Our letter from President Hinckley in 2007 called Joyce and me to serve in the Romania București mission. A very unusual coincidence, I thought at the time. My uncle, Garth Hanson, more a brother to me than an uncle, served as the mission president of that mission with his wife Sheila just two years before. President Hinckley’s letter called us to work directly with the young single adults in the mission which meant we would reside in București where the largest contingent of YSA’s lived. That’s what President Ashby our mission president assumed—until the Spirit told him different. He didn’t know why, but he sent us to live in Ploiești, a city some forty miles north and an hour train ride from București.
We weren’t gradually acclimatized to mission life in a not-too-many-years-ago iron curtain country, we were dropped smack-dab in the middle of it; the wonderful young missionary elders and sisters living in Ploiești serving as our translators and tutors. Because of the newness of the Church here, it was perhaps like something we’d find in the 19th century mission field. The small branch of 30 or so members, most of whom could not speak English, were all relatively recent converts just learning about the gospel. Their leaders only had a few years’ Church experience, and the Church they were shepherding was in its infant stage.
This branch had something quite unusual for the mission: A husband and wife with two young children who were all active members. The Muşat family’s two-year-old daughter, Andreea, and fourteen-year-old Aaronic priesthood son, Andrei, were the only young children who attended the branch regularly. Brother Muşat was currently in the district presidency, and Sister Muşat, among other assignments, taught an institute class of several young single adults. Everyone adored and looked up to this almost idyllic family.
But within a few months after we arrived, there was trouble brewing.
Sister Muşat sought me out. She couldn’t speak English very well, and my Romanian was pretty much limited to da (yes) and mulțumesc (thank you). A young sister missionary was our translator. It was a tearful meeting. Brother and Sister Muşat had filed for a divorce, and she was begging me to help save their marriage.
Well, a few years back, Garth visited the branch when Brother Muşat was its president. Sister Muşat wasn’t a member then. Garth felt impressed to speak boldly to her about being baptized. His love and the Spirit quickly worked on her, and she soon joined the Church. To say that Garth had a special place in the hearts of the Muşats, is an understatement. And because I was his nephew, even though she had only known me a short time, Sister Muşat was desirous of confiding in me.
Another coincidence? Hardly!
The president of the branch and the other local leaders were good men but had never been confronted with this kind of problem. On the other hand, serving as a stake president prior to coming to Romania gave me just about every kind of counseling experience imaginable. With the consent of the branch president, the district president, and the mission president, I proceeded to work closely with Brother and Sister Muşat. Because of their desires to live the gospel, the Spirit worked with them and reconciliation took place.
Over the course of a few months, Joyce and I met with them every week in their apartment to help prepare them for the temple. But there was another whoops! One evening as we sat with them, they smiled sheepishly. Unbeknown to them, their divorce had, in fact, legally taken place. They were no longer married! “Would you come with us to the county office tomorrow and witness our marriage?” they asked.
So that’s what we did. My signature is on the county records of Ploiești as a witness to the marriage of Ion and Aura Muşat. The county clerk put a broad Romanian red, yellow and blue striped ribbon diagonally across her front, pressed a button for several measures of the wedding march to play, then pronounced the less than a minute marriage ceremony. The Muşats were officially married . . . again.
In several weeks they flew to the Freiberg, Germany temple. Only their daughter, Andreea, could be sealed with them at that time because their son was Sister Muşat’s from a previous marriage, and the father would not give permission. But last November (2014), the Muşats, with yet another beautiful daughter born to them (in the covenant), flew to England where their son, Andrei, was serving as a full time missionary. He was sealed to the family in the London temple.
In September of this year, Joyce and I joined the Muşats in the Salt Lake temple where Andrei was sealed to his bride, Khemia, whom he had met while serving in England. As Ion and I sat on a small wall gazing at that iconic temple, he turned to me and with great emotion said, “All of these years I have looked at pictures of this temple. Never did I think I would be able to actually see it.”
I looked at this beautiful family standing by the temple and thought about the extraordinary sequence of events that made this possible. Joyce and I end up in Romania where my uncle had been mission president and instrumental in Aura Muşat joining the Church. Our mission president, President Ashby, makes an I-don’t-know-why-I’m-doing-this-but-the-Spirit-says-to-do-it change in where we are to be assigned. We find ourselves in Ploiești just as this wonderful family are on the verge of splitting. My previous experience and close connection to the man who brought Aura into the Church, leads them to confide in me, and I am able to aid in the healing of their marriage. Coincidence? Hmmm.
Now the Muşats are in Salt Lake City nearly eight years later, all of their family sealed for eternity. Their son, having served a faithful mission, is sealed to his own bride and headed back to Romania to help build the Church there.
Was it coincidence that these series of events occurred to make all this possible? Ask the Muşats. The Lord wanted their family, including their progenitors and posterity, to be together forever.
And planned accordingly.