Latter-day Saints typically get their first glance — either in-person or via camera — of a newly called Young Men general president when he’s sustained at general conference and makes his way to the front of the Conference Center to sit with the other general Church officers.
This year, of course, was different.
When President Steven J. Lund was announced during the April 2020 general conference as the man selected to help guide hundreds of thousands of Aaronic Priesthood-age males across the world, he remained seated in the living room of his Salt Lake Valley home.
Still — despite the pandemic-related restrictions that kept President Lund and thousands of others from gathering in the Conference Center — the longtime youth leader felt immediately connected and sustained by the legions of young men he now serves.
“It was a little different to be sustained virtually,” he told the Church News. “But it was a wonderful tender mercy to be surrounded by my family when I was sustained.
“And everybody in the room raised their hand to sustain me,” he said, laughing. “So that was a plus.”
President Lund and his wife, Sister Kalleen Lund, felt the historic weight of April’s unusual general conference in ways far beyond any specific calling.
While it was difficult not being able to gather alongside thousands of others, “so many wonderful things” came out of the recent conference, he said. “The counsel was profound, and the announcement of the new temples in areas all over the world remind us that this is a wonderful time.”
For Sister Lund, being with her fellow Latter-day Saints — albeit virtually — “gave us the peace we were hungry for.”
A military veteran, international businessman and a seasoned youth leader, President Lund says working with the world’s rising corps of Aaronic Priesthood holders is a sacred privilege for he and his counselors in the Young Men general presidency, Brother Ahmad Corbitt and Brother Bradley R. Wilcox.
“It’s a humbling thing to be trusted with such a responsibility,” he said. “We are a little bit daunted by the task, but we have great faith in those who have called us, and joyfully, we have had our own confirmation that this is Heavenly Father’s work.”
The year 2020, with its many challenges and opportunities, marks a “wondrous time” for the youth of the Church, he said. “They are being called upon to do things that they have never been asked to do before — and they are responding with such enthusiasm and power. It’s thrilling to watch.”
President Lund added he’s grateful for the efforts “and yeoman work” of his predecessor, Brother Stephen W. Owen, and the other general youth leaders who prayerfully developed the new Children and Youth program to help the Church’s young people across the globe follow the example of the Savior.
“Now it falls upon us to go out and execute it properly,” he said. “We’re excited to get out and make good on the foundation that has been laid.”
As both his wife and missionary companion, Sister Lund said she has watched her husband being prepared, over decades of Church service, for the calling he now fulfills.
“He is the person I trust most in this world, and I know Heavenly Father trusts him,” she said. “Steve has had singular experiences working with youth his whole life. He has a unique gift to look for those who are downtrodden. … His love and message will resonate with those who are really struggling.
“He’s a very authentic person.”
Given his own youthful enthusiasm and appearance, the 66-year-old still carries the look of a sun-loving California kid who enjoyed the love and support of a dedicated Latter-day Saint family and priceless mentors guiding him along the gospel’s path.
“I was blessed to grow up in a ward with wonderful leaders who took the gospel seriously. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a deep sense that there was a God in heaven who loved me, who knew my name and who listened to my prayers.”
He remains grateful for the patriarchal blessing he received as a 15-year-old, standing on the cusp of pivotal, life-changing personal decisions. That blessing, he said with voice cracking, assured him “that I wasn’t just some random kid growing up on a dirt road in rural California.
“I was just a normal kid, but as a member of the Church, I was part of something eternal that was larger than myself, and I knew that the Lord had a work for me to do.”
After graduating from high school and year of college, he accepted a call to serve in the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission. Laboring in the Netherlands and Belgium required him to learn a challenging language and experience the daily challenges of missionary work. “My mission took me to ‘the wall’ — and it drew from me the best that I had to offer.”
Full-time missionary service also enriched his appreciation for prayer and the power found in connecting with God in moments throughout the day. Those lessons only deepened when he later presided over the Georgia Atlanta Mission (2003-2006) with Sister Lund at his side.
After completing his first mission, President Lund enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, where he met a young American expat and Church member named Kalleen Kirk. They became friends and later reunited while both were students at BYU.
“It was there at college where our friendship deepened into something else,” he said. The two married in the Salt Lake Temple in the late summer of 1980. The Lunds are the parents of four children.
After claiming a law degree at BYU, he worked as a lawyer before eventually becoming president and CEO of Nu Skin Enterprises. He is currently the company’s executive chairman of the board of directors and recently completed five years as a regent of the Utah System of Higher Education.
If it were possible to meet one-on-one with every deacon, teacher and priest in the world, President Lund knows exactly what he would say:
“Finding joy in the kingdom of God isn’t complicated — Heavenly Father loves you. You just need to love Him back. And if we do that, we’re going to be safe and happy. … Our lives are going to mean something.”
The doctrine of Christ, he added, is beautiful and simple: repent and continue to grow.
“If we do those things, the joys of life have no bounds.”