Sister Betty Jo Jepsen, former counselor in the Primary general presidency, dies at age 79

Sister Betty Jo Nelson Jepsen, who served in the Primary general presidency from 1988 to 1994, died July 4, 2020, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Soon after her call as a general Church leader, she shared her testimony that “every child is born with the right to know about our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Every child should know he is a child of God. That is my basic philosophy.”

Having grown up in an idyllic little town nestled in the mountains between Preston and Montpelier, Idaho, she developed a simple faith in the gospel and a great love for reading and literature which eventually carried her to study English at Utah State University. 

She received a bachelor of arts degree in English and business education and a master of education degree in special education. She taught on elementary, high school and university levels and worked as adjunct faculty at Utah State University, instructing future special education teachers.

In Mink Creek, the rural community where she grew up, her religious convictions were rarely challenged, but between her sophomore and junior years at Utah State, she went to Palmyra, New York, to participate in the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. As she greeted and talked with visitors, she was able to verbalize for the first time her feelings about the gospel.

“I had never doubted my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, but that experience solidified in my mind that it was right,” she said.

Early in her teaching career, she married Glen Jepsen — who had grown up just a few miles from her home — in the Logan Utah Temple in 1962. Soon after they were married, he received an Air Force commission and they moved to Texas and then Germany. Later, she spent four years working as a school teacher at the International School in Saudi Arabia, all of which contributed to her interest and understanding of many cultures. Eventually, they settled and raised their family — two sons and two daughters — in Pleasant View, Utah.

She served on the Primary general board from 1985 to 1988 and then as first counselor to Primary General President Michaelene P. Grassli. She spoke twice in general conference, including an address where she encouraged Church members to be kind. “Wouldn’t it be a fine world if we had a natural instinct for kindness and just couldn’t help ourselves when we had the opportunity to be kind? We can nurture others with kindness, and our acts can become the sweet honey in this garden of life,” she said.

Besides her service on a general Church level, she served in many stake and ward callings. She and her husband served a two-year mission to Kiev, Ukraine, and enjoyed working in the Logan Utah Temple.

Sister Jepsen is survived by her husband; their four children — Kerry, Jana, Jill and Kyle; 19 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, July 11, at 11 a.m. in the Mink Creek Chapel, 7316 N. Capitol Hill Road, Preston, Idaho.