Elder Gale Stanley Critchfield, 20, came home from the Ireland Dublin Mission May 31, but it was not the homecoming his family and friends had anticipated.
At the Salt Lake International Airport, his parents, Gale E. and Carol Critchfield, stood with other family members and watched as airline employees gently brought the casket bearing the body of their slain son from the plane.The last segment of Elder Critchfield's journey home to Payson, Utah, was in a gleaming white hearse.
Instead of a traditional LDS homecoming service, a funeral was held June 2 in the Payson Utah West Stake center for Elder Critchfield. The young missionary, who was fond of athletics and horses and who had loved people - especially young children - died when an assailant stabbed him in the heart as he and his companion returned to their apartment after a Church meeting the night of May 27 in Dublin, Ireland. (See Church News, June 2.)
Funeral messages delivered by President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve; and Elder Critchfield's father, bishop and stake president testified that hope tempers sorrow, faith overpowers despair, and love and forgiveness wash away stains of bitterness.
"This is a day of mourning, a day of sadness, a day of wondering," President Hinckley told the congregation of nearly 1,000. "We wonder why, when a young man is called to serve the Lord, he isn't watched over so closely his life is protected. We don't know the purposes of the Lord. We don't know why some things happen. . . . All we know for certainty is that death is not the end, that life continues. We lay aside our mortal bodies, yes. But all of the accumulated learning of all the days of our lives goes with us."
President Hinckley spoke of the "terrible and traumatic thing" that happened, and told Elder Critchfield's parents and other family members they did not mourn alone. "The whole Church grieves with you because when a missionary dies in the field, there is an outpouring that comes from the families all across the world," he said.
President Hinckley spoke of Ireland, where Elder Critchfield died, describing the land as beautiful and the people as good. "I am sure if your son, Stanley, were to speak today, he would bear testimony of the goodness and kindness of the people of Ireland," President Hinckley said.
He further said that while he grieved for Elder Critchfield he also grieved for the 18-year-old young man who took his life. "What a terrible thing," noted President Hinckley. "How sweet the assurance that Stanley is all right, but how dark and bleak the future of the young man by whom this offense has come." He said he knew nothing of that young man's parents or of his people, but he knew they grieve with a bitterness unknown to Elder Critchfield's family.
President Hinckley read the letter that called Elder Critchfield to serve in the Ireland Dublin Mission, beginning in March 1989. "I'm satisfied that the labors of a good missionary are never completed," President Hinckley said. "There is such a tremendous work, so much greater work beyond the veil than there is here on earth."
Elder Maxwell told Elder Critchfield's parents, "You have partaken the bitter cup without becoming bitter." He expressed his admiration for the family in their "typifying for all of us the quiet goodness, the quiet courage, the quiet faith of the people of this Church."
He said Elder Critchfield had gone to Ireland to make the "Emerald Isle . . . even more green through what might be called the `greening of the restored gospel.' And he did his work well. One of the ways each of us can honor Elder Critchfield is to honor the people he served, the Irish people, whom he surely loves, and who love him."
Elder Maxwell read messages sent to the Critchfield family from Ireland, including condolences from the Lord Mayor of Dublin, a member of the Rowlagh Parish Community Council and the Presbyterian mission board in Dublin. A letter sent by a convert to whom Elder Critchfield taught the gospel, described him as as one who "brought a spirit so strong into our home that it rocked our very souls." A woman who was to be baptized June 3 said Elder Critchfield "brought a great light into my life, like a beacon shining in the storm." Elder Maxwell said missionary companions described Elder Critchfield as "warm and friendly," and "like a brother." One said, "Elder Critchfield had more love for people than anybody I had ever met."
In addressing the funeral gathering, Elder Critchfield's father said, "This is not the homecoming that my wife and I had looked forward to, had hoped for."
He said when he gave his son a father's blessing before his mission, he felt impressed to tell him that thousands were waiting in Ireland to hear his testimony and that entire congregations would be affected by his labors.
He said when the stake president set Elder Critchfield apart as a missionary, he promised "the last night [StanleyT would spend in the Ireland Dublin Mission the Savior would come to him and embrace Him in His arms and say to him, `Well done, my faithful son.' " Brother Critchfield said as he wrote letters to his son, he reminded him of that "appointment . . . and admonished him not to do anything he would be ashamed to discuss with the Savior when that time came." Elder Critchfield wrote back, "Dad, I have already felt His arms around me, and I love that feeling."
Brother Critchfield said he and his wife held each other, wept and expressed their concern to one another when their son received his call to Ireland, a land where many troubles have been expressed through violence. "We concluded," said Brother Critchfield, "that regardless of the outcome, our Father in Heaven had granted us the privilege of having this young man as our son for 19 years, and now it was our duty to commend him into the hands of the Lord."
He said Elder Critchfield, before he left home, wrote a letter to a friend who had already left for his mission. Elder Critchfield gave the letter to his friend's sister, instructing her to give the letter to her brother when he returned home. When the Critchfields telephoned the sister with the news of their son's death, she reminded them of the letter. They asked her to open it and read it to them. Elder Critchfield had written: "I am scared to death of this call, but the Lord has called and I will serve regardless of the price I may have to pay."
Brother Critchfield said when he heard the news of his son's death, he was shocked but not surprised. He added, "Although it is difficult and although many tears have been shed and although many more tears will be shed, I would not roll back the clock and take away from my son the blessings he has received."
The funeral service was conducted by Payson 13th Ward Bishop Joseph Liddle, who also made brief remarks, as did Payson Utah West Stake Pres. Gerald Finch.
Elder Critchfield's sisters and nieces sang "The Irish Blessing." Kelly Daley, a 6-year-old niece, sang "Families Can Be Together Forever." The Ireland Dublin Mission Song was sung by a brother-in-law, Brad Daley, and Dave Dahlquist, Elder Critchfield's high school choir director.
Don S. Gull, who was president of the Ireland Dublin Mission when Elder Critchfield arrived last year, offered the invocation. The benediction was by Elder Critchfield's grandfather, George A. Critchfield. His maternal grandfather, George W. Darley, dedicated the grave in the Wellsville, Utah, cemetery.
G. Stanley Critchfield was the fifth of nine children; one sister preceded him in death.