Mother took pieces of wood from a dwindling pile on the kitchen floor and put them through the open door of the cookstove. She was heating the oven to bake bread. Six loaves were rising on the warming shelf along the top of the stove. A rush of warm air met Jack, my brother, who was five, and Uncle Bob, who was ten, as they brought in armloads of wood and stacked them carefully beside the stove. In my dad’s family, boys were considered men when they were ten years old, and they were expected to do a full day’s work.
Uncle Bob is my dad’s youngest brother. Dad was about seventeen when Uncle Bob was born. Dad always had a special love for him. No matter where we lived, Dad would get lonesome to see Uncle Bob and would often go home to his parents’ place just to see him.
As he was growing up, Uncle Bob often came to our home. He helped Dad with the haying and the fieldwork. He carried wood for my mother. He really enjoyed eating all the delicious food Mother prepared.
The rest of Dad’s family had been converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after Dad was grown and had left home. Uncle Bob was the youngest member of Dad’s family, and he had a special testimony of the Church.
One day Uncle Bob stacked an armload of wood and turned to my mother. The Spirit was strong in his heart as he began to explain the things he had been learning in church and through study of the scriptures and personal prayer. He told her many things about the gospel of Jesus Christ and about Joseph Smith’s praying to know which church was true and discovering that not one of the churches in his day had the fullness of the gospel. Uncle Bob told her how Joseph Smith had been privileged to see God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, and to know for himself that they had bodies of flesh and bone, just as he had. Uncle Bob’s eyes never wavered from my mother’s face as he bore his strong testimony.
Mother didn’t believe a boy so young as Uncle Bob could know these things. She became angry at the words she was hearing and told Uncle Bob, “You may come back to my house anytime, but never mention these things here again.”
Uncle Bob loved my parents and wanted to come as often as he could. He agreed. “Aunt Ruth, I will never mention these things again in your home, I promise. I also promise you that someday you will ask me to baptize you.”
Now, this was many years ago, when young people did not speak their minds. They were expected to show respect to those who were older than they. It took a lot of courage for Uncle Bob to speak to my mother this way.
We spent many happy times with Uncle Bob. He stayed with us occasionally while our parents went to visit my mother’s family. He never broke his promise to my mother by again speaking of the great truths of the gospel or bearing his testimony, not even when both of our parents were away.
One year, Uncle Bob came to stay for two weeks. My sister, Jeannie, made spice cake every day. We whipped a half-gallon canful of pure cream for the topping. The smells seemed to curl around the corners of the room and out to the fields where Jack and Uncle Bob worked. It made your mouth water, it was such a tangy odor. But not even then, with a stove full of wood and stomach full of sweet spice cake did Uncle Bob break his vow to my mother.
The years kept going by, one by one. Uncle Bob grew up, married, and had six sons and one daughter. He always stayed close to the Church. He knew that it was true. He held many callings over the years. He served wherever he was needed, and in later years he became a stake patriarch and a temple worker in the Portland Oregon Temple.
In 1971 Uncle Bob was fifty years old and my mother was sixty-four when she telephoned him one day. It’s curious—after all those years, she still remembered! Mother said, “Will you come, Bob. Will you come and baptize me?” On April 15, 1971—forty years after my uncle had made his promise to her—he baptized my mother a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.