Gerry Avant: A look back at Sister Joanne Doxey — ‘an expert juggler of time and energy’

When I read the newspaper article reporting the death of Joanne B. Doxey last Nov. 7, I immediately thought of many of my associations with her. 

I met Sister Doxey while she was serving on the Primary general board prior to her calling in May 1984 to serve as a counselor to Barbara W. Winder, who was sustained as Relief Society general president during that April’s general conference. 

I described observing Sister Doxey — who managed the affairs of home, family, Church and personal interests — as “watching an expert juggler of time and energy.” It seemed that she kept dozens of projects in simultaneous motion. 

She said, “I find that step by step we are prepared for what we are to do.”

She explained that she wouldn’t have guessed that serving on the Primary general board would have prepared her for something like serving as second counselor in the new Relief Society general presidency. She was called to the Primary general board while in Spain with her husband, David W. Doxey, as he presided over the Spain Barcelona Mission.

“Serving on the Primary board was such a change from the mission,” she said. “But, step by step, I learned again my reverence for children. I learned again that children are sanctified and are not little adults. We need to respect them. One of my majors in college was child development. Being on the Primary board was a wonderful stepping stone to revert to my training and rearing my children.”

The Doxeys had five sons and three daughters. One child died in infancy.

“I love being a mother,” Sister Doxey told me. “That’s my favorite position in the whole world. As a young girl, I wanted to be a mother like my mother. I received my patriarchal blessing when I was 14, and it gave me great strength and direction through my teenage years. It spoke of children yet unborn to come to me. 

“When I went to the University of Utah, I studied interior design. David, my fiancé at that time, was going into the construction and real estate business. I wanted to be a support to him, so I decided I’d earn architecture and interior design. I got to my junior year and discovered I really wanted to be with children. I tried to change my major, but was counseled to work toward a double major, in interior design and child development.”

A postscript: At age 61, she received a master’s degree in family science with an emphasis in religion from BYU.

David W. and Joanne B. Doxey at their home in Salt Lake City. Sister Doxey was called to the general Relief Society presidency in 1984.
David W. and Joanne B. Doxey at their home in Salt Lake City. Sister Doxey was called to the general Relief Society presidency in 1984. Credit: Church News archive

She drew upon textbook learning to supplement her common-sense judgment while rearing sons and daughters in a home she designed. Her parents, Bliss L. and Eva M. Bushman, had positive influences upon her life. Her mother provided an example in rearing children.

“Mother came from a family of 15 children,” Sister Doxey said. “She had great patience and love, and was home all the time. She taught us, but not as verbally as I taught mine. Sometimes, I think all I do is talk, talk, talk. Even if it’s in the middle of the night, I talk with my children.”

When Joanne Bushman was 5, her family moved to New Mexico, where she had a happy childhood. Her family returned to Salt Lake City when she was 15. At East High School, she met David Doxey. They became friends and began dating before he was called to serve a mission. 

“I was a member of the how-many-months club as I waited two and a half years for him to come home. I was in college and, since I was waiting for a missionary and didn’t date, I was free to work in service organizations and get my grade average up. It was a learning experience in patience. Our communications were spiritual. We learned a lot about each other during that time, and we waited a year after he got home. It was a long engagement. It was well worth it.”

She said they “balanced” each other. She said he wasn’t very outgoing while she never seemed to meet a stranger. They loved to travel, and he knew all about that. It seemed the things she didn’t know anything about, he knew everything about.

Sister Doxey said she had her own interests, which included studying Spanish and Egyptian history, and anything that had a tie with the gospel.

She also wrote poetry. Working with a music composer, Marjorie Kjar, she put many of her poems to music and, for a while, had her own music publishing company. Some of the better-known of her more than 50 songs are “Seek the Lord,” “Where Love Is,” “Labor of Love,” “Joy of Being a Woman,” “Circles of Womanhood,” “For Such a Time as This” and “Be Thou an Example.” 

In addition to numerous callings in the Church, Sister Doxey served as an assistant to the matron of the Salt Lake Temple and matron of the Madrid Spain Temple.