One of my husband’s former Young Men and a dear family friend, Elder Kenton Hartle, returns home in less than a week after serving for two years in the Alpine German speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reading his last email home and observing how much this amazing young man has grown reminded me of a special experience I had reading my husband’s mission journals almost 12 years ago, and the importance of preparing our four sons for serving missions of their own someday.

For our one-year anniversary, I decided I wanted to put together a picture album of my husband’s LDS mission to Puerto Rico. In order to get the dates right, and to get a feel for what he went through, I decided to read my husband’s missionary journals. Bless his committed heart, that boy wrote every single day. 730 journal entries. And yes, I read every single page. Little did I know, those neat piles of pictures with rubber bands around them that I quickly took off and scattered all over the floor, were actually pre-sorted. My husband still teases me about the time I could have saved if I had just asked him beforehand instead of trying to make the album a surprise, but then I would have missed out on the opportunity to observe the mighty change that occurred in my sweetheart as he gave his life fully over to the Lord.

I didn’t know my husband before his mission. But as I read, I watched through his thoughts and daily recaps, a somewhat na├»ve and often overwhelmed 19-year-old boy slowly and steadily turn into a strong, determined, spiritually mature 21-year-old man. I felt his growth through his written testimony. I observed his countenance change as I sorted through hundreds of pictures documenting his time in the Caribbean and the love that clearly and brightly shone forth from his face for the people he taught there. I felt like I was able to see him through my Savior’s eyes, and it was one of the most tender experiences for me as a new wife as I pondered over paper in his old childhood room where these precious memories were stored.

I have also observed from watching my little brother, cousins, niece and nephew prepare for and serve a mission, how life changing it can be when one is truly committed to the work, and how it can transform a wary and worried soul into a warrior for Christ. That is what I want for each of my boys.

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