"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 29, 2014
Getting over the Mountains
by Marian Stoddard

Once my brother and I were talking about someone we knew who had been sent home from his mission, before he could even be sent out to the area where he was supposed to serve.

It was possible that this decision had been wrongfully made. He had grown up with a strong desire to serve a mission, and perhaps, just perhaps, he should still have been allowed to do so. There was some legitimate question; but we recognized that we did not know enough to judge, and in fact we did not have the right to judge. It was not within our stewardship.

My brother said soberly that he had learned in his life that sometimes other people make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes could cost you some blessings. Sometimes someone in leadership makes an assumption, or drops the ball, or reacts without the Spirit, and you are denied an opportunity to serve, or make yourself understood, or find some help, or whatever else you need.

You could go off in a huff, fully justified in your own mind in being angry, bitter, disillusioned, or dismissive of the Lord’s servants. Then, you would lose all your blessings rather than only the blessings of the moment.

Sometimes we struggle with problems that do derail our lives for a time. Some of them could be laid at the feet of someone else; some cannot. Whether it is our fault, or isn’t, what if we want to find a way to get to the right place?

I used this example to teach my children: we live in western Washington and the Cascade Mountains separate us from the eastern half of the state. There is no way to stay within the boundaries of the state and get from one side to the other without crossing those mountains.

The best way is be traveling on the interstate. I-90 has carved a way across the mountains with a central, multi-lane highway. There are still snowstorms and chain warnings and occasional temporary road closures. Drivers still must exercise caution and follow the highway patrol advisories, but it doesn’t take too long.

Say you want to get to Ellensburg from Tacoma; it will take you about two and a half hours via the interstate. But what if you miss the turnoff, or the road is closed by bad weather? Now how do you get to your destination?

There are several highways that go through the mountain range. One runs way out east before turning northwest. One requires that you go most of the way north, and it takes more than one pass to come through the mountains, as they spread over a broader area, east to west, when you’re that far north, before you can dip south again. It is also one of the most beautiful highway drives anywhere. Winter snows force its closure every year, so it’s only open for certain months.

Some of these highways are two-lane roads. Some are four. The interstate is at least six all the way through. Which one is the best route? It depends on where you’re starting out and where in the eastern part of the state you need to go.

The easiest way from here is the interstate, even if you need to go farther north or south to your destination once you’re on the other side.

The highway was planned that way, for maximum utility. But it’s not the only way. Weather and road conditions can be likened to the variables of man’s agency, both your own choices or mistakes and those of others. If God wants you to get to eastern Washington, I would tell my kids, He’ll find a way to get you there. All that matters is that you want to go where He asks you to go.

It could vary by season, without being any reflection on you. There might be some delays. Sometimes conditions are no one’s fault, just part of the jumble of mortality. It might take longer by distance, it might take longer because of a lower traveling speed; but He will make sure you arrive. God takes a longer view than our impatient selves.

He may in fact ask you to take the scenic route. The North Cascades Highway is beautiful, I-90 is mostly efficient. The process one person needs isn’t always the same as the process most people seem to prefer. Just stay on the road and don’t get lost. There are lessons to learn and places to serve no matter which route God brings you on through life.

What’s crucial is to trust Him to deliver you safe on the other side, through the passes, where He can gather you home.


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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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