Blessings for Those Left Behind
During my first year as Relief Society President, I returned home late in the evening, following long hours at the Deseret Industries facility in Sacramento picking out warm clothing and Christmas presents for needy families in our ward. I had left my oldest daughter Sarah, only 14 at the time, in charge of her five younger siblings. When I walked into the house, I discovered a scene of utter devastation. I couldn’t walk two feet without tripping over toys, crayons, and school supplies that seemed to cover every inch of the floor. The kitchen counters were cluttered with food and dirty dishes. I found my children asleep in various rooms all over the house, still wearing their street clothing. I felt devastated. I had no energy left to clean up. I carefully picked up each child, kissed them and carried them to their beds. Then I knelt down in tears next to my bed, pleading with the Lord. I worried that my children would suffer and feel neglected as both Todd and I served in demanding callings that frequently required us to leave them alone.
As soon as I began to pray, I felt the Spirit descend on me and cover me like a warm blanket, I can think of no other words to describe the feeling. I remembered a special blessing I had been given by our bishop, promising me that as long as I served faithfully, my children would be taken care of. I also remembered my husband’s pioneer ancestors, Ebenezer Brown and his wife Phoebe Draper. They answered the call to join the Mormon Battalion and marched all the way to San Diego, California, leaving their numerous children behind on the plains of Iowa in the care of their oldest son and daughter. The children successfully made their way to Utah, learning to trust in the Lord in their extreme circumstances. As far as we know, these children remained faithful after they were reunited with their parents more than a year later. I was comforted by their example, and as I continued to serve, the Lord abundantly blessed my children.
Studying a recent conference talk by Elder Eyring, I learned that far from an individual blessing, this principle represents an eternal truth applicable to all that leave their families in the Lord’s service. I have a strong testimony that these blessings apply particularly to missionaries who leave their families and friends for two long years. Elder Eyring taught, “There is another way you and I have felt Him (the Savior) grow closer to us. As we give devoted service to Him, He draws closer to those we love in our families. Every time I have been called in the Lord’s service to…leave my family, I have come to see that the Lord was blessing” (them). “He prepared loving servants of His and opportunities to draw my family closer to Him.” Elder Eyring further reminds us of the words of the Lord to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in D&C 100:1, “…your families are well; they are in mine hands, and I will do with them as seemeth me good; for in me there is all power.” He continues, “My promise to you who pray and serve the Lord cannot be that you will have every blessing you may wish for yourself and your family. But I can promise you that the Savior will draw close to you and bless you and your family with what is best. You will have the comfort of His love and feel the answer of His drawing closer as you reach out your arms in giving service to others…His arms are outstretched with yours to succor and bless the children of our Heavenly Father, including those in your family.” (Come unto Me, April 2013 conference)
Missionary service has often been described as “leaving your family for two years, so that others can be with their family for eternity.” But in addition, devoted full time service to the Lord brings untold blessings to family members of missionaries who serve. In making this sacrifice, both the missionary and the family feel a greater closeness to the Lord and an increased devotion to his gospel. As the family of two missionaries, we have felt the joy and the comfort of the Spirit. We feel blessed every day.