President Janette Callister Hales Beckham, who served as the 10th Young Women general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Friday March 4, 2022, in Provo, Utah. She was 88 years old.
Funeral services will be Saturday, March 12, in Provo.
President Beckham served as Young Women general president from 1992 to 1997. President Beckham was also a member of the Utah State Legislature from 1988 to 1991, and served in several community roles.
She was born Janette Callister on June 7, 1933, in Springville, Utah, to Thomas Leonard and Hannah Carrick Callister, and was raised in Spanish Fork, Utah. While attending Brigham Young University, she met Robert H. Hales. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1955, and lived in Salt Lake City; San Antonio, Texas; New York City; and San Francisco, California while Robert Hales finished his medical training.
The Haleses had five children: Ann, Thomas, Jane, Karen and Mary. The family returned to Provo in 1963, and Sister Beckham finished school, graduating from BYU in 1969. She spent the rest of her life in Provo, where she raised her family and served in the community.
Robert Hales died of cancer in March 1988. Shortly afterward, Utah Gov. Norman H. Bangerter appointed her to fill a vacancy in the Utah House of Representatives. She was then elected to the House in November of that year, stepping down after one term in January 1991.
In March 1990, the ninth Young Women general president, President Ardeth G. Kapp, selected then-Sister Hales to be her new counselor in the Young Women general presidency, when President Elaine L. Jack was released to become Relief Society general president. After President Kapp was released in 1992, President Hales was called to be her successor.
In 1995, while serving as Young Women general president, President Hales married Raymond E. Beckham and changed her last name to Beckham. President Beckham was released as Young Women general president in 1997.
Young Women general president
President Beckham reached out to others because people had always reached out to her. It was a Primary president in Spanish Fork who put her arm around her when she was 11 years old and invited her to be baptized. She had been attending Primary occasionally with neighbors.
“Although my father wasn’t a member and my mother wasn’t active, they supported my decision. They’d always taught gospel principles in our home,” she said when she was sustained as Young Women general president. “They taught me to be kind, honest and loving, and they supported me in everything I ever did.”
As Young Women general president, President Beckham emphasized making and keeping covenants. In an interview with the Church News in 1993, President Beckham drew a connection between baptism, the sacrament and the temple.
“Sometimes young people feel like [receiving the ordinances of the temple] is a long way in the future and that they’ll make the changes necessary to go to the temple when they are nearer that age,” she said. “But if we really take our baptismal covenants seriously, we would be prepared at any time, if the circumstances were right, to go to the temple.”
Under her leadership, a new camp manual was introduced in 1993, focusing on service, spirituality and the Young Women values. The first general Young Women meeting, separate from Relief Society, was held in April 1994, and the 125th anniversary of Young Women was observed in May 1994. Two worldwide celebrations were held, “Walk in the Light” in 1992, and “Experiment upon the Word” in 1995.
In that April 1994 meeting, President Beckham urged the youth to build an inner core of spirituality in a talk titled “Growing Up Spiritually”: “As you exercise your faith and feel that spirituality grow, you will begin to feel more secure. You will feel more confident. Gradually we will come to more fully understand what it means to completely trust in our Heavenly Father and stand as a witness of God. As we become righteous, problem-solving women of faith, we will learn to represent Him and do His work.”
President Beckham once shared the story of her younger brother, and how her community in Spanish Fork, Utah, seemed to rejoice when a son was born to the family after four daughters.
“Within months it was obvious that Tommy was severely handicapped. A force that was just the opposite of my outside world started to be felt inside. There seemed to develop a new dimension of love, tenderness, compassion,” said President Beckham said in the October 1995 general conference talk titled “The Power of Goodness.”
She continued, “The whole town seemed more gentle, interested, concerned. My outside fears were diminished. I felt securely attached because my mother and brother were there. My parents were home at night. Our home seemed more warm, full. There was a different power. It seemed to grow from the inside. It felt more permanent, unlike the temporary power I felt with my friends. It was calm and peaceful — the power of goodness, the power of love.”
She concluded the talk by saying, “My plea for each of us is to recognize that God has given each of us power—the power to act, to choose, to serve, to love, and to accomplish much good.”
Sister Beckham’s family said she loved to host and entertain and share cinnamon rolls. She also loved clothes and fashion. She majored in clothing and textiles at BYU — and once spoke in general conference about making a sport coat for her husband when their children were young.
“With great enthusiasm I took out the pattern guide. My heart nearly failed me,” she said in April 1991 general conference “A Pattern of Righteousness.” “There were pages of instructions — 138 steps, as I remember. It was beyond my ability. The next few days I took that pattern everywhere I went. I decided to work on no more than two steps per day so I wouldn’t get discouraged. When two steps were completed, I would read the directions for the next day’s task.
“Occasionally I got overanxious and had to unpick, but fortunately mistakes in good materials don’t remain if they are carefully removed. A few months later, I had created a masterpiece. The pattern had made the miracle possible. Patterns had become very important to me.”
The Beckhams worked on the Church’s Olympic Coordinating Committee for the Salt Lake Winter Games from 1998 to 2002.
President Beckham was passionate about education, and served on the Board of Trustees at Utah Valley University from 2004 to 2011, helping transition the school to university status in 2008. UVU awarded Sister Beckham an honorary doctorate in 2013.
Sister Beckham also served on the board of directors of Deseret Book, and the Board of Trustees at Brigham Young University.
In 1997, Ray and Janette Beckham were named Reed Smoot Citizens of the Year by Provo City, and they also received the Sons of the Utah Pioneers “Modern Pioneer” award.
Ray Beckham died in 2017.
A testimony of the Savior
President Beckham told BYU students in a March 1993 devotional titled, “Lessons That Have Helped Me,” about how much she valued each day the atonement of Jesus Christ and the opportunities to love and serve one another.
“One of the greatest lessons we can learn is how the Spirit sustains those who try to live by faith. When adversity comes, and it does come, the Spirit seems stronger. I bear testimony of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ, not because of my worthiness, but because of his promise to those who believe on his name.”
In the 1993 Church News interview, Sister Beckham said she hoped youth understood that as they make covenants, they will receive blessings: “The satisfaction and happiness that come from living in harmony with God’s plan come as a blessing from Him. We can feel peace, love and security. Our Savior provides the safety net as we learn.”
While speaking to BYU students in a September 1995 devotional titled “Your Good Name,” President Beckham spoke about experiences changing her surname in marriage and then re-marriage. She emphasized the importance of a name and an identity.
“We can strengthen our identity with our Heavenly Father as we change and as we serve. There are many characteristics in the scriptures that distinguish a righteous people — those who take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ.”
She concluded, “May we remember as we partake of the sacrament each Sunday the great blessing it is to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.”