As long as I live, I will never forget the evening I spent with my sister Charlene and her three children. She was nearly eighteen years older than I and had left home to attend college shortly after I was born. When she received her bachelor’s degree, she moved even farther away. Both of us always felt we had missed something, because we had not seen much of each other throughout our lives. Now, thirty years later, she and her three children were seated before me on my sofa.
Each of them looked tired and pitiful. My sister and her husband were in the process of a bitter divorce. Her husband had abandoned the family and taken much of their savings and many of their possessions when he left. Instead of a joyful family reunion, this one was filled with sorrow and despair. The four of them sat looking steadfastly at me, their eyes begging for comfort or relief.
My sister asked me if I would give her and each of her children a priesthood blessing. During her entire married life, the priesthood had never been exercised in her home. Though members of the Church, she and the children had only a vague idea of how priesthood blessings are administered and how they can bless lives. So I proceeded, through tears of gratitude and joy, to explain those things to them.
Before I gave the blessings, my sister commented that she was proud of me and glad I honored the priesthood. But her eyes seemed to hold the question, Why were you able to honor the priesthood and my husband was not?
As we proceeded with the blessings, the Spirit was strong and comforting. Each of us felt an abundance of the love of God. We had faith that Heavenly Father was mindful of the situation and would bless and help them if they could endure just a little longer.
As I finished giving the last blessing, I felt that I knew the answer to my sister’s unasked question. Some years earlier, during my teenage years, our family had moved to a community where I was the only Latter-day Saint boy. Having become friends with nearly every boy my age, I soon was tempted to participate in many of their activities. I started to stray from the teachings of the Church, thinking that my peers were what mattered the most. My parents quickly noticed my conduct and worked diligently to help me stay on the straight and narrow path. In spite of their efforts, however, I resisted—until the day a certain letter arrived. It was from my oldest sister, Charlene. She expressed her love for me and pleaded with me to stay close to my family and the Church. The letter was followed by a telephone call and more letters. She and my parents persisted until I was able to repent and become fully active in the Church.
So after administering the last blessing, I told my sister that she had been one of the major influences in my life and that she had played a significant role in why I was worthy to bless her and her children that evening. I watched her expression as she reflected on those efforts in my behalf. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked up at me and said, “I’m thankful to Father in Heaven for the strength found within the family.”