LaVern was the fifth general
president of the Primary of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints and the first woman to be
awarded the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts
She was born Jan. 1, 1900, in Murray, Utah, the
daughter of William Eugene and Ethel Gertrude (Park)
Watts, and married Thomas Jennison
Parmley, a physics professor at the University of
In 1942, she was asked
to become the second counselor to May Green Hinckley
in the general presidency of the Primary. She served
in this capacity until Hinckley's death the following
year. When first counselor Adele C. Howells succeeded
Hinckley, LaVern was asked to be her first counselor,
and she remained in this position until 1951, when
Howells was released and LaVern was selected to
succeed her as the fifth general president of the
Primary. She served as Primary president until 1974;
in total, she served 23 years as president and 32
years as a member of the presidency.
During her tenure, Scouting was integrated into
the Primary program for boys ages 8 through 11. From
1951 until 1970, she was the final editor of The
Children's Friend, overseeing its phase-out and
the launch of the church's new magazine for children, The
LaVern was the first woman to sit on a national
Scout committee in the United States and in 1976
became the first female recipient of the Boy Scouts
of America's Silver Buffalo Award.
She died in Salt Lake City on Jan. 27, 1980, and
was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.
This portrait of her was painted by Alvin Gittins.