In Relief Society on Sunday the lesson talked about the importance of teaching our children about the gospel when they are small. Even if they do not always stay faithful members of the church when they are grown, they will still retain some of the most important things. And you never know when they might come back to the church. It made me think of several instances of that in my own family.
In my Dad's family, for instance, he and my Uncle Steve were really the only active church members that I knew of growing up. But after a lot of years of inactivity, about 10-15 years ago several of his brothers and sisters suddenly did a big turn-around. They quit smoking, they started going to church, and they even went to the temple with their spouses. Wonderful!
The one that always sticks with me most, though, is my Uncle Don. He is my mother's brother, and I never knew him to set foot inside a church. He was a wonderful guy - I lived near him when I went to college and he helped me so much. He let me do laundry at his place, he fixed my cars when they needed it (and they often did), he let me stay with him when I was between apartments, he and his girlfriend would take me out to dinner sometimes. I loved (love!) him. He just wasn't a church-going guy. And that was fine, that was just who he was and everyone just kind of knew and accepted that.
About 10 (or so) years ago, my grandparents had their 50th wedding anniversary. We threw them a big party to celebrate. We invited all their friends, and all the kids and grandkids that could possibly make it came too. It was a fun time! Near the end of the party, Grandma had a special request. She wanted all of the family to go up front and sing a song, "Families Can Be Together Forever." We all trooped up there and sang to Grandma and Grandpa. Uncle Don didn't join the rest of the family up front - I don't know if it's because he just didn't want to sing, or he didn't want to sing a church song. But at any rate, he stayed seated and watched. According to what he told people later, he sat there and watched the entire family stand together, with Grandma and Grandpa at the front and thought - "This is what it will be like. The whole family will be together, and I will be on the outside."
That was an epiphany for him, and his life quietly changed after that. He didn't say anything to anyone, but he went back to church. He met some good friends. Including a lovely woman named Marilyn who was the Relief Society president. And who just happened to be single. I don't think any of us knew that he had gone back to church until he announced that he was getting married... to the Relief Society president... in the temple. Talk about shock and awe! We were astounded. But what a wonderful thing - and a favorite family story of mine. :)