I was raised on a farm, and we used to sometimes hold Sunday School conferences that members of the general board attended. When I was a boy of about twelve years of age, which is now over seventy years ago, I attended one such conference that made a lasting impression upon my mind.
Our visitors were Brother Karl G. Maeser, who organized Brigham Young University under the direction of President Brigham Young, and Brother George Goddard, who had a beautiful singing voice. I can remember to this day the songs Brother Goddard had us practice in that conference.
The first one is no longer in the hymn-book, but it goes like this: “Take away the whiskey, the coffee, and the tea. Cold water is the drink for me.” This song made such an impression upon me as a boy that I can hardly drink anything but cold water even today.
I was on the train traveling between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles one time when a waiter asked, “Are you ready for your coffee?”
“No, thank you,” I answered.
“Will you have tea?” he asked.
“No, thank you,” I repeated.
“Would you like some Postum?”
“No, thank you.”
He was becoming irritated now. “What do you want to drink?”
“Cold water, please,” I requested.
His reply was, “Well, you’re the funniest man I ever did see.”
The next song Brother Goddard had us practice is in our hymnbook today. It goes like this:
“Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show;
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?”
This made such an impression upon me as a boy that right then and there I resolved I would always try to be on the Lord’s side.
I was up in Wyoming some years ago talking to the young people. At the close of the meeting a boy came up to me and asked if he could shake my hand. I told him I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do at that moment than shake his hand. Looking up into my face, he said, “Brother Richards, my bishop will never need to worry about losing me.” I could have hugged him. I thought, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every boy and girl in Israel could say this, for then truly they would be on the Lord’s side!
In that same conference I was asked to lead the Sunday School as we all recited in unison “The Testimony of Three Witnesses.” That testimony made such an impression upon my mind that I have loved the Book of Mormon ever since. I have often wondered how anyone could read that testimony and not believe that it is true, for surely an angel did come down from heaven and showed those witnesses the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated and testified to them that it was translated by the gift and power of God.