03455_000_007When it comes to their feelings about the gospel, Len and Lou Harris share a strong family resemblance.
Yes, they’re identical twins. Yes, they tried changing places in school once. Yes, they fooled the teacher. No, they didn’t get away with it. The other kids spotted the switch instantly and blew their cover. So much for identical.
It’s funny how different two people who are just alike can be. Len Harris of Plaquemine, Louisiana, wants to be a doctor. His brother Lou wants to be an attorney.
Len loves to do experiments with his chemistry set. He cheerfully admits to almost setting his father on fire once while trying to create a blowtorch.
Lou enjoys reading the encyclopedia for entertainment. So far he’s polished off A, B, M, N, O, P, S, and T.
According to their parents, Lou is easygoing like his mother, and Len is spirited like his father.
Actually, Len and Lou really are alike in a lot of ways too. Both of them like to ride horses and drive the tractor on the small farm outside of town where their family is going to build a new home. They both like to construct model airplanes. They both like to fish in the bayou. They both like basketball and baseball and Scout trips and cowboy boots.
And they both love being deacons. They love passing the sacrament in the converted bowling alley that serves as their chapel, between the cafe and the police station. They love learning about the gospel in Sunday School and deacons quorum meetings. And above all they love their mother and father and older sisters and each other.
They both learned about honoring the priesthood in one of the best ways possible—by watching their dad, the elders quorum president, honor his—and by seeing their mother, the Relief Society president, support him in doing so.
Their dad is a high school principal, and their mom is an English teacher, so education is stressed in their home. But education in the Harris household means not merely the three R’s but also the truths of the restored gospel.
Plaquemine is a part of a flat landscape of sugarcane fields and sweet morning mists. The Harris home is only a block from the Mississippi River, and the family often walks along the levee together, letting the moving waters soothe their spirits.
It’s just one of the many things they do together. There’s family home evening, in which the boys take their turns in presenting the lessons. There are morning and evening prayers. “We have a happy family,” Len says. “I know for sure that my parents love me, and I love them too. Every morning and night there’s a prayer. And then we all give each other a hug and say how much we love each other. Every day when Daddy comes home from work we attack him at the door and wrestle with him.”
There is gospel study. Lou says, “We read out of the scriptures every night as a family, and we each read alone too. We’re going through the whole Book of Mormon on certain subjects. Daddy will say, ‘What do you want to read about tonight?’ and we’ll say, ‘Faith,’ and we’ll read about that.”
Sometimes Brother Harris takes the boys on in basketball. They’re tall for their age, but he’s taller. He was a football and baseball star in college and later a very successful high school basketball coach. People in Plaquemine still call him Coach Harris even now that he’s a principal. And he can still show his youngsters a thing or two about going to the hoop.
Although the Harris family is close, it’s not perfect. There are disagreements that have to be ironed out. That’s done in family councils where complaints can be expressed and resolved. Brother and Sister Harris mete out justice fairly and compassionately, but firmly.
And in all they do, there is love—love both expressed and self-evident. “I love my family a lot,” Lou says, “and I know they love me too. They’ve shown me many times that they do. My daddy proved it four times in particular. Those were the four times when I fell into the water before I knew how to swim. Daddy came in after me every time—shoes and all.
“Being sealed in the temple makes me feel like I have an insurance policy on our love. If anything happens to one of us, I’ll still have my family.”
The honor of holding the Aaronic Priesthood is not taken lightly in the Harris home. After all, they were introduced to the gospel by a 12-year-old deacon from across the street. “I was waiting to receive the priesthood a long time before I was old enough,” Lou says. “It was like going on an exciting journey—counting down the days. I was very happy. My parents often talk to us about the importance of the priesthood.”
“And we’re preparing for our missions,” Len says. “We’re saving up our money. Daddy wants us to get a second language. I’ve learned a little Spanish and French.”
As they’re learning how to save and speak, they’re also learning how to serve. Sister Harris can tell about the day she went visiting teaching to Sister Aidair, and there were Len and Lou. They were helping Sister Aidair fix her broken lawnmower. “It’s fun being needed,” Len says. “Monday we have a service project. We’re going to mow the lawn of an elderly couple over by the bayou.”
Needless to say, Brother and Sister Harris think highly of their twin boys. “They’re special boys,” Sister Harris says. “They’re smart boys. They’re on the honor roll. We didn’t think there would be any boys in our family. I come from a family of girls. So when they came along, we just put everything into it because we wanted them to grow into righteous men, just as their sisters grew into righteous women.
“They love me, and I love them,” Brother Harris says. “I love them better than I love myself. Every day I try to be a better man for their sakes.
“Remembering the joy I felt when I received the priesthood, and knowing what it means to me, I had looked forward a long time to the day when my boys could become deacons. I was proud when the branch president found them worthy to bear the Aaronic Priesthood. I want them to progress and learn all that the Lord has for them to know, so that they can bless many lives. They certainly bless ours.”
Sunday afternoon is a favorite time for Len and Lou. That’s when their father takes them on his knees and tells them stories from his childhood and youth. They love those stories more than movies or video games or catching a huge catfish. Brother Harris didn’t keep a journal as a young man, but these stories are a kind of living journal, and the boys know many of them by heart. If you ever visit the Harrises, be sure to ask about the sweet potato and the noose, or the old horse named Taxi, or the infamous college initiation that didn’t happen. Len and Lou always beg for just one more story and then just one more.
But Brother Harris doesn’t just talk. After the stories he asks his sons what they have learned lately, and then he listens. He asks them what they have felt and thought about, and he listens. They share ideas and trade insights. Threads of love and knowledge are being woven, strand by strand, into unbreakable bonds.
Len and Lou are fortunate young men. They have strong forces to draw on—the good green earth of Louisiana, the mighty Mississippi, kind and righteous parents, the blessings of the priesthood, and each other. Strangers may not be able to tell them apart, but those who know them and love them can. And they know that their Father in Heaven is one who knows them and loves them best of all.
Even identical twins may not really be identical, but these two are united in love and purpose and gospel truth. That’s why their happiness bears such a strong family resemblance.