Laying a foundation of faith and testimony best begins when children are very young. It certainly did for Jean A. Stevens.
Sustained April 3 as the first counselor in the new Primary general presidency, Sister Stevens knows well the lasting and profound effect of being taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and feeling the Lord's love early in life. For her, the seeds of faith began then.
"Some of my earliest memories are of my mother singing Primary songs to me," she said. "The messages of those beautiful songs entered into my heart and left an indelible impression. I came to know that I am a child of God. I had lived with Him before. He knows and loves me, and all His children. And with the help and guidance of loving parents, I can follow the path back to Him."
Born Nov. 20, 1951, Jean Stevens is the fourth of O. Claron and Helen Alldredge's five children. "I was raised in an atmosphere of love and faith. Both of my parents had strong testimonies of the gospel and knew how to love. They showed their love for the Lord and for their family in a million wonderful ways. I began early to feel my Heavenly Father's love for me because I had felt such love in my home," she said.
Her parents' commitment and love of the Lord were evidenced early in their own lives. Sister Stevens' parents married in 1936, weeks before her father left for missionary service in South Africa. (At that time, it was not uncommon for married men to serve missions and leave their families at home.)
"It was not the perfect way to start a marriage," she said. "But they loved each other and the Lord, and wanted to serve Him."
In fact, she said, love defined her childhood home.
Sister Stevens feels that the experiences of her own childhood have helped her to recognize the great capacity children have to understand the gospel and to feel the Lord's love. This precious time in a child's life provides sacred opportunities for parents and Primary leaders to teach lessons that will live in a child's heart forever.
Sister Stevens recalled, "There really isn't a day that goes by that I don't draw on the lessons I learned from my mother and father. Their love for the Lord and their desire to serve Him have helped to shape my life and desire to serve the Lord."
As a young girl, she remembers watching her mother serve as a member of the Primary General Board. "Her love of the Lord and His children was obvious by the devoted service she gave," Sister Stevens said.
When Jean Alldredge was a sophomore in high school, she was introduced to Mark Stevens by a mutual friend. They dated in high school and college. After he returned from serving in the Italy North Mission, they married in the Salt Lake Temple.
The couple moved into an apartment in downtown Salt Lake City, worked and continued their education. Each morning they attended classes and each afternoon they walked through Temple Square on their way to work. Seeing the temple became a daily reminder of what mattered most to them – love of the Lord, each other and their family.
After Sister Stevens graduated, she dedicated her life to being a full-time mother.
"Jean was the kind of mom that was involved in whatever our children were involved in," said Brother Stevens.
As part of that involvement, she drove, attended and supported them in sports events, dance classes and music performances.
When one of her sons was the pitcher on his baseball team, for example, she was his practice catcher, he said. "Whatever they were excited about, she was excited about."
Today, all the Stevens' children, except the youngest, live outside of Utah.
As a result, vacations revolve around family visits. Traveling to the grandchildren is something Brother and Sister Stevens look forward to with great joy. They feel the importance of building bonds of love in their family that will extend this pattern of love to the next generation of children. Love of the Lord and family still define their home.
And now, of course, Sister Stevens will have the opportunity to visit Primary children and their leaders across the globe. She looks forward to continuing the sweet experience of meeting and loving dedicated leaders she has already had while serving on the Primary General Board.
"I feel so keenly the love the Lord has for children. With His help and blessing, I have felt my own capacity to love increase. Surely children today need to feel His love and to know that they can stay on the path to return to Him."
Family: Born Nov. 20, 1951, in Salt Lake City to O. Claron and Helen Alldredge. Married Mark W. Stevens Sept. 12, 1973, in the Salt Lake Temple. Five children: Dan, Brooke (Joshua) Perkes, Matthew (Elizabeth), Amy (Matthew) Swenson, and John. Seven grandchildren.
Education: Attended BYU. Graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in mathematics and a teaching certificate.
Community service: PTA and education volunteer.
Church service: Former Primary General Board member, ward Relief Society president, Young Women president, Primary counselor and gospel doctrine teacher.