President Monson has been encouraging senior couples to enter the mission field: “We need many, many more senior couples. …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 comes from giving full-time service together in the work of the master.” Liahona, January 2011.
Elder Lloyd and Sister Janet Colling from the Abbotsford, British Columbia Stake found President Monson’s words to be true as they served in the St. George Utah Temple Visitor’s Centre. Upon their return last September, they reported inspiring stories of faith and love.
Sister Colling tells of her experience on Mother’s Day 2012 when 18 tour buses came to the Visitors’ Centre, 14 of them were on her shift. “We were so busy that three tours were going on simultaneously, two in French and one in German. A fourth bus drew up in front of the Centre and the tourists walked towards the Annex and began taking photos of the temple and the temple grounds. A few people came in the front door to see the Christus.
“I noticed a young man looking at the mural of the universe and returning his eyes to the Christus more than once. I greeted him and asked him in French if he had any questions. He replied, 'Yes,'and looking back at the mural, he asked with a smile, ‘Am I on earth?’ He explained that he felt such peace that he had the shivers. He wondered why. I explained to him that what he was feeling was the Holy Spirit, and that this same feeling was found in all Temple Visitors’ Centres.”
She continues, “I then asked him if he knew anything about the Book of Mormon, and he said, 'A little.' I started to explain something of its origins, but by this time the people from his bus were beginning to load and he was nervously looking towards the exit. I said, ‘Wait just a moment,’ and I quickly went to get a French Book of Mormon for him. Inside the book’s front cover were pasted several of life’s important questions with scriptural references along with the address of the French church internet site. I opened the book and only had time to tell him, ‘Here, this book will tell you why you had those feelings’. He hugged the book to his chest, and said, ‘Thank you. You are very kind,’ and ran out the door to the bus. Later I heard from my husband, who was talking to the tour guide as they waited for the man to rejoin his group that the man had bounded onto the bus, proudly holding aloft his Book of Mormon in the air for all to see.”
Elder Colling tells of one evening when he noticed a man standing in front of the Christus, looking up at the face of Jesus and sobbing uncontrollably. “The young man seemed in such pain that I felt I had to ask if I could help. He coughed out, ‘No, no one can help me! I am beyond help!’ I replied, ‘May I ask you two questions?’ He nodded consent so I asked whether he had intentionally taken someone’s life. He said, ‘No.’ Then I asked, ‘Have you turned on the Church, denied the truth, actively turned against and taught others everything you once knew to be true is all false and not of God?’ Emphatically he said, ‘Oh no, I would never do that. I know the church is true.’ With this I replied, ‘You have done nothing from which you can’t repent,’ and then I shared some scriptures with him about hope and repentance.
Elder Colling continues, “At that point, the man broke down again, this time sobbing with relief. We had a good hug and then sat down together. He told me his story. He had returned home early from his mission ten years ago. Half of the people at home supported him and were kind, while the other half were judgmental and critical. He said he listened to the wrong half. Over the past ten years, he had increasingly gone downhill and had finally hit the bottom. He had done many things of which he was ashamed and was in the grip of many addictions.
“We talked about how to commence the repentance cycle. I explained that he had already begun that process in realizing that there was hope for him and that he wanted to change. He said he would meet with a bishop and he gave me his address and phone number. He was not sure in what ward he belonged so I told him I would find out and call him. I asked if he would like a blessing and he emphatically said he would love to receive one. He got his blessing and it visibly moved him. Again we embraced. I asked if he would return to the Centre and keep in touch, and he assured me he would. He said he loves the Visitor’s Centre and the special spirit that is present here. It is the place he feels safe, where he can start once more to turn again to the Lord.
“We kept in touch over the next six months. He returned to the Visitors’ Centre a number of times since our first meeting. Most recently, he brought his wife. She too feels the joy of being at the Centre and on the temple grounds. That has helped ground her and she too has now come out of inactivity. They are attending church. Now he is clean, well groomed and glows with happiness rather than pain. He expressed his appreciation over and over for the priesthood blessing he received and for the beautiful spirit in the Visitor’s Centre, which spirit pointed him back to Christ.”
Elder Colling concludes, “The Visitor Centres are a magnet for those who want to know more about the church; but it also attracts many wounded, inactive members. Repeatedly we have seen the power of the Visitor Centre in helping less active members come back.”
In Elder Russell M. Nelson’s message Senior Missionaries: Responding to the Prophet’s Call in the September 2012 Liahona, he says, “Many humble Latter-Day Saints fear that they are not qualified for missionary labours. But to such prospective missionaries, the Lord has given this assurance: ‘Faith, hope, charity, and love with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”
May those who are able, be inspired by these stories of faith and love, and respond to the Prophet’s call for more senior missionary couples. In so doing, like the Colling’s, and other senior missionaries serving throughout the world, they will find increased faith and great joy in this service.