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September 5, 2012
Tune My Heart
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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