Relief Society: Trust to follow His plan
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The following article is the first in a series highlighting the lives and examples of Relief Society sisters serving across the globe.
When I turned 20, I wanted to finish my university education. I also deeply desired to serve a full-time mission. At that time, the minimum age at which women could serve was 21, so I was preparing to serve a mission while I was still enrolled in school.
One of the ways that I was preparing was by attending the local Institute of Religion. One evening at an activity there, I met a seemingly shy, very recently returned missionary; he had been home only 24 hours.
Rand and I quickly became good friends. We began getting to know one another at group activities and then, as we began dating, our friendship deepened.
After several months and much fasting and prayer, Rand asked me to marry him. I felt great love for him, but I felt conflicted because I was still determined to serve a full-time mission. As I thought about temple marriage and family, I also felt inadequate as a future wife and mother. Those fears, as well as my yearning to serve a mission, led me to decline his offer of marriage.
Over the next few weeks as we continued talking, Rand expressed to me that he felt that he had received his own personal revelation but he also knew that he needed to respect my own inspiration and decisions. I had known of some men who, in proposing marriage, had claimed to receive revelation for their desired fiancée, and I really appreciated my best friend's respect and encouragement for me to seek for my own personal revelation.
Rand asked — and I declined — more than once, but at no point was he insistent or offended. He just felt that the Spirit was prompting him to be gently and patiently persistent.
Throughout this time we both studied and searched our scriptures and the words of our living prophet and the apostles. We knew that what Nephi had written was true: "Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do." And "If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:3-5).
One evening Rand was reading the counsel of the living prophet, which re-emphasized the importance of a temple marriage. I smile today as I remember him bringing me flowers and his highlighted copy of that Church magazine. He sincerely asked me if I would read the prophetic counsel and then prayerfully ponder that counsel. As he prepared to leave, Rand suddenly felt a prompting, turned back and said, "I will take you on a mission and we will serve as missionary companions after we have raised our family, I promise."
This time as I read the words of our prophet and then pondered, fasted and prayed, I felt it was right to accept his proposal. As soon as I made this decision, I felt a sweet calm envelop me. I felt assured that my decision to marry him was the right answer for me. I still felt inadequate as I thought about filling the roles of wife and mother, but my faith overcame the fear that I felt.
I still felt determined to serve a mission, and I felt that serving a mission would be a good decision. But for me, marrying this worthy man in the temple would be a better decision — the best decision — and I would trust that he would keep his promise to serve as my missionary companion when the time was right.
The next time we met I accepted Rand's proposal on the condition that he keep his promise to be my missionary companion someday. He has, by the way, kept that promise! Being engaged in full-time service with my husband these past years has been a wonderful experience.
In the years that followed that crucial decision I made at age 20, I have had it confirmed to me over and over again that the decision to marry in the temple and raise a family in the light of the gospel, prior to a later mission as a couple, was the right path for me.
This, of course, is my story. Your story may have different turns of events and outcomes, but, as you recognize and follow the Spirit, it will be tailored precisely for you. Each of us has divine roles and responsibilities to fulfill in our lives, including but not limited to missionary service.
One of our daughters made the correct Spirit-led decision for her life. When she was close to missionary age, she was desirous to do what the Lord needed of her so she asked her bishop for his counsel: He responded by stating, "If the Lord wants you to marry in the temple before a mission, as you prayerfully and actively attend Institute and young single adult activities, the Lord will place you in situations to meet worthy returned missionaries, and you will feel what is right for you. At the same time, pray about the wonderful opportunity that a full-time mission would be for you."
She did serve a mission, and it changed her life. She is now the mother of four and what she learned on her mission affects all that she does as a covenant-keeping wife and mother.
For those of you who do decide to serve a mission in your young-adult years, know that full-time missionary service is great preparation for marriage and parenthood and other service in the Lord's kingdom.
Other women may feel specifically directed to focus on education while being actively engaged in sharing the gospel with others; participating in helping to rescue less active members; strengthening recent converts; visiting teaching; family history and temple service. All of these can play a great role in preparing us for specific works that the Lord has for each of us.
I testify that the Lord does have a work for each of us to do (see Joseph Smith – History 1:33, Moses 1:6, Doctrine and Covenants 9:4). Each woman is a beloved spirit daughter of Heavenly Parents and will, as she desires, seeks and asks in faith, receive her own answers to her sincere prayers.
As Mormon taught: "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me" (Moroni 7:33).
Heavenly Father loves each of his daughters, and as we remain faithful and worthy, through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, we will be guided along the gospel path. To return to our Heavenly Father we each need to desire and then do what is necessary to continually rise to a new level of discipleship. If we will act with faith in Jesus Christ, He will help each of us fulfill His plan.
Shelley D. Bennett is married to Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy and a member of the Europe East Area Presidency.
'The map is available to all'
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, taught: "We all search for happiness, and we all try to find our own 'happily ever after.' The truth is, God knows how to get there! And He has created a map for you; He knows the way. He is your beloved Heavenly Father, who seeks your good, your happiness. He desires with all the love of a perfect and pure Father that you reach your supernal destination. The map is available to all. It gives explicit directions of what to do and where to go to everyone who is striving to come unto Christ and 'stand as (a witness) of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' (Mosiah 18:9). All you have to do is trust your Heavenly Father. Trust Him enough to follow His plan" (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Your Happily Ever After," Liahona and Ensign, May 2010, 126-127).