Linda K. Burton, 16th General President of the Relief Society, shared, “In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith used a phrase I have long loved. In Doctrine and Covenants 109:15 we read, ‘And that they may grow up in thee.’ What can we do to prepare our families to ‘grow up in the Lord’ in order that they and we might better claim the blessings associated with temple worship?
“I invite us all to put a higher priority on preparing ourselves and loved ones to worthily partake of sacred and eternal temple ordinances and blessings. May we accept the invitation written on the assembly hall of the abandoned Nauvoo Temple as the Saints headed west. It simply said,‘The Lord has beheld our sacrifice: come after us.’ I testify that no sacrifice will be too great to claim the blessings of eternity that await as we worthily worship in the temple, keep our covenants, and help others to ‘grow up in the Lord.’”
As a teenager, Sister Burton had a sudden realization during a missionary testimony meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand. “I knew the gospel was true,” she recalled. “I was also aware I had always known.”
It was one of several important lessons she learned after moving with her family from Salt Lake City to New Zealand, where her father presided over the New Zealand South Mission.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Linda Kjar was the second of Marjorie C. and Morris A. Kjar’s six children. She had a happy childhood and was raised in a home where the gospel of Jesus Christ was taught and where both parents served faithfully in the Church. But she never realized how deeply committed her parents were to keeping temple covenants until they moved their family across the globe to New Zealand. Linda was 13.
The family lived in Wellington, the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s North Island, while Linda and her sisters lived and attended school at the Church College of New Zealand, located much farther north. The dorms were filled with young women from across the Pacific, whom they grew to love. The New Zealand temple was easily seen from the dorm window and served as a source of peace when occasional homesickness set in for all of them.
Education and Marriage
As a student at the University of Utah, she met her future husband at a devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. The couple married August 7, 1973, in the Salt Lake Temple. Interestingly, their fathers had served together as young missionaries in western Canada.
Together they made the decision to follow the prophet’s counsel and start their family right away; the first of their six children was born almost a year later.
She was grateful to be able to stay home with the children while her husband completed a business degree and made a career in real estate.
Things were not always easy. Just as the couple’s fourth child was born and while Brother Burton was serving as a bishop, the U.S. economy collapsed and the real estate market fell apart. The prime rate went sky high. No one was buying. They went one year without an income.
“We lived off our food storage and got down to almost the last can of food,” said Sister Burton.
The Burtons turned off their furnace and used a wood-burning stove to heat their home. In the spring, an inspired but unknowing ward member asked the couple if they would be interested in taking over a garden plot. “That was a gift to our family to have fresh produce,” said Sister Burton. “We grew a huge garden that year and lived off that.”
One day they came home and found a box of frozen meat sitting on their counter. To this day they don’t know where the meat came from or how someone got into their house, which was locked. But “it was a blessing to us,” said Sister Burton. “It was an assurance to us that Heavenly Father was aware of our needs and our efforts to be self-reliant.” Then, when it seemed they couldn’t make it any longer, “a wonderful job came. It was an answer to prayers.”
Ultimately, Sister Burton said, the experience taught them to look to the future with confidence, “because we learned that if we do all we can and put our trust in Him, the Lord makes up the difference.”
Highlights of Church Service
Sister Burton has served as a former member of the Primary and Relief Society general boards. She has also served as a seminary teacher and has had various callings in Primary, Young Women, Sunday School, and Relief Society. She accompanied her husband while he served as president of the Korea Seoul West Mission from 2007 to 2010 and, as mentioned earlier, accompanied her family when her father served as president of the New Zealand South Mission.