Ministering Angels In the Flesh—Do You Know One?

I think the following account is a powerful reminder of the choices that some valiant spirits took upon themselves in pre-mortality—by taking on hard life assignments.

Look around your circle of friends and extended family. Is there someone you know that is like the lady described by her Stake President in the following story? Maybe it even describes you.

Carlfred Broderick, One Flesh, One Heart: Putting Celestial Love into Your Temple Marriage, 50-53.

Saviors on Mount Zion

“The term ‘savior on Mount Zion’ is ordinarily reserved for those engaged in vicarious work for the dead. Truly, Saints who selflessly devote themselves to genealogical and temple work deserve the title. They perform Christlike service in lovingly opening the gates of exaltation to others who without their work would not have that opportunity.

But I believe that the term might also be applied to another group of the Saints. These have been called to sacrifice for the sake of saving the living, often of their own household.

I first began to think in these terms as a result of counseling two women who had hard life assignments. The first had convinced her boyfriend to join the Church and one year later to marry her in the temple. Unhappily, the conversion didn’t ‘take,’ and soon thereafter he returned to his worldly ways, which included all of the minor vices and several of the major ones. They had children who seemed to elect their father’s life-style rather than their mother’s. I watched this good sister struggle with her rebellious family over the years, and I am ashamed to admit that I had sometimes judged her harshly. For example, if she had asked my opinion, I could have told her before she married him that her husband-to-be was more committed to her than to the gospel. Also, I felt that she had been overly permissive with her children. In short, I self-righteously judged that if she had made better choices (as I had, for example) her life would have turned out better (as mine had, for example).

It eventually became necessary to excommunicate her husband, and in agony of spirit she asked me, her stake president, for a blessing to guide her as to what her duty was under the circumstances. In that blessing I learned a few things that even now make me burn with shame for my earlier spiritual arrogance toward that sister. The Lord told her that she was a valiant spirit in the premortal existence who had volunteered for hazardous duty on earth. Not for her was the safety of a secure marriage to an equally valiant partner. Not for her was the relative ease of rearing naturally obedient children. She had (perhaps rashly) volunteered to live her life in the front lines, as it were, of the continuing battle for men’s souls. Twice, the Lord continued, she had been given the option of an honorable release from this difficult assignment. (After the blessing she confirmed this.) Twice she had been on the operating table at death’s door and was given the free option of coming home or going back to face her challenging responsibilities. Twice she had squared her shoulders and returned to her difficult family. In the blessing she was told that the Lord loved her husband and her children despite their rebellious spirits and that if they were to have any chance at all it would be because of her Christlike patience and long-suffering with them.

When I took my hands off her head I bowed my head in shame, realizing that I stood in the presence of one of the Lord’s great ones, truly a savior on Mount Zion. True to her promise, she is succeeding against all odds in her mission. To everyone’s surprise, her rowdy eldest son straightened out his life and went on a mission. He came back on fire with the Spirit and committed to the gospel. Her second son, who had often stated his intention of playing football instead of going on a mission, was helped by his elder brother and has also completed a successful mission and is headed for a temple marriage. Her daughters are slower to turn around, but I begin to see some softening there. Even her husband, the toughest of all, is beginning to mellow at the edges and to talk about putting his life in order (no action yet, but I am prepared to believe in miracles in this family).

The other case involved a man who came from a stable Latter-day Saint family background and a wife who was a convert. Together they were rearing a quartet of healthy young boys. Their problem was the wife’s recurrent bouts with anxiety and depression. We got into her background and discovered that she had been raised by an abusive, alcoholic father and a neurotically sick mother who stayed in bed all the time and let her little girl do all of the cooking and cleaning. She confessed that she was still full of rage at her parents for so badly abusing her and full of envy for others who had experienced a normal, loving family relationship. She said that on several occasions when she had seen little girls being hugged and kissed by their loving fathers in Church she had to get up and leave. ‘The Lord knew what he was doing,’ she confessed, ‘when he sent me only boys to raise. Girls would have been too hard.’

Then she turned to me and said, ‘Where is the justice? How can God pretend to be just and send some little girls into homes where they are loved and petted and made to feel like somebody and others into homes where they are beat and molested and abused and neglected? What did I do in the pre-earth life to deserve such a family?’

I felt inspired at that time to tell her that she had volunteered in the preexistence to be a savior on Mount Zion, to come to a family drowning in sickness and sin and to be the means of purifying that lineage. Before her in that line were generations of ugly, destructive, family relationships. Downstream from her purifying influence every generation would be blessed with light and love. The role of a savior, I said, is to suffer innocently for the sins of others that still others may not suffer. There can be no higher calling.

She knew by the Spirit that what I suggested was true. That perspective gave her the strength to get on with her life. The last time I heard from her she had also exercised her prerogative to purify her line backward through temple work and was working hard on bringing her parents to see the light.

I suspect that many of us, more than most would ever guess, have made such premortal choices and accepted such divinely demanding missions. More than once I have felt impressed to tell a righteous, long-suffering person that although his or her mate had provided legitimate grounds for divorce and a later cancellation of sealing, that it would please the Lord if the person would refuse to abandon the assignment to help shepherd that straying soul back to the fold. Occasionally someone says to me, ‘But don’t I have any right to happiness?’ The answer, of course, is that for those of us in the service of the Lord, the happiness comes from the service and from the close relationship to our Master that goes with it. If one is looking for a happy, settled, unchallenging life, one probably ought to choose a different master.

I am not suggesting that there are never grounds for separation or divorce. I am suggesting that only the Lord can righteously release us from a responsibility we received from him.”

Carlfred Broderick, One Flesh, One Heart: Putting Celestial Love into Your Temple Marriage, 50-53.

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