Female Auxiliary Church Leaders Reflect on Missionary Service
Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News staff writer
- Sister Burton was a teenager when her father was called to be a mission president in New Zealand.
- Sister Oscarson was a young mother of three when her husband was called to be a mission president.
- Sister Burton was a grandmother when her husband was called to be a mission president.
“The mission field is fertile ground for conversion and testimony.” —Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president
The general presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary all spent time in the mission field as companions to their husbands, who were serving as a mission president. One was also a teenage daughter of a mission president. During the 2015 Seminar for New Mission Presidents they shared “Reflections on Serving Together.”
As a teenager, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, moved to New Zealand with her parents and five siblings so her father could serve as a mission president. She would later serve with her husband, Craig Burton, as he presided over the Korea Seoul West Mission.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, was 25 years old when she and her husband, Paul Oscarson, were set apart to serve in the Sweden Göteborg Mission. They had four young children, and a fifth child was born in the mission field.
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, served with her husband, Jack Wixom, as he presided over the Washington D.C. South Mission; their youngest daughter entered the MTC three days before they did.
Although their missions varied based on their age, needs, and responsibilities, each had a unique and wonderful experience in the mission field.
Sister Burton—a teenager
Sister Burton recalled flying to New Zealand with her parents and five siblings. “As children we were aware that Mom and Dad had chosen as their scripture theme for their marriage Joshua 24:15. But up to that point in my teenage life, it was only words because it had only affected my parents in their consecrated efforts to accept and fulfill callings to the best of their ability. Now the words ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,’ became much more personal.”
Missionaries, she said, can serve as powerful second witnesses to teenagers of things a parent is trying to teach them.
“The mission field is fertile ground for conversion and testimony,” she said. “In New Zealand I discovered I had a testimony.”
Sister Burton said she also came to understand the love Heavenly Father has for all His children.
“Similarly, mission presidents and their wives love all their missionaries,” she explained. “This was especially difficult for me to comprehend as a teenage daughter of a mission president. It was easy for me to understand the love my parents had for diligent, obedient, motivated, courageous, testimony-filled missionaries. But I could never quite grasp how my parents could love all their missionaries. … They accept them wherever they are on the path of conversion and discipleship and try to help them progress step by step, no matter how faltering that step may be.”
Sister Burton said, however, that understanding didn’t come until she and her husband came to know and love all their own missionaries in the Korea Seoul West Mission.
Sister Burton said even as a teenager, however, she knew that being with her father as he served as a mission president was “something precious—almost too sacred to share with my teenage friends back home.”
The Lord will labor with you, she concluded. “This is His work, and you will be serving Him as you serve His children.”
Sister Oscarson—a young mother
Sister Oscarson said she took four children—ages 5, 3, 18 months, and one month—into the mission field. “Our situation was a little unusual because our children were so young,” she explained as she spoke about serving in the mission field with children.
Sister Oscarson said she received advice during her training that helped her in the mission field. “I was first and foremost a wife to my husband; second, I was a mother; and third, I was a mission president’s wife to our missionaries.”
She said much of the time the best way to help her husband was to keep things running smoothly back home.
“Even though my major responsibility on a day-to-day basis was at home with our children, I found that with some planning and creativity, I could stay involved in the mission activities with my husband. I made an effort to keep up to date on what was going on in the mission, to write notes to missionaries, and to participate in as many zone conferences as possible,” she said. “Life is always a balancing act, but I found that I was directed by the Spirit in knowing the ways I could be of most help without neglecting my children.”
Sister Oscarson said, as with all young couples with children, she and her husband also found they needed to make time to nourish their own relationship.
At the end of their three years in Sweden, they had added a daughter to their family and were definitely different people than they were when they arrived.
She said she knows the Lord “qualifies those whom He calls to positions” and that their family was “blessed beyond comprehension.”
“Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and it is a glorious blessing to be a part of taking that testimony to all the world,” she concluded.
Sister Wixom—a grandmother
Sister Wixom said her mission was a journey. The best part, she added, “was that we were able to share it with each other.”
She said serving a mission is not easy. “Sometimes if you do not laugh, you will cry.”
It was difficult, she added, to leave married children, grandchildren, single children, and her mother, who was ill in a care center at the time.
Sister Wixom said when she and her husband were set apart, they were taught from Doctrine and Covenants section 100: “‘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.’ President Wixom and I felt that power.”
The second night the couple was in the mission field, they navigated a torrential rainstorm to get to a baptism. “When we arrived there was no electricity in the building, but the baptism was on for little 10-year-old Pamela. … Pamela was baptized and testimonies were born in Spanish. I could not understand a word, but I felt the Spirit like I had never felt it before.”
Sister Wixom concluded by noting that the frustrations of missionary service are replaced with peaceful unity. “Brothers and sisters, no doubt your families are well, you are in His hands, and in Him there is all power.”
The general presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary all spent time in the mission field as companions to their husbands, who were mission presidents. During the 2015 Seminar for New Mission Presidents they shared “Reflections on Serving Together.” From left, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president; and Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.