It was one of my first years of teaching and I was enjoying the grade one class, but I was still rather shy around the parents. While they seemed kind and cared for their children, I didn’t know any of them as well as I did their children.
One day I received an invitation to have dinner at one of my student’s homes. This was not really how I wanted to spend a weekend evening, but I knew that it would mean a great deal to the first grade child, who thought, as so many young children do, that his teacher was as close to perfect as anyone could be. I accepted the invitation somewhat reluctantly. After all, I did not know these people, what would we even talk about? How awkward was this going to be? How could I not go without hurting my student’s feelings?
What a surprise awaited me. The parents were wonderfully friendly and thankfully talkative so we enjoyed each other’s company as we chatted. While sitting in their living room, I happened to glance over to the dining room and saw wine glasses on the table. I had not been a member of the Church very long and religion was a forbidden topic in my school. Not wanting to create any problems for anyone, I quickly decided that I would simply say “no thank you” to any offer of wine.
As we sat down to our meal, the wine came out and was poured without asking. “Uh, oh”, I thought “what do I do now?” and decided to just ignore the wine and enjoy the food. Then the father raised his glass and offered a toast to...me. It’s amazing how much can go through one’s mind in just a couple of seconds: “I’m going away soon and we’ll never see each other again. What would it matter if I take just one tiny sip? One sip doesn’t matter.” But then another thought came too. “You haven’t broken the Word of Wisdom yet, why do it now?” So I reached for my water glass and accepted the toast with...water. I noticed a glance between the parents who quickly moved us onto another topic of conversation.
After dinner, I was asked if I would like tea or coffee. I graciously declined, smiling and offering no reason why. Truly, I was not your model member-missionary, but I was determined to keep away from any topics of religion. After the tea and coffee, I relaxed a bit, thinking I was out of danger. But no, there was the after dinner liqueur. Keeping my tried and true response, I simply smiled and said, “thank you, but no thank you.”
As the evening went on, we chatted, laughed and had a lively conversation until the father dropped the “bomb” with “We noticed that you didn’t drink your wine, or have tea or coffee and you also declined the liqueur”. Hoping for an end to this inquiry, I said, “Oh, yes, I did do that.” He continued with, “Is there a reason you did?” Desperate for him to give up, I simply offered, “Yes, there is.” Still he persisted, “Would you mind telling us what the reason is?” Now those people who are good member-missionaries would at this point jump in delight at such a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel or would have done that much earlier! I just smiled as I searched my brain database for any way to answer honestly without bringing up religion. Noticing my hesitation, he said, “Is it part of your religion?” What could I say? “Yes”, I simply answered with nothing more forthcoming. At that point, the mother said, “Would you mind telling us about it because we have actually been searching for something in the way of a church for our family?”
At that moment, I felt many things. One was the realization that I had been brought to the home of this lovely family for the exact reason that they were ready for the gospel. Other realizations were more disturbing—what if I had allowed my fear to keep me away this evening? And what if I had taken the one sip of wine at dinner, how long would these people have waited to meet another member of the Church? Or would they have ever met someone else?
I told them that I could tell them about my church, but that I had friends whose sole work it was to teach about our church to anyone who might be interested. I did tell them how much the Church meant to me and then called the missionaries as soon as I got home. The missionaries taught the family. They accepted the gospel and attending their baptisms was a very happy day in my life as well as theirs.
Shortly afterwards, they moved to Australia with their three little boys. We lost touch after a couple of years, but I often wonder how many lives they have influenced and how it all started with the Holy Ghost whispering to my mind “why break the Word of Wisdom now?” How grateful I am that I listened and obeyed.
What a powerful lesson this was to me. Jacob’s words, “Oh be wise, what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12) call out to all of us to be good examples and share the gospel through our actions, even through the small things.