“Transfer to Carltonville,” Ensign, Apr. 1975, 35
It was with shocked disbelief that I heard the mission president. “Elder, we are transferring you to Carltonville. You need to be there in the morning.”
My companion and I had labored long and hard in what seemed to be a fruitless search for those interested in the gospel; by the seventh month of my mission, my enthusiasm had greatly diminished. Then we had met Phyllis Johnson, a charming English woman in her late sixties, for whom the gospel discussions had been a joy. The more she learned, the more she wanted to learn. How right everything seemed! How I loved missionary work!
I was looking forward to her baptism—my first—the following Saturday, when my mission president toppled me from the heights. As I left his office, I wanted to cry—but I couldn’t.
Then, as I thought about the president’s often inspired words, something within me whispered quietly, “Mark, he hasn’t done this … the Lord has.”
My new companion in Carltonville had been in the area for only about a week, but he had prepared a list of the town’s people who had had some of the lessons, and he read it to me. As we knelt together in prayer, we both felt that a special spirit had accompanied our transfers. While he read the list of 12 names, one seemed to pierce my heart—Marshall!
The narrow road to the Marshall home was hard to follow due to dense brush and heavy rains, but when we arrived there was a light in the window. Surprised to see us traveling on such a cold, wet night, Brother Marshall warmly invited us in and asked us to sit on a worn couch in the living room. We discovered the Marshalls were from New Zealand, where his wife had visited the temple before it was dedicated, but they had since moved here to South Africa with their three small children. They believed all the missionaries had told them, with one exception—the law of tithing.
“I just can’t accept this,” he said. “And besides, elders,” his voice dropped, “we just can’t afford to pay it.” He sat on the only other chair in the house, and, gazing down at his worn and splitting shoes, he began to speak again. “You see,”—there was a long pause—“we just don’t have any more money.”
The long silence was broken by Sister Marshall’s sobbing. “For the last three days we have had nothing to eat but a few apricots from the tree in our backyard,” she said through her tears. “I just don’t know what to do. The apricots are almost gone and the children are already starting to ask for food. We don’t know where to go. We don’t know anyone around here. Oh, what should we do?”
I wondered how anyone could ask these people to give a tenth. Then I suddenly knew the answer to their problems. The greatest power I have ever felt came over me. I then remembered I had been taught to pay tithing as a boy and that it was a commandment of the Lord. I knew the Lord had promised to open the windows of heaven to those who do pay their tithing, and I knew that it was a commandment for rich and poor alike.
As I sat up on the edge of the couch, a burning filled my bosom and brought forth the words, “Brother and Sister Marshall, I promise you in the name of the Lord that if you will pay your tithing and join the Lord’s church, you will always have food to eat and a home to live in.”
They both sat motionless as they thought of the promise they had been given. Then Brother Marshall, with his wife close to him, said quietly, “Elders, all that we have heard is true. And now I know that I must do this also.”
We made arrangements for their baptism the following Saturday, and about noon that day we received a telephone call from the mission home. “Elder, you and your companion are to bring your belongings with you to the mission home today as you come to the baptism. Each of you will be transferred back to your former field of labor. Carltonville will be closed indefinitely.”
This time as I told the news to my companion I did cry—and I fell on my knees by the side of my bed to ask the Lord’s forgiveness. He had called me to reach out to a family of choice spirits who were ready for baptism, and he knew this was their last chance in months—perhaps in a lifetime. I realized how selfish I had been in wanting my own way, and I promised the Lord that in the future when he called, I would obey.
It was about a year and a half later—and almost 500 miles away—that I sat on the front row of a chapel in Rhodesia in the last testimony meeting I would attend on the African continent. I saw a middle-aged woman in a worn but freshly laundered dress stand to bear her testimony. With sweet conviction she thanked the Lord for her membership in the Church, for her testimony of the gospel, and for the two missionaries who had come to her home on a rainy Tuesday night. Sister Marshall said that since then she and her husband had had many difficulties, but because of their faithfulness in paying their tithing, they had “always had food to eat and a home to live in.”