A women's magazine once posed the question, which is more challenging: being married to a doctor or to a minister?

How about both? Don L. Christensen, a surgeon, is also president of the Las Vegas Paradise Stake and official Church spokesman for the Public Communications Council for southern Nevada.And he has recently been named "Physician of the Year" by the Clark County Medical Society. The 500-plus-member society honors one of its own each year "in recognition of [his] community service, outstanding medical practice, and for being the example of what a physician should be."

"I had no idea." admitted Pres. Christensen. "it was our anniversary [May 17] and my wife Lora Dee, said she'd made arrangements. We went to the Gold Coast Hotel, which I thought was really strenage. She took me into the ballroom, and there my colleagues and family were gathered to honor the 1988 Physician of the Year. It was a complete surprise."

Pres. Christensen, who grew up in Salina, Utah, graduated in medicine from the University of Utah and did his internship at the University of Wisconsin.

His residency was at Stanford University, where he took his board examinations in 1961 and became a member of the American Board of Surgeions. Just three years later he became a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, an honor attainable only are a surgeon has proved himself in practice.

The Christensens were sent to Japan in the military service for a three-year stint, and there Christensen faced the challenge of combining Church service with a medical practice.

"I was called to be the branch president, and I also taught the investigator class," he recalled. "At that time we had so many investigators that they pushed our attendance figures over 100 percent each week."

On weeknights, he gave them missionary lessons.

"Performing my Church responsibilities has always been a top priority. I committed myself and believed it would all work out. I never had to miss a missionary lesson for an emergency. I'd get calls before and after, but I never interrupted a lesson."

Later he was called to be a bishop. "I'll never be too busy to serve the Lord," he said.

And he knew he could do it. He had seen what happened in Japan. In the five years he spent as bishop, he had to miss only one sacrament meeting - and that was to take care of a ward member in an emergency.

How has such heavy involvement affected his family? His wife, Lora Dee, who has devoted much of their married life to supporting her husband in his dual role as physician and Church leader, admitted it has taken him away a good deal of the time.

"But when he's home, he is really home for us, and spends quality time with us," Sister Christensen said.

"Us" includes the Christensens' six daughters, all of whom have been married in the temple. Christensen made a real effort to support his daughters' activities. "They knew I was making some sacrifices for them, and they, in turn, made sacrifices for me," he explained.

Christensen has been practicing in Las Vegas for 23 years. He is considered by many of his peers to be one of the best surgeons in the city. But according to Christensen, good medicine is more than skill.

"Sometimes the art of medicine is lost in the science of medicine," he explained. "Great medicine may be delivered, but if it lacks empathy, it is not complete. Every illness has its emotional side."

It is in this area that he feels he has an advantage. "The one-on-one is very important to me. I want my patients to know I care. I want them to understand everything they need to know."

Seven years ago Christensen was in line to become chief of staff of Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, when he was called to be a stake president, which he accepted without hesitation.

"No way would I do both!" he laughed. "Those two assignments are imcompatible if you wany any sleep."

In spite of rotating "on-call" weekends with his partner, Pres. Christensen schedules his appointments regularly each Sunday. "I very rarely have to cancel," he said. "Once you're committed, the Lord makes it possible to do what you have to do."