When we were forty years old we were given a good amount of stock as part of a business deal. It was projected to increase well in value and be the means to our financial security and early retirement. We went to our financial adviser and enlisted his help. We intended to retire from our business at the age of fifty, just ten years from then. Our plan was to serve as a full-time senior missionary couple for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at that point. In fact we planned to serve several, alternating spans of time at home and then back out into the field. Our adviser helped us chart out what things needed to be accomplished in the next ten years. We took our plan to the Lord, promising that if He would help us accomplish these things we were His at age fifty. Then we went to work. With laser-beam focus we attacked several personal financial goals…pay off the house, have ‘X’ amount in savings, wills and trusts established, get out and keep out of consumer debt, etc., along with many business goals.
It was exciting to see our progress over the next few years. The stock value climbed as anticipated. Every extra house payment I could make caused me to break out into a happy dance. It became a game to see how much I could squeeze from our budget and other monies, to throw into savings. We felt the wind at our financial backs and were sure the Lord was blowing it. The calendar pages turned and we were really making progress. After just a few years we had reached several of the financial milestones we’d been asking the Lord to help us meet.
It’s Funny How Things Work.
Then things began to change. Though our business was doing very well the stock we’d been given began to fall, then fall a little more. Before we knew it, it was all but worthless. And then it was! The goose that had been laying the golden eggs, well, she ran out of eggs. She was now a barren goose! (I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t very funny then). Though we’d reached several of our financial goals, it looked as though things weren’t going to be happening the way we had expected them too. Imagine that.
We told ourselves that perhaps we had been a bit too aggressive in our retirement and missions goals. After all, when viewed from age forty seven, fifty looks very young for such grand dreams. We continued to express our gratitude to the Lord for His help, hoped that He was pleased with the way we had handled our financial stewardship and shifted our sites towards a more common age for retirement and mission service.
The Lord Has a Great Memory
June of 2009, Chad and I were away on business. A daughter, who was staying at our home for the weekend, called to tell us that Elder Larry W. Gibbons, of the Seventy, had just called the house looking for us. She had given him Chad’s cell phone number and he would be calling us in thirty minutes. We hurried back to our hotel room.
Our assumption was that something was wrong with Chad’s parents. One – they were serving in the Yerevan, Armenia mission, in the country of Georgia, at the time. Two – we knew that Elder Gibbons was in the Presidency of the Eastern European Area of which Armenia is a part. And three – Chad, being the oldest child, would very well be the one to receive a call of bad news. We said a prayer, sat on the bed, and waited for the phone to ring.
“Hello, Brother Packard? This is Elder Gibbons calling from Moscow, Russia.” After a few pleasantries we asked if our parents were alright and were assured they were. “Brother Packard, the reason I’m calling is to inquire as to your availability to serve a full-time mission for the Lord with your wife.” (I was more prepared for a health crisis with my in-laws than this!!!) As we looked at each other it was obvious that neither of us could believe what we were hearing. “Your name has been suggested to us as a possible senior missionary couple. We have discussed it in our Area Presidency meeting and feel that we should move forward in contacting you. Can I call you back in two days for your answer?”
Those two days were filled with every question and calculation you could possibly imagine:
- We’re not retired yet. What are we going to do about our business?
- Two of our six children are unmarried, and four of them are still in college. How can we continue to help them if we go?
- Two sons will graduate from college and one from law school while we’d be gone. We’d miss one son’s senior year playing football for BYU.
- Grandbabies will be born while we’re away.
- My father’s health is not good at all. What if he were to pass away?
- What do we do with our home?
- What about the property we just bought and were planning to build a new home on?
This phone call seemed to come at us right out of left field until we realized this – we were both forty-nine years old. I would turn fifty the next month and Chad in September.
Quietly some new questions entered our minds and touched our hearts….
- Had we not promised ourselves to the Lord for mission service at the age of fifty if He would help us prepare?
- Had he not blessed our efforts?
- Had those financial goals not been reached?
- Did we not have the faith to keep our end of the deal?
- Did we need to have all the answers or could we move forward in faith?
The Lord hadn’t forgotten the conditions of our arrangement, even if we had. Thirty days before that silver celebration He called, and two days later we told Elder Gibbons that if the Lord wanted us we were His. On October 3, 2009 we received our mission call to the Russia, Moscow Mission as a Leadership Training and CES couple, and on February 1, 2010, we reported to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT. We served for two wonderful years.
Smooth Sailing? Nope.
I wish I could tell you that I had no concerns about leaving after we gave Elder Gibbons our answer, or sent in our papers, or even after we received our call, but I did. And I’ll tell you quite frankly that the gates of hell were thrown wide open and the adversary did all he could to get us not to go. Nothing seemed off limits to him. But we both had spiritual confirmation that this is what the Lord wanted us to do. As a family we agreed to lock arms and plow through whatever he threw at us together. That was a turning point. Satan realized we would not be deterred and began to back off. The Lord also saw our conviction and the blessings, those ‘missionary blessings’ began to come; to us and to our family.
During a face-to-face interview with Elder Gibbons just prior to our white envelope arriving I expressed some of the things that we had been experiencing to him. Though I was excited to be serving, I was a little tearful; he was very compassionate. He opened his scriptures and shared what became our mission scripture motto with us. Listen to these beautiful words spoken by the Savior to His newly called Apostle Peter recorded in Luke:
“Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,
Who shall not receive manifold in this present time and in the world to come life everlasting.” 
He asked me to take special note of “in this present time”, and promised that not all the blessings of service would be reserved for the next life. Then Elder Gibbons asked me, “Bethany, who can solve your problems, and those of your family members better, you or the Lord?” From that point on there was no looking back for me. And when I got out of the Lord’s way He made miraculous things happen for us all.
Should You Plan to Serve a Mission?
“And now to you mature brothers and sisters: we need many, many more senior couples..…To those of you who are not yet to the season of life when you might serve a couples’ mission, I urge you to prepare now for the day when you and your spouse might do so. As your circumstances allow, as you are eligible for retirement, and as your health permits, make yourselves available to leave home and give full-time missionary service. There are few times in your lives when you will enjoy the sweet spirit and satisfaction that come from giving full-time service together in the work of the Master.” -Thomas S. Monson 
The Lord is speaking to us through His prophets today, and He is saying He needs us to serve full-time missions as couples.
“…whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” 
In the temple we make very sacred and serious covenants and I believe that the Lord will hold us to those covenants. There won’t be very many, if any, excuses we can offer Him that will relieve us of our obligations. Heavenly Father needs us to keep our baptismal and temple covenants. While on our mission Elder Russell M. Nelson visited Moscow to create the first Stake in Russia. In a meeting he held while there I heard him say with my own ears that the Brethren wish the couples in the Church would consider missionary service as much of an obligation for themselves as they realize it is for the young men of the Church.
Go and Serve!
Look to your current circumstances. If you are a younger couple:
- Make the decision now to serve together and then begin to prepare.
- Make financial plans, and purchases, that will enable you, not prohibit you, to do so.
- Tell your children about your plans. Just as you speak with expectancy about their missions begin using the same vocabulary about your future service.
If you are an older couple and have yet to make the decision to serve a full time mission commit now, to the Lord, and your family, to do so. He will help open the way as you do.
I cannot express adequately how my mission with my husband blessed our family, strengthened our marriage, and changed my life. I WOULD NOT TRADE IT FOR ANYTHING! Though the details of our experience are unique to us, the Lord will honor His promise to you and your families too, as He knows will be best. He has prepared an experience and a work that will be specific to you and your spouse and your family. His word is sure; for all who not only say to the Lord, “I’ll go where you want me to go” , but also “I’ll go WHEN you want me to go”.
 Luke 18:28-30
 President Thomas S. Monson, “As We Meet Together Again”, General Conference, Oct. 2010
 Doctrine & Covenants 1:38
 “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”, LDS Hymnal, #270