In the mid-1970’s, I served as Branch President in a small branch in Abbotsford British Columbia. Our branch membership comprised approximately 30 active members. During that time, a young family moved into our branch. The father, Leroy, was not a member of the Church. He was a large, strong man who worked with horses for a living. He had no interest in the gospel. His wife and daughters were members of the Church and came out to our meetings as often as they could.
Leroy was somewhat outspoken and definite in his dislike of all things Mormon. He had lived a hard-scrabble life in Alberta and had no appreciation for things of the spirit. In Leroy’s life, things were hard and a man had to be hard to make it on his own. He expected nothing from anyone. Leroy was, in essence, a good man, but had difficulty expressing that side of his person. Life had not been particularly kind to Leroy.
I met Leroy a few times and sensed there was more to this man than met the eye. My wife and I hired Leroy to help us with fencing and other aspects of caring for a small acreage we occupied at the time. He was a hard, honest worker. Leroy and I talked, became acquaintances and then friends, but he resisted any attempt on my part to speak of spiritual matters. Such was simply off-limits for Leroy. Nonetheless, he did allow home teachers and visiting teachers to come to their home. During their visits, Leroy usually left the house.
While living in Abbotsford, Leroy and his family leased a 20-acre farm where Leroy could have his own horses and care for the horses of others. He grew hay on the land to feed his animals during the winter season. One evening a faithful home teacher, Brother Colin Campbell, stopped by hoping to speak to Leroy and his family. As he approached their farm, Brother Campbell could see Leroy out in his fields struggling by himself to gather his baled hay onto his trailer. The sky was threatening and Leroy was frantically trying to get his hay out of the field and into his barn before the rain came. Brother Campbell, a businessman, removed his suit jacket and tie and without saying a word walked out into the field and began to throw hay bales with Leroy. Working shoulder to shoulder for hours into the night they were able to secure Leroy’s hay before the rain started. Hardly a word was spoken.
The following Sunday I was surprised to see Leroy at church with his wife and daughters. I welcomed him and invited him to step into my office for a moment. Alone with Leroy, I asked him what had brought him out to church that day. He answered by relating to me in detail what Brother Campbell had done for him. Then he said, “No one has ever done anything like that for me in my entire life.” For the first time, I saw and felt the tender side of this man. I could see the glistening of tears in his eyes as he spoke softly of the kindness he had received.
To our delight, Leroy continued to attend church weekly. Slowly, the spirit of the gospel permeated his tough exterior and he began to participate in branch events. The members loved Leroy and he felt their love. Our personal conversations changed. He became less resistant, then more tender and sensitive to spiritual feelings. His great heart was softened. After much prayer and pondering, Leroy decided to be baptized. A mighty change had come upon Leroy. He became a new man with a desire to be a disciple of Christ. He and I had many occasions to share our brotherly love. He came to love the priesthood holders in our branch and stake and when he received the priesthood he felt deeply humbled at the prospect of acting for the Lord. Because of his humility, Leroy became a spiritual touchstone for several in our branch. He had the uncanny knack of showing up when someone was in need. He was remarkably skilled at all things mechanical and thoroughly enjoyed helping others. Leroy served everyone.
I shall always remember the day I was extended a release from my calling as Branch President. By that time Leroy had been a member of the Church for two years and we had become very close to one another spiritually. From the stand, I noticed Leroy’s reaction to the change of Branch leadership. When the meeting ended I slowly found my way to my former office. There, filling the doorway was Leroy. Then, without exchanging a single word, we stood facing one another with our hands on the other’s shoulders and looked at each other through tears. Not a word was spoken, but if ever I have had a celestial conversation that was it. We were communicating a brotherly love that needed no words. The love we shared was surely the unspeakable joy we learn of in scripture. I will treasure that moment all of my life. This man of the world had found and learned to love Christ. He had become as a little child, meek, submissive, and humble. His life had changed and he had changed the lives of others, including mine.
Leroy has since passed away. My guess is he is busy teaching others the sacred truths that touched him through a simple, but Christ-like act of love from a faithful home teacher.