Being close to the soil is very important to Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen. He was raised on a 120-acre farm in southeast Idaho and majored in agricultural economics in college, with a composite minor in agronomy and animal husbandry.
And the new General Authority made a highly successful career from potatoes and small grains raised in the fertile Idaho soil.But the soil represents more than farming and a career to Elder Mickelsen, who was sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy on March 31. It also provides an analogy for many of his gospel teachings.
"Lynn loves the soil and understands it," said his wife, Jeanine. "He can take a handful of dirt, observe it, feel and smell it, and know and explain the life in it.
"He is very tender and compassionate with life - all life," emphasized Sister Mickelsen. "He can recognize a sick cow or horse in a large herd just by reading the expression on its face or the look in its eye."
Through farming Elder Mickelsen has learned - and taught - many gospel lessons. "I've been with him when he has stopped the car," reflected Sister Mickelsen, "and walked into a grain field. He has taken a stalk of ripe dry grain and rubbed it through his hand and explained the biblical analogy of separating the wheat from the chaff."
From farming, Elder Mickelsen has also learned the law of the harvest.
"There is a time to plant," Elder Mickelsen explained, "and there's a time to harvest. In Idaho we have about three weeks to plant potatoes, and we have a `window' to plant grain. And there's a `window' to harvest, and if you don't harvest, you don't produce, and if you don't produce, you don't live.
"I think the law of the harvest, as it is explained in the scriptures, is something everybody must learn.
"I guess that's why I have enjoyed farming so much. When there is a job to do you have only a certain amount of time to do it, and you don't stop until it is finished."
"Lynn," explained Sister Mickelsen, "has a natural talent and instinct of tilling the land and taking care of the earth."
Elder Mickelsen, 54, a partner in Mickelsen Farms and Rigby Produce, said he enjoys working, something his father taught him. "My father has been one of the most influential persons in my life.
"From the time I was big enough to walk I went out to work with him. As soon as I could carry a shovel, I was at his side with a shovel. I had to drive the tractor as soon as I was big enough to reach the clutch, without seeing over the steering wheel. When I was 8 years old I was running farm machinery.
"I am grateful to my father," emphasized Elder Mickelsen, "for teaching me to work because it taught me responsibility."
And responsibility is something Elder Mickelsen has had a lot of through the years - not only on the farm, but also in the Church.
As a young man, he served as a missionary in Central America. At that time, the mission included everything from the northern border of Guatemala to the southern tip of Panama. He served primarily in Guatemala, but as second counselor to the mission president, he traveled the mission.
"One of the greatest experiences I had was the opportunity of interpreting for President Hugh B. Brown, whom I considered one of the great orators of the Church," recalled Elder Mickelsen.
"This was a very spiritual and special experience for me because I knew what he was going to say before he said it. I had interpreted before but I had never had that feeling. When I learned that I had to interpret for him, I found a very private place and I poured out my soul to the Lord, asking for His help because I knew I'd need help interpreting for a man like President Brown.
"On one occasion as President Brown introduced what he wanted to talk about, he said, `Elder Mickelsen knows what I want to tell you. I want him to continue.' I don't remember what it was, but I knew what to say, and for about 25 minutes I spoke in his place. That was a special experience," said the new General Authority.
After he was released from his mission, he returned to his home in Idaho Falls. Because he was farming and couldn't go to school very far away, he went to Ricks College in Rexburg, some 28 miles to the north, during the autumns. This enabled him to go to college and still be involved with the harvest. During the winters, when farm work would taper off, he would go to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. When it was time for spring planting on the farm, he would return to nearby Ricks. He graduated from BYU in 1966.
He met his wife, the former Jeanine Andersen of Sterling, Idaho, at Ricks College. She was working as a secretary to the registrar. She said her goal was to marry a returned missionary and a farmer. Lynn met both of those requirements.
After they decided to get married, Elder Mickelsen said he shared some of his feelings and goals with her. "One of the things I said was that I had a great desire to return to Latin America someday as a missionary. I think it was about two weeks after we were married that she started studying Spanish on her own."
They were married June 17, 1960, in the Idaho Falls Temple, and now have nine children, five of whom have served missions with the sixth planning to leave in July. They also have five grandchildren.
"One of the greatest blessings in my life has been Jeanine's confidence in me," Elder Mickelsen said. "She has been totally supportive and has explicit trust in my judgment. She is absolute in her obedience to the Lord and has been very faithful in teaching our children. She has taught them to pray and to read the Book of Mormon. She has been the pillar in our family."
Elder Mickelsen did return to Latin America with his wife and family when he served as president of the Colombia Cali Mission from 1984-87. "After we arrived in Colombia, Jeanine never gave a talk in English, and she never had to use an interpreter."
The Spanish language has been very dear to Elder Mickelsen. He says he still continues to pray in Spanish, both vocally and silently.
"When I was a missionary," he recalled, "I learned to really pray in Spanish. Of course, I had prayed before my mission, but I had never had to plead with the Lord before. But as a missionary I had to plead with Him with such earnestness and desire. I determined from the beginning I would always pray in Spanish. When I first started trying to do that, it would take me a long time to pray because I would have to think hard to find the words and put them together so I could talk to the Lord."
Elder Mickelsen's experiences as a missionary in Central America became the foundation for his commitment and devotion to the gospel.
After he returned home, he taught both the elders quorum and the Gospel Doctrine class each week. "I love to teach the gospel," he declared. "I think the most effective way for me to study the gospel is with the idea of teaching the gospel."
Later he was called as bishop of the ward in which he grew up. "The members of the ward had watched me grow up from the time I was a baby," he said. "That was a real challenge, and I have to give them a lot of credit and gratitude for accepting me and helping me be a good bishop."
He served as bishop for six years, then was called to the high council. Later the stake in which he lived was divided and he was called as stake president. His father and grandfather had also served as stake president, making him the third generation of his paternal line to be called to that position. His father also served as a mission president.
After nine years as stake president he was called as priests quorum adviser. "That was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my Church experience," he remembered.
Afterward, Elder Mickelsen served as a regional representative and then as mission president. At the time of his call to the Seventy he was serving as Gospel Doctrine teacher in his ward, and both he and his wife were Spanish-speaking officiators in the Idaho Falls Temple.
"Lynn is very quick and firm to defend the Savior," said Sister Mickelsen. "He is not timid to stand up for what is right for he has no doubt."
Elder Mickelsen said one of his favorite scriptures, from D&C 121:45, exemplifies what he has tried to live and teach in the gospel:
". . . let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven."
"As a mission president, I taught my missionaries how important it was for their confidence to wax strong in the presence of God or in the presence of His leaders.
"I've tried to help the members of the Church where I've been to have a desire to read the scriptures and to open them up and become involved with them, to let the doctrine unfold to them, to be hungry, to know, to seek, to ask. And that's the way that confidence in the Lord comes, by asking. And when it comes, it comes as the scripture indicates. It distills as the dews from heaven. It comes inconspicuously, like dew forming. You can't see it. All of a sudden it's there, and that's the way understanding of the gospel comes."
In his time away from his responsibilities, the 6-foot Elder Mickelsen enjoys fishing and playing racquetball and basketball. "And I'm kind of a cowboy at heart," he said. "Dad still has a ranch in Island Park, Idaho, and I like to ride out on the range with the livestock.
"I suppose that is one of the solitary enjoyments that I have. I saddle up my horse and ride out among the cattle. Alone. I like that," he declared.
When asked what kinds of feelings he experiences when he's alone on the range with the cattle, Elder Mickelsen replied, "One of the things I do when I'm alone is talk to the Lord. And in Spanish!"
Elder Mickelsen is also a private pilot and owns his own airplane. "Several years ago I found myself needing something to take the pressure off," he explained. "I was letting things get to me too much. Flying is something that requires total commitment. You have to think about that and nothing else. And so that serves well to take your mind off of other things."
He has logged about 600 hours of flying time, and has made plane trips to Mexico, Canada, the West Coast and the Midwest.
Elder Mickelsen says he also likes to read, and keep up with current events. "I like to know what's happening in the world." He loves to learn. "I've always wanted to be with people who knew more than I did and learn from them."
He also enjoys singing, said Sister Mickelsen. "He sings tenor and often sings solos. All nine of our children play the piano and that has been encouraged by Lynn moving spontaneously to the piano and standing at their side and singing or humming along with them as they practiced."
"But," Elder Mickelsen said, "I probably enjoy working more than anything else. That's been my life."
It has also been his life to be totally committed to the gospel. "I don't know of a time in my life when I have been doing something that I couldn't leave for the Lord." Such was the case when he was called to the Seventy. "I'm just grateful that the Lord knows my name, and I hope that I can make a contribution."
Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen
- Family: born July 21, 1935, in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a son of Lloyd and Reva Willmore Mickelsen; married Jeanine Andersen June 17, 1960; nine children, Mark 28; Don, 27; Jean (Karren), 26; Karen (Davis), 25; Linda (McClellan), 23; Janet (Lightheart), 21; Marilyn, 19; Leanne, 15, Paul, 12; 5 grandchildren
- Education: Ricks College; graduate of Brigham Young University, 1966, in agricultural economics.
- Employment: Partner in Mickelsen Farms and Rigby Produce.
- Previous Church experience: regional representative, mission president, stake president, high councilor, bishop, priests quorum adviser, Gospel Doctrine teacher.