Handle with Prayer
March 1980

“Handle with Prayer,” Ensign, Mar. 1980, 39

Handle with Prayer

The Spirit let me know when to work and when to quit.

I was amazed at first—almost shocked—and I took my questions and worries back again to the Lord. I was needed at home; I couldn’t leave my family to go to work. Besides, I had been known to express my opinion that many Latter-day Saint women who worked outside the home had weak testimonies, poor management skills, or an unhealthy and selfish desire for the luxuries of life. Oh, I was willing to concede that a few mothers who were widows and divorcees might be forced into the employment trap, but I was sure it couldn’t happen to me. My husband was young and strong, with a good job and a secure insurance plan. We were both active in the Church and obedient to the counsel of our leaders.

But three years ago events joined forces to make me, a mother of five young children, a full-time working woman. Things had been going smoothly, and my husband and I decided to sell our cramped, five-room house and purchase a larger home. Four daughters in one tiny bedroom left scarcely enough room to squeeze between bunk beds. We studied our financial situation carefully, then made the decision a matter of prayer. Assured that obtaining a new home was right, we sold our little home and purchased a modest, but larger, home a few miles away.

Then financial disaster struck. An out-of-state firm bought the company where my husband had worked for eleven years, and he was suddenly out of work. A crippling illness sent my father-in-law permanently to a hospital—and we had to help support him there. We found ourselves with larger house payments, medical bills, no job, and a savings account that had been depleted by the down payment on our new home.

Within two weeks my husband found work with a new company, but we knew it would take time for him to work his way back to the salary level he had enjoyed before. His reemployment didn’t solve our problem.

Then I was given the opportunity to be office manager and editor of a weekly newspaper. Though we desperately needed the money, we both expected the answer to be no when we knelt to ask the Lord if I should take the job. The answer was an unmistakable yes.

So I became a working mother—and I learned many things. Perhaps the first lesson was that just as living the Word of Wisdom is no guarantee a person will never become ill, neither is living the gospel and trying to be a good mother a guarantee that a woman may not have to work outside the home when her children are young. Many Latter-day Saint women work outside the home, and I know now that for some it is the right decision. For some it is surely the wrong decision. The key is whether or not the choice was made with the inspiration of the Lord.

I also learned some of the pitfalls of judging others. Not long after beginning my job, I discovered other women were assuming I had chosen a career over my children’s needs. Some implied that my children were being neglected, or worried that I was a “woman’s libber,” that my husband was lacking in ability, and that the Church didn’t mean much to me. I recognized many of my own previous opinions in the sentiments of these women.

In the midst of these difficulties I discovered second-session Relief Society. There I gained the assurance that my Heavenly Father cares deeply about working women too. I soon realized that there are as many reasons for women working as there are women and that many of those reasons are based on necessity.

I enjoyed my job (there were, of course, both good and bad days at the office), but I never supposed that working would forever be the right solution to our problems. That feeling helped anchor me; I realized that the time could well come when I would once again be able to be a full-time wife and mother.

I was right. Our financial affairs improved—yet surprisingly, leaving my job took just as much faith as beginning it had. It isn’t easy to give up pay or prestige and I was uncertain whether I would fit again in the homemaker role. Where the Lord had once helped us know that it was acceptable for me to work, he now helped us know that it was time to quit. I am at home again, spending my days fulfilling that all-important stewardship, and loving it.

We find great comfort in knowing that our Heavenly Father takes personal interest in our affairs, that he will help us through difficult times—and that he will help us to learn the answers to difficult problems. We know that if we sincerely seek the Lord’s counsel, we will receive it, and we can always be assured of doing what’s right.

  • Jennie L. Hansen, homemaker and mother of five, is a den mother in the Hunter, Utah, Second Ward.

Photography by Jed A. Clark