Many people may not have had the opportunity to know Sister Jean Sabin Groberg personally. However, through the portrayal of her in The Other Side of Heaven movies, people soon learned what a remarkable daughter of God she was.
Jean Sabin Groberg was born in Payson, Utah on 30 August 1934, to Marie Elizabeth Huber and Merrill Rex Sabin. She was the middle of three children. In 1940, she and her family moved to North Hollywood, California.
She was the wife of Emeritus General Authority Elder John H. Groberg. Together they saw their small family of 11 children grow to include 45 grandchildren and 30+ great-grandchildren. Speaking of their posterity, in a podcast in 2019, Jean said, “[I] pray that they will always build their lives on the Rock of our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Jean served alongside Elder Groberg in many capacities within the Church, including when he served as a General Authority Seventy from 1976 to 2005. Together they also served as temple president and matron of the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple from 2005 to 2008.
Many chapters from John and Jean Groberg’s life were portrayed in The Other Side of Heaven movies. The movies depicted their courtship as well as their call to serve as mission leaders in Tonga in the 1960s. Their fifth daughter was only six weeks old at the time.
When asked about the accuracy of the movie, Jean said that it was “Hollywoodized” because Elder Groberg was never that good of a dancer as portrayed in the movie. She would later summarize their life in the Pacific by saying that it was more than a chapter, it was the whole theme of life. She said, “It really doesn’t matter where you are, the things that really count can be developed in any humble or great place” (“Perennial Radiance: Jean Sabin Groberg,” Ensign, November 1981).
She first learned “the things that really count” during her youth in North Hollywood, California. In a 2019 interview, she expressed her gratitude to being born to faithful, hardworking, good parents. She commented, “I’m just so grateful for that beginning and grateful for the testimony that’s grown, strengthening that desire to build my life on the foundation of the Savior.”
After graduating from North Hollywood High School in 1952, Jean attended Brigham Young University (BYU). It was there that she met her eternal companion, John Holbrook Groberg, who was also a freshman. Their older sisters, Marilyn Sabin, and Julia Groberg, both played in the orchestra, and it was they who arranged a blind date for Jean and John. After what turned out to be a great date, Elder Groberg wrote in his journal, “This is the girl I am going to marry someday.”
The following is recorded in Sister Jean Sabin Groberg’s obituary:
While the blind date was significant as the catalyst of great things to come, the substance and strength of that culminating greatness grew from their three years of correspondence while Jean was finishing her education and then teaching school in Anaheim, California, and John was serving a mission for the Church in Tonga. Through those letters, their friendly desire to keep in touch matured into a loving desire to be together forever.
On 6 September 1957, John Holbrook Groberg and Jean Sabin were married in the Los Angeles California Temple. When Jean married John, she not only got an eternal companion, but she also gained his parents, his 10 siblings, and as in-laws, an entire island nation that had collectively claimed John as their adopted son, Kolipoki (basic translation is “White as soap”).
The sealer at their wedding told Jean not to worry about being a “Church widow” and having her husband serve. When Elder Groberg was called to be a General Authority in 1976, Jean told the Church News, “I wanted him to be active in the Church and he has been very busy.”
Elder Groberg served as a bishop, mission president, and regional representative which would often take him away from their family. Sister Groberg said, “When your husband is giving his all, it doesn’t separate you even while he is away. It really doesn’t separate you. You are a part of it with him” (Ensign, November 1981). At the time of his call to be a General Authority, Elder Groberg described his wife as a woman of “great faith and tremendous support.”
By their 9th anniversary in 1966, Jean and John were the 32-year-old parents of 5 daughters living in Nuku’alofa, Tonga and presiding over hundreds of missionaries serving in the Tongan Mission. By their 19th anniversary in 1976, they were the 42-year-old parents of 10 children living in Honolulu, Hawaii where John presided as the Church’s South Pacific Area Supervisor and a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. While still serving there, Jean and John were blessed with one more daughter, completing their family with a total of 11 children (9 daughters and 2 sons) — Nancy, Liz, Marilyn, Jane, Gayle, Sue, Jennie, Viki, Emily, John, and Tom.
Jean Sabin Groberg passed away at the age of 87, in Bountiful, Utah, on Friday, 8 October 2021. She lived a humble life and was unselfishly devoted to her family and the Church. Funeral services were held on Saturday, 16 October 2021, at the Bountiful Utah Central Stake building, 640 South 750 East, in Bountiful, Utah. The services were streamed live at Russon Brothers Mortuary Facebook page for those who wished to view virtually. A traditional Tongan ’A Po was held on Thursday, 14 October 2021. The interment was at the Bountiful City cemetery.