A “Huck Finn” boyhood is how Elder Lynn G. Robbins describes his early life, in Springville, near Provo, Utah.
“I grew up on Hobble Creek, and I spent many summer days as a younger boy up and down that stream fishing,” remembered Elder Robbins, 44, who was sustained at general conference April 5 as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.The idyllic childhood he describes also included many hours engaged in baseball and basketball, and in water and winter sports.
But any comparison between him and the hero of Mark Twain’s novel applies in only limited respects. There was no aimless drifting for young Lynn Robbins, no confusion about religious concepts. Here was a young man with his eyes fixed on the gospel of Jesus Christ as his guiding star.
“Elder Marvin J. Ashton once came to our mission
Argentina NorthT while I was a missionary,” he recalled. “In speaking to us he said some of us remember the day we received our testimony, as if it were the difference between night and day. And he said others will not be able to look back and remember such a day, because they have always known. And I feel that’s how my testimony is, that I’ve always known since I was a Primary child, with special experiences all through the years, growing line upon line and precept upon precept, always knowing.”
A testimony grows as one’s knowledge of the gospel grows, he explained, “and you gain experience that gives you insight into gospel principles. For example, you have more and more experiences with a principle like forgiveness or honesty, and you come to know that it’s true. You don’t simply believe, you know that it’s true. Your knowledge becomes perfect in that thing, so that your testimony grows through the years.”
Such propensity toward faith, he said, is due in part to an ancestral legacy of spirituality.
“We were both raised in homes where we were taught the gospel by word and example,” his wife, Jan, remarked. “Our parents and their parents before them gave us a legacy of faith, that we feel very blessed to pass on to our children.”
Elder Robbins added: “My great-great-grandfather was George Reynolds, one of the seven presidents of Seventy back in Brigham Young’s time. I have pioneer Latter-day Saints on both sides of the family, and my parents were always active, raised me to be active. I had a lot of wonderful youth leaders that helped me, and good friends.”
One special friend was his wife-to-be, Jan Nielson, whom he has known since both were children. Her family moved into a home that abutted the backyards of his grandmother and aunt, he said, “so I watched her play as a young girl over the back fence.”
But it was not until near the end of their senior year in high school that he asked her on a date.
“While I was on my mission, Jan wrote me 104 letters – one for every week,” he said. They were married in the Manti Temple, eight months after his return.
They had many things in common. Both had fathers named J. Grant. (“I bet you can’t guess what our first son was named,” Elder Robbins said, smiling.) And both understood the importance of establishing priorities. A BYU graduate in English, Sister Robbins has elected to spend full time raising their seven children.
“She’s extremely industrious, forever working and accomplishing righteous goals in her life,” Elder Robbins said.
A knack for goal setting has guided him also. In 1983, he and a few partners founded the Franklin Institute, an enterprise inspired by the virtues and principles of Benjamin Franklin and later renamed the Franklin Quest Co. Millions of people use the company’s product – the Franklin Day Planner – and its assorted accessories.
So what does a co-founder of one of the world’s most prosperous time-management companies have to say about setting priorities?
“I don’t think I can improve on what the scriptures say: Put the Lord first and all other things will be added unto you. And where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (See Matt. 6:33) tends to drive the various goals one sets in life, Elder Robbins commented. “If putting Him first becomes your guiding star, then it has an impact on the decisions you make with your family, on career choice, vacations, leisure time and everything else.”
Thus it was that the Robbinses, at the relatively young age of 41, left home and career to live for three years in Montivideo, Uruguay, where he has served as a mission president until this month.
“What a marvelous experience it’s been to work full time in the Lord’s service and see the many miracles happen,” he exclaimed. “The miracle of miracles is witnessing the change that comes in people’s lives when they come unto Christ, and seeing their countenance actually change.”
Five of the seven children have been living with their parents in Uruguay. “Our teenagers have been strengthened as they’ve had to be a light on a hill,” Elder Robbins said, adding that they have been respected by schoolmates for upholding standards of righteousness.
“We’ve been blessed with very teachable children,” added Sister Robbins. “They’re not perfect, but they’re very special spirits.”
Perhaps that is reflected in a comment from Elder Robbins: “I would say the favorite vacations of the family have not been the Disneyland-type of trips. One of the favorite trips of our daughter, Rachel, for example, was the time we went down to Mexico as a family and lived on a mountain with the Choice Foundation and helped an Indian village build a school.”
That was in December and January, 1992-93. Living in a tent, the Robbinses and 12 other families worked side-by-side with villagers to construct the school. Along with previous expeditions, they built it complete with a roof that collects rain water and funnels it into an underground cistern as culinary source for the village.
Whether it pertains to serving the Lord, earning a living or pursuing an avocation, Elder Robbins and his family seem to live by Benjamin Franklin’s words: “Dost thou love Life? then do not squander Time; for that’s the Stuff Life is made of.”
Family: Born Oct. 27, 1952, in Payson, Utah, to Joshua Grant and Evelyn Reed Robbins. Married Jan Neilson on June 27, 1974, in the Manti Temple. Parents of seven children: Jason Grant, Andrew James, Rachel, Peter Lynn, Rebekah, William Joshua and Mary.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and political science from Utah State University, master’s degree in international management from American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Ariz.
Employment: Co-founder and former senior vice president of Franklin Quest (publisher of time-management tools, formerly Franklin Institute).
Church service: President of Uruguay Montevideo Mission, 1994-97; former high councilor, stake assistant executive secretary, bishop and counselor, ward clerk, assistant ward clerk for finances, teachers quorum adviser, Scoutmaster, early-morning seminary teacher; served in the Argentina North Mission, 1971-73.