“The Blessing Returned,” Ensign, Oct. 1980, 45
Several years ago, while serving as president of the Germany Munich Mission, I had an unusual and faith-confirming experience. I was meeting, as I did on a regular basis, with my two assistants, Elder Bryce Betteridge and Elder Gregory Smith. Trying to emphasize a certain point, I referred to an experience I had had some twenty years before as a young missionary in Trenton, New Jersey. At the mention of that city, Elder Smith, somewhat surprised, stated that his birthplace was Trenton, New Jersey, and asked when I had served my mission there. I replied, “1954.” His excitement grew—that was the year of his birth. I then asked about his family background, suddenly realizing that I had played an important part in this young man’s life. Quickly the details came back to me.
There weren’t many members of the Church in Trenton when my companion and I were called to go help organize a branch there. The Lord blessed us, though, and we taught and baptized several families. The branch started to grow.
One day Sister Smith, a member of the branch whose husband was not then active, came to us and asked for a special blessing. She was pregnant, and the doctors feared that there would be complications with the development and the birth of the child. Following the Lord’s counsel in the scriptures, with great faith in the Lord and his priesthood, Sister Smith was asking for help.
I recorded the event in my missionary journal and even now recall the calm feeling I had as I sealed the anointing. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost, I promised Sister Smith that there would be no complications and that the child would be born healthy and strong and that it would serve the Lord.
Soon after that I was transferred, but I shall never forget meeting Sister Smith a few months later at a district conference. She placed a beautiful, healthy baby boy in my arms. To this day I remember the warmth, the gratitude, the humble pride, and the priesthood power that surged through my soul. In my journal I wrote that, though I did not yet know how it felt to be a father, it must be something like what I felt for the little Smith boy that day.
After my mission I lost contact with the Smiths and their son. However, as I sat in the mission home in Germany with Elders Smith and Betteridge, these sweet and beautiful events came back into my mind. Could this be the same boy I had held in my arms twenty-one years before? I asked Elder Smith if his mother had ever related any unusual circumstances regarding his birth. His answer confirmed my expectations, but I asked him to write his mother for the details. Two weeks later the answer came. She stated that an Elder Kelling, a missionary from Germany, had indeed given her a blessing and that consequently her son’s birth was normal.
It is difficult to find words for what I felt then. The Lord was returning to a humble servant a blessing he had given away many years ago. “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Eccl. 11:1). There in Germany, serving with me at that time in the Lord’s vineyard and assisting me in my sacred calling, was that young man whom I had assisted twenty-one years earlier. Through the Lord’s priesthood power, Elder Smith had been granted life and more—health, energy, and great faith—all of which he was using to serve the Lord.
Joy and wonder and gratitude for the ways of the Lord then filled my soul. I did not know that Elder Smith was born in Trenton when I called him to be my assistant. In my stewardship were 200 missionaries, and I did not know where each was born. I know that Elder Smith was called through inspiration to be my assistant. It was not by chance that he was sent to the Germany Munich Mission. It was not by chance that I mentioned Trenton, New Jersey, in our meeting and that Elder Smith responded.
And what were the results of these things? Elder Smith’s testimony of the gospel and his calling were strengthened. My own testimony of the power of the priesthood was confirmed. I felt deeply our Heavenly Father’s kindness to us—he had mercifully and gently given powerful encouragement and assurance to a servant to help him carry out a most challenging assignment.