Those They Left Behind: A Look at Missionary Wives and Children
Much research has been devoted to the Latter-day Saint missionary experience, particularly regarding early missionaries who as husbands and fathers were called to leave their families and labor in distant mission fields. Far less research has focused on the experiences of the wives and children who were left behind and the challenges they faced. Chad Orton has examined letters and journals of these individuals between 1839 and 1920 to reveal what their experience entailed. Often these wives and children were not provided for by either the departing missionary or the Church, so they had to fend for themselves. This article highlights their sacrifices and challenges, including expanded work responsibilities, poverty, and loneliness. The article also shows how the kindness of neighbors and friends as well as small miracles helped those left behind survive this difficult experience.