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Wren opened her hand, and Ian could see a long, simple silver chain with a key on it. She lifted the chain into both hands and put it over Ian’s head, then she held the key up in front of his face. “This already belongs t’ ye. It’s yer key t’ the front door of our home. Its literal purpose is to open that door when ye come back, but I want ye t’ wear it and not take it off until ye’re able to use it again. When ye see it, when ye feel it next t’ yer heart, I want ye t’ think of home, but I also want ye t’ remember that this is also the key t’ my heart. Ye’ve had my heart for many years, Ian Brierley, and ye’ ll have it forever.”
The year is 1842, and it is late spring in Nauvoo. Ian and Wren Brierley have settled into their new home and are enjoying the blessings of the gospel and the companionship of the Saints. Their joy seems full to overflowing as they eagerly anticipate the birth of a new baby. The future couldn’t look brighter, until Joseph Smith pays a visit to their home with a message destined to change their lives and challenge their faith.
Bestselling LDS author Anita Stansfield is at the top of her form in this honest, forceful, and moving story about love, family, faith, and sacrifice. It is an unforgettable journey of change and personal revelation that spans thousands of miles, touches countless hearts, and probes the intimate depths of the human spirit. A Distant Shore is a tender and compelling look at a time when Saints must put to the test their belief that sacrifice will bring forth the blessings of heaven.
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Pages: 240
- Published: August 2011
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of Discs: 8
- Run Time: Approx. 10 hrs.
About the Author
Anita Stansfield began writing at the age of sixteen, and her first novel was published sixteen years later. Her novels range from historical to contemporary and cover a wide gamut of social and emotional issues that explore the human experience through memorable characters and unpredictable plots. She has received many awards, including a special award for pioneering new ground in LDS fiction, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Whitney Academy for LDS Literature. Anita is the mother of five, and has two adorable grandsons. Her husband, Vince, is her greatest hero.
Nauvoo, Illinois – 1842
Ian walked briskly up the street, his thoughts distracted by the
happenings at home and his desire to return there quickly and see that
all was well, especially with his sweet wife. Wren was ready to have a baby
any day now, or as the doctor had said just yesterday, “Any minute.” In
time with Ian’s steps he repeated a familiar inner dialogue, where a part
of himself worked very hard to convince another part of himself that he
needed to trust in God and believe that everything would be fine.
He knew well enough that childbirth in and of itself was a distinct
medical risk. Women came through it just fine all the time. But some
women died; women who were otherwise strong and healthy could be
snatched away in a heartbeat. Ian had experienced many losses in his life,
but the very idea of losing his precious Wren was too unbearable for him
to even consider. And yet he found himself considering it all the time,
then scolding himself for even allowing such a thought to enter his head.
Close on the heels of his fear of losing Wren was his fear that the
child might not be healthy, that it might not live longer than a handful
of heartbeats. It had been just a few years since he and Wren had lost
their first baby, their dear little Joy, who had lived only minutes after
her birth. He’d had mixed feelings ever since about Wren’s desire to
have many children. She’d given birth to a healthy boy since they’d lost
their little girl. Everything had gone well, and it had all turned out just
the way it should. They’d named the boy Donnan, after Ian’s brother
who lived in Scotland, and little Donnan had brought a great deal of
happiness into their home—as had Gillian, the daughter of Wren’s deceased sister, who they were raising as their own. Ian couldn’t disagree
with Wren’s desire to have many children. They both loved being
parents, and he’d been blessed with an abundant inheritance that made
it possible for him to provide amply for his family. His only issue with
this plan was the very fact that Wren had to descend into the valley of
the shadow of death in order to bring each child into the world, and
this deep concern was accompanied by his fear that the life of the child
was equally as vulnerable as the life of the mother. For all that he’d
prayed very hard to come to terms with the death of little Joy, having
to once again face the reality of bringing a child into the world brought
back painful recollections of losing her.
As lost as Ian was in his thoughts, he still remained mindful of
the faces of the passersby he encountered as he walked past the lovely,
thriving businesses of Nauvoo. He recognized some faces, and even
knew some by name. Others he didn’t recognize at all, but he greeted
each person with a smile and a warm “hello” or a kind “good day.” He
nodded and smiled at a man he didn’t recognize until after the man had
passed by, and then a more distant memory stopped Ian abruptly. He
turned back before the memory had fully taken hold. He didn’t know
where he had seen that man, but he knew it hadn’t been here in Nauvoo.
“Excuse me,” Ian said and ran back a few steps to put his hand on
the man’s arm to stop him. “Forgive me.” He chuckled tensely. “You
just . . . seem so familiar, and . . . I wonder where . . .”
“Willis Tyler,” the man said, smiling and holding out his hand
with the offer of a friendly handshake. But then, most people in this
town greeted others that way. Friends and strangers alike lived in this
place for a common reason, and most people were eager to share in
“Ian Brierley,” he said in response, and they exchanged a firm
handshake. Holding the man’s hand in his seemed to strengthen the
memory, but he still couldn’t place it. Reluctant to let go, he said, “I
could swear I’ve met you before, but . . .”
“You look familiar to me too,” Brother Tyler said, “but I can’t put
a finger on it.”
Still holding to Willis Tyler’s hand, the memory rushed into Ian’s
mind and took his breath away. “Good heavens!” Ian said. “Did you serve
a mission . . . in England . . . some years ago?”
“I did!” Brother Tyler said with enthusiasm, and the sting of tears
briefly blurred Ian’s vision.
“London!” Ian said. “I met you in London! Only briefly.” He
was so breathless he could hardly spit his words out. That moment
had changed his life. He couldn’t believe this moment was happening
now. “I heard you preaching. What you said had . . . such an impact
on me. I bought a Book of Mormon from you, and . . .” Ian laughed,
still holding Brother Tyler’s hand, shaking it again. “That book
changed my life; it brought me here. And now . . .” He laughed again.
“Here you are!”
“And here you are!” Brother Tyler said, laughing as well. “I
remember you, Brother Brierley. I do. I remember wishing we could
have talked. I remember thinking you looked . . . so . . . lost.”
“Indeed I was!” Ian said, finally letting go of Willis’s hand.
“You look much better now,” Brother Tyler said.
“I’m sure I do.” Ian chuckled, self-consciously putting a hand
through his dark, curly hair, recalling how unruly it had been while
in London; how he’d been unshaven and dirty. At least now he didn’t
feel like a heathen. Realizing that Brother Tyler’s implication was
likely more in reference to his spiritual or emotional state, Ian added
quickly, “Oh, I am much better!”
He wanted to stand there on the street and talk indefinitely, then
he remembered Wren at home with the children and said, “Could I
tell you where I live so that we can meet again? I must get home to
my wife, but . . . we must talk!”
“We certainly must!” Brother Tyler was equally eager to do so. He
fortunately had a little notepad and pencil in the pocket of his jacket,
and the two wrote down their names and the locations of their homes.
“Is your wife not well?” Brother Tyler asked while he was writing.
Ian felt momentarily disoriented while he too was writing. “Oh,
my wife. She’s ready to have a baby any time now, and I don’t want to
leave her alone.”
“Congratulations are in order, then,” Brother Tyler said.
“Indeed,” Ian said, refraining from saying that congratulations
should wait until the birth was over and all was well.
The two men parted ways with another firm handshake and a
brotherly embrace, then Ian hurried on toward home, smiling to think of encountering the man who had changed his life. After all these years!
It was a miracle! He hoped that he would see Brother Tyler again soon,
then his thoughts returned to Wren, and he quickened his pace.
Upon arriving at home, Ian entered through the back door of
the lovely two-story, red brick home and found his very pregnant
wife sitting at the large table in the kitchen, shelling peas that he’d
picked from the garden earlier that morning. Her rich, dark hair was
gathered, as usual, in a bun at the back of her head. The size of the
bun indicated the thickness and length of her hair that always looked
so beautiful at night when she brushed it out. She looked up at him
with her green eyes that were so dark they were almost black. Her
eyes still had the ability to take him aback at certain moments. She
smiled at him, and he couldn’t deny this was one of those moments.
She was alone, which happened rarely in such a busy household, and
he took advantage of the opportunity to bend over and give her an
especially warm and lengthy kiss in greeting.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Brierley,” she said with a smile of pleasant
surprise and a sparkle in her eyes.
“Hello, Mrs. Brierley,” he said and kissed her again. The delightful
sounds of children playing in the next room reminded him that they
were not alone, and he had to settle for just one more kiss before he
asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Beyond the usual aches and pains of being great with child,
I’m as fine as I was before ye left. Ye mustn’t worry so much, dear
“Perhaps not,” he said, “but it’s difficult not to when . . .” He let
the sentence fade and was glad she ignored it when he was regretting
that he’d even started such a sentiment.
“Ward and Patricia are doing well at keeping the little ones
occupied,” she said to divert attention from the topic. “What we
would ever do without them, I can’t imagine!”
“Nor can I!” Ian said. “Perhaps I should see if they need rescuing.”
“Perhaps ye should,” she said and laughed softly. He kissed her once
more quickly and went up the hall to the main parlor of the house. It
was spacious and more than adequate for a variety of gatherings, the
greatest being the way his own family gathered here with that of their
dear friends, Ward and Patricia, who actually lived under the same roof in their own private portion of the house; they all spent a great deal
of time interacting despite separate living areas. Ian and Wren had met
Ward Mickel in Liverpool just before embarking on their journey to
America. He had been traveling with his mother, Millie, who was now
deceased, and he had been very taken with Wren’s sister, Bethia, who was
also now deceased. Ian and Ward had very quickly become close friends,
and they had all just as quickly become as good as family. Ward made up
for the brother that Ian had left behind in Scotland, and Ian made up
for the brother that Ward had never had. After enduring many hardships
together, they had finally arrived in Nauvoo a couple of years ago, and
they had quickly made plans to build a home. The decision to build a
dwelling where they could all live together had mostly been based on
the fact that Ward was blind and could not live without some kind of
assistance. Following Millie’s death in a carriage accident, Ian had quickly
taken over her role of doing many little things for Ward that he could not
do for himself. Both men had ample financial resources, and so together
they had planned a home that would suit their unique needs, and they
had hired the proper builders to accomplish the task. When Ward had
met Patricia and quickly fallen in love with her, they had all unanimously
decided to proceed with the house plans. While Patricia had taken over
the majority of duties in caring for Ward, they all felt better about having
others nearby in the same house so that someone would always be around
to help watch out for him.
It wasn’t that Ward was, by any means, completely debilitated by
his limitations. Quite the opposite, in fact. As long as the furnishings
and contents of the house were mostly kept in order and where they
belonged, Ward could move around on his own and find much of
what he needed. He did well at caring for himself as much as it was
possible. He could also be very helpful in the kitchen and even in
caring for the children, as long as certain things were put within his
reach and someone was nearby in case any difficulties arose. Ward
was a positive and cheerful man, with hair as dark as Ian’s, but it was
as straight as Ian’s was curly. He was not as tall as Ian, but he was still
taller than average. He was nice looking, and his eyes didn’t appear at
Patricia was a lovely woman who had endured many hardships. She
had lost every member of her family in one way or another as a result of the persecution the Saints had endured in the years prior to their
coming to live in Nauvoo. She was slight of build with brown hair,
and the majority of one side of her face bore a dark red splotch—a
birthmark. Between her wounded spirit and her self-consciousness over
the mark on her face, she had been a timid and troubled young woman
when she had first met Ward. But his ability to see her in ways others
did not had a swift and sure healing effect. They had soon married, and
now they were the parents of a beautiful daughter, Millicent June—
Millicent after Ward’s mother, who had shortened it to Millie for her
own use, and June for the month in which she was born. Little June
had just barely passed her first birthday. She was a cheerful baby who
brought a great deal of happiness to their home. Ward and Patricia
were very good parents, and between the two of them they were also
very adept at helping with Ian and Wren’s two children, especially since
Wren had reached the stage in her pregnancy when it was difficult for
her to move around or lift the children.
Gillian would be three before the end of the summer, and
Little Donnan was barely eighteen months. The two of them were
continually finding ways to make a mess or destroy something if they
weren’t watched constantly. Parts of the house had been secured with
nothing breakable or valuable within their reach, but neither of them
could be left alone for more than a minute unless they were asleep. For
this and many other reasons, Ian was grateful to have Patricia and Ward
living under the same roof. Patricia loved the children and was gifted at
helping care for them. And Ward, despite his limitations, was very good
at entertaining children with a variety of silly antics. While Ward and
Patricia had their own little parlor and a small cooking area, along with
a few bedrooms at the other end of the house, they were most often
here in the living areas of the main part of the house during waking
hours, and they all agreed that they preferred it that way.
“Papa!” Gillian squealed with exuberance and jumped up from her
scattered toys to run and leap into Ian’s arms when he entered the room.
“How’s my little angel?” he asked and twirled her around, making
She embarked on a lengthy oratory telling him what she’d been
doing, with words that were surprisingly clear for a child her age. Ian
engaged in a fairly mature conversation with Gillian before she finally got down and returned to her playing. Ward then asked Ian, “Did you
accomplish your errands, then?”
“I did,” Ian said, sitting across the room from Ward. “And I had
a surprise encounter in town as well that . . .” He was interrupted by
Gillian and little Donnan fighting over a toy, both their voices rising
in volume by the second as the battle heightened. Ian got up to settle
the dispute and said loudly enough to be heard over the din, “I think
I’ll save that story for supper when we can all sit down together.”
“Very wise,” Patricia said, jumping to her feet from where she’d
been sitting on the carpet with little June on her lap. June loved to
watch the other children play, and she was best entertained when they
were nearby. “And now that you’re back, Ward and I will go and see
to our own errands. We should be back before lunch.”
“And hopefully before it gets too hot out there,” Ward said,
standing up. Patricia immediately took his outstretched hand and put
it on her shoulder so she could hold the baby and at the same time
guide him while he walked.
“You’d better hurry,” Ian said facetiously. “It’s already warming up
After Ward and Patricia left the house, taking June with them,
Ian checked on Wren and found her lying down in their upstairs
bedroom with all the windows open to let in the summer breezes.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a breeze, and the white curtains
barely showed any sign of a flutter. Fortunately, the house had been
built conveniently close to an already existing cluster of large trees,
and this part of the house was nicely shaded most of the day. Once
he was sure that Wren was fine, Ian took Gillian and little Donnan
outside to play in the shade of those trees, amazed at what a few
simple toys, a pleasant stretch of grass, and a lot of silliness could
do to entertain children. Little Donnan was an adorable boy with a
chubby face and dark, curly hair—much like his father’s. Gillian was
blonde, which made her stand out differently in her coloring, but her
mother had been as blonde as Wren was dark—in spite of their being
full-blooded sisters. Gillian bore a strong resemblance to both of her
blood parents. It was impossible to look at her and not recall Greer,
her father, who had also been Ian’s closest friend through most of his
life—except that little Gillian’s eyes were very much like her mother’s. Bethia’s eyes had been beautiful, but in an unusual kind of way, and
Gillian definitely had that look. Occasionally Ian would look at
Gillian and be reminded of her parents and the tragedy and drama
that had surrounded each of their deaths, but more and more he
could look at her and be reminded only of the pleasant memories and
the good times. Or perhaps he was finally coming to see her as her
individual self without thinking of her blood parents at all. Gillian
was their daughter to raise and care for in this world, and she was
every bit as loved and adored as the other children in the house.
That evening at supper, Ian told the others about his encounter in
town with Willis Tyler. They all knew very well the story of how Ian
had encountered Mormon missionaries in London at a time in his
life when he’d been as low as a man could get. Ian knew beyond any
doubt that God had led his feet to cross paths with these men who
had been preaching in the streets. He knew it as surely as he knew the
Book of Mormon had been guided into his hands, and that the book
was absolutely true. And his sharing that knowledge with Wren, and
later with Ward, had led them to each discover their own personal
witness to these truths. This knowledge had brought them to the city
of Nauvoo. Here in Nauvoo, Ward had found Patricia, who had long
before come to know of such truths for herself. They were all here
now because they shared a common bond in the power and glory
of gospel truths. The others were thrilled to hear of Ian’s encounter
earlier in the day, and given the growing population of Nauvoo, they
all felt certain that it hadn’t been a coincidence.
“Ye must go and see him,” Wren said to her husband. “Ye must
learn more about him, especially when he’s the man who took such a
long journey to find ye there in England when ye needed him.”
“I’m not leaving you alone long enough to go visiting anyone,” Ian
said, “until after this baby is born, and that’s that.”
“I’m fine,” Wren insisted. “I’ve got Patricia and Ward here t’ help
“I’m not!” Ian declared, and Wren acquiesced with a quiet smile.
“Then why not have Brother Tyler and his family over here for
dinner?” Patricia said with enthusiasm. “I’d be happy to do the cooking
if you men will watch out for the children. Then we can all have a
chance to visit with them. Oh, it would be delightful!”
“And what if Wren goes into labor just before they’re meant to
arrive?” Ian asked. “Or what if—”
“We can certainly send word to them if there’s a change,” Ward
said, “and I’m certain they would understand. But it could still be
many days before the baby comes. I’m afraid I must cast my vote with
my lovely wife.”
“It’s a grand idea!” Wren said. “I’m not completely disabled. I can
certainly help with the meal.” She turned directly to Ian who knew
that he’d been undone and outvoted. “So, why don’t ye pay a quick
visit in the morning t’ the Tyler home and invite them t’ dinner. It
will be lovely! Ye’ll see.”
“Provided you don’t go into labor in the middle of dessert,” Ian
The next morning Wren still had no signs of labor beginning, so
Ian rode his horse to the location that Willis Tyler had written down
for him. Brother Tyler wasn’t at home, but Ian met his wife, Arla,
and offered the invitation to dinner the following evening. She was
thrilled and felt confident her husband would be too, and she also
made it clear that they would entirely understand if Sister Brierley
went into labor in the meantime, making it necessary to postpone the
dinner. When Ian asked how many they could expect for dinner, she
told him that their children were all grown and it would just be the
two of them.
Ian almost hoped through the remainder of the day that Wren
would go into labor and prevent the dinner party from happening.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to visit with Brother Tyler and his wife;
in fact, he wanted very much to do that. It was more a desire to get
this baby here and have it over with. When Wren was still going along
normally the following morning, Ian shifted his thoughts—and even
his prayers—toward having a pleasant evening with their intended
company, including his hope that the baby’s coming would be
delayed. And of course, as always, he prayed fervently that all would
be well with Wren and the baby that was about to join their family.
Early in the afternoon, Ian went to answer a knock at the door,
since the women were busy in the kitchen.
“Brother Joseph!” Ian said, wishing he’d managed to suppress his
surprise and enthusiasm just a little. It wasn’t the first time he’d opened the door to see the Prophet standing there, but it had been a very long
time since he’d encountered him personally. Joseph Smith was likely
the busiest man on the planet; therefore, Ian knew this was not likely a
“Brother Ian!” Joseph said with equal enthusiasm, and as always he
was genuinely sincere. “I wonder if we might sit down and have a word.”
“Of course,” Ian said, wondering what the Prophet might ask
him to do, what project he might be called on to participate in. The
last time Joseph had personally asked for assistance, it had involved
a clever matchmaking scheme that had brought Ward and Patricia
together. Ian knew this man was a prophet, and he knew from
witnessing and hearing of many miracles that he was truly inspired
in the work he did. He felt a thrill of anticipation in wondering what
this visit could be about.
“Come in,” Ian said, motioning with his arm. “Did you wish to
speak alone, or—”
“I was actually hoping that we might speak with Brother Ward
as well, and your lovely wives if they are available.” He put a hand on
Ian’s shoulder as Ian closed the door. “Last I heard the baby hadn’t
come yet. Is that still—”
“Not yet,” Ian said, “but it will likely be soon.”
“I’m certain everything will go well,” Joseph said, and Ian
wondered if that was simply a kind wish, or if it held some tiny
degree of prophecy in it. He hoped it was the latter.
“Thank you,” Ian said. Then, trying to add some of his own faith
to the matter, he added, “I’m certain it will too.”
Ian invited Joseph into the parlor where Ward was sitting with
little June in his arms. She was relaxed and appearing tempted toward
sleep. Gillian and Little Donnan were both napping, which made the
house unusually quiet. Joseph greeted Ward warmly, in a quiet voice
that didn’t distract June away from her calm state. Ian went to get Wren
and Patricia, who quickly rinsed their hands and removed their aprons.
Patricia went ahead, and Ian helped Wren move more slowly up the hall.
After kind greetings were exchanged and they were all seated, Ian
said, “What is it we can do for you, Brother Joseph?”
“First of all,” Joseph said, “I want to express my appreciation to your
household for the support you give in the building of the Lord’s house.”
Ian’s heart was warmed by Joseph’s reference to the temple
presently being erected in Nauvoo. Ian personally was blessed with
the privilege of not having to work for a living; therefore, he’d been
able to put in many hours at the temple site. Sometimes Ward went
with him and was given odd jobs that he was capable of doing with
minimal guidance, jobs that offered support to the many workers
who were putting in long hours of manual labor. The women too
had made generous contributions. They had helped prepare meals for
the workers and had also sewn clothes for them. Wren was especially
good at the latter with her expertise in being raised as a tailor’s
daughter. They had all agreed many times that they were glad for the
opportunity to be a part of such a great endeavor, but Ian was glad to
be able to officially assure the Prophet, “We consider it a privilege to
contribute to the building of the temple in any way.”
“And you will surely be blessed for your efforts,” Joseph said.
Then his expression changed abruptly. Something subtle in the
Prophet’s expression warned that what he was about to say might
not be easy to hear, but Ian didn’t have time to think about the
possibilities before Joseph said straightly and without apology, “The
Lord has made known to me that he has a special call for you,
Brother Ian—and you, Brother Ward—for the two of you to go
together and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of your
The silence became so thick that no one even seemed to be
breathing—except for little June, whose eyes were getting heavy
with sleep. Ian wanted to ask if he’d heard correctly. But Joseph had
no trouble articulating his words, and Ian did not have a hearing
problem. He knew well enough how this worked. He’d witnessed
other men being called away from their families and asked to serve
in faraway places. He’d simply hoped and prayed it wouldn’t happen
to him, and he’d pushed it thoroughly away from his thoughts, not
wanting to acknowledge that it could even be a possibility. Putting in
many hours of his best work on the temple had strengthened his hope
that he could remain here at home and still serve the Lord.
Ian wanted to yell at this man and tell him that Wren needed
him; she needed his help with the children—especially the new baby.
He wanted to tell him that he didn’t want to miss a day seeing his children grow and change. But how could he even consider putting
a voice to those kinds of thoughts? Not to such a man as this! He
couldn’t even imagine the sacrifices this man had made on behalf of
the gospel cause. He had likely been separated from his sweet Emma
and their children more than they had been together, sometimes for
reasons that were horribly unspeakable. How could Ian express the
utter faithlessness of his thoughts?
Ian saw movement and turned slightly to see Patricia reach for
Ward’s hand; her own was trembling. At the very same moment, he
felt Wren’s trembling hand slip into his own. Ward broke the silence
with a courage and conviction that was not surprising. “Of course I
will do whatever you ask of me, Brother Joseph.”
“Your willingness is appreciated, Brother Ward, but it is not me
asking this of you. The call comes from the Lord. But you all know
well enough that you do not need to rely on my word alone. You are
each entitled to your own witness that this is right. By the power of
the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things.” Joseph turned
to look directly at Ian with eyes that bore the power of a prophet and
the empathy of a man who knew exactly how Ian was feeling, without
a word being said. “Of course you should be here to make certain
the baby comes safely and that your household is in order. But you
should leave as soon as possible after that.”
Again Ian wanted to scream. Images of his journey to America
rushed through his mind like a stormy sea threatening to capsize his
reason and sanity. How could he do it all in reverse? Memories of the
traumas that had occurred during the journey didn’t help him at all in
trying to find any sensibility to the situation.
Ward spoke again, and Ian was grateful, given his own inability to
find his voice. “How long should we anticipate being gone, Brother
“You will both know when your mission is complete and it’s time
to return to your families,” Joseph said.
He then looked at Patricia as if to ask a question, but before
he could do so she said, “I will support my husband in whatever is
“Thank you, Sister,” Joseph said. “Your faith has always been inspiring
Patricia forced a smile, but tears overtook it and she looked down.
“And the same for me,” Wren said. “I will do whatever is necessary.”
Ian looked at his wife, admiring her faith and courage as much
as he wanted to scream at her, as well. This was madness! How could
he leave her? How could he do it? Especially when there was so much
uncertainty in such a journey—both here and abroad!
“Brother Ian?” Joseph asked in a gentle voice, and Ian snapped
his gaze toward the Prophet. He was the only one who hadn’t spoken.
He knew that in comparison to the others in the room, his faith
was lacking, but he still regretted how his silence had seemed to
accentuate that fact.
Ian cleared his throat and fought for a steady voice without
succeeding. “I will do whatever the Lord asks of me.” He thought
he might feel better having said it, but he didn’t. He felt like he was
lying, promising something he couldn’t give. But what could he say?
How could he dispute it? And yet, how could he possibly do it? How?
Why? He didn’t understand!
“You have great faith, Brother Ian,” Joseph said, and Ian wanted
to accuse him of lying. He reminded himself that this man was a
prophet, and he just listened. “You all have great faith.” He talked for
several minutes about the glory of taking the gospel to the world, the
blessings that had come to many for the sacrifices they had made, and
he told them more specifically what would be expected of them. He
welcomed any questions, but no one had anything to say. For minutes
after Joseph left, they all sat together in the parlor, not one of them
uttering a single syllable.
Ian finally rose to leave, fearing the silence would suffocate him
to the point that he truly would scream. He’d wake the baby. He’d
cause a scene. And he would convince his loved ones all the more that
he simply didn’t have nearly as much faith as they did. He hurried
upstairs to the bedroom, closed the door—quietly so as not to wake
his own children—and dropped to his knees beside the bed. He
clasped his hands and started to shake. The only words he could get
out of his mouth were, “I can’t do it, Father. I just can’t do it!” In
his mind he imagined the journey that he and Ward would have to
take, without the comfort and company of their sweet wives, and
the delight and laughter of their children. He imagined their wives and children here on their own, with no man in the house to do the
things that men do. Who would chop the wood and build the fires
and clean out the ashes? Who would care for the horses and keep the
yard in order? The list of his usual chores and duties filed through
his mind. And then, for no apparent rhyme or reason, Ian’s thoughts
drifted to a cold alley in London, and a version of himself wandering
and alone, lost and confused, rescued and saved by men who had left
their families and traveled thousands of miles to give him the Book of
Mormon. How could he not do it? But how could he?
Ian didn’t hear Wren come into the room, and he had no
awareness of her kneeling beside him. Only when she pressed her
hand over his face to push his hair back from his eyes did he become
aware of her presence. He urged her into his arms, then held to her
desperately, already anticipating an inevitable separation that tore his
heart to pieces.
“How can we do this, Wren?” he whispered.
“God has blessed us so very much, Ian.”
Ian couldn’t dispute that, but he didn’t particularly like the
answer, because it only enhanced his guilt in not wanting to do this.
At Wren’s suggestion they prayed together, but Ian still didn’t feel
any better. They sat together for a long while, but neither of them had
much to say. The children woke up and demanded that their parents
proceed with the normalcy of life, while Ian watched them as if he
might never see them again. He kept glancing at the clock, wondering
how many hours until he would have to leave them for some hideously
long, indeterminate length of time. Then it dawned on both Ian
and Wren at almost exactly the same moment that they had invited
company over for dinner. They found Patricia already busy in the
kitchen, looking somber and saying little. Ward was sitting at the table,
carefully cutting some potatoes that had been put within his reach. His
expression was similar to Patricia’s and perfectly mirrored what Ian was
feeling, but no one had anything to say. June was awake and sitting on
the floor, playing with some toys. Gillian and little Donnan quickly
joined her, and the typical noises of the children helped buffer the
strained silence as the Prophet’s words kept echoing around the room
in a soundless tornado of sacrifice and potential blessings all whirling
painfully around each other in a tormented dance.
Patricia finally rallied the troops by declaring, “We all have a great
deal to think about, but I think it’s best we put all of that away for now.
We have company coming and would do well to receive them properly.”
“Ye’re right, of course,” Wren said.
“Of course,” Ward said. Ian didn’t comment.
Patricia enthusiastically kept her promise and put on a lovely
meal with a little help from Wren, while Ian and Ward took care of
the children. Brother and Sister Tyler arrived at five minutes past the
appointed time. Introductions were quickly made, and they were all
comfortably on a first-name basis within minutes. As they chatted in
the parlor and then moved to the dining room for their meal, Ian was
amazed at what great actors they could all be when necessary. There
was no hint of the dark cloud hovering in the house or with any of
its occupants. It was about halfway through dinner when Ian looked
across the table at Willis Tyler and fully began to accept what this
man had done for him. Surely this gathering was not coincidental in
its timing or its main topic of conversation in light of the Prophet’s
visit earlier today. Ian listened, as the others did, as Willis told them
how he had been called to share the gospel in England and of his
personal sacrifices, as well as those of his wife and his children at the
A question occurred to Ian that he felt compelled to ask, but
it mulled around in his head for many minutes before it found the
courage to come to his lips, as if he already knew he didn’t want to
know the answer. But apparently he needed to know.
“What of the other man who was in England with you?” Ian
asked Willis. “I didn’t speak to him, but I heard him preaching. The
two of you traveled far together; you must have become very good
“We did indeed become very good friends,” Willis said, but a
shadow passed through his eyes when he said it. Ian didn’t have
to wonder over the reason very long when Willis quickly added,
“Brother Givan passed away not long after our return.” Willis looked
down and fidgeted with his napkin. “He became ill on the passage
back, you see, and . . . he never recovered. He did make it back to
his dear wife and son before he passed, and she’s married again and
doing well last I heard, but . . .” His words faded into the difficulty of his memories while Ian felt sobered and perhaps mildly nauseous at
the thought of what this man had sacrificed to share the gospel with
others. He wanted to know more about the widow and child, but
didn’t know how to ask. Given his own experience in encountering
Brothers Tyler and Givan in England, he almost felt personally
responsible, as if Brother Givan’s life had been given in a literal
sacrifice so that Ian could have the gospel in his life.
“Would ye excuse me a moment,” Wren said as if she’d just
remembered that she had left a kettle boiling on the stove. She
gracefully stood from the table and left the room, but Ian heard her
going upstairs and wondered if she was all right.
“Forgive me,” he said, rising himself. “With the baby and all, I
should . . . make certain she’s—”
“Oh, of course,” Willis said and graciously motioned Ian out of
the room, apparently oblivious to any underlying tension.
Ian hurried up the stairs and approached the bedroom quietly. He
found Wren sitting on the edge of the bed, crying so hard he feared
that her emotion would trigger her labor.
“Oh, my darling,” he said, sitting beside her and wrapping her in his
“I couldn’t bear t’ lose ye, Ian,” she muttered. “I couldn’t. I’ll live
without ye for a time if that’s how it needs t’ be. I will! But I pray t’
God that He will bring ye home safely t’ me and our babies. I cannot
bear t’ lose ye.”
“Everything will be all right, my love,” he whispered and attempted
to dry her tears, but in his deepest self, he felt once again as if he were