In the mid-1950s, a 5-year-old boy sat on the 15th row of the Honolulu Tabernacle listening to President David O. McKay address the Hawaiian saints. For one so young, he wasn't sure what the stirrings in his heart meant. He just knew it felt good.
Then the congregation sang the closing hymn: "Who's on the Lord's side? Who? Now is the time to show. We ask it fearlessly: Who's on the Lord's side? Who?" (Hymns, No. 260.)
"I remember as a 5-year-old boy wanting to stand up and say, 'I am!' It was a very sweet experience. It was one of the first of a spiritual nature that I had," the now-grown man recalled. "It was a hymn that's still in our hymnbook but one that we don't sing as often anymore. But it has always had powerful meaning to me."
And he's still on the Lord's side, as a new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, 50, was sustained April 1 during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference. Sitting beside him in the congregation at the new Conference Center — before he took his place among the General Authorities of the Church — was his wife, Diane. During a Church News interview the following week, it was clear they bring into this new phase of their lives the "Aloha spirit" from their home in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Elder Hallstrom was reared and where they have made their home since the early days of their marriage.
"From the very first time I ever met Don," Sister Hallstrom, who grew up in Taber, Alberta, related, "I was im- pressed with his deep and abiding love for the Lord and his commitment. That was probably the first quality that made me want to get to know him better. From a very young age, he has known where he's going and what he wants to do there. He has a tremendous gift of leadership — the ability to organize and delegate and to inspire people to rise to the challenge of what needs to be done."
And she should know; she married him nearly 28 years ago, on July 22, 1972, in the Cardston Alberta Temple. Since then, they have worked as a team, balancing numerous Church callings with family and work responsibilities. Over the years, Elder Hallstrom has served as a bishop, stake president, regional representative and Area Authority Seventy. She has served as a Young Women president and has taught early morning seminary for a total of 11 years — rising daily at 4:30 a.m. Elder Hallstrom has juggled his callings with being president and principal of his own real estate economics firm in Honolulu, which was founded in 1980. Before that, he worked for a similar organization in Honolulu.
However, Elder and Sister Hallstrom's first priority has been the blending of gospel and family. They have four children, Brett, 26; Erin, 24; Kara, 20; and Briana, 16. Brett and his wife, Julianne, are currently expecting their first child — the Hallstrom's first grandchild.
Sister Hallstrom recalled an event in their lives that emphasizes her husband's commitment to his family and to the gospel. In 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball rededicated the Hawaii Temple (now the Laie Hawaii Temple). Elder and Sister Hallstrom attended a dedicatory session during which President Kimball promised that if "we would hold meaningful family home evenings and put a picture of the temple in our children's bedrooms, that we would not lose our children."
Sister Hallstrom said that on the following Monday during his lunchtime he went down to an LDS bookstore in Honolulu and then brought home three 16X20-size pictures of the Hawaii Temple. "They are still there in all of our children's bedrooms at home," she related. In addition, she said, despite normal family challenges and varied schedules, family home evening has been sacred to them.
Elder Hallstrom patterns his life with his own wife and children much as his father and mother, James E. and Betty Jo Lambert Hallstrom, did when the future General Authority was growing up on Oahu. The elder Brother and Sister Hallstrom still reside in Hawaii, a place of which their son speaks with warmth. In fact, it was a Church mission that placed the Hallstrom family roots in Hawaii. Elder Hallstrom's father was called on a mission there in 1940; he was there when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In the latter years of the war, he returned to Hawaii for military duty. After war's end, he brought his young bride back to the Islands where he helped develop a fledgling building and loan business. Thus, their four children were all reared in Hawaii.
"My parents were examples of dedicated service," Elder Hallstrom related. "They always taught us that being successful was a wonderful attribute in life, professionally and otherwise. But no matter what we did, everything was secondary to our commitment to the Lord."
That principle was certainly lived in the Hallstrom home. The elder Brother Hallstrom was stake clerk, and in those days, the stake clerk's family lived on the grounds of the Honolulu Tabernacle in a small cottage. "We lived in this little 800-square-foot home on the grounds of where the Church office building is today. The Honolulu Tabernacle was our backyard. When I later became the stake president, my office was 50 feet away from where the home had been."
Growing up in a home based on gospel principles prepared him well for his service in the England Central Mission from 1969 to 1971, where he served as assistant to the president for some nine months. It was in his first area, a small coal mining town, where the young elder began applying the principles learned in his boyhood. And it was here he learned the significance of obedience.
His life today seems to mirror the right choices he made. So does his marriage. After returning home from England, he enrolled at BYU (majoring in economics), where he met Diane Clifton. Their first date was a speaking engagement for him in Bountiful, Utah. They've been traveling together to speaking engagements ever since.
Today, Elder Hallstrom enters this new service much as he did when he left for England — remembering the examples of his parents. Just four years ago, Elder Hallstrom's youngest sister died unexpectedly 10 days after giving birth to her fourth child. "That was difficult for my parents because you never expect your children to go before you," Elder Hallstrom explained. "As much of a heartbreak as it was, there was never a moment of a hint of 'Why us?' That's the wonderful example we see in them."
And the example both Elder and Sister Hallstrom are trying to set for their own children.
You can reach Julie A. Dockstader by e-mail at [email protected]