Elder Gary E. Stevenson was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the 185th Semiannual General Conference of the Church on Oct. 3, 2015. For close to five years he has been traveling the world teaching and testifying to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a special witness of Jesus Christ.
Here are a few facts and photos about Elder Stevenson, in honor of his 65th birthday.
1. Gary Stevenson was born on Aug. 6, 1955, to Evan and Jean Hall Stevenson, the second child and oldest son.
2. Elder Stevenson’s middle name is Evan, which is the name of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His son shares the middle name, and his grandson is named Evan.
3. He was born and raised in Cache Valley, Utah, in a family of pioneer stock. “We were taught from an early age about the conversion of the members of our family from generations past. It created a sense of responsibility and a sense of obligation,” he said.
4. One of his ancestors was Marie Stalle, born in Italy, who immigrated to Utah as a young pioneer girl. Her family joined the first handcart company on its way from Iowa to Salt Lake City.
5. The Apostle met his wife, Lesa Jean Higley, during an Old Testament class at the institute of religion at Utah State University. “The teacher asked Lesa to role-play as Eve and for me to play the role of Satan to tempt her. As a result, it took a while for me to convince her to go out with me,” he recalled with a smile.
6. They dated for just over a year and were married on April 20, 1979, in Sister Stevenson’s hometown in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple.
7. The Stevensons are the parents of four sons.
8. As parents of four outdoor-minded boys, Elder and Sister Stevenson enjoy recreation in northern Utah’s snow and water. “We ski and we snowboard and we snow-mobile and fly fish,” Elder Stevenson said.
9. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Utah State University in 1979.
10. He was the co-founder, president and chief operating officer of Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. which took him all around the world.
11. He served as a full-time missionary in the Japan Fukuoka Mission.
12. His faith was nurtured not only by his parents and siblings but also his extended family. For example, when his oldest cousin left on a mission, he signed a $2 bill and passed it to the next cousin preparing to serve. That $2 bill passed through 16 cousins who served missions throughout the world, reminding each one that they were united in serving the Lord.
13. Elder Stevenson was serving as president of the Asia North Area in March 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan. The 9.0-magnitude temblor generated a seismic sea wave that left 20,000 dead, displaced thousands, and destroyed 550,000 homes.
14. The Stevensons moved their family to Asia in 2004 when Elder Stevenson accepted a call to serve as president of the Japan Nagoya Mission; the family moved back to that area of the world when Elder Stevenson was called as a General Authority.
15. The role of bishop holds special significance for Elder Stevenson. When he was 12, his father was called as bishop, he served as a bishop and was called to serve as the Presiding Bishop of the Church after serving four years as a General Authority Seventy.