She Came to My Rescue


Three weeks after our fifth child was born, my husband was called to be the bishop of our newly divided ward. Our stake president, in interviewing us, had expressed his concern about our young family, but he emphasized that Larry had been called by the Lord to this position. My own concerns diminished as we felt the Spirit’s confirmation.

The next few weeks were exhilarating and exhausting for all of us as we experienced firsthand what being a bishop’s family meant and as our new son Jeffrey assumed his role in our family life. After the excitement of being a new mother and a new bishop’s wife started to wear off, I realized how tired I was both physically and mentally, and I found myself not coping very well.

It was then that Sister Camilla Kimball came to my rescue. That year Sister Kimball was scheduled to address a BYU stake Relief Society, and my sister-in-law, the stake Relief Society president, invited my mother-in-law and me to attend. Sister Kimball based her talk on questions members of the stake had submitted to her. Among many others, she responded to the question, “How do you manage your problem-solving effectively when your feelings get hurt, and how do you act instead of react?” Her honest reply was, “I have mostly learned to keep my mouth shut.”

My spirit tuned in on that remark. I knew I was listening to someone who had been where I was, that she too had known the gnawing feeling of loneliness, the tender sensitivities that may sometimes accompany being the wife of someone busily engaged in activities that largely excluded her.

Sister Kimball talked about how to overcome those feelings—the same feelings I was struggling with. She described how she learned to carry her own weight and how she had found that she had to get busy in the Church and simply be happy herself. Then she said, “There is no more exacting job in the Church than being a bishop,” adding that she had great empathy for the wives of bishops, especially those with young families.

After the meeting, my sister-in-law introduced her mother and me to Sister Kimball as she escorted this dear lady to her car. The crowd had waned, and we were standing face to face. I told Sister Kimball that I truly appreciated her remarks about pulling one’s own weight, that she had helped me immensely. I explained that my husband had been a bishop for just two months and that we had five children from three months to ten years.

At that point, Camilla Kimball drew me to her and embraced me. As I felt her spirit and her great love, I knew that I was close to a person of great spiritual strength. Then as we parted, she stepped back and said, “And you’re every bit as important as he is, and don’t you forget it!”

I went home that night renewed. Somehow Sundays didn’t seem so long and lonely anymore, my task as a bishop’s wife didn’t seem quite so formidable, and I was thrilled to be married to this wonderful man whom the Lord had called to be bishop. My own identity had shed its fuzzy edges and become sharply defined in my own mind once again.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn

Janet Peterson, mother of six, is Relief Society Spiritual Living teacher in her Salt Lake City ward.