For Elder Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Lesa Stevenson, the Restoration of the gospel is not a mere moment from the past relegated to history books.
Instead, the Restoration is a vibrant, dynamic event that continues to impact, define, change and bless lives today. The recently called Seventy points to that "seismic event" that began with a few small words: I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head.
"Those ten simple words ushered in a new dispensation and shattered a darkness that had been over the earth for centuries; it changed the world," said Elder Stevenson of Joseph Smith's account of the First Vision.
"To be a witness now of its ramifications is just remarkable."
Indeed, the Restoration is, at once, a global and extremely personal event for Elder Stevenson. He's inspired by the many precepts taught by the Restoration. Lessons of God preparing those He calls. Lessons of family. Lessons of sacrifice and hard work. Lessons of missionary work. Lessons of daily miracles.
Elder and Sister Stevenson were reminded each day of the living power of the Restoration when he presided over the Japan Nagoya Mission.
"We watched young missionaries doing things every day that were miraculous events and an extension of the Restoration," he said. "We live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, and what an incredible blessing it is to be living in a time when we enjoy all of the fulness of the gospel."
Sister Stevenson agrees that the spirit of the Restoration continues. "The baton has been passed and it's our turn to continue the work," she said.
Elder Stevenson has been a lifelong beneficiary of blessings. Born and raised in northern Utah in a family of pioneer stock, young Gary grew up fortified by strong family traditions. Accepting calls to missionary service was a Stevenson priority.
"We were taught from an early age about the conversion of the members of our family from generations past. It created a sense of responsibility and a sense of obligation," he said.
While a young man, Elder Stevenson served a mission to Japan. His time in the Far East blessed him with a lifelong love for both Asia and sharing the gospel. "Missionary work is good labor and rewarding labor, but it is labor, nonetheless. I learned that hard work is a very important aspect of missionary work. When you combine hard work with obedience and testimony, you begin to see the fruits of the labor."
After returning from his mission, he enrolled at Utah State University. He met Lesa Jean Higley in an LDS institute class. The young returned missionary was immediately smitten. His future wife, he joked, took some convincing.
Sister Stevenson smiled at her husband's memory of their courtship, adding: "He was a lot of fun. He made me smile, he made me laugh. He was very kind, honest, a hard worker, and he had a strong testimony of the gospel."
The couple married on April 20, 1979, in Sister Stevenson's hometown in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. The Stevensons are the parents of four sons and have one grandson.
While still in college, Elder Stevenson co-founded a business. His work would take him around the world and away from his home in Utah's Cache Valley. He learned the importance of finding balance in life and becoming a parenting partner with his wife.
"We had to learn to work together," said Sister Stevenson. "If Gary was in Asia, we would talk every night on the phone and try to figure out what was best for the boys and which ways to direct them even if it was (from) long distance."
Elder Stevenson said he made it a priority to leave work at the office. When he was home, his thoughts and focus were on home. The Stevensons still cherish moments spent with their family. As parents of four outdoor-minded boys, they enjoy recreation in northern Utah's snow and water.
"We ski and we snowboard and we snow-mobile and fly fish," Elder Stevenson said.
Elder Stevenson's upcoming assignment as a counselor in the Asia North Area will again take him and Sister Stevenson to Japan. He couldn't be happier.
"We've grown to appreciate so many of the members in Asia they are strong and powerful in so many places," he said. "You will continue to see rapid growth and acceptance of the gospel in Asia. (The gospel) will be a blessing to their societies as it continues to roll out."
Together, he said, members can share the events of the Restoration and the spreading of the gospel.
"We get strength from the past. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And then we do something with that great legacy that we all have to pioneer the continuation of the 'stone cut without hands filling the whole earth"'
Sister Stevenson said each person can know that his or her Heavenly Father knows them individually. The "one" is important to the Lord.
"He's aware of our needs, and He will bless us if we just turn to Him," she said.
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