“Fruits of Obedience,” Ensign, Mar. 1972, 40
Daddy sat at the extreme front and I at the extreme back that Sunday evening, with the ward members filling the chapel between us. My eyes kept searching his face, hoping he wasn’t as nervous as I was and knowing we both had the same thing on our minds—the prayer.
I fidgeted and wished church were over. Why do parents get themselves into such predicaments? I wondered.
Once I took my eyes off Daddy long enough to glance at Mom and Julie. They didn’t look at all concerned. I hadn’t really expected Julie to be concerned, because she is only ten, but I thought Mom would be very nervous.
This is all the fault of the family home evening program, I decided, then wished immediately I hadn’t blamed the program. But actually, it did have a lot to do with Daddy sitting where he was.
I folded my arms tightly and wanted to look calm. As the prelude music started, my thoughts drifted back to the beginning. …
Julie was busy stirring up a cake, and when I asked what the special occasion was, Mom told me—home evening.
“But I have a date!” I protested, drawing my eyebrows close together to show my annoyance.
Mom looked upset, but she kept her voice calm as she answered, “You should not have accepted the invitation, Patricia. You knew that tonight is home evening.”
“I turned down a chance to spend a couple of hours listening to a new record with Sue,” Jill said, shooting a meaningful glance in my direction.
“For weeks I’ve been hoping Dick Andrews would ask me for a date,” I persisted, ignoring Jill’s remark. “I just couldn’t tell him I had to stay home with the family.”
“Dick is LDS,” Mom said. “He should be having home evening with his own family tonight.”
“Oh, Mother!” I threw myself dramatically on a chair and folded my arms tightly. “What is so important about home evening, anyway?”
Mom gave a kind of disappointed sigh. For weeks she had talked about the home evening plan. Now she sat down and told us again how important family unity is. “You see,” she said, “these are such busy times that we hardly see each other, and a family needs to be together once in a while.”
“Whatever for?” I asked impatiently. “When we’re together we just disagree with one another.”
“That’s the point,” Mom said. “We need to understand and to show our love for each other. And remember,” she added, “a bountiful harvest will be ours if we obey the gospel counsel. Sometimes it takes years, but good fruit always comes from obedience.”
“Mom,” Jill said, “you didn’t have television or bowling or anything groovy when you were growing up. Whatever did you do with all that time on your hands?”
“We were a big family,” Mom answered, “and we all worked together. In the evening we brought out puzzles or played games. I remember all of us sitting around our big heating stove in the winter, taking turns reading from a novel. Sometimes my mother would make fudge and put fresh peanut butter in it for a special treat. I remember, although it was cold and freezing outside, the cozy warm feeling I had from those close get-togethers.”
“Mom, you had home evenings when you were a little girl and didn’t even know it.” Julie sounded as if she had made a great discovery.
“What does Dad say about all this?” The idea occurred to me that since Dad wasn’t a Latter-day Saint, maybe he didn’t approve.
“He says it sounds like a good plan and that he will go along. Your father has never stood in the way of any of our church activities, you know.”
I could see that Mom was a little hurt to think that I would pick at any thread in order to have my own way. True, Daddy wasn’t a Mormon and Mom—who had been reared in a Latter-day Saint home—had never pushed him, for she often said that she wanted him to join the Church because of his being enlightened to the truthfulness of the gospel and not because she wanted him to. Daddy hadn’t objected to our being baptized or to Mom’s holding church positions, but he was very touchy about the subject of joining, and exactly why, we really didn’t know.
“Let’s give home evenings a try,” Mom said, and although I gave a sigh of disgust, the subject seemed to be closed.
During dinner the phone rang; it was Dick Andrews, telling me he had forgotten about home evening and asking to change the date to the next night. Although I was happy about not losing out on the date, I was still somewhat reluctant about the family’s getting together. Somehow it seemed old-fashioned and stuffy.
After dinner Julie whipped cream for her special cinnamon cake while the rest of us did dishes. Mom had put Julie in charge of preparing a treat and getting a special number. She said that if we took turns, we would feel more keenly the importance of these evenings.
Mom had prepared the lesson well, and Daddy listened thoughtfully. Several times he quoted scriptures from the Bible.
“Now,” Mom said, “Julie is in charge of a special number.”
“Oh!” Julie looked surprised. “I forgot. I was so busy with the cake. Well, Pat will now sing a solo.”
I started to object, but Mom gave me that “there are fruits from obedience” look, so I started singing. My voice was so low I could hardly hear myself, and I felt kind of funny. Then I noticed that no one was laughing, so I sang a little louder.
Mom elaborated on the story, stressing that everyone is important and has good qualities, and then Daddy quoted a scripture to emphasize the point.
“Daddy,” Jill said wonderingly, “I didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible. I didn’t think you had ever opened one.”
Daddy seemed a little shocked; and as he looked around he could see that none of us had realized this knowledge he had.
“Why, yes, I’ve read the Bible,” he said. “When I was growing up, my mother was a widow and she had lots of work to do with five boys to raise, but she always found time once a week to gather us all around the big kitchen table after supper and read to us from the Bible and help us memorize verses. I remember it well as a happy time when we were all together.”
“Daddy,” Jill said, going over and putting her arm around his neck, “you had home evenings when you were growing up and you didn’t even know it.”
My thoughts were abruptly jarred back to the present as the Davis twins plopped down on the end of the bench beside me. I looked at my watch. Still a few minutes before church would start. Why had we come so early? Usually we didn’t. As I sat there, I thought of other home evenings. I remembered one Monday when we were eating dessert and Daddy said, “I’ve never talked of this before, but I think I should now. You know that very first home evening we had? I think the story Mother told was written especially for me. It hadn’t occurred to me until then that other people felt the way I did. I thought about that story for a long time. All my life I’ve felt I couldn’t do anything well. I was awkward at everything I did. That’s the main reason that I didn’t want to join the Church. I didn’t want everyone to know how really dumb I was. First thing they would do is give me a job or ask me to pray, and I knew I couldn’t do it. Then when I quoted the scriptures, I knew you were all impressed; and although it wasn’t much, I felt kind of important.”
A lump came in my throat. “That’s the way I felt, too,” I said fast before I changed my mind. “When Julie asked me to sing a solo that first time, I didn’t want to admit it, but it made me feel good when I was through.”
Jill looked up. “What’s everybody talking about?”
Mom smiled. “We are talking about how we like to associate with each other and we didn’t even know it.”
Soon after that, Daddy asked the missionaries to come, and I learned quite a lot even though I had been a member of the Church since I was eight. We all had such good times, and Mom and Jill and Julie listened and asked questions, even though they also had been baptized when they were eight.
When Daddy told us he was going to join the Church, it was as if someone had announced he was going to be crowned king.
The prelude music stopped, and as we started singing the opening song, I glanced over at Jill. She looked proud and happy. Why couldn’t I look proud and happy? Because, I guess, I am almost seventeen and Jill is only twelve, and it is very difficult for a teenager to have a middle-aged father pray in church for the first time, especially when he has always been scared of doing so.
After the invocation and passing of the sacrament, I looked at my watch again and was amazed that only thirty minutes had passed since we had come. The watch has stopped, I decided.
Elder Morrison, a returned missionary, started speaking, and his talk was so full of interest that temporarily I forgot my anxiety. However, it seemed that he had no sooner stood up than he sat down again, and I realized church was nearly over. Now the time was going too fast.
The choir members started singing “Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire,” and I remembered Saturday night.
“What will you say in the prayer?” Julie had asked Daddy. “I’m not sure,” he replied.
“Would you like me to write something down on paper?” Mom had seemed a little anxious.
“No,” Daddy answered, “a prayer should come from the heart.” Then he added softly, “I think the words will come.”
But he had paced the floor thoughtfully, and I had started worrying.
I refolded my arms and shifted my feet. The very first time I ever heard Daddy pray was at home evening. Oh, I hope he doesn’t pray like that, kind of jerkily.
Then Daddy stood, came forward, and bowed his head. I went weak all over, but as he started to speak I was surprised. I don’t know why, really. I had heard words like this before from the lips of missionaries, bishops, and home teachers. Maybe I was surprised because now the words were coming from someone who had never stood before a congregation before, someone who had said he was going to try to overcome a weakness of being afraid to pray out loud, and it didn’t matter anymore that his words came out a little jerkily.
Afterwards I started to think about fruits of obedience, but the thoughts got all mixed up with the tears that were battling to leave the shelter of my eyelids.