Gary E. Stevenson
Born August 6, 1955, in Logan, Utah, Gary Evan Stevenson felt he always had a sense of the truthfulness of the gospel. This early, continually growing testimony was augmented by the faith of many exceptional family members, leaders, and friends. Among his greatest mentors were his parents. His father was a bishop in his youth, and it was his example in this calling that first prompted Gary E. Stevenson, while serving as the Presiding Bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to call the bishops of the Church his “heroes.”1
Matching his father’s teaching was his mother’s influence. Gary E. Stevenson, thinking of his mother’s singular goodness, has said that growing up, he measured every act against the thought, “I do not want to disappoint my mom.”2 He and his siblings were close as well, having high expectations for one another and setting good examples. His extended family also provided a network of righteous support: for example, a $2 bill was signed by one cousin as he prepared to serve a mission, then passed down through 16 cousins who signed it when they served.
Gary E. Stevenson served his mission in Fukuoka, Japan, beginning his lifelong love of Asia. He would spend much of his life returning to Asia for business, then for Church service, until he could say, “It’s really my second home.”3 His mission also began his testimony of the principle that study and prayer were interdependent. While praying for help to learn Japanese, he felt a comforting witness that he would be able to learn the language—with plenty of effort. This principle later applied to his studies at Utah State University, where he spent many hours in the library before he graduated with a degree in business administration. It also came to fruition in his study of the scriptures and Church history, for which he developed a fascination on his return home from Japan. He spent many hours anxiously engaged in understanding the history and doctrine of the Church, which came to bless many other lives as well—Elder Stevenson loved teaching youth Sunday School classes, gospel doctrine, and Young Men classes.
As part of his avid gospel study, Gary Stevenson took Institute classes at USU. In one Old Testament class, his teacher conducted a role-playing activity in which Gary was asked to play the role of Satan tempting Eve in the garden of Eden. Playing Eve was Lesa Jean Higley, whom Gary asked out. He says he’s sure that the role-playing activity made her hesitant; however, she accepted and they were eventually married in 1979 in the Idaho Falls Temple. She taught school early in their marriage, and was always involved in school activities, civic and community boards, etc. However, her husband says that one of her greatest qualities is her ability to create a home that was “a safe and welcoming environment where the Spirit dwells.”4 Their Spirit-filled home was soon filled by four sons, which meant lots of food, friends, and “constant activity.” Sister Stevenson often harnessed that activity, which she called “horsepower,” into service for others. She also imbued the family with a love for music and the arts to complement their natural love for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, water sports, and other outdoor activities.
Gary E. Stevenson cofounded and served as the president of an exercise equipment manufacturing company. It began as a simple start-up with only him and two other friends, but grew into a highly successful firm that employed over 2,500 people. Despite his busy work schedule, he put the Lord first as he served as a bishop and in a stake presidency.
Elder Stevenson’s life turned to full-time Church service when he was called to preside over the Japan Nagoya Mission from 2004 to 2007. In 2008 he was called into the Seventy as a counselor and the president of the Asia North Area. When a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan in 2011, he witnessed heartrending devastation, yet the inspiring service of Japanese and other Saints. He would see this humanitarian side of the gospel frequently as Presiding Bishop, which he became in 2012.
In 2015, Gary E. Stevenson was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, where his experiences and testimony impact Church members worldwide. Characteristic of his life is his favorite scripture, which his wife Lesa claims he quotes frequently and lives by: “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”5 As he has done, Elder Gary E. Stevenson teaches us to be faithful to the Lord in fulfilling our responsibilities, the most important of which is service to others.
1Elder Robert D. Hales, “Elder Gary E. Stevenson: An Understanding Heart,” Ensign, June 2016.
3 Hales 2016.
4 Hales 2016.
5Doctrine and Covenants 81:5.