Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Janet Peterson with Elder Devere Harris of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

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    Elder Devere Harris

    Elder Devere Harris’s great-grandfather was once a prizefighter in England. One night his great-grandfather went to a meeting to chase Wilford Woodruff out of town because Elder Woodruff had converted the prizefighter’s wife to the Church. However, instead of chasing Wilford Woodruff out of town, Great-Grandfather Harris liked what he heard, and he, too, joined the Church. Elder Harris’s great-grandparents came to America, crossed the plains with the Saints, and were among the early settlers of the town of Portage in northern Utah. According to Elder Harris, “Great-Grandfather taught his family the gospel, and his son, my grandfather, became a bishop. My grandfather taught the gospel to his family, and my father served in a bishopric and as a ward clerk for many years. Religion was always a natural and important part of our lives as we were growing up.

    “My dad stressed the importance of honesty to all his children. He was one of the most honest and fair men I have ever known. When I was a young boy, a neighbor widow’s chickens used to come over to the back of our lot and lay eggs in the high grass and bushes. Even though I used to take eggs to the store to trade (we didn’t have much money in those days), I never took any of those eggs to the store, because they weren’t mine. I took them to the widow, their rightful owner.

    “My father ran a grain elevator, and as a young boy, I used to have to shovel wheat. Dad taught us to work for our own money. He paid us three cents a sack to stack and load wheat, and I thought that that was pretty generous of him. We could load a thousand bushels into a boxcar in about three or four hours. My two brothers and I could make as high as nine dollars a day loading wheat. And that was back in the days when earning two dollars a day was good wages. My father encouraged us to be frugal and to put the money away for our education.

    “Mother was a great lady. I remember sitting by her and having her read to me from a little white Bible. She loved the scriptures. She also loved poetry and prose and history; she was a deep reader and a deep thinker. She helped instill in her children an appreciation for good books.

    “When I was about thirteen years old, my mother had prepared a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Before she could get the table set, an emergency call came, and my mother and father had to go to be with my brother, who was very ill. After my parents left, I went to a friend who didn’t have a mother and whose father wasn’t well. I knew that he wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner, so I invited him to our home for dinner. I got out Mother’s best linen, crystal, and silverware, and I set a table that was fit for a king. After our dinner together, I sent some food home for my friend’s father. I was trying to follow my parents’ example to serve others.

    “I have a great respect for nature, and I have always loved animals and birds and have tried to protect them. Once when we were youngsters, a friend of mine and I were riding double on a horse along the railroad track. Suddenly I spied an owl that had a broken wing and couldn’t do anything but run along the ground. I slid off the horse, caught the owl, and got back on the horse behind my friend. I remember that it was a beautiful white horse with a long mane. We started galloping along the railroad track, and the owl started to wiggle. It stuck its claws into that horse, causing it to jump straight into the air and make a big kick. I rolled off backward, but somehow I kept my hold on the owl, and it never got away. We took the owl home, put splints on its broken wing, and turned it loose.

    “My wife and I have had a wonderful experience in the Pacific Islands. One day we went to a little Tahitian island on a boat, and as the boat pulled up to the dock, twenty-seven children were standing on it, singing, ‘I Am A Child of God.’ I thought, What a beautiful, beautiful thing to know that children all over the world are singing the hymns of the Church and beautiful Primary songs.

    “Heavenly Father loves all children. Jesus loves them, too—children of all countries, colors, and creeds.

    “Live the principles of the gospel so that you can live again with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Listen to the counsel of the prophets. Stay pure and clean after your baptism. Your parents and Primary teachers will teach you the things that you should do. Listen to them and do what they tell you.”

    Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh