A Lesson in the Cold


My brother and I hadn’t been on time to priesthood meeting for weeks. Sometimes we didn’t get there at all.

Our priest quorum meeting had come to an end.

“That’s all the announcements and assignments,” said our quorum adviser, Brother Reed. “Oh, but I would like to see Greg and Tom Glenn after class, if you boys wouldn’t mind.”

“Oh, no” I thought to myself. “I guess we’re in some kind of trouble.” I bowed my head, folded my arms, and hoped that the closing prayer would never end.

We both knew why Brother Reed wanted to see us. Tom and I hadn’t been on time to priesthood meeting for weeks. Sometimes we didn’t get there at all, and sometimes we crept silently through the door and slipped into the back row, just in time to get our sacrament meeting assignments and leave.

Now, it wasn’t because we were sleeping late or wasting time at home. On the contrary. We were wide awake every morning at 4:30 to do the chores on the dairy farm where we lived. Dad had recently had a heart attack, so Tom and I had the responsibility to milk the cows and clean the place, and do all the other dairy work. We had the cows on an established schedule which easily got us to school on time during the week; but on Sundays, finishing everything, then showering and dressing for priesthood at 7:30 was difficult. With all the work that needed to be done, we thought we were doing well to get to priesthood meeting at all.

Evidently, though, our priests quorum adviser didn’t think so. After everyone else had left the room, Brother Reed pulled a chair up close to us. “Boys,” he said in a surprisingly gentle tone, “there’s really something missing from the quorum when you’re not here. What am I doing wrong? Are my lessons bad, or is it something I do personally that offends you?”

We thought we were going to be chastised, but here was Brother Reed, thinking he was the reason we were late. We both started explaining that it wasn’t his fault at all, and we told him about the work at the dairy.

“Well, would it do any good if I came over early on Sunday and helped with the work a little? It would be a privilege for me, and might help you get to priesthood meeting on time. What do you say? What time does the work start?” he asked.

Tom and I had the same thought at the same time. We couldn’t let Brother Reed do that. First of all, 4:30 was far too early to get anyone out of bed and away from his family on a Sunday morning. Second, we didn’t want him to have to endure the below freezing winter weather. And third, there wasn’t that much he could do anyway because we wouldn’t give him any of the really dirty work.

So when he asked us when we started, we told him 3:30 A.M., thinking that no sane person would get up that early, no matter how helpful he wanted to be. We thanked Brother Reed for his sincere offer to help, shook his hand, and assured him that we would try to make more of an effort to be at our meetings on time in the future.

We didn’t think about his offer much for the rest of the week, until Sunday when I got out of bed at about 4:15 on a very cold morning. I looked out the window and was shocked to see Brother Reed’s old car parked outside our house. I quickly put my clothes on, ran outside, and tapped on his car window.

“Good morning,” he said cheerfully as he opened the car window. His words formed small icy clouds in the air between us. He reached out to shake my hand, and I noticed his grasp was one of the coldest I’d ever felt. It was obvious he’d been waiting for some time—probably since 3:30.

“Come inside while Tom gets dressed,” I said as I led him into the house. Then I ran to make sure Tom was ready for work.

In a few minutes, Brother Reed, Tom, and I were trudging through the snow to the barn. The one thing we hadn’t exaggerated about was the amount of work there was to do, and Brother Reed did the best he could.

As we milked the cows, Brother Reed paused for a second and rather timidly asked, “Do you suppose I could have just a little sip of that milk? I’ve almost forgotten what fresh milk tastes like.”

We felt great concern for our quorum adviser. Not only did we give him a drink, but we packaged several liters of milk for him to take home to his family. It was the least we could do for him.

It was getting closer and closer to the time for priesthood meeting to begin, and the work still wasn’t finished. Finally Brother Reed told us he would have to go home and get ready for church. “Now I understand why it’s so hard for you boys to get to class on time. I’ll try to be a little more considerate in the future,” he said as he wiped the sweat from his forehead and walked out of the barn to his car.

You should have seen the look of surprise on his face when he arrived at church to find Tom and me already there. We had decided that if he cared enough to come out on a bitterly cold morning to help us, we could work a little faster and help him. I can’t honestly say that we were both on time for every meeting from then on, but we did always see that at least one of us was there every Sunday.

And we discovered that Brother Reed’s lessons were actually very good. But none of them ever compared to the lesson he taught us about service and love on that cold winter morning.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Larry Winborg