Of all the women whose stories have been told in these pages, Ora Johnson Dalton would probably be the most astonished to learn that her life could be honored as a model of faith. Her children would not be surprised, though â€“ they had always been able to count on her.
Ora was born in Payson, Utah, in 1894, and married Patrick Dalton in 1917, in the Salt Lake Temple. The couple moved to Tucson, Arizona, where their first child was born, then moved to Salt Lake City where Ora would live the rest of her life. She became the mother of seven in rapid succession, although the last two, twins, died at birth in 1928.
Ora was widowed in 1939, her five living children still teenagers, and for the first time in her life Ora was forced to find paying employment to support her family. World War II came and went, and in 1946 her son Grant asked to serve a mission, among the first of his generation allowed to serve a full time mission rather than make himself available for military service. By then Grant was 21 and working to support his mother and younger brother. Ora agreed that he should serve as a missionary, and she returned to work in order to support him in the field.
Grant went to England and worked hard. In 1948, he and his companion contacted a gentleman who was willing to talk with them. One of the manâ€™s first questions was â€œHow much does your organization pay you for doing this work?â€ He could hardly believe that the missionaries received no pay, and that in Grantâ€™s case his mother was working to pay his expenses. The man said sarcastically. â€œIf I ever reach the United States, Iâ€™d like to call on your mother and find out just why a woman should work to support a man!â€
Grant told the man he would save him the trouble and asked his mother to write a letter explaining why she was willing to support her missionary son.
Oraâ€™s reply to the manâ€™s question was this:
â€œIt seems that you are in doubt that any woman would give her time, money and strength to keep a strong, healthy young man in the service of an unpopular church.
â€œI am very glad that you are interested enough to request an explanation from me.
â€œLoving our Heavenly Father, and willing to keep His commands, is it any wonder that we are more than willing to assist Him in the vast work of calling His children to repentance? Can you sincerely doubt that a mother, desiring to repay Him for His watchful care, would gladly give her time, money and strength to assist her son in carrying out the commandments of God?
â€œYes, I am working, working gladly, with a song of praise to my Heavenly Father for the wonderful blessing He has given me of having a son worthy and capable of teaching the truths of the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the lands of England and Ireland.
â€œMy son has been gone one year, the happiest and most prosperous year of our lives. His mission has strengthened his testimony of the Gospel, cemented the love of his brothers and sisters toward him, opened the doors of employment for me, and enabled me to send him the means necessary to pay his expenses two years in your land.
â€œOpen your eyes and your ears. Let your heart be filled with the wondrous truths that the peace that comes only through the knowledge of truth may fill your heart and soul.
â€œMay God bless you and quicken your understanding and help you to know of a surety that the things His Elders teach you are true.
Ora Johnson Dalton
(Elder Grant Daltonâ€™s Mother)â€
Impressed, the man did continue to investigate the Church; it is not known whether or not he was baptized.
Grant returned from his mission in 1948. He lived near his mother in Salt Lake, while the rest of Oraâ€™s children scattered to surrounding states. Ora passed away in 1983.
(originally published July 2006)