Like many modern conveniences, the telephone can fall as accurately under the category of curse as it can under the category of blessing.
As part of an 1890 Christmas greeting Mark Twain declared, “It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.”
Mothers of missionaries everywhere would strongly disagree with Mr. Twain and would whole-heartedly welcome the inventor of the telephone to such a heavenly gathering.
On Mother’s Day this year the telephone played a vital role in bringing me a bit of heaven on earth when I got a call from our daughter Sister Hillary Bowler who is beginning her fourth month of her 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
LDS missionaries, as a general rule, are allowed to call home twice a year, on Mother’s Day and Christmas. They also are sometimes allowed to call home from the airport, while on stopovers en route to their mission.
More opportunities to call home would put young minds too much on home and what they are leaving behind. Fewer opportunities would likely cause a higher volume of calls to mission presidents from many a worried mother just needing to hear her son or daughter’s voice.
I cannot explain scientifically how a telephone works, but I use one all of the time and I do know the power of a phone call. That Mother’s Day phone call closed a distance of more than 2,000 miles and brought my daughter as close as my ear. I put her on speakerphone and she was in the room. Her younger sister joined in the conversation, and the three of us chatted and laughed just like we used to on Sundays before her mission.
My husband had to go out of town on business on Mother’s Day so he missed our small and intimate family reunion, but Hillary persistently kept trying to call him during his busy day of travel and finally caught up with him when he turned his phone back on at 10:28 p.m. The two of them had two minutes to talk before her bedtime curfew. She wrote, “I was just so incredibly grateful to hear his voice and verbally exchange 'I love you.'”
As I pondered the value of that much anticipated phone call, I thought of the often used analogy of comparing phone calls to prayer. That led me to the realization that my daughter, and more than 50,000 other Mormon missionaries, are teaching people who are children of a loving Father in Heaven, who knows each by name. They are teaching people about prayer. They are teaching people that they can call home to a home where they lived before this earthly existence and talk with a loving father who wants and waits to hear from them. They are teaching people that prayer is a two-way communication; prayer is speaking with God.
I try and imagine how amazing it would be to discover that knowledge for the first time.
Hillary called my attention to the following part of the definition of prayer found in the LDS Bible Dictionary, “As soon as we learn the true relationship with which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.”
President James E. Faust, who served as second counselor in the First Presidency, said, “No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place.”
This Mother’s Day, I truly felt the comfort implied in the phrase “only a phone call away.” Our family emails our daughter regularly and we exchange honest-to-goodness handwritten letters. We communicate. She knows we love her and we know she is a valiant missionary, but a phone call eased the heart-tugging of walking past her unoccupied bedroom or feeling her absence at family gatherings. A phone call made her feel closer.
“Some say that Heaven is far away, but I feel it close around me as I pray.” That line from the Primary song, "A Child’s Prayer," is true. Just as my daughter’s phone call home closed any distance, prayer takes us home to Heavenly Father. As we pray for our daughter and she prays for us, Heavenly Father closes the distance. He is the connector.
I don’t fully understand how prayer works, but I know it works and I have experienced the power of prayer. I have much to learn about prayer and I am learning a lot about prayer through my daughter’s teaching and learning experiences as a missionary.
Prayer is the reason missionaries serve where they do and reach who they reach. The gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today because a young boy named Joseph Smith called home to ask a question of great importance.
Penny Bowler has considered herself to be a writer almost ever since she discovered the power of words.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company