“Honorably Released,” Ensign, Apr. 1991, 20
I recall receiving a telephone call from a mission president in Chile. He informed me of the passing of a young returned lady missionary whom my wife and I had visited in the hospital just two weeks earlier. As I heard the news, I reflected on our visit with her.
Sister Marisol Miranda, a member of a Latter-day Saint family, had wanted to serve a mission. She was active and vivacious and healthy. When she turned twenty-one, she was thrilled to receive a mission call. She served faithfully, bearing her testimony and teaching the truth with sweetness, yet firmness. The power of heaven was with her. Several souls were brought to repentance and baptism as a result of her labors. Her testimony of the Savior and his atoning sacrifice became very strong. She thought about him often and expressed with tears her love for him.
Near the end of her mission, Sister Miranda felt very tired at times. Some days she had a difficult time doing her work. Her mission president suggested that she see a doctor, but she postponed the visit, thinking her illness was not serious. Her mission president later suggested that she be released a little early so she could go home to see her doctor. She pleaded to be permitted to finish the final month of her mission, and the president granted her request. She felt better the last month and worked extra hard. During that time, she helped two more families accept the gospel.
After she returned home, she received a letter from her mission president commending her efforts and extending to her an honorable release. How she treasured that letter and her mission!
She attended school, but after about one year, when the spells of fatigue returned, she went to a doctor. Within a few days the worst was confirmed: she had a very serious form of blood cancer. Her doctor put her in the best hospital, where everything medically possible was done to help her.
When we visited her in the hospital, she was pathetically thin. The phrase “skin and bones” had almost literal meaning. Yet I have never felt a more buoyant spirit. Her smile was as radiant as any I have seen. She glowed with goodness and kindness and gratitude. She felt assured that the Savior knew her and was aware of her affliction. She was certain that his will would be done and that she would feel good about it.
She asked me for a priesthood blessing and received the greatest blessing that could come to her: a sure knowledge that her Heavenly Father was pleased with her attitude and her life. Over and over she expressed appreciation for our visit and for her parents, her mission, her mission president, and all who had helped her. Never did she complain. We left feeling very subdued after being in the presence of true greatness. The Spirit of God—the pure spirit of love—was so intense that I was almost weak with wonder. “Why can’t we all be more that way?” I asked myself.
The day after we visited her, her doctor sent her home because he could do no more for her in the hospital. How she enjoyed those last two weeks with her family! How blessed they and all of her friends and neighbors were by being around her! As her body grew steadily weaker, her spirit grew steadily stronger.
One morning, Sister Miranda called her family to her bedside and expressed again her deep love and appreciation for them and for all they had done for her. She asked them to tell us how much she appreciated our visit. She asked them to tell the mission president how much she appreciated all he had done for her. She expressed love for the Savior and then asked, “Could you please bring me my letter of release from my mission?”
She had read it so much, she had almost memorized it. As she grew weaker, she had asked them to read it to her many times. They said, “Read it again? We’ve read it to you so many times that it’s almost worn out!”
She replied, “Would you please read it to me once more?”
She beamed as they did, and when they read, “You are hereby honorably released,” her countenance seemed to glow and radiate with light and love. Everyone felt it, and all were in tears. Her smile was so deep, so intense, so pure, so glorious that she seemed to be seeing something beautiful beyond compare. She took the letter, held it to her heart, and softly repeated the words, “You are hereby honorably released from your mission.” Then she closed her eyes and was gone.
Sister Miranda had learned well the most important lesson of this life: to live the gospel fully. She learned to love and serve others, teach and testify of the truth, live the truth, and endure faithfully without complaint to the end. In short, she learned to find Jesus and do his bidding, which is to love others and bring them to him. How beautifully she had done this. She had not only brought others to the path that leads to him but had also come unto him herself.
Finishing her mission had not been easy. But she had stayed and completed her calling. She did not complain when hardships came her way; instead of using her waning energy wondering and complaining, she used it to express gratitude and to serve the best she could by smiling and sending forth love, light, and appreciation.
All of us must learn and live the same principles that Sister Miranda learned and lived if we are to feel the joy she now feels. I urge all of us to keep the Lord’s commandments fully and at all costs. Nothing, absolutely nothing in this life, is worth the cost of not fully keeping the Lord’s commandments—not fatigue, not sickness, not personal convenience, not the honors (or scorn) of men, not the pressure of peers, and not the lure or lusts of worldly things.
May we all be blessed to see clearly what we must do, have a great desire to do it, and reach out and receive the Lord’s help to overcome anything that stands in the way of our keeping his commandments fully. I know he will bless us so to do.