“A family may be defined as a group of people of various ages, united by covenant, living together in the most intimate relationship. … A family is a project in group living in which the thing to do and the thing not to do are absorbed through precept, example, and purpose.”—Elder Hugh B. Brown.
Now if that doesn’t describe the situation two young people are in when placed together as missionary companions, what does? As companions working for the Lord, we are “united by covenant” and are living in intimate circumstances, and “precept, example, and purpose” are exactly the ways in which we grow, learn, and teach. If we compare the family unit with the missionary team, we find that just as there are happy and unhappy families, successful and unsuccessful families, so there are happy and unhappy, successful and unsuccessful missionary “families.” Once we know what makes the happiest and most successful missionary teams, we should know how to have a happy and successful life in any family-type situation, because, as President Paul Dunn said, “A mission is life in miniature.” Likewise, a missionary team is a family in miniature.
First of all, there is one essential quality to have in any family. The Lord has commanded us to have it, and without it we “become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1.) It is what makes the good in life worthwhile and the bad worth enduring—love. We must love our companions if we are going to be happy. We are going to hate living with someone we hate; we’ll feel all right about living with someone we feel all right about; but we’re naturally going to love living with someone we love.
However … when you’re a farm boy from South Crawdad, Louisiana, who likes football, redheads, and LBJ, and your companion is a super-groover fraternity man from Happy Valley, Utah, who likes baseball, blondes, and Nixon, how in the world do you love each other?
As impossible as it may seem at first, it can be done. After all, football and baseball are both sports, blondes and redheads are both species of girls, and President Johnson and President Nixon are both politicians. Don’t throw up barriers to your love just because you have different likes and dislikes. You have much more in common with each other than you might think. If you look for common ground, then you’re off to a good start.
Another little trick we’ve found very effective is the old “act as if” principle. It simply means that when you act as if you have a certain habit, it soon becomes a habit. If you act as if you are a rebel, you soon become a rebel. But if you act as if you love your companion, you will soon love him.
Where does one start? With an act. What are some things you would do for someone you love? Would you make his bed? Would you shine his shoes? Would you let him have the extra piece of cake? Would you share your “care” package with him? (Oh, you would too!) These are all little acts of love that are not at all difficult to do, but by doing them unbegrudgingly you build a bond of love that will last throughout eternity. Isn’t it worth the little extra effort involved to insure success and happiness?
The importance of loving the people you live with is easy to see. It’s more than being reasonable and practical, though. It’s a commandment as well.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34–35.)
We are commanded to love one another because that is how everyone will be able to recognize true followers of Christ. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility of loving each other so that the world can recognize the true church. And where does love begin? Right in your own home, your own family.
The most important thing about all this, though, is that you don’t have to restrict its application to the family alone. It works just as well in school, at work, in church, in clubs and organizations, in athletics, in anything at all. Love is a beautiful principle that will last throughout eternity; so don’t you think it’s worth our while to learn it and apply it today? We do.