Some years ago I had an interesting experience that taught me the value of letting couples make their own decisions about whether or not they are in a position to serve as missionaries.
I was stake president and we had asked every ward to find a couple to serve full-time missions. Each ward presented names over a two- or three-month period. One bishop said, “I have been over and over the list of members’ names in my ward and we don’t have one couple who could serve.”
I said, “Would you please go back and fast and pray, and then do not make the decision for a couple—let them make it.”
A few weeks later the bishop returned. He said he called in a brother and his wife, knowing full well they could not go. He told the couple what he wanted and the man said, “Bishop, this call is an answer to my patriarchal blessing which says my wife and I will go on a mission to the Lamanite people in our mature years.”
There are hosts of wonderful couples who could and should serve the Lord as full-time missionaries. These wonderful, mature missionaries do a marvelous work. Seasoned with wisdom, mature judgment, and experience, they make effective proselyters and are very successful in working with part-member families and inactives. With few exceptions every ward and branch in the Church has one or more couples who could be called to serve full-time missions. It may not be easy for them—they are not young any more, and disruption is a greater shock than it was when they were younger—but the call will draw them closer to their families through eternity. Every couple who goes will be blessed, and their children and grandchildren will grow up loving the Church because they know that their parents or grandparents loved it enough to accept a mission call from a prophet.
Elder and Sister LeRoy Wilcox were a missionary couple serving in Fredricksburg, Texas, when I was mission president. One day they went to the home of a woman who said: “I have been searching for the true church for ten years. Since I have listened to everyone else, I might as well listen to you.” So, she welcomed them in.
Elder and Sister Wilcox taught her the first discussion, but she didn’t seem interested. However, as they prepared to leave, Elder Wilcox was impressed to say something he had never said before: “I want you to know that we have come from far, far away to give you this message.”
The woman looked startled and said, “How far away?”
He replied that they had come over 1600 miles from Orem, Utah.
The woman explained that a few years ago she had an interesting dream: “A woman appeared to me and told me I would find the true church and that messengers would come to me from far, far away.” Because of the dream, her friends and relatives had asked her to let them know when she found the true church because they were certain she would recognize it.
Sometime after that, I spoke in Fredricksburg and there were only about seventeen in attendance. Two or three months later I was there again, and over thirty-five were in attendance.
Elder and Sister Elmer Foutz were in Eagle Pass, Texas. One day they had an appointment at the home of a wonderful couple, but when they arrived no one was at home. Instead of leaving, however, they received a strong impression that they should stay and wait.
About fifteen minutes later, the couple drove up. The man jumped out, slammed the door, and without acknowledging the Foutzes went around to the back of the house. The woman was crying when she climbed out of the truck. She said that it was interesting that Elder and Sister Foutz had come this particular day, because they had decided to get a divorce.
Sister Foutz talked with this woman and comforted her while Elder Foutz went around back and had a discussion with the man. When I left Texas, this fine couple was very involved in Church activities and still together as a family.
Our missionary couples can perform very unique work in addition to regular missionary work. They have a special calling that requires wisdom, experience, and understanding that comes only from those who are mature in years and experience, for they have learned and relearned the truth of the Savior’s admonition:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven …
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:19–21.)
May the Lord grant that great hosts of couples will make themselves available for mission calls.