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Getting to know Primary General President Camille N. Johnson and how faith defined her life, propelled her to look forward

Getting to know Primary General President Camille N. Johnson and how faith defined her life, propelled her to look forward

Before being called as Primary general president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Camille Neddo Johnson had never met the women who would become her counselors.

Yet as she answered an invitation to submit names to Church leaders for potential counselors, their names came to her quickly and clearly.

It wasn’t until Sister Susan H. Porter and Sister Amy A. Wright were extended callings to serve in the Primary general presidency, that the women had the opportunity to meet. Still, they were not strangers.

“My first words were, ‘It is so good to see you again,’” recalled President Johnson. “And that is just how I felt, that I was being reunited and reacquainted with friends that I’d had for the eternities.”

The experience is one of many in her life where President Johnson turned to the Lord for guidance and moved forward in faith.

Camille Neddo was born in Pocatello, Idaho, on Sept. 12, 1963 — the oldest of Hal and Dorothy Neddo’s three children.

President Johnson’s mother was educated and worked as a nurse before staying home with her children. Her father worked in the life insurance business and as a U.S. Army reservist.

Her ancestors on both sides crossed the Plains to the Western United States; some were endowed in the Nauvoo Temple, and others labored to build and adorn the Salt Lake Temple. President Johnson grew up hearing stories about her faithful progenitors. She always knew that through her own faith and faithfulness she had access to the same promised blessings that propelled her ancestors westward.

Before the seventh grade, she had moved from Idaho, to Germany, to Texas and to Utah.

After receiving her degree in English from the University of Utah, she worked in Washington, D.C., for a member of Congress. It was there that she concluded she should study law. There were no lawyers in her family, but she felt that perhaps her strengths and attributes well matched those required of a lawyer. With faith, she continued down that path, enrolling in the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law in 1986.

The Primary general presidency: President Camille N. Johnson, center; Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor, left; and Sister Amy A. Wright, second counselor.

The Primary general presidency is President Camille N. Johnson, center; Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor, left; and Sister Amy A. Wright, second counselor.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

During her first year of law school a mutual friend introduced her to Douglas R. Johnson; they married July 31, 1987, in the Salt Lake Temple and are the parents of three sons.

For more than 30 years, President Johnson practiced law, engaged primarily as a litigator.  She found the greatest satisfaction in her professional life helping businesses, municipalities and individuals problem-solve. With the help of her husband — who worked in the automobile business before owning his own dealership — and others, she did her best to control her own schedule and always made time to listen to her boys, laugh with her boys, and attend their games, activities and school and church functions. “My family is, and always was, my No. 1 priority, and I made sure everyone knew that” she said. 

Her family enjoyed watching and playing sports, including hundreds of games and matches in which her boys competed, spending time outdoors, and boating. “There is something beautiful about being disconnected and all together, problem-solving on a boat,” she said.

After Sunday dinner each week they gathered around a master calendar and made plans. “We were always projecting forward,” President Johnson said. “My boys didn’t know we were having family council, but every week was well orchestrated and planned with each family member playing a part in the success of the others.  We counseled as a family about how to make that happen.”

President Johnson likes to read and walk, and work in her yard, but her greatest joy presently is spending time with her three grandchildren.  

Leaning on her faith, she hung up her briefcase in 2016, and took a leave of absence from the law when she and her husband were called as mission leaders for the Perú Arequipa Mission.

President Johnson had spent her life interested in and loving people. And she was blessed with an immediate love for the mission’s 552 missionaries — 70 percent of whom did not speak English.  She had also spend decades studying words as an English major and using words to advocate the position of her clients in legal memoranda and briefs.  But having never studied Spanish, she found herself in the mission longing for words. She prayed for the ability to communicate with missionaries and members, and that they would feel her love for them and her testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It was a “beautiful struggle” in which the Lord “stepped in and filled the gaps,” she said.

 “I trusted in the Lord, and relied upon the Spirit to communicate my love and testimony when words failed me. What a sweet and poignant lesson,” she said. “I learned to lean not to my own understanding but to give it all over to my Savior.”

Along the way she relearned the simple truth of the gospel. “It is about loving the Savior, loving like the Savior, and letting the love and Atonement of Jesus Christ work in our lives.”

Brother Douglas R. and President Camille N. Johnson

Brother Douglas R. and President Camille N. Johnson

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

While in Perú, the Johnsons joyfully watched as the Church constructed the Arequipa Peru Temple. Before the temple was dedicated, Latter-day Saints in the city traveled more than 16 hours by bus to attend the Lima Peru Temple; they returned as often as they could afford to make the trip. “Those Saints are a great example of living a life centered on Jesus Christ and His gospel,” President Johnson said.

The temple was dedicated on Dec. 15, 2019 — after the Johnsons had completed their mission. Elder Ulisses Soares, reading a dedicatory prayer written by President Russell M. Nelson, prayed for the land and the people of Perú during the dedication of the temple: “We now covenant with Thee, O God the Eternal Father, that we will consecrate anew our devotion unto Thee, as we dedicate this beautiful Arequipa Peru Temple.”

A painting of Arequipa and the temple there hangs in their home and reminds President and Brother Johnson of “the devoted Perúvian Latter-day Saints, their beloved missionaries and the covenants and ordinances of the temple.”

After returning home from her mission, President Johnson was named president of Snow Christensen & Martineau law firm in Salt Lake City. She resigned from that position the Monday after being sustained as Primary general president.  

In her first interview with the Church News as a general officer in the Church, President Johnson spoke about faith. “I am trusting the hand of the Lord to shape me to be the instrument He needs,” she said. “I trust that something about my experience will be useful to the Church.”

Brother Johnson said faith is part of his wife’s nature. 

“I do have a great deal of faith. I’ve been blessed with that,” said President Johnson.

As President Johnson looks forward with faith she feels her heart expand to love the 1 million children for whom she has a stewardship. “I relish this opportunity to learn from the children who are a reflection of the pure love of Jesus Christ,” she said.

One of her favorite things about Primary is the “unique and special opportunity” for children “to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost.”

“I think it’s particularly important as parents, leaders, mentors and stewards of the rising generation, we help children identify the Spirit when it’s evident. If we create opportunities for the Spirit to be present, and help our children recognize and put a name to what they are feeling, we will provide them with a reservoir of spiritual experiences to draw upon for a lifetime.” she said.

Biographical information

Family: Born on Sept. 12, 1963, to Hal and Dorothy Neddo in Pocatello, Idaho; she married Douglas R. Johnson on July 31, 1987, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have three sons.

Education: Graduated from the University of Utah in English in 1985 and from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law in 1989.

Employment: Worked more than 30 years as a lawyer, most recently as the president of Snow Christensen & Martineau law firm in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Church service: Served as a ward Young Women president, gospel doctrine instructor and member of ward Relief Society and Primary presidencies. Served with her husband as they led the Perú Arequipa Mission from 2016 to 2019.

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