Twenty years ago, Betty Jo Jepsen received a telephone call that refocused her life's priorities. Then a young mother with two children, she was living on a U.S. Air Base in Germany where her husband, Glen F. Jepsen, was stationed. When she answered the phone, a colonel delivered the kind of news that pilots' wives everywhere hope they will never hear: "Your husband's aircraft malfunctioned and caught fire."

Before panic had time to settle into her mind, the officer hurriedly added: "Your husband is all right. He ejected from the aircraft and is not hurt."Sister Jepsen, who was sustained April 2 as first counselor in the Primary general presidency, has never forgotten those moments on the telephone, and the impact of the colonel's news.

"My list of priorities just sprang into place," she recalled. "We had gone to Germany right after we were married. Every third day, he was gone for 24 hours. Some other military wives and I were adventurous, so we would put the children in the car and go `discovering.'

"I had spent a lot of time in Europe going places and gathering things, and had looked forward to seeing more places and accumulating more things. Suddenly, such interests no longer were important.

"I was reminded of what the plan of salvation was, of where I should be going. I had never neglected my duties in the home or the Church, but it was so easy to get caught up in the things I thought were wonderful bargains."

Having grown up in the rural community of Mink Creek in southeastern Idaho, she had been excited to go off to Europe and visit famous cities and walk roadways of quaint villages. She had read about such places.

"Mink Creek opened up the world of books to me," she recalled. "It's a pristine, idyllic little town nestled in the mountains between Preston and Montpelier. When I was growing up there, everything seemed far away. The school district, sensitive to our needs for enrichment material, sent big wooden boxes of books, which provided much of our entertainment since we couldn't pick up any television signals. Every time a box came, I challenged myself to read every book in the box. There seemed to have been tons of books. Good teachers encouraged me to read."

In addition to reading about far-away places, she enjoyed biographies of early U.S. presidents and their wives. She also read about people who blazed new trails in science, education and literature. She particularly admired the fortitude of botanist and chemist George Washington Carver (1864-1943), and educator and author Booker T. Washington (1856-1915). "A lot of the people I read about came from settings similar to my rural surroundings, yet they went on to accomplish great things. They inspired me."

She had no way of knowing that someday she might inspire others and influence young lives, first as a teacher and now as a member of the Primary general presidency. Her goal - other than marrying and having her own family - had been to teach.

She received a bachelor of arts degree in English and business education, and a master of education degree in special education from Utah State University in Logan, Utah. She has taught on elementary, high school and university levels, and has been a supervisor of student teaching at Utah State University.

Early in her teaching career, she taught in Preston, Idaho, where she had attended high school. In 1962, she married Glen Jepsen, who had grown up just a few miles from her home. Two years after their marriage in the Logan Temple, he received his Air Force commission, and they moved to Texas, where he trained as a pilot. In 1966, he was assigned to Germany, where he earlier had served a full-time mission. By the time they moved to Germany, they had a year-old son.

Kaiserslautern, Germany, where Rhein-Main Air Base is located, was not only almost two continents and an ocean away from Mink Creek, Idaho, in distance, but also a world away in culture and society.

"I had grown up in an ideal, yet secluded, environment," she recalled. "Mink Creek had been settled by Mormon pioneers, and we were all LDS. My religious convictions were never challenged. I knew what was expected of me, but the same things were expected of everyone else. Most of the time, people lived up to those expectations. I did not have to make decisions about my religious constitution. I didn't have to make any comparisons. All that came later."

Even when she rode a bus to Preston to attend high school, she found most of her classmates were LDS. Even so, her world had begun to expand. It broadened further when she went to Utah State University, and, between her sophomore and junior years, she went to Palmyra, N.Y., to participate in the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant, now called "America's Witness for Christ."

"I had assignments to meet and greet visitors, and to tell them about what we were doing and what they would be seeing at the pageant," she related. "I had to verbalize what I was doing there and how I felt. I had never doubted my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, but that experience solidified in my mind that it was right."

With such confirmation of testimony, she was prepared to face the unknown prospects of moving away from a predominantly LDS environment to a foreign land where Church members were in the definite minority. She also was prepared to accept the challenges and rewards of serving as Relief Society president in what was then the servicemen's branch.

"Many of the sisters lived far away and struggled with the German economy and were isolated from other Church members," she said. "Visiting teaching was a great responsibility. Also, providing things for American sisters to make them feel less homesick while living in another country was a big challenge. Yet, with all the difficulties, it was a very rewarding experience."

The Jepsen family returned to the United States in 1970, and eventually settled in Pleasant View, a community near Ogden, Utah. Her husband, bishop of the Pleasant View 6th Ward, is a government employee with the Air Force Reserve, and flies F-16 fighter jets at nearby Hill Air Force Base.

They and their children - sons Kerry, 22; and Kyle, 11; and daughters, Jana (Mrs. Matthew Musgrave), 20; and Jill, 14 - frequently visit Mink Creek, where Bishop Jepsen's widowed mother still lives. Sister Jepsen's father, Douglas L. Nelson, now lives in Boise, Idaho. Her mother, Edna Brown Nelson, died in 1964.

"We spend almost all our holidays with family, often in Mink Creek," said Sister Jepsen. "The extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins - all gather. Glen's mother will have a list of things she would like accomplished, and after everything on the list is done, the Dutch oven potatoes are put on a roaring fire. After the lawn is mowed, we play lawn croquet. The bats, balls and gloves all come out of storage and softball games begin. The children have plenty of room to run and gather wildflowers, and find sticks to roast weiners on the open fire."

Sister Jepsen has a long list of professional credentials, but there is nothing she enjoys more than being at home with her husband and children. Family members are avid players of word games, yet they don't need games for an excuse to be together. They talk and listen.

Her love for children isn't limited to her own sons and daughters. She has the drive to ensure that many children have opportunities to reach their potential or personal best. When she decided to pursue a graduate degree in education, she chose to work with special children.

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"Working with special children requires individualized attention," she said. "Each child has unique abilities. By concentrating on a child's strengths, we can help lift him to his personal best. Some things he can do better than other things. What he can do has to be capitalized upon so he can reach his personal best, maybe through another direction than what we would call the normal or usual channels.

"As I use that background and work with the Primary, I feel 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.

"Teaching children is the most reinforcing activity you can have - in or outside the Church. Children honestly communicate their likes and dislikes, their beliefs and their fears. Children always let the teacher know if they approve. That kind of openess is refreshing, and is a true reflection of a teacher's performance. When you truly teach children, they become your eternal friends."

Sister Jepsen spoke of her hopes and wishes for her own children. She and her husband's goal has been to rear their children to be active Latter-day Saints. She said, "If they understand the gospel and are active members, then they will know what is important in their lives and all other things will fall into place." She feels priorities would be as clear to them as it was to her after she received that telephone call 20 years ago in Germany.

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