Friend to Friend

From an interview with Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy, currently serving in the North America Southeast Area Presidency; by Janet Peterson

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Home is where the heart is And warmth and love abound (Children’s Songbook, page 192).

I think that the family bond is very important. It’s built on family and gospel values and traditions, and it requires spending time together.

When we lived in Winslow, Arizona, in the 1930s, my father had a business, Carmack Engineering. It was an automobile and machine shop business. When I was about eight years old, he had me come down and sweep out his shop and clean it. This created a bond between a very hardworking father and myself, similar to that relationship enjoyed by farm boys and their fathers.

I can remember, and greatly value, time spent with my grandmother, Effie Marquess Carmack. She was another great influence in my life. She had a tremendous testimony and built my testimony in very real ways. An artist, she would ask, “Do you see the rose-colored sunset? Do you know who made this beautiful world? Heavenly Father did.” At Christmas she would say, “Jesus Christ gave the greatest gift to all of us. He is interested in all mankind. Christmas celebrates His birth.”

One time, I was standing by an abandoned car in my grandparents’ backyard when some neighbor boys threw a match into the gas tank. It exploded, burning my hands severely. They were absolutely charred, and I went to show my grandmother. A woman of great faith, my grandmother prayed over those hands. She put some salve on them, and the pain went away instantly. By the next day they were healing well.

During the latter part of World War II, we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California. Because of the war, my father worked seven days a week. He would get home at midnight and leave at six in the morning. Although he had been a real anchor of the Church in Arizona, he rarely could go to church during the war. Mother served as the Martinez Ward Relief Society president. She took us to stake conference in Oakland, which then was held on Saturday and Sunday. I remember seeing and hearing George Albert Smith, the President of the Church then, preside and speak at the meeting. Between the meetings on Saturday, she let us enjoy the Bay Area, Golden Gate Park, and baseball games at Seal Stadium. She kept the family and Church bond strong when my father, because of circumstances, couldn’t. A mother can accomplish many things.

I think my wife and I have a very good bond with our five children as a result of spending time with them, developing traditions, and becoming involved in their activities. We held family home evening on Monday nights. The whole night was family night. We followed the family home evening manual. Sometimes the children gave the lessons; sometimes my wife, Shirley, or I would. We played games, enjoyed family activities, and had refreshments. Some of our lessons were chaotic, but I think that holding family home evening regularly was very important. If the phone rang, one of the children answered it and said, “Can my father call you back? He’s involved in family home evening.” We also tried to have family prayers and family devotionals, where we read the scriptures.

Another thing we did was enjoy dinner together as a family. During dinner we talked and visited. Our conversations were lively. We had interesting discussions about the gospel, political and public affairs, and world events.

Our family played tennis and volleyball together, and a number of us liked to run for exercise, together or separately. We enjoyed a number of sports and followed several college football and basketball teams. We also enjoyed seeing plays together. We were great readers and shared books we liked. All four of our daughters played volleyball and other sports, one was in school plays, and our son was a cross-country and track runner. My wife and I arranged our schedules, whenever possible, to be with them at all their school and Church events. Whatever they did was important to us too.

Traditions are important in our family. My wife loves to celebrate special occasions. At Christmastime we always reread the Christmas story out of Luke and talk about its meaning. While our children were living at home, we had a Christmas morning tradition of eating breakfast and saying a family prayer together before we opened the presents.

Our children are now carrying on the tradition of family prayer and family home evening in their own homes. Although our family is spread out geographically, we are able to get together from time to time. Two of our daughters publish a monthly family newsletter that is as lively as can be and includes recipes and reports of what we are each doing. They ask Shirley and me to contribute a message as the parents and grandparents in the family.

All our children and their spouses were in the temple together recently for the wedding of our youngest daughter. We are all committed to a common cause: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

1. About age 5

2. At about age 10 (far left) with his brothers Cecil, Robert, and Ross

3. At about age 2 with his sister Betty Jean

4. At about 13 with his dog Boots

5. Elder and Sister Carmack with their five children and spouses

6. Elder and Sister Carmack