Guest Post…When Marriage Takes Precedence

Today’s guest post is from a very special person. Nicole is the best friend of my missionary daughter. But she is so much more than that to our family.

In 2005, when our family made our first trek over to New Zealand, Nicole, 14 at the time, was one of the first people we met in our new ward. Almost from the day we were there, she and my daughter Jess became firm friends. Over the last 7-8 years they have remained best of friends, and Nicole has literally become a part of our family, having lived with us for several months when we were back in Sydney.

She would have to be one of the most focused individuals I know. Both in her educational pursuits, as well as her religious devotion. When it comes to the gospel she is unfailing in her commitment to the Lord, and constantly seeks his guidance in everything. Her story reveals this deep devotion.

The decision for a young lady to serve a mission doesn’t carry the same emphasis as it does for a young man, but when that decision is balanced against another of equal importance, it can create some conflicting emotions and feelings.

From my perspective, I have always taught my girls that the preparation for a mission and for marriage is very much the same. So our family focus has been for each of our girls to prepare for a mission, and if marriage comes before that opportunity, then they will be aptly prepared.

In Nicole’s case there was no wrong or right decision, both were noble. But this is when it is important for a young lady to know what is right for her personally. 

If you are interested, Nicole also has a blog. Please stop by there and say hello – Our Happily Ever After.

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This was my journey, this was my story, this is my life
By Nicole Horsford

I was 18 when I received my first distinct impression to serve a mission. Life progressed, as it tends to do. I dated, went to university, and even though I still wanted to serve a mission it was much less of a focus for me.

I was nearly 20 when my focus returned. Part of the influence for that was my best friend preparing for a mission. Another was reading my patriarchal blessing and noticing it seemed as if every paragraph was talking about serving a mission. I felt the spirit testify to me that that was what I was supposed to do.

The experience that cemented my desire to serve a mission came just days after my 20th birthday. I had been worrying for a while about what to do with my future. That night I went to Heavenly Father in prayer. As I prayed, I heard a voice saying, “Go on a mission”. I felt the spirit flood through my body and I was filled with an indescribable joy.

To say I was anxious to go on a mission would be a gross understatement! I counted down the days until I could start my papers, submit them, receive my call, and then leave. I wanted to leave as close to my 21st birthday as possible. Things took longer than expected but by November 2011 my papers were in.

Nicole's Mission Call

The Mission Call Arrives

On the 13th of December 2011 I received my call to serve in the Philippines Quezon City North Mission, reporting to the Provo MTC on the 24th of April 2012.

In January 2012, Joel, the brother of one of my best friends, returned from his mission. His family had moved to NZ in July 2011, and so rather than going home to Perth where he left from, he came to Auckland. I first met him the night he got home and then didn’t see him for another week and a half, but the next time we saw each other something clicked and I realised that I had feelings for him. Over the next week we saw each other regularly and things with us progressed rapidly from there. He was everything I had ever wanted and so much more. In short, he was perfect for me.

On the 10th of February we started officially dating, and we began to talk marriage straight away. It took me by surprise because I was so fixed on my mission. I didn’t know what to do.

I was torn, emotionally and spiritually. I had prepared for so long for my mission, I didn’t see how I could just change my mind. But I had been preparing my entire life for marriage as well, and being a wife and a mother is my ultimate goal.

I prayed about it, we went to the temple the next morning and although I received answers about some things, I was still unsure about what I should do about serving a mission. The next day we fasted and the thoughts and feelings that came through strongest to me were that Joel was right for me, and I should follow the counsel that our priesthood leaders have given us.

Richard G Scott, in the April 2006 General Conference, said:

“In the home a young girl can understand that her primary role is to be a wife and mother. Yet as that preparation unfolds there may be an opportunity to serve a full-time mission, provided recent counsel of the First Presidency is followed: “Worthy single women ages twenty-one and older … may be recommended to serve full-time missions… Bishops should not recommend them for missionary service if it will interfere with imminent marriage prospects.” “

My first choice was whether I felt Joel was the one I was to marry- a decision I made and confirmed with Heavenly Father. If that was right, then marriage was to take precedence. It seemed as if the solution was clear, and yet I still felt guilty.

I knew without a doubt that I had received revelation that helped me to make the decision to prepare for a mission. But I didn’t know if all of that had happened because I was supposed to go on a mission, or because it would give me opportunities to learn and grow, and be in a position where I could meet and marry Joel.

We sought the counsel of my bishop. I am grateful for my kind, wise bishop, who listened as I explained how things had happened, my thoughts and feelings, and the questions that I had. The first thing he said was that he would not make any decision for us, that was our responsibility.

We talked about how a mission is a priesthood responsibility, and that while it is a fantastic thing for sisters to serve missions, it is not an obligation. He stressed that there is no shame in not serving a mission, even though I had received my call. He cautioned us about discerning between emotions and communication from the spirit so that we would be able to more clearly receive the answers we were seeking for. We talked about the need for righteous families to be reared.

As we talked, I felt my fears being calmed. I felt at peace. I felt that Joel was the one that I was to marry. And, I felt like serving a mission was not what I was supposed to do right now.

Later that night, Joel proposed and I, with no doubts or reservations, said yes!

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

There are opportunities that I will not have because I chose not to serve a mission right now. But there are many more opportunities that have opened up because I have chosen to be married in the temple, to a wonderful man, and to raise a family with him in the gospel.

I still plan on serving a mission, hopefully several, but now with my eternal companion.

This was my journey, this was my story, this is my life. How grateful I am for the gospel, and for a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for each of us.

Have you had to make a similar decision? How did you come to decide? I would love to hear your stories and how you made, or would make, the decision between serving a mission or marrying.

Missionary work of a different kind

Over last weekend I was excited to be able to attend our Stake YWs camp. I use the word ‘camp’ loosely as we actually stayed in the dorms of the old CCNZ campus, within the shadow of the New Zealand Temple. But if any of you have been to Temple View you’ll agree with me when I say it is one of the most beautiful places to visit, and it certainly was the perfect setting for our YWs camp.

The blueprints for this event had been laid more than 15 months earlier, and was inspired, to say the least. Long before Elder Bednar’s Oct 2011 Conference talk ‘The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn’, our Stake YW Leaders had a vision for the YW.

That vision included each YW learning how to research her family tree, identifying 1-3 ancestors who needed their work completed, and bringing those names to the Temple. But this wasn’t the extent of our Stake leaders vision.

Over that 15 months of preparation they commissioned a local member and author, Sis. Pamela Reid, to write a novel.

Yes, that’s right, she wrote a book for our YW!

‘SARAH’

The story follows the life of a young Scottish girl in the late 1800s who, at the age of 17, travels across the seas from England to start a new life in New Zealand. To add context, the story is told through the eyes of a modern day YW who discovers her heritage as she reads the diary of this young traveller.

How amazing!

My girls were captivated by the narrative, which was released chapter by chapter through an online blog in the weeks leading up to the camp. The last three chapters where left for the camp, where each YW was presented with her own copy of the completed novel.

There were many moments during camp where noses were buried in the book to catch the end of the story.

As the YWs President in my ward, it was inspiring to hear my girls stand and bear their testimonies on the last day of camp, and to see their countenances as they came out of the Temple.

We have been told that we cannot be saved without our dead, so to see these young women work to bring the gospel to many of their ancestors was truly a time of salvation. This was their opportunity to do missionary work of a different kind.

I will finish with the words of Elder Bednar himself:

I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.

You call that an email?

10 easy ways to get your missionary to communicate…

I remember a friend telling me once how frustrated she was that her missionary son only wrote two sentences each week to the family. She felt robbed of a sense of his mission experience and feeling a part of the growth he was undergoing.

While it is important for those of us who are at home to get news from our missionary, the lack of information, from time to time, is probably a sign that your missionary is working very hard, is highly focused, and enjoying the experience.

However, if your missionary finds it hard to write more than a sentence or two every week, or is persistently missing those weekly emails, then there are some things that you can do to encourage a better flow of news and information.

Before listing those things I wish to highlight something that each of us need to remember. In the July 2003 Ensign, Dallas and Marjorie Bradford wrote,

“Once your missionary enters the MTC, everything you say and do should help him or her stay focused on the task and challenges ahead”.

I cannot stress this point more. A missionary’s number one purpose for being where they are is to do the work of the Lord. So all our communications with them should be limited to topics that allow them to maintain their focus. But I will talk more about this in another post…

In doing some research for this post I came across an article from the March 1989 Ensign, under ‘Random Sampler’, that suggested missionaries could purchase, “some loose-leaf paper about half the size of an Ensign page” and slip a piece of carbon paper between a sheet and their journal. Then, by writing in their journal each day, they could also include a copy of their daily journal entry with their weekly letter home.

Well, we have come a long way since then haven’t we?

So here are the 10 top suggestions on how to get your missionary to write more interesting and newsy emails each week. You can try one, or all of them:

  1. Keep your emails simple. Don’t overload them with so much information that your missionary can’t work out where to start to reply to them.
  2. At the end of each email to your missionary, list three specific questions you would like them to answer in their reply email. This is for two main reasons:
    1. Firstly, by separating the questions from the body of your email, it becomes apparent to your missionary what you most want to know about.
    2. Secondly, by putting them at the end of the email, your missionary will be more likely to remember to answer them.
  3. Encourage them to keep a journal if they are not already doing it. Even if it is just a couple of sentences a day recording what they did.
  4. Ask them to bring their journal with them the next time they write an email to you and share one thing they have recorded in it over the last week.
  5. Ask them to attach at least two photos they have taken over that week and include a quick comment about each one.
  6. Ask specific questions, such as:
    • Where did you work this week
    • Name two people you contacted, and what were their responses
    • What is their apartment like, or what do they see out their bedroom window.
  7. Keep your emails brief so they have enough time to answer.
  8. If you can’t get them to write weekly, then get a loose-leaf binder for them to write in as their journal. Then get them to send home some of the pages each month through the mail…that carbon paper idea is looking better every minute.………
  9. …….
  10. …….

Ok, so I didn’t make it to 10 as promised. But I am sure that there are some great ideas out there. PLEASE share them with us here.

What is it that you do to encourage your missionary to write more?

In memory of my life…a vision of the future

Not long ago I went on an overnight sailing trip with several of the Young Women in my ward. We moored overnight in a small cove within one of the many beautiful islands surrounding Auckland Harbour.

In the morning we decided to explore the tiny island that had been our shelter for the night. As we climbed to the highest point we noticed a single row of white headstones. Their etched inscriptions facing toward their destinination, but not quite making it. Each of them told a story of tragic circumstance, of lives cut short, and reminded us of our brief mortal presence here on earth.

As we gathered around to enjoy the view I asked each of the girls to tell me about the vision they had for their future. Tho’ there were many of them who had not yet formulated a full vision of where they wanted to be in the next 10 years, it was a reminder to me of how important it is for each of us to understand the plan that the Lord has for us.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, in the 2012 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference suggested that, “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us”.

I remember contemplating this very thing over 30 years ago when a tiny seed of an idea was formulating in my mind. I was 20 yrs. old, had just arrived back in Australia after spending almost a year in the UK with my parents, and wondered where my life was to take me from  that point. I had the world at my feet as a 20 yr. old, but I just couldn’t get a grip on what I needed to do.

I had never contemplated the idea that I could, or would, serve a mission. Indeed, as a child the idea never entered my mind, and certainly as a teenager it was the last thing I would have addressed. But at 20, it began as a tiny seed of enquiry.

This was the first time I considered the scripture that Elder Haleck read out recently in conference, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 21:18). It was also the first time in my life I considered my future with the realisation that I could actually really mess things up if I didn’t have some kind of vision of what the Lord wanted me to do with it.

My journey of enquiry took me to many places that year. In my mind and heart I considered  many options, and in the end I turned to my patriarchal blessing for some answers. I began to create a vision in my mind as to what my purpose was, and what the Lord would have me do.

Tho’ I couldn’t predict my future, there were certain truths that I couldn’t deny.

  1. This life is so short, and we don’t have time to indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.
  2. The choices we make now will have a lasting effect, not only on us, but upon the lives of others.
  3. The Lord knows us even better than we know ourselves.
  4. To act on vision we must apply faith.

This journey of self discovery took me to places that allowed me to glimpse the possibilities. It was that year that I truly understood the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. I discovered that I could obtain a vision of my future, and that vision would allow me to prosper.

But, even more importantly, that vision allowed me to prepare for the day when I could fulfill things I thought I could never do. Through missionary service I was able to sew the seed of faith and vision in the lives of many individuals and families. Through my life as a mother, I am far better prepared to sew the seeds of faith and vision in the lives of my children.

Unlike those tiny headstones that were perched on the top of that island – in sight of the city of their destination, but cut short by tragedy – I prepared myself for the journey of life. In choosing to serve a mission I know that I was fulfilling a purpose that the Lord had set out for me. From that point on it didn’t matter how long or short my life would be on this earth, my path was set and it would lead me in the direction that the Lord wanted me to take.

I know that I will arrive at my destination no matter what this mortal existence involves, as long as I maintain that vision and exercise faith.

Carry neither purse, nor scrip…

The suitcase of Faith

Our missionary outside the MTC with her suitcase of Faith

It was almost 12 months ago that our family crammed into the family car and drove out to the airport to bid farewell to our daughter, the newest missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Preparing for that day involved, not only concerted spiritual readiness, but also foresight into what clothing needs she would have. Gone are the days when missionaries were expected to embark with, “…no purse, nor scrip, nor shoes…”(Luke 10:4)

For us, that preparation took on quite a unique nature.

While our missionary daughter was already well prepared with much of her personal clothing needs, coming from the fairly temperate climate of the pacific, she was not ready for the possible sub-zero weather conditions of mid-western USA.

As all mothers do, I panicked. My daughter was going to die from hypothermia on some quiet Utah street. Four months out from her departure, and from our humble abode in Sydney, Australia, I could not imagine how we were ever going to kit her out with enough warm clothes to avoid this outcome.

Typically, my daughter seemed to think that she could survive on what she had…

This was probably the first time I had to contemplate the principle of ‘faith’ as the mother of a missionary. But, desperate times require desperate measures…well that’s how I saw it anyway.

Coincidentally, my husband and I were heading out on a trip to General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah just three weeks before she departed. So a plan was hatched…

With shopping list in hand, my spare time while over there was spent ticking off each item. With the help of my husband, and lots of size guessing, I managed to fill one middle size suitcase with winter-ready clothes. Part one of my plan was complete.

Part two required that faith I was fast acquiring…I left the suitcase there. That’s right, I didn’t take it home with me.

My daughter had a total of one day, upon arrival in Utah, to try the clothes on and make any exchanges or adjustments needed. How’s that for an exercise in faith? I say, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

I am pleased to report that I not only managed to please her with my design choices, she actually survived the freeze of her first winter in America.

I am sure many of you were faced with similar decisions when helping your missionary prepare for their adventure. I would love to hear your story here.

What you can expect…

It seems that every month or so I will get an email from my daughter that reflects some kind of discouragement she is experiencing. Whether it is with those she has been teaching, a lack of teaching opportunities, or just discouragement about her personal progression, there is always an opportunity for us to give her some added encouragement.

This is one of the reasons I started this blog. I am sure there are plenty of mums out there who have had similar feelings, or similar questions.

So the other day I sat down and started jotting down some ideas. Just some ideas of things I can talk about on Missionary Mum’s Meeting Place (MMM). Before I knew it I was up to about 50.

So here are a few from what I have come up with so far…just to wet your appetite.

  1. You call that an email? Ways to get your missionary to write better…
  2. Mum, I think I landed on another planet! Handling culture shock
  3. When your mission is cut short. Perspectives from a mother.
  4. Why is it that father always knows best? The importance of a father’s counsel.
  5. When marriage takes precedence. This one’s for the girls…
  6. Carry neither purse nor scrip. The lengths we go to, to dress our missionary.
  7. The Romney Affect. A quick call out for how Mitt Romney has affected missionary work.
  8. 10 things I love about missionaries. From my precious YW

But, what is motivating me the most is that I get to have lots of guest writers. I certainly don’t have all the answers or all the experience, so I am going to mix it up a bit and invite lots of friends and fellow bloggers to contribute their perspectives.

I am really excited to start. So I will sign off now and get writing…