SHOWING HIM THAT THEY REALLY
Excerpt from Why the
Commandment to Love One Another, John 13:34-35
H. Burke Peterson, This
address was given at the 1999 Family Expo Conference
Some years ago, one of the men at Church headquarters told
me of an experience that happened in his own family. He was
the eldest in a family of seven children—four girls and
three boys. His mother was a true and faithful member of the
church and had been all of her life. But for fifty years
neither she nor her children had been able to convince their
husband and father that he should be baptized in the Church.
In their early years the
family lived in one of the rough mining towns of Utah: thus
the influence on the father was not the best. Although their
father had always been a man of high moral standards and an
exemplar of integrity in every respect, he had not been
disposed to live the Word of Wisdom. This seemed to be the
focal point of their conversations as they tried to convert
him over the fifty-year period. They spent more time trying
to change him on this issue than on anything else.
In the winter of the year
his parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, the
oldest son, who lived in the same ward, was assigned as a
home teacher to his father and mother. I suppose one of this
son's first reactions was, "What can I do now? We've been
trying for fifty years and nothing has worked." If there was
any negative thinking, it quickly changed to complete
optimism when the junior companion suggested that they just
try showing him that they really loved him. What a novel
idea! The home teachers consulted with the mother and the
rest of the family.
What they came to realize
was that even though there was love in their home, it hadn't
been shown as a positive expression to their father and
husband. Inadvertently, he had been made to feel that if he
quit smoking he would be accepted in the family. In his own
family he had been on the outside looking in, so to speak.
They decided that they would
now spend more of their time with him—not preaching the Word
of Wisdom, but showering him with, as they called it,
"Tender Loving Care." In family settings they began talking
about things that he was interested in.
Simple phrases like, "I love
you, Dad—we think you're great—thanks for this or that,"
were the key ingredients in the plan. Interestingly enough,
the Word of Wisdom was never mentioned. Sixteen months
later, a miracle had taken place. The father announced to
his sweetheart, on her birthday, that he wanted to be
baptized. There had been no crash program, but rather a
steady diet of heart-felt attention, acceptance,
appreciation, and love. The family had come to understand
that love, which is a condition of the heart, could not be
forced nor coerced.
One year after his baptism,
he and his companion of over fifty years went to the temple
to be sealed to each other for all eternity. It was very
special in another way too—three sons and two daughters were
also there to be sealed to their parents. A family was now
in the process of being united for the eternities to come.
Not long after, this loved man, nearing his seventy-fifth
year of life, passed quietly away. The purposes of the Lord
for this family were now nearer fulfillment.
From this experience we are
reminded again of the classic verse in 1 John 4:19 where it
states—"We love Him, because He first loved us." This then
is the secret potion for success in our homes and in life
itself—to love others first—even when it is hard. Yes, when
it's really hard.