Friend to Friend: Family Relationships


Robert J. Whetten
That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory (D&C 130:2).

Family Relationships

I grew up in Colonia Juárez, Mexico, and had a happy childhood.

My twin brother, Bert (Albert), and I were the middle of ten children. We rode horses and fished and swam in the river. We worked hard, too, feeding chickens, milking cows, and tending our father’s orchards.

Our parents taught us about the purpose of life, where we come from, what happens after we die, and the consequences of our choices. I learned about the plan of salvation and about repentance as a constant process.

My parents often said to me, “Remember who you really are.” I didn’t understand that at first, but I learned that they meant to remember that I was a child of God.

I loved Primary. I can still remember those beautiful Primary songs we sang. When I was about eleven, a friend of mine fell off a horse and died from his injuries. Our Primary class sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” at his funeral. Those words burned deep into my soul. I knew that Billy was all right, and I knew that what we were singing was the truth.

Bert and I grew up expecting to serve missions, and when we got old enough, we did. My mission made all the difference in the world to me. I gained a deeper understanding of the gospel, I developed discipline, and I learned to serve others. It has been the basis for a happy, successful life.

Three months after we returned from our missions, a man killed my twin brother. My father and another brother were badly wounded in the same attack. We knew who the person was who did it, but he was never arrested. I learned what it was like to feel hate and want revenge. I even had dreams of hurting the man who had done this terrible thing. But the Lord had made it clear what he expected of me:

“Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:9–10.)

With time and prayer, I did forgive that man. We all did.

I was told as a child, “If you stay true and faithful, you can be with those great people who went before you who were true and faithful.” This teaching awoke in me a desire to be where our loved ones are who have passed on. Being “true and faithful to the end” became my goal, even as a young man.

Recently my son Carlos asked me, “Dad, what is your greatest fear?”

I said, “I guess my greatest fear would be that I might not be true and faithful to the end. That’s the worst thing that could ever happen.” Then I added, “My other worst fear would be that my children would not be true and faithful, and my posterity that comes after.”

Heavenly Father wants family relationships to be forever. Turn your hearts to your parents. Spend time with them. Ask them to tell you about your grandparents and great-grandparents. When I read the stories of my forebears, I gain great inspiration and a renewed desire to live worthily.

Children, please listen to your parents. There are so many things to listen to—TV, music, movies, the Internet. Be sure that you listen to those who really love you—your parents, your bishop, your Primary teacher, the living prophet, and above all, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

My parents taught me the importance of family relationships. I can remember my mother saying, “Bobby, you and Bert must have been good friends in the premortal life for Heavenly Father to let you come together in the same family at the same time. Now can’t you get along a little better?”

My wife, Raquel, and I have eight children and twelve grandchildren. They are our greatest joy in life. My oldest grandson, Mario, lives in Guadalajara, Mexico. One day in class, his Primary teacher asked, “Mario, who loves you?”

He answered without hesitation, “Jesus and my grandfather love me.” He was right. The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is love. We love those we serve, and we serve those we love. It all starts in the home. Jesus told us to love our neighbor, and who are our closest neighbors? Our own families. My brothers and sisters are still my best friends. I love my extended family, too, including my 130 first cousins. Tell your parents that you love them. Tell your grandparents that you love them. Then show them by your actions that you really mean it.

My parents told me, “Remember that your Heavenly Father wants you to come back to Him.” Please remember that, too. It’s like when parents send a child to school in the morning—they want and expect him to come home in the afternoon. Our Heavenly Father sent us here to earth to learn, and He wants us to come back home to Him when our schooling on earth is over. Someday I want to be where my father and mother and Bert are. I want to go home.

[photo] 1. Elder Whetten (left) at age 10 with his twin brother, Albert

[photo] 2. As a missionary at age 19

[photo] 3. At a baptism in 1963

[photo] 4. On his wedding day

[photo] 5. With his family at a daughter’s wedding