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Sister Barbara K. Christensen, wife of Elder Joe J. Christensen, dies at age 96

Sister Barbara K. Christensen, wife of Elder Joe J. Christensen, dies at age 96

Sister Barbara K. Christensen, 96, wife of Elder Joe J. Christensen, an emeritus general authority, died June 14, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

While Sister Christensen and her husband, who passed away in May 2021, would have been content with a quiet life on their Idaho farm, the Lord utilized them to bless and build the Church across the globe. 

At the time that Elder Christensen was called as a General Authority Seventy in 1989, he and his wife shared their testimony of Jesus Christ and His Church. “We’re very much committed to the gospel and to the idea that you serve wherever you’re called and for as long as the Lord wants you to serve,” he said.

Sister Christensen’s dedication to the gospel and commitment to serve wherever she was asked began during her childhood. Ida Barbara Kohler was born Dec. 12, 1925, as the fourth of 13 children of Albert and Elsie Kohler, who were descendants of Swiss, Danish and Welsh pioneers who immigrated to Midway, Utah, after joining the Church. The family’s dairy farm provided her with a childhood filled with an abundance of work, music and love, her obituary says.

She graduated from Brigham Young University and taught at Box Elder High School in Brigham City and then at BYU before deciding to serve a mission. 

While she was just beginning her mission in Puebla, Mexico, she met a young elder, Joe J. Christensen, who was just finishing his. The two faithfully corresponded until she completed her mission and began dating. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1952. 

“Marrying Barbara was the most important decision I ever made, and the best thing that ever happened to me,” Elder Christensen said.

Sister Barbara Kohler Christensen, wife of Elder Joe J. Christensen

Sister Barbara Kohler Christensen, wife of Elder Joe J. Christensen

Credit: Christensen family photo

They served faithfully side-by-side, not only as the parents of six children but also in many different capacities within the Church.

In 1970, the couple took their entire family to Mexico to serve as leaders of the Mexico City Mission. Then, in 1979, Elder Christensen was called as president of the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and they supervised the training of more than 55,000 missionaries over a period of four years.

“There really aren’t words to describe our experience at the MTC. But in many ways it was like being in the temple. The spirit was so similar,” Sister Christensen said of that time.

The family moved to Rexburg, Idaho, and Sister Christensen served as first lady of Ricks College when her husband became the college president. She accompanied him as he fulfilled assignments as a General Authority Seventy, including three years in Brazil, until he was given emeritus status in 1999.

Sister Christensen then served as matron as her husband served as president of the San Diego California Temple. For 12 years they utilized their love of gardening and working in the soil to supervise the missionaries and beautification of Adam-ondi-Ahman.

She also served as president of the Relief Society in her ward and stake, president of the Primary and in a variety of teaching and music callings.

Her obituary says she was an accomplished musician, a gifted teacher, an excellent teacher and cook, and a masterful gardener, who was an expert at preserving the harvest. Through Elder Christensen’s many career/Church assignments, Elder Christensen said they kept a piece of the family farm in Idaho “to keep their hands in the soil.”

Sister Christensen is survived by her six children, 29 grandchildren and close to 80 great-grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband; parents and several brothers and sisters.

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