Future Returns from a Good Deed


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W. Eugene Hansen

I'd like to share a missionary story that took place in the 1920s, while my father was serving his mission.

Two young missionaries traveling without purse or scrip walked down a dry and dusty country road in the back country of Ohio.

They were in their third day of a trek to an isolated branch some 80 miles east of Columbus, Ohio. The first night they had a bed in a farmhouse and a 4:00 a.m. breakfast the next morning. That next night they were not as fortunate. The best offer they were able to get was a farmer's haystack that came without breakfast. They were now into their third day, and it had been a long time since breakfast the day before.

It was August. The humidity was high. The weather was hot. As the sun bore down on these two young elders, they began to become weary. They had been sent out earlier that week to tract without funds, as was the custom in those times. It was now late afternoon, and they were feeling the pangs of hunger. Their efforts for breakfast or lunch had been unsuccessful.

As they rounded a bend in the road, they saw what they thought must be a mirage—a huge sign that read: The Biggest Little Country Store in the World. They thought they needed a store about that size to match their hunger. But they had no money. They talked briefly and decided it would be appropriate to step inside the store and ask if there was any stale bread or broken sacks of crackers or cookies or something they might get to ease their hunger pangs.

As they entered the store, they were immediately met by a clerk, who scrutinized them suspiciously. As they explained their plight and asked about stale food or damaged merchandise, they observed a man on a balcony at the rear of the store stand up and peer over the rail. He left his desk, came down a short flight of stairs, and walked toward the elders.

They were uneasy as he approached them. They explained that they were elders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, fulfilling missions and traveling without funds. The man listened intently. Then, to their surprise, he excused himself and picked up the telephone behind the counter. They thought he was going to call the sheriff. Instead, the call was to his wife. He indicated he was bringing two young men home. He asked her to put a roast of beef in the oven and prepare a nice meal for them and then see to it that they had hot baths and a place to stay for the night.

Well, after hearing that, you couldn't tell these young elders that prayers aren't answered. They had a prayer in their hearts all afternoon that the Lord might provide for them.

As the elders completed a wonderful meal that evening, they heard the story explaining why the store owner was almost expecting and waiting for them. A few years earlier he and his wife had traveled to Salt Lake City to attend a grocers convention. He told how he had made reservations at the Hotel Utah, but as they arrived at the hotel, they were surprised and disappointed when the desk clerk indicated they had no record of any reservation. Since the hotel was filled to capacity, there was simply nothing the clerk could do. He also advised them that with the national convention in town, all of the other hotels were also full.

The couple stepped away from the desk. As they stood in the lobby pondering their predicament, a tall, slender, stately man approached. He asked if he could be of assistance. They indicated they were in Salt Lake City from Ohio to attend a grocers convention, and they had been told their reservations were lost, and they were without a place to stay. The gentleman warmly indicated that they had no problem. He invited them to use his home as their headquarters and stay as long as they needed.

At the conclusion of the convention, they attempted to pay their gracious hosts, but, of course, their offers were refused. Instead, then Elder George Albert Smith, later to be President George Albert Smith, indicated to his guests that he certainly would not want to take any money, but he did say, "We have missionaries serving in many parts of the world. They are young people who serve at their own expense and who many times must rely on the goodness of the people they labor among to provide them with food and shelter." Elder Smith went on, "If you ever have an opportunity to assist any of our missionaries, that will be payment enough for what we have provided here."

The next morning the missionaries arose early to a wonderful country breakfast and then bade good-bye to their hosts. They were given a supply of roast beef sandwiches to take with them on their trek. They, of course, had an opportunity to bear their testimonies before moving down that country road.

I know that is a true story because my father was one of those young missionaries.

This true story was shared by W. Eugene Hansen at a BYU Devotional given June 30, 1998