“My Neighbor, Marge,” Ensign, July 1981, 47–48
I like to refer to Marjorie Marshall as my full-time missionary. When she first crossed the street that separated our homes in the town of Granger, Utah, she was a stranger to me. And being schooled in the ways of the world for almost thirty years, I was anything but hospitable. My struggling new lawn was all-important to me, and I didn’t even ask her in.
But that didn’t stop her from standing on my driveway in the hot summer sun and starting a friendship. “Your yard is looking good. How do you find time to do so much work in it with your little children? If you ever need to leave your children for a while, just bring them over.”
Marge took every opportunity to visit without imposing. When those pesky weeds appeared in our new lawn, she no longer stood to visit—she was down on her knees pulling weeds as far as she could reach without disturbing the grass. Before long she was drying my dishes while I washed them. She must have carried her favorite peeling knife in her pocket, because every time I took a bushel of fruit from the trunk of my car, she would appear with that knife. She could peel fruit faster than I could bottle it, and all the time the conversation was uplifting and enjoyable. When I admired the shirts her sons wore and she knew I couldn’t sew, she showed up with half a dozen for my son to start kindergarten.
And I’ll never forget how grateful I was when Marge appeared at my back door one morning when I was ill. After she put me to bed, she took my children and my laundry home with her; and when evening came she returned with the washing and ironing done, my children fed and clean, and dinner for me and my husband. Marge worked her way into my life and into my heart.
I don’t remember exactly when she first asked me to Relief Society, but I remember giving her almost a year of excuses. I finally gave in on the last lesson of the year, and what a special day it was in my life! A dedicated teacher presented an impressive theology lesson, and during the testimony meeting that followed, my special missionary friend stood and thanked her Heavenly Father for everything she held dear—and I was included in her possessions. I was so moved I decided I wanted to become like her. I spent the following months reading the Book of Mormon and putting my life in order, with her constant help and encouragement.
Prayer was difficult for me, until one evening in July when my six-year-old Steven took his four-year-old friend for a walk and they didn’t return. We searched the neighborhood and surrounding areas and finally called the police. The hours dragged mercilessly on as the searchers became numerous and my arms ached to hold my only son. I was expecting another child in about seven weeks.
About midnight the anxiety became unbearable. Marge took me to my bedroom; and without speaking, she very gently pulled me to my knees. We knelt facing each other, hands held tightly, and heads bowed. She pleaded with our Heavenly Father on my behalf. She asked him to let me know that my son was all right.
And He did. The words that penetrated my mind, beautiful beyond description, were: “Steven will be home at dawn.” Nothing more. I needed nothing more. Dawn was probably five hours away, and yet my mind and heart knew peace. I didn’t know where my little boy was, but I knew he was all right.
I watched the jeep posse line the banks of Decker Lake, headlights glaring, as they dragged the bottom of the lake and came up with debris. I appreciated all their efforts, but I knew my son was not in that lake. When a jeep rounded the corner by our yard at dawn, it held the driver, my husband, and two little boys, sleepy-eyed and safe. They had become tired while walking, climbed into an old automobile to rest “a few minutes,” and slept the night away. How good it felt when my husband placed my son in my arms!
Prayer would never be difficult for me again.
Steven has served a mission, and our four children have married in the temple. Honoring the priesthood and following the Prophet have become a way of life with us now. As I have witnessed the blessings of the gospel in our lives, for both the living and the dead, I know that the efforts of my full-time missionary neighbor extend into eternity.
Marge could have said she was too busy for us. During the time she was being such a good neighbor to me, she was being an equally good neighbor to other inactive members. In addition, her husband’s mother and a friend of the mother lived in her home. The mother was in a wheelchair and the friend was mentally ill. Since they didn’t want to be separated, the Marshalls took them both in, while raising four children of their own and two Lamanite girls.
Until the time the Lord helps me to express my gratitude more fluently, I can only say from the depths of my heart, “Marge, I love you.”