Ever since he was a young man, Elder Kevin W. Pearson has been profoundly affected by Lehi’s dream, as recorded in 1 Nephi, chapter 8.
“Today, that continues to be one of the most impactive stories. I see the entire world through that dream,” said one of the newest members of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
“That is the prism through which I’ve seen life. And I’ve always wanted to make sure that I was in with group number four, that I got to the tree and I stayed there and didn’t wander off.
“We’ve tried to instill that in our missionaries,” said Elder Pearson, who has been serving as president of the Washington Tacoma Mission since 2005. “They know that whenever we see them for the rest of their lives, the first question we’ll be asking is, ‘Are you staying by the tree?’ Staying by the tree means that they are going to stay true and faithful.”
Sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy during April general conference, the soft spoken tall man with a quick wit has been striving to “stay by the tree” from his boyhood in Salt Lake City. His parents, Wayne F. and Velda Labrum Pearson, are “true, faithful, loving people, the kind of couple you’d find in almost any ward in the Church. They are just stalwart people. They are just good to the core.”
For example, Elder Pearson, 51, remembers getting into mischief like other typical boys while growing up and, as he described it, getting “grounded quite a bit.”
“They would let me sit in my room for awhile, and then my dad would come and sit on my bed and we would have these great talks. Dad instilled in me a couple of things. One, you can do whatever you want in life. My mother used to have on the refrigerator, ‘Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ And that thought never left me.”
Then, when he was about 18, his mother invited him to join her for an afternoon continuing education class held at the Holladay Utah South Stake Center, their home stake. Sitting on the back row, a young Kevin Pearson heard the teacher bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“In that moment I knew. It just burned in my heart. I knew that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. It created such a drive to learn about him. That was a powerful moment in my life.”
So powerful that it carried him through some cold, lonely days tracting in the Finland Helsinki Mission where baptisms were few and far between. However, every time he had the opportunity to bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph, “that burning in my heart came back again. A million people could stand up in succession and tell me I was out of my mind and it wasn’t true, but I knew that it was true and knowing that has just been an anchor in my life.”
In fact, upon returning home from his mission, the former pitcher for the University of Utah baseball team decided not to return to the sport. He focused on his studies, which eventually led him to a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.
His other focus was a certain young woman he’d known before his mission, June Langeland. They married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 24, 1980. At the time, he had returned from a Washington, D.C., internship with the Hinckley Institute of Politics and had won a write-in campaign to become student body president at the University of Utah. She was a student at BYU.
They have five sons, one daughter, and three grandchildren.
About 15 years ago, Elder and Sister Pearson had what they call the “pendulum experience of our lives.” Their youngest son, Benjamin, then 3 months old, was diagnosed with retinal blastoma. Working in the healthcare industry, Elder Pearson found a renowned doctor in San Francisco, Calif., to care for his son.
Prior to surgery to remove the affected eye, the Pearson family, friends and ward members joined in fasting and prayer. Elder and Sister Pearson felt sure their son would not have to lose his eye.
But on the day of surgery, the doctor emerged from the operating room and said there were two tumors in Benjamin’s eye and that in another month the cancer would have gone to his brain.
“It just crushed us,” Sister Pearson recalled.
“I was devastated. I couldn’t talk,” Elder Pearson added.
After informing the rest of the family, the then 35-year-old father walked out of the hospital and began walking in the rain sobbing and praying.
“I was so angry. We’d kept the commandments. We’d done everything we were supposed to do. Is this what it’s all about?” he recalled.
That is when an impression came with such clarity he has never forgotten. “It wasn’t a voice, it was an impression. ‘Who do you think you are? He’s my son, too.’
“That moment was the most powerful moment of my life,” Elder Pearson said. “That was the pivotal moment in our lives. We met a lot of people in those days who divorced over the tragedy of their children going through the same thing. Those years had deep, profound impact.
“We’ve learned to trust in the Lord. The 112th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants promises, “Be thou humble and I will lead thee by the hand and give you answer to thy prayers.”
Today, Benjamin is an athlete who played on the 9th grade basketball team.
Sister Pearson said the family learned a great lesson, “Rely on the Lord.”