“Mission Now—Or Later?” Ensign, Apr. 1996, 66
My husband, Eldon, and I had placed a full-time mission on our list of things to do when we retired. We discussed missionary work often, read the scriptures daily, and were steadily preparing ourselves to serve someday.
In the April 1981 general conference, Elder Jacob de Jager of the Seventy spoke about the need for full-time senior couple missionaries. He explained the various assignments available to these missionaries and told of some of the unique experiences some had reported. As I listened to his talk, I felt strongly that his message was directed to members such as my husband and me. I mentioned this to Eldon, and he responded that he had also been impressed by Elder de Jager’s talk.
The Monday morning following conference, as I reflected on our experience the day before, it occurred to me that Eldon and I should rethink our goals. Eldon had retired, but I still planned to work for several years, after which we would serve a mission. Now I wondered. Perhaps I should retire now so we could apply immediately for a full-time mission.
That day I spent my lunch break calculating what effect my early retirement would have on our finances. Our benefits would be reduced, and I wondered how this might affect our ability to be self-reliant throughout our remaining lifetime.
That evening I presented Eldon with two pages of figures—my plan for early retirement and a full-time mission. The plan was based on selling our home in California and moving to Montana where we owned a second home.
After checking my figures for accuracy, Eldon agreed with me that we would have sufficient income even if I did not work longer. Our goal was not to accumulate material things or wealth but rather to accumulate the kinds of experiences that would help us serve others and grow spiritually.
Eldon was still concerned, however, about the timing of my plan, and other questions arose as well. My plan required much thought, prayer, and time before making a final decision.
During the next few days, we prayed about the plan, both separately and together, and discussed the pros and cons. By the end of the week, we had not yet reached an agreement, so we decided to fast and pray from Saturday night until Sunday evening.
On the Monday morning after our fast, Eldon prepared breakfast while I got ready for work. We had a “thought jar,” and each morning one of us would draw a paper from the jar, read it aloud, then slip it into a large paper clip where we could see it all day. These thoughts often became the topic of conversation over breakfast and the beginning of our morning scripture study.
When I walked into the kitchen that Monday morning, Eldon was standing with the thought for the day in one hand and his Book of Mormon in the other. “Listen to this,” he said. “Our thought for the day is ‘stand as a witness’ and is taken from the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, where Alma speaks of those willing to come into the fold of God.” He paused, then read, “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in” (Mosiah 18:9).
By the time Eldon had finished reading, we both had tears in our eyes. The spiritual message we got that morning was a feeling that early retirement for me and a full-time mission—immediately—was the correct decision for us.
My supervisor at work cooperated in scheduling my early retirement, and our home in California sold quickly. We moved to Montana with a minimum of effort, and a few months later, we were serving full-time in the Virginia Roanoke Mission.
Eldon and I grew to love the people of Virginia, and we continue to feel that the decision we made was the right one for us. We love reading the scriptures and have learned that they can help us make decisions even when they are very difficult ones.