It was a quarterly stake conference to which one of the General Authorities had been assigned. All of the local speakers at the final Sunday session had completed their assignments.
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Council of the Twelve was the concluding speaker, and there was nearly an hour of time remaining. He leaned over to the stake president to suggest that others be called extemporaneously, but then pulled back with the comment that he would do it himself. Elder Hinckley asked all those in the congregation who were parents of missionaries to raise their hands. From the fifty or sixty who responded, Elder Hinckley asked “the mother in the blue dress” to come to the stand and bear her testimony. This is her testimony:
I believe Elder Hinckley must have noticed that my husband and I raised our hands twice as high as the other parents, since we are proud to have two boys serving missions at this time.
Our oldest son, Brian, honorably completed a mission to South Africa several years ago. Our third son, Gregory, is in the Oklahoma Mission.
Clarke, our second son, has had a lifelong goal of serving a mission for the Church, but because he has been deaf since birth, we felt that this was not a realistic goal. As we tried to explain to him that it might not be possible for him to fill a mission, he sometimes answered, “You have taught me all my life to have faith; now where is your faith?”
During the time when the building missionary program was in effect, our hopes were raised, especially since Clarke enjoyed working with and attending study classes with the building missionaries who lived in our ward as they helped with the construction of our chapel. We were disappointed when this program was discontinued. When we expressed this regret to Clarke, his answer was, “Don’t feel bad, because my mission is not to build chapels, but to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to deaf people.”
After Clarke graduated from the Utah State School for the Deaf in Ogden, Utah, we tried, as in the past, to encourage him to form some realistic goals regarding further education and training for future occupations, but as usual he replied that he would worry about that after his mission. For several years he found weekend and summer employment to help our family with mission expenses.
In desperation we appealed to Bishop Hales for help to make one last attempt to find out if there was any opportunity for Clarke as a missionary. It was a token effort, really, in an attempt to soften the blow and help let him down gently. Bishop Hales’s letter to the missionary committee arrived at their office simultaneously with their decision to open, on a trial basis, a mission to the deaf in the Los Angeles area, where there are around fifteen thousand deaf people, with only one Latter-day Saint branch of approximately two hundred members.
Perhaps you can imagine how grateful and thrilled we were when our prayers were answered and Clarke received the first call to this mission.
There are now four deaf missionaries, each working with a hearing companion, to maintain communication with landlords, mission leaders, and others. The hearing elders learn sign language from the deaf elders, so they are both able to teach deaf investigators. One of Clarke’s contacts was a lady who was both deaf and blind, and in order to teach her properly and eventually convert her, he learned to read and write braille.
The rewards and blessings that we have received from having missionaries in the field have been great and have far outweighed any sacrifice that we have expended in their behalf. In sharing their experiences—some discouraging, some enlightening, some futile, and some rewarding—we have each been spiritually uplifted and have grown more united as a family and closer to the Lord.