The other day I passed the humble home where I was born on March 31, 1903. As I did, I thought of the many important events that had taken place in my early years. Then I went on to think about what has happened in the world at large since that time.
When I was born there were no radios, no television sets, no electric refrigerators, few horseless carriages, no movies, no tape recorders, no atomic bombs, and no airplanes. At that time the Wright Brothers had not yet made their famous sixty-second flight at Daredevil Hill in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Since then we have had a giant knowledge explosion that has brought about our age of miracles.
During my life I have had some really great personal experiences. My first assignment in helping to carry on the work of the world was to herd one of its cows. A great blessing came to me on our farm when I learned something about hard work. As a young man, I went on a mission, taught school, and was called to be a bishop.
I later spent forty-one interesting years as a member of a national business organization, and I have personally known many of the world’s great men and women. As I look back now, I frequently say to myself in humble appreciation, “All of this I have seen; a part of it I was.”
It has been thrilling to me to study the holy scriptures, and I have been delighted over and over again as I have tried to become familiar with some of the world’s literature, including biographies of distinguished men and women.
One of the greatest experiences of my life has been an association with a Church magazine. One Sunday in sacrament meeting I heard a man give his opinion about the value of reading the Improvement Era. It sounded to me like a good idea. Therefore, after making some inquiries and earning the money, I sent in my subscription. Because a good seed bed had been prepared in my mind in sacrament meeting, and because of the pleasure I received from good ideas, I formed the practice of reading everything in the Era each month, including all the advertisements.
Most boys don’t have outstanding people who are willing to sit down with them each day and talk with them about great ideas and high ideals. But this was exactly what my friends in the Era did. It has been said that there are few authors who, by their actual presence, can equal themselves in their writings.
When one writes, his mental activities are filtered so that his best thoughts are separated from the mass of inferior products with which they are mingled in daily life. Therefore, as a small boy on the farm I could sit down each day with such great men as Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, and other great men and women. I could visit with them for as long as I desired and when they were at their best. Only a few of their closest associates could ever have an actual personal interview, and even when they did, it might have often been brief, hurried, and relatively unsatisfactory.
What a great blessing it will prove to be for every ambitious boy and girl in the Church to have a continual contact with the Friend to help them form the ideals, attitudes, and philosophies that will help to make their lives happy and successful.