20912_000_013Individually and collectively, people fellowshipped and loved my father until he was ready to accept the gospel.
My husband watched in amazement as people continued to stream through the doors and sit in the rapidly dwindling supply of seats. “You know,” he whispered in my ear, “I’ve seen fewer people at sacrament meeting.”
Actually I wasn’t surprised to see so many, even on a cold and rainy November night. The news had spread like wildfire, our phone ringing off the hook for days beforehand. People asked if they could come. We, of course, hoped they would attend and were gratified to hear from so many old friends. And here they all were, greeting each other with joy and happiness as they looked around for a chair.
And if they don’t stop coming, I thought, it’s going to be standing room only.
The crowd buzzed quietly as people stood in the aisles and between the rows of chairs. This was clearly an event of significance in people’s lives, one greatly anticipated, and not just by our family alone. In an almost celebratory mood, people crowded into the room. I had married 10 years ago and been away from home, so I did not know many of the people.
Nervously I turned my attention to the program resting on my lap. I didn’t want to bend or crease it; this was a program I wanted to save. I recognized the typeset of my mother’s trusty little manual typewriter. How she must have loved typing the names of her family! Typical of my forthright, down-to-earth mom, the plain white program featured a scripture from John on the front, the agenda of the meeting on the inside cover, and a scripture from Acts centered on the facing page. I smoothed it with my hand, contemplating the neatly typed names and the part each one had played in bringing us to the joyful occasion of my father’s baptism.
Many names were printed there—names of those whose love, acceptance, and encouragement my dad had enjoyed through the years. The bishop who had spent hours fellowshipping and treating my father as a true friend. The home teachers who had visited faithfully every month. The priesthood leader who many years ago had extended the calling of drama director to my multitalented but not-yet-baptized father. And there were many members who had enthusiastically participated in his clever road shows and plays. Over the years, he’d become something of a legend in the stake.
Each one of these people had fellowshipped and loved my dad until he reached that point when he was ready to accept the gospel. The grandchildren had solemnly informed him that Heavenly Father didn’t want him to drink coffee because it was bad for him. My sister-in-law had written Dad a touching letter expressing her love for him and her great desire that he join the Church and be sealed to us in the temple because without him our family was incomplete. That letter was a turning point for Dad, who commented that each person had done a certain something only he or she could do. Dad was very appreciative and grateful for those people who had contributed to his decision to participate in this joyful event.
And of course, my mother had played an essential role in Dad’s conversion. Her strength in adversity, her devotion to the principles of the gospel, and her great love for the Savior are an example to us all. Why should Dad be immune to her influence? She said she’d made a profound personal discovery recently. For all 40 years of their married life, she had prayed that Dad would join the Church.
“But my prayers were really for me, that I might have the blessings I most desired,” she’d explained. “I came to recognize my own selfishness in this. When I began to earnestly pray that he would join the Church for his benefit, things began to change.”
And now the change shone tangibly in Dad’s eyes. In fact, both he and Mom were glowing these days. Looking at his white-clad figure as he sat on the front row next to my similarly dressed brother, I felt a surge of joy I could hardly contain. It bubbled up inside me until I thought I would explode with unspent energy.
The crowd hushed as the bishop stood and the prelude music trailed off. Looking covertly around, I reflected that many of those crowded into the room—and many others not there—would never be thanked, at least not by me, for playing their essential roles in Dad’s conversion. But I am so grateful to each one of them; they have truly done the Lord’s work. And if everyone who had loved and touched Dad had been in attendance, it would most certainly have been standing room only.