“The Blessing,” Liahona, July 2006, 42–43
Evan Payne owned and operated a gasoline and auto repair station in Thousand Oaks, California. He was quick with a smile and even quicker to remember people’s names. He knew his customers, their children, and their cars. Evan worked long hours, six days a week, and was genuinely interested in helping people. He gave jobs to teenagers who had family problems or who were preparing for or returning from missions. He would stay late or arrive early to accommodate a customer. Nearly everyone in town knew Evan Payne and liked him.
Evan was also busy at home and at church. He and his wife, Becky, had five children, ages 7 to 13. He had served twice as a counselor in the bishopric, as bishop, and now as a counselor in our stake presidency.
Evan was young, athletic, happy, and outgoing. He had dark hair and a handsome face. He loved to ski and play Church softball and basketball. So it didn’t seem possible when I heard that Evan had leukemia.
In the months following his diagnosis there were family, ward, and stake fasts. Evan went through chemotherapy and radiation. When Evan’s illness did not go into remission, his brothers were tested to determine if they could be bone marrow donors. None matched. He and Becky got their affairs in order and prepared for the worst, but in spite of the pain Evan remained upbeat and positive. He continued to work nearly every day, although he was clearly suffering.
One day my office phone rang. “Joel,” Evan said, “what are you doing tonight? I want you to come with me to give a blessing to someone in your ward. Can you do it?”
“Sure,” I said. “Who are we going to bless?”
“Sally Carlisle (names have been changed). She is an elderly lady from San Diego. She is in town visiting her daughter, Joan Wilson, who isn’t active. I should be taking the Wilsons’ home teacher, but I don’t know who it is, and she needs a blessing right away. Can you pick me up?”
I had a sudden sinking feeling, and a wave of guilt flooded over me. For many months I had been assigned to home teach the Wilson family, but I had not even called them. Numerous times I had intended to call or stop by, but each time I rationalized my way out. I had not done my duty. I told Evan I would pick him up at 7:00.
As we drove Evan explained that the Wilsons had been customers at his service station for many years. Joan had been raised in the Church but had drifted into inactivity as a young adult. She had married Mike Wilson, who was not a member of the Church, and they had raised their four boys in Mike’s religion. Evan explained that we would be giving a blessing to Joan’s mother, who had the flu. Joan had called Evan at the station and asked him to come. He was the only member of the Church she knew.
When we arrived at the Wilson home, Joan greeted us at the door but excused herself while we visited with her mother. Sally explained how much she wanted her daughter to come back to the Church and how she prayed for Mike and Joan to be able to receive the blessings of the gospel. After we visited for a few minutes, I anointed Sally and Evan blessed her. It was a simple blessing of comfort and good health.
As I drove Evan home, I felt grateful to have witnessed that priesthood blessing. I was also grateful for the introduction to the Wilson family and for spending those moments with Evan Payne, who passed away just a few months later.
In the following years I visited the Wilson home regularly. They welcomed me and remembered me as Evan’s friend. At first we just talked about Evan and what a great power for good he had been in our community. I remained the Wilsons’ home teacher for 15 years, and I tried to be like Evan and help whenever I could. Mike and Joan became my good friends and blessed my life in return.
Although Joan did not return to activity and Mike did not join the Church, I will always treasure their love and friendship. I was serving as bishop when Joan passed away. At the time of her death, Mike donated a large sum to the ward missionary fund. That money supported a missionary from our ward who joined the Church as a teenager and had no family resources to allow him to serve. Mike’s contribution indirectly touched the lives of the many converts that young elder taught.
Although I am certain Evan Payne did not intend to teach me any lessons that night many years ago, I learned that it is no burden to be about the Lord’s business. I try to be, as Evan was, truly interested in and concerned for our Heavenly Father’s children. And as a home teacher I try to be as faithful as Evan was and as the Savior would want me to be.