Sharon Eubank’s leap of faith led her to LDS Charities, Relief Society general leadership

Sister Sharon Eubank in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 3, 2017. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Sister Jean Barrus Bingham general president of the Relief Society, center, with her councilors Sister Sharon Eubank first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, left, and Sister Reyna I. Aburto second counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, right, in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 3, 2017. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Sister Sharon Eubank first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 3, 2017. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

After graduating from Brigham Young University in 1988, Sharon Eubank took a leap of faith, packed her Chevy Cavalier and drove from Utah across the United States.

She arrived in Washington, D.C., without a job, a place to stay or a plan.

Her first Sunday in town, she attended a singles ward in Arlington, Virginia — hoping to find a lead on employment; but no one knew of any job openings. She spent several weeks chasing down interviews until she walked into the U.S. Senate Placement Agency and landed a job with Senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming.

“Working in Washington, D.C., was a tremendous education for me,” Sister Eubank said. “I learned so much about the nature of compromise in government. I learned that surprisingly most things get done through relationships.”

Looking back, Sister Eubank — sustained April 1 as the first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency — said that Washington job was the first of many experiences that prepared her for the work she is now doing.

Born in 1963 in Redding, California, Sharon is the oldest of Mark and Jean Tollack Eubank’s seven children. Raised in Bountiful, Utah, Sister Eubank grew up on a 10-acre plot of land — where the Eubank kids picked apricots, repaired sprinklers and had close access to Utah’s mountains and numerous camping opportunities.

Her father, a television broadcasting meteorologist, loved to watch the storms roll in from the Great Salt Lake. He shared his love of nature with his children. “He used to wake us up sometimes to come watch a big lightning show. My dad always talked weather with us,” Sister Eubank said.

Sister Eubank received her bachelor’s degree in English and history from BYU and served as a full-time missionary in the Finland Helsinki Mission.

She arrived in Finland on Dec. 19 — the darkest and coldest time of year. Yet it wasn’t hard to make friends.

“Once you make a Finnish friend, you discover it is a relationship they intend to keep,” she said.

The language was dense and difficult. “I told the Lord, if you will help me to learn Finnish, I will always use it to serve you.” To this day Sister Eubank can still speak “fairly good” Finnish.

After returning from her mission, Sister Eubank took a job teaching English in Suzuka, Japan. Not knowing about express trains, she mistakenly found herself stopping in every village on the long journey from Tokyo to Suzuka. Still, from her Japanese students she learned to love Japanese landscapes, architecture, food and, yes, trains.

There she was a member of a small branch filled with faithful members. Just as when she was in Finland, she found herself immersed in a new culture and learning a new language but feeling very much at home with the Saints.

This was also her experience in Washington, D.C., — but instead of a small branch, she attended a large singles ward. She worked in the U.S. Senate for four years — first for Senator Simpson and then for Senator Jake Garn, R-Utah.

Sister Eubank left the nation’s capital to start her own business in Provo, Utah. For seven years, she and her business partner sold educational toys and games. She worked every holiday and every weekend, took toys home at night to test, and found ways to solve problems “that didn’t require money.”

In business, and later as an employee with LDS Welfare Services, she found that “money is the easy answer, but there is always another way.”

In 1998, she sold the store, and while waiting for another job, applied at the LDS Church’s temporary pool. She was assigned a job doing data entry with the Welfare Department. From the temp pool, she was offered full-time employment. She began in LDS Humanitarian Services by navigating the complex problems of international shipping. Sister Eubank remarked about this time, “The Church was opening employment offices in major cities around the world and my assignment gave me the unusual opportunity to find office locations, hire new staff and really get to know business cultures in many international settings. It became such a blessing later in my career.”

The year 2005 became a crossroad in her life. “I had burned the candle at both ends in a very demanding job. I needed something a little more quiet, so I moved to France for a time. I was single, I had 20 years left in my career. I wanted to ponder to know what the Lord wanted me to do next.”

In March 2007, she returned to Church employment — first managing the Wheelchair program for LDS Charities, then serving as regional director of LDS Charities in the Middle East. In 2009, she was called as a member of the Relief Society general board, serving under Sister Julie B. Beck. In 2011, Sister Eubank was appointed as the director of LDS Charities worldwide — a position she still holds today.

During those “intense, educational years,” Sister Eubank always tried to follow established welfare principles and to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ focused on individuals — even when the problems were widespread and pervasive.

Now she is excited to merge the work of LDS Charities with the worldwide mission of Relief Society.

There “is a great link” between LDS Charities and Relief Society; members of the Relief Society general presidency have always had a direct interest in welfare and humanitarian aid in the Church. Projects to assist the poor are as old as the Relief Society itself, she explained. Her responsibilities with both organizations will “be a strengthening” of that link.

As a member of the presidency who is not currently married, she brings additional insight to Relief Society, where 61 percent of Relief Society sisters are single.

Sister Eubank said she was a very shy high school student. “I am still very reserved. But I’ve realized you can’t hang back and not meet people because almost everyone is shy or feels as if they don’t belong,” she said. “We might as well just blow open the doors on Relief Society and have everyone come inside and find a place where they can be comfortable.”

When she is not working, Sister Eubank likes to read biographies, camp and spend time with the kids and young adults in her family. Having been to dozens of countries, Sister Eubank still loves to meet members and others in areas across the world. She has seen firsthand how the Lord cares for his children.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the desperate need across the globe, she says. “But I have come to see that the Savior is really the one who bears the burden of all the sadness and grief in the world. We can help lift a small part of it — and we should do all we can — but Jesus Christ is the one to carry it. His capacity for us inspires real awe in me. Sometimes he sends His Church and sometimes He sends you and me, but He knows every person in every hard-to-reach corner of the world, and I know He answers their prayers.”

Sharon Eubank

Family: Born in October 1963 in Redding, California, to Mark and Jean Tollack Eubank.

Education: Received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University.

Employment: Taught English as a second language in Japan, worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and owned a retail education store in Provo, Utah. Employed since 1998 by the Church’s Welfare Department, including opening international LDS employment offices and overseeing the LDS Charities wheelchair initiative. Appointed in 2008 to oversee humanitarian work in the Middle East. Named the director of LDS Charities worldwide in 2011 — a position she currently holds.

Church service: Former Young Women president, ward Relief Society presidency, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Primary worker, Relief Society general board member, and full-time missionary in the Finland Helsinki Mission (1984-1986). @SJW_ChurchNews

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