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Her Calling—Her Blessing | Donna Smith Packer

Do you know who you are, little child of mine,
So precious and dear to me? Do you know you’re a part of a great design
That is vast as eternity? Can you think for a moment how much depends
On your holding the “Iron Rod”? Your life is forever—worlds without end—
Do you know you’re a child of God? Do you know where you’ve been, little child
of mine? It is hard to recall, I know;
Do you ever remember that Home Divine— With the [Parents who loved] you so? These lyrics from the song “To a Child,”
by Ora Pate Stewart, always bring the Lord’s Spirit to me. My husband and I had been married for nine
years when we heard these words from the doctor: “You are not going to keep this one.” As parents we looked at the wee baby who so
recently had left his heavenly home. We did the only thing we could do. He was named and given a father’s blessing. We prayed, had faith, and said aloud, “Thy
will be done.” Hours passed, and then days, in our very small
community hospital. Doctors and nurses continued to work with
our son. At last, we heard the words from the doctor,
“I believe you will keep this one.” During this experience, we as parents grew
in understanding and strength and drew closer to the Lord. In a much larger hospital thirteen years later,
this exact experience was repeated with our tenth child. He was named and given a father’s blessing. We prayed, had faith, and once again said
aloud, “Thy will be done.” Hours crept slowly by. Once again we were greatly blessed. He would live. The lessons learned years before had been
repeated. Soon President Packer, then an Assistant to
the Twelve, was able to catch a flight for a delayed assignment in Europe. This second time our children were older. We reinforced our teaching of the Father’s
plan, the Atonement, and the Godhead. In teaching our children we also learned the
basic principles of the gospel ourselves. Teaching and growth never end with children
or parents. Sometimes I get a telephone call from one
of our children. They need help or they express concern about
an overwhelming new church calling. Other times they just call to report in. The boys “call home” to their father to
get advice on practical and spiritual matters. “Calling home” is an important part of
our family. “Calling home” through prayer to our Heavenly
Father is a necessity. We need His help and comfort and blessing. Sister Freda Johanna Jensen Lee, wife of President
Harold B. Lee, would say, “My first good morning is to the Lord, and my last goodnight
is to the Lord.” I know she was right. We can’t go too far astray if we, on bended
knee, place a call to our Heavenly Father’s home twice a day. We will receive the expected help, assurance,
and peace of mind. Some years ago two of our little boys were
wrestling on the rug before the fireplace. They had reached the pitch where laughter
turns to tears and play becomes a struggle. My husband worked his foot gently between
them and lifted the older, four-year-old boy to a sitting position on the rug, saying,
“Hey there, you monkey! You had better settle down.” The little child folded his arms and looked
at his father with surprising seriousness. His little-boy feelings were hurt, and he
protested, “I not a monkey, Daddy—I a person.” And indeed he was a person, a child of God
loaned to us for a short time, and then he would be on his own. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World
is akin to scripture. Today I will read only two paragraphs: All human beings—male and female—are created
in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of
heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual
premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters
knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children
could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and
ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family
relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available
in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families
to be united eternally. In an address at a general Relief Society
conference, President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said: Eve came to build, to organize, through the
power of the Father, the bodies of mortal men, . . . so that God’s design and the
Great Plan might meet fruition. This was her calling; this was her blessing,
bestowed by the Priesthood. This is the place of our wives and of our
mothers in the Eternal Plan. . . . Mother guides, incites, entreats, instructs,
directs . . . the soul for which she built the earthly home, in its march onward to exaltation. God gives the soul its destiny, but mother
leads it along the way. The vision of what is expected in earth life
can be obtained through scripture study, words of the prophets, pondering “The Family:
A Proclamation to the World.” With the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we
can understand these things. We can understand the past, focus on the present,
and see into the future. Work and service are requirements throughout
our lifetime. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives answers to
questions that all mankind ponders. These concepts are taught nowhere else in
the world. President Packer has said: There are so many unanswered questions. Why the inequities in life? Some are so rich. Some so wretchedly poor. Some so beautifully formed, and others with
pitiful handicaps. Some are gifted and others retarded. Why the injustice, the untimely death? Why the neglect, the sorrow, the pain? . . . The doctrine is simply this: life did not
begin with mortal birth. We lived in spirit form before we entered
mortality. We are spiritually the children of God. . . . The scriptures teach this doctrine, the doctrine
of premortal life. For His own reasons, the Lord provides answers
to some questions [scattered throughout] the scriptures. We are to find them; [but] we are to earn
them. In that way sacred things are hidden from
the insincere. . . . When one knows the doctrine, parenthood
becomes a sacred obligation, the begetting of life a sacred privilege. I have a personal witness that what he said
is true. Having a testimony of the gospel of Jesus
Christ gives us confidence and courage in life. We can yield our agency to the Lord and let
him manage our lives. I know it requires faith to do this, but our
divine nature gives us that strength, and we find joy in our commitment and our duty. Sometimes, because of another person’s agency,
we cannot follow through on all our mortal commitments. The Lord loves us, understands us, and will
bless us for our desires and efforts. Our present-day servants of the Lord have
made it very plain that marriage and children will not eternally be denied righteous women. The Lord is a just God. I became acquainted with the book Gospel Doctrine
by Joseph F. Smith in my early married years. The chapters on priesthood and home and family
have been most helpful to me. One section is called “The Truest Greatness.” This prophet states: To do well those things which God ordained
to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful
mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman. . . . We should never be discouraged in those daily
tasks which God has ordained to the common lot of man. . . . Let us not be trying to substitute an artificial
life for the true one. When our ten children were at home, I sometimes
would wonder if our teachings were being transferred to them. One day I noticed a drawing by one of the
children. It was of the young boy Joseph Smith and the
First Vision. Joseph had been drawn looking up at two Heavenly
Beings. I saw individual fingers and toes on the Heavenly
Visitors. At that moment it was confirmed in my heart
that our gospel teachings were being received by our children. Another time I had a great learning experience. It was a very busy day when all of our ten
children were living at home. Somehow my day had gotten away from me. The dinner hour was near, and I recalled some
sound advice my mother had given me: “You plan ahead, and you get your simple nutritious
meals going early in the day. You know the children will be hungry before
the dinner hour. Use some common sense. Sometimes you may have to feed them early.” This advice had been overlooked that day. I hastily moved into action. The assigned children on meal preparation
came to my aid, and soon dinner was underway. I heard the hum of a busy household and then
an unusual sound in another room. I found two of the younger children having
a difference of opinion. I suggested that each could sit on a chair
and think things over. The younger one looked at me in defiance and
said, “You not in charge of me!” I was a bit taken aback, but I just quietly
drew him aside and calmly explained that Heavenly Father had temporarily assigned me to love
and to care for him. It took only a few more sentences, and he
climbed up on the chair to think. Soon the dinner bell rang, and we all sat
up to the table. I learned the value of prompt meals. I had been part of the problem that day. Yes, the crisis was over but the learning
was not. As I recall, our next family home evening
lesson was on obedience. As parents we worked together in our home. The children soon learned that we were united. The answers from father and mother were always
the same. We taught the children that there would come
a time when they would leave home. It was time for more schooling, a mission,
and marriage. Even with the world going downhill, we had
confidence they could face troubled times. We wanted them to have the fulness of life. We would always be available, but we were
willing to let them go with our love, faith, and blessings. Even though we as parents knew the adversary
had great power in the world, we also knew that worthy sons and daughters of God have
power over Satan. Our children had the divine nature, and they
could succeed on their own. My Grandmother Jordan was a great example
of one who knew her divine nature. In 1909 as a recent convert to the Church,
she had to make difficult decisions and took firm action, unlike her typically quiet, timid
self. She told me she received prayerful direction,
and she was empowered with vision and strength beyond her own. Because she did what had to be done, I had
the blessing of being born in the covenant and having a rich heritage. I have many ancestors who have faced life
with courage. Their actions have given me great advantages
and responsibilities. For the past forty-three years my husband
has been away most weekends on Church service. This has been a productive family-history
time. Becoming acquainted with previous generations
has given me great joy and happiness. Our family has enjoyed researching, writing,
and illustrating life stories and having the temple experiences together. Knowing our ancestors and serving them has
brought a richness into our lives. Our ancestors are vitally interested in our
successes here on earth. I know on many occasions I have received help
from the other side. I am in harmony with the thoughts of Elder
Melvin J. Ballard: I believe . . . that the hearts not only of
the children are turned to their fathers, but the hearts of the fathers in the Spirit
World are turned to their children on earth. . . . . . . There are evidences that the dead are
interested. If you will go forward with the research work
the way will be opened on the right and on the left. You will be astonished to find avenues open. . . . When you have done all you can do and have
reached the limit, what will happen? . . . Then will come God’s opportunity. Cleo, an auntie of mine, was in a nursing
home. After traveling some distance, we made a final
visit. Cleo and her husband, Cliff, were content
and at peace. At one point during our visit, Cleo spoke
forcefully: “I can’t just lay around here. I must get on with life.” She did not mean this earthly life. The Lord granted her desire. I am certain she was welcomed by loving earthly
parents and a multitude of family members for whom she had been instrumental in finding
their names and seeing to their temple work. Because of the divine nature of women, we
seem to be very sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. In the home mothers need to act as the receiving
station for the communications from a loving Father in Heaven. It is vital that you remain worthy and alert. You must avoid getting too stressed or busy
for the quiet promptings of the Spirit. While raising our seven sons and three daughters,
I had a few down days. The budget was very tight, physical demands
were high, and I felt the expectations of others were even higher. Even though I recognized my divine nature,
knew about the plan of happiness, and knew my husband was a worthy priesthood holder,
I still had a few discouraging days as we raised our large family. I learned that if I felt physically well I
was more optimistic and better able to cope with life. I studied and practiced the Lord’s law of
health. I was responsible to give my children a healthy
start in life. Sleep was an essential, so we retired early. We combined this with regular attendance at
church meetings. Renewing our covenants with the Lord and the
association with people with similar goals helped us to stay on course. Temple attendance helped me to clarify my
vision and gave me a deep feeling of gratitude for all my blessings and my opportunities
for growth. There was consistent help from our extended
family—a box of outgrown clothing, a basket of fruit, an hour of babysitting at just the
right time. The Relief Society gave thrifty and practical
homemaking ideas. I always felt their love and support. Music had the power to comfort, edify, and
bring joy into my everyday living. Posting uplifting statements around the home
as gentle reminders of what life is all about has helped me. I’ll give you a few of my favorite statements:
President David O. McKay liked to say, “Whate’er thou art, act well thy part.” I once heard Sister McKay say, “It is the
artful duty for the woman to adjust.” I enjoy the scripture “Be thou humble; and
the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “There must
be decision of character aside from sympathy.” A 1950s Children’s Friend magazine had a
poem that I posted inside a kitchen cupboard door. The paper was yellow with age before our children
were raised. On difficult days this poem quickly brought
back my focus: Plastic little [children]
Made from heaven’s clay. Oh, Father, give us vision,
To mould them right today. Potential gods in miniature;
We must have help from Thee; For how they’re fashioned here today,
Will endure through eternity. There are rewards for completion of commitments
and promises to the Lord. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. told the Relief
Society sisters: The Priesthood will wish to proclaim their
debt to these their helpmeets without whom the Priesthood could not have worked out their
destiny. . . . . . . Your offspring, saved and exalted in
the presence of God, will never forget you, will ever bless you, and will sing hymns of
eternal gratitude for the bodies you gave them and taught them to make the Temples of
the Spirit of God. My husband and I have seen some rewards of
our teaching as we have watched our children, grandchildren, and, now, great-grandchildren. Children are always desired and welcomed in
our family. Sometimes faith is tested, but we have found
if we keep our covenants, the Lord will bless us. Our grandchildren’s world is more challenging
than our world was, but their parents are doing a much better job than we did. We are grateful other families teach their
children the basic principles of the gospel, obedience to all commandments, and of their
divine nature. They have raised special children, allowing
our children and grandchildren to be married in the temple to a worthy partner. We have the assurance that the younger generation
is equally yoked, having the same desires and eternal goals. They “shall stand in holy places, and shall
not be moved.” In the year 2002 we celebrated our 55th wedding
anniversary with our family of nearly 100. We pondered a theme for the evening, “A
Legacy of Covenant Choices.” This was spelled out in framed needlework
and is an important part of our home: Faith in daily living and in the future. Courage in times of trial. Power in family unity. Service to God and Mankind. Vision of eternities together. “We are covenant keepers.” “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust,
and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become
my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out
of the wells of salvation.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Robin Kshlerin