“Elder Shirley D. Christensen Of the Seventy,” Liahona, May 2003, 127
The morning of 18 May 1980 stands out vividly in Elder Shirley Dean Christensen’s memory. It began as a beautiful, sunny spring day. But by noon the skies over Royal City, Washington, were black, and the once-green fields and orchards were covered in ash. Mount Saint Helens, about 150 miles (240 km) west of Royal City, had erupted.
During the next few days, Elder Christensen watched in horror as the ash-laden trees in his orchards dropped much of their precious fruit. He thought the impact of the catastrophe on his apple-growing business would be devastating.
But the remaining apples were of excellent quality, and the thinning of the fruit had actually benefited his crop. “The Lord really did protect our crop,” he says. “That turned out to be one of the most productive years we’ve ever had.” He links that blessing to his family’s faithful payment of tithing and to their desire to obey the Lord’s commandments. The experience also taught him that adversity sometimes brings blessings in unexpected ways.
Elder Christensen, age 64, a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, was born in Preston, Idaho, to LeGrand and Blanche Naef Christensen on 8 January 1939. He grew up in Idaho and Washington and attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he met Geniel Johnson. They were married on 23 June 1962 in the Manti Utah Temple. They have six living children.
Elder Christensen served a mission in Uruguay from 1959 to 1961, and it was there that he developed a strong testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. “Prior to that I could relate the story of the First Vision. But when I arrived in the mission field and prayerfully and sincerely taught it to others, I came to have a certain testimony of the Prophet Joseph and the restored gospel,” he says. “That testimony came in a vivid and sure way, and I knew what I was teaching was true.”
From 1999 to 2002 Elder Christensen served as president of the Argentina Resistencia Mission. He has also served as a temple ordinance worker, branch president, bishop, and member of a stake presidency.