As I sat in Dave McCallister’s class on outdoor survival, I began to strongly suspect he might be a Latter-day Saint. As a Church member myself, I had not been involved with the Church for several years and had chosen a small college in the mountains of Colorado on purpose. Nevertheless, as the weeks continued I grew to have great respect for Mr. McCallister. He exuded enthusiasm in all that he did, and his eyes radiated an inner peace and confidence.
Eventually, something deeper than my own common sense prodded me until I could no longer refuse the promptings to go to his office and talk to him about my inactivity in the Church. With a trembling hand, I opened the door. “Mr. McCallister,” I said quietly. He looked up from his desk. The turmoil I had long tried to shackle in my heart broke forth, and with tears I told him of my season of spiritual inactivity from the gospel and of my longing to find even a small amount of the peace he exemplified.
He expressed delight that I was a member. Soon he began helping to reawaken my testimony. Because of his faith in the converting power of the Spirit, he guided me into situations where I would be influenced by an even greater teacher: the Holy Ghost.
Wisely, he decided to give my lazy spirit some exercise. He invited me to join him as the full-time missionaries taught the gospel to several other college students. During the discussions I realized how much I had lost, but I simultaneously discovered that if I pondered enough, the long-forgotten knowledge would surface. My spiritual feelings began to grow.
One evening during a discussion, I heard myself bear a testimony of the gospel. Did I really believe what I was saying? How could I say that I knew these things? I answered my own questions when I heard myself quote President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973), who said that a testimony is when “your heart tells you things your mind doesn’t know.” 1
As the semester drew to a close, I was part of a climbing group formed from the outdoor survival classes. We assembled for an ascent up one of Colorado’s highest peaks. All those who studied under Mr. McCallister knew that the spiritual side of his life was never separated from the other aspects of his life. As we readied for the climb, no one hesitated when he asked us to kneel for prayer. Mr. McCallister glanced across the group and then invited me to offer the prayer. It was I who then hesitated. As everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes, I offered a simple but honest prayer. As we gathered our gear, no one noticed the tears in my eyes. I paused a moment to gaze up at the peak towering above us, and the impression came clearly to my mind and heart that I was a daughter of my Heavenly Father, that He was there, and that He loved me.
The Lord has told us “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20) and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy” (Gal. 5:22). The fruit of Brother McCallister’s teaching filled me to overflowing. I am eternally grateful that he helped me to rediscover the small testimony in my own heart and that he showed me the way to nourish it once again.
“Loyal to the Royal within You,” in Speeches of the Year, 1972–73 (1973), 101.