temple worker, early morning seminary instructor for six years. @marianne_holman

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