Kind Words Softly Spoken

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“Kind Words Softly Spoken,” Ensign, Mar. 1982, 11–12

Kind Words Softly Spoken

In the spring of 1955, when I was fifteen, my family moved to Anchorage, Alaska. This was an exciting adventure for a young boy who loved the outdoors, and it was made all the more so when I obtained a rifle and began to look forward to hunting large game.

One day, when visiting my father’s office, I saw a beautiful new gun case on his desk. I had previously asked him to get a new case for my rifle, and assumed that this was it. Therefore, when he stated that it was not necessarily mine, that he had many men under his supervision for whom he had to purchase rifles and gun cases, I was extremely disappointed and angry, and expressed my discontent.

Later that evening, my mother came into my bedroom where I was sulking and explained that the gun case was really mine, but that my father had not wanted to say so in the office lest those persons under his supervision get the idea that he could order such items for their own personal use. Mother suggested that I owed dad an apology. I decided that I would do so the next morning when I saw him at breakfast.

But I did not see my father at breakfast—I did not see him ever again. He left the house early that morning to supervise an air drop. The airplane he was in crashed into a mountain and he was killed. My last hours on earth with my father had been spent in my tantrum over a simple and unimportant matter. The guilt I felt over my behavior rested heavily upon my conscience.

Three years later I joined the Church, and two years after that I went on a mission to the Central States Mission. Halfway through my mission, Elder Spencer W. Kimball came to visit and it was our privilege to hear from him at a missionary conference in St. Louis. Toward the end of his talk he spoke to us upon the subject of love—love between parents and children—and exhorted us young missionaries to be sure to write our parents and tell them how much we loved and appreciated them.

The guilt of my last hours with my father swept over me, and as the closing song was sung and the benediction offered, I began to cry. As the people began to leave the room, my crying grew into bitter tears and uncontrollable sobbings. My hands and feet grew numb and I became oblivious to everything around me. My companion, my district leader, the mission president—each came back into the room and tried to comfort me, but to no avail.

Then I became aware of someone’s arms around me, of a gentle cheek pressed against my own, of kind words softly spoken. Elder Kimball was embracing me with the same love and affection with which I now embrace my own small children. As I began to regain control of myself, he spoke words of comfort and reassurance. Later, upon his return to Salt Lake City, he would send me a copy of a talk he had given that would give me further comfort. I do not remember what was said that afternoon as I sat alone with Elder Kimball. His words have long since escaped my memory. But I will always remember his sincere show of love and deep concern for a young missionary whom he had never before seen, his cheek against my own, and his warm, loving embrace.