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HERS IS A LIFE OF SERVICE/ SHE HAS FINE-TUNED COMBINATION OF COMMITMENT, FAITH, `KNOW-HOW'

Energy.

That's what it takes to keep up with 1.3 million Primary children. Energy plus a lot of faith, commitment, and organizational know-how, not to mention a sense of humor.

Michaelene Grassli, who was sustained April 2 as general Primary president, seems to have a fine-tuned combination of all the above.

She claims to be a procrastinator, but she is a bishop's wife, and mother of three daughters who keeps pace with what is going on in her home, her ward, and the worldwide Primary organization for children 18 months to 12 years of age.

She seems as comfortable at her desk in her office as she is at her sewing machine at home where, for years, she has expertly stitched up clothing that looks professionally made for herself and her daughters.

While she is new in the office of Primary president, she is not new to the challenges of leadership. She was called to the Primary General Board in 1975 and, on April 5, 1980, she was sustained as second counselor to Primary Gen. Pres. Dwan J. Young, whom she succeeded.

Before her call to the general board, she was a stake Primary president, and had served in ward YWMIA presidencies and on a stake YWMIA board. She also had been a teacher in the Primary and had served in several positions in Relief Society and Sunday School.

The honing of her leadership skills began at home. As the eldest of six children of C. Dean and Dottie McKinlay Packer, she assumed many responsibilities for her younger brothers and sister that helped her learn how to work with and bring out the best in others. She was born in Salt Lake City, but spent most of her growing-up years in Blackfoot, Idaho, where her father was a surgeon. "The family moved a lot before I was 11," she said. "My father was a medical student at the University of Utah when I was born. We lived in Colorado, North Carolina, Washington, and Idaho."

The family moved to Blackfoot when she was in the fifth grade. "I felt that people there lived close to the Lord," she remembers. "The influences of the world were there, as they are everywhere, but it just seems that the members of the Church were not as fettered by a lot of the things of the world."

In that "unfettered" environment, she observed others who faithfully and cheerfully accepted calls to serve, including her own parents. Her father served in a stake presidency for 17 years, has been a bishop and high councilor. She said her mother has served in every calling possible, and has written for Church curriculum.

"The greatest influence in my life has been the example of my parents," said Sister Grassli. "They have been totally devoted to the Lord and His service. They are in their 70s and are learning Spanish to go on a mission to Spain in October. This is their second mission."

Following her parents' example, she has devoted her life to serving in the Church. At age 14, she became secretary in the ward's Junior Sunday School. Her commitment to fully living the gospel began six years earlier than that.

"When I was 8, I gave a talk in Sunday School about the pre-existence. My mother helped me prepare for it," she recalled. "We talked about the war in heaven, and the choices that we made. I was really impressed with the fact that we chose to follow the plan our Savior stood for our Heavenly Father's plan and that Satan would be happy and would rejoice if we made choices that took us away from our Heavenly Father.

"I remember thinking, `Satan is not going to rejoice over me! I'll never make him happy!' If I climbed into bed without saying my prayers, I would think, `If I don't pray, Satan will rejoice and I'm not going to let him.' Although I've made plenty of mistakes, that feeling has stayed with me through the years and has colored how I've reacted to many situations."

Some of the situations in her life are ones with which children can readily identify. "I remember always feeling that I was different, but I think nearly every child feels that," she said. "I longed to be a cheerleader. I envied the cheerleaders, but I didn't even try out because I didn't think it was in the realm of possibility for me.

"I remember how I thought that anything that happened in high school was the end of the world. I didn't have a date to my own junior prom, and I was the one who had spent all the time decorating for the dance. My very best friend was queen of the prom. I wouldn't have had a date to the senior ball if I hadn't asked the boy."

She said after she got out of school, she began to realize that the things that seemed to have mattered most really mattered the least.

"It doesn't matter that I wasn't a cheerleader," she said. "I can see now that what I didn't get from my school experiences I did get in the Church. I had leads in two stake plays, and participated in a speech contest, roadshows, dance festivals and an all-Church choir. Those great opportunities helped build my self-esteem so that I developed some kind of feeling of competence. Church activities gave me what I needed."

After high school, she attended BYU for three years, studying homemaking education, where she met Leonard M. Grassli, a convert from Switzerland whom she married in the Idaho Falls Temple July 28, 1961. He is bishop of the Pleasant View 3rd Ward, Pleasant View Utah Stake.

"I have been very blessed to have love in my life," said Sister Grassli. "I realize that doesn't come to everybody. My marriage has been what could be called a crowning point in my life. Leonard's love and encouragement, his pride in my work, and his unselfish support of my responsibilities have allowed me to increase my abilities and expand my capacity. I am able to serve as I have because of him."

They have three daughters. Their eldest daughter, Jane Anne, and her husband Steve Woodhead, are parents of a 2-year-old daughter. Another of Bishop and Sister Grasslis' daughters, Susan, graduated from BYU last December and is working in a Salt Lake law firm. The Grasslis' youngest daughter, Sara, 18, is still living at home and is planning to go to college next fall.

The Grassli family has been united on several fronts. Through the years, they have enjoyed going swimming together in the summers and skiing in the winters, and they like to go camping.

Bishop Grassli is a landscape architect who has passed along his artistic interests and skills to their daughters, all of whom draw or paint. Sister Grassli also has delved into some art work by doing watercolors of flowers. Art supplies are always in abundant supply in their home.

"We've done various kinds of art projects, ranging from batik to sand candles," she related. "When the girls were little, we did a loft of crafty kinds of things. And we design and sew prom dresses."

Sister Grassli said she and her husband rely on the counsel of the Brethren and the scriptures to guide them in establishing priorities in their lives.

A scripture that has particular significance to Sister Grassli right now is 2 Tim. 1:6-7: "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

Sister Grassli said, "This is comforting to anyone who comes to a calling that is beyond his or her capacity. We have to know that the setting apart and blessing that the Lord has given will be actuated. The Lord's work is going to move on, and mortals are the only ones the Lord has to work with. The work will move on, so we may as well make ourselves available."

Making herself available to serve is one of Sister Grassli's greatest desires. During the years she has served on the Primary General Board and in the general presidency, she has developed an acute awareness of the needs and talents of children throughout the world. She feels some sort of a personal connection with all 1.3 million youngsters in her charge.

"It has been a precious experience to be able to come into contact with these children," she said. "The things I have learned from them have been significant.

"I worry about the children who don't have the opportunity to learn the gospel in a loving home environment. The only real refuge for a child is in the home. I hope I can be a part of bringing to all children a touch of something sweet the sweet experience of the gospel of Jesus Christ which the Primary offers."