"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
September 5, 2012
Mission Call
by Marian Stoddard

Sometimes when the Lord wants to tell us something, He has to take the indirect approach.

There was a good man in our ward, years ago, who was very wrapped up in his work; he was a salesman, self-employed and pretty successful. “Jay” had a good marriage, a decent bass voice and a love of music, was good with people, and his family was raised. He attended all his meetings, sang in the ward and stake choirs, and served where he was called. He was part of the faithful, ordinary backbone of the Church.

He attended a fireside or heard a sacrament meeting where the subject was missionary work, and the conviction came to him that he needed to go talk to the bishop about a mission. I don’t know if he and his wife had discussed the possibility of serving a mission together someday or not, but he certainly wasn’t thinking about it right then.

His wife was startled but willing to pursue the idea, and he, somewhat surprised that he was doing this, but absolutely sure that it was the right thing to do, figured out that he could retire, settle his affairs and go. So they met with the bishop and found out what it would take to begin the process.

One of the first requirements was a physical. Now, this was a man who hadn’t been to a doctor in years. He wasn’t sick and never saw a reason to take the time. Now he had to make an appointment and go through the process, but for the sake of following the Lord’s direction he didn’t hesitate.

What everyone expected to be a slam-dunk, fill out the papers, get out the stethoscope and draw the blood incident, wasn’t. The doctor found something to concern him, and the follow-up tests showed that he had cancer. No pain; no symptoms; no idea.

If we were writing stories, we would now make it so that intervention was in time, treatment was successful, and with some months’ delay he and his wife were joyously and miraculously able to go serve their mission in place XYZ. That story happens, gratefully and actually, in some cases, but not in this one.

Thirty years ago, there were a lot fewer treatment avenues for various cancers. Today there might be more that could be done, but there might not. Why this mission prompting, when it was impossible? Did the Lord abandon him, or toy with him?

No, he testified. His direction was, “Go talk to your bishop about a mission.” He assumed, as everyone did, that this would include the logical outcome of serving a mission, but Heavenly Father already knew that he would not be able to serve. That didn’t matter. The Lord knew that if He prompted him to get a check-up, Jay would procrastinate and not go, even if he acknowledged the direction. But the direction to go see the bishop would automatically lead to that check-up, and would be followed as a matter of faith, even though this good man was not planning on this mission idea — he would respond in faith and obedience, to transform his idea of what he should be doing in his life right now. That, in fact, was one of the blessings of this experience.

Jay had the knowledge that when called, he would obey, because he did obey. Though he tended to be busy with his work and sometimes put off other important things, he turned his plans around and responded with faith when the Lord spoke to him.

Since his time on this earth was going to be coming to its close, he had the blessing of finding that out in advance. He had the gift of time, to prepare himself, to put aside things that mattered less, to be with his family, and to set his financial affairs in order for his wife.

I suspect there was a mission call pending, for which he became spiritually prepared; it just wasn’t here. The gospel is preached by the priesthood on both sides of the veil. How many souls were ready for the prison doors to be opened as their temple work was done, because he was sent to teach them? His wife is with him now, and maybe the numbers are still growing.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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