Just about an hour ago the elders left after having joined us for a dinner appointment. I always like it when the elders eat with us, as that means an extra special meal that we actually eat at the table.
One elder was from Utah, the other from Idaho. Pretty standard issue around here. The conversation was largely pro forma, with me asking them how long they’ve been out, where they’ve served, who’s in the teaching pool now, where they’ve gone to school, what their future plans are, what they did for Christmas, and so forth.
On that last question, they indicated that they were encouraged to actually tract on Christmas, but they didn’t do it. Rather they cooked a big breakfast, and then went over to a member family’s for lunch and games. I opined that I was not in favor of Christmas tracting (as I can just imagine how I’d feel if missionaries knocked on my door while I was trying to enjoy Christmas with my family). But apparently the rationale is that a lot of people don’t have family to celebrate with, and might welcome some company and a message about the Savior on that special day. That rationale made sense to me–but I still am not a fan of Christmas tracting.
Anyway, towards the end of their visit they gave the obligatory message. It was about families. They handed me a pamphlet copy of the Proclamation, and talked about how important families are, yada yada yada, you know the drill.
But in the course of this, they unwittingly taught me a different lesson altogether. In describing their own families, it came out that each of these elders is the only active member of the Church in his respective family. One is a convert, the only one in a family of four (two parents and a sister). The other was born and raised in the Church, but his entire family (two parents and four siblings) have all gone inactive. His parents and all his sibs have gone inactive, but he hasn’t and came out on a mission, despite no particular pressure from family to do so. So they share that in common. They both indicated that their families support them financially and are supportive of them going out on their missions. But they are the lone active members of the Church in their families.
That was the thing that made a powerful impression on me. When I went on my mission, I had one older sister who had lapsed into inactivity, but that was it. All the rest of my family was active in the Church, and it was expected that I would go–an expectation that I never questioned. If my parents hadn’t profoundly expected such service of me, I’m not at all sure I would have gone.
But here were these two young men sitting in my kitchen. Neither one of them had that kind of familial pressure to serve; and yet there they sat. They had come to Illinois because they very much wanted to serve. It would have been very easy for them not to come at all. But here they were.
I was impressed. Damn impressed. And that was the lesson that touched my heart this evening.