The train threaded its way through the mountains that walled Feather River Canyon, carrying its load of passengers eastward from San Francisco. Although snow lay deep in some of the higher passes, a bright March sun had caused streams to cascade over the rocks and a soft green to begin to color the oak brush and grass.
Some of those on the train pressed their faces against the windows to see the beauty of the canyon; others slept. A man in one of the cars did neither. His thoughts were of a talk he had been asked to give the following week at Primary General Conference. He wondered what he might say to express his love for children.
This man was Marion G. Romney. He picked up his Bible and turned to the New Testament, to the tenth chapter of Mark, which tells how the Savior took the children in his arms and blessed them. As Elder Romney read, he leaned forward in front of the window of the train, the New Testament in his hands, his elbows on his knees. He read and reread the words until it almost seemed as if he could see the Savior with the children in his arms. The picture was so beautiful that Elder Romney closed the book, leaned back as far as he could, and pressed his body hard against the seat as he shut his eyes in prayerful thought.
Just then a great boulder, crashing down the mountainside, burst through the window of the train where he sat. It grazed his face and bruised his right side but did not seriously hurt him.
A week later as Elder Romney stood in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, he said, “Had I been leaning forward, I am sure I would not be here today.”
* * *
Even as a boy Elder Romney had a great love and appreciation for the Church. He would like to share some of his early Church memories with boys and girls, his special friends, all over the Church.
“I first became acquainted with Primary activities when I was a child in old Mexico. We were in a foreign land, building homes, roads, canals, and other community needs with our own hands, without government or Church help. We had to work long and hard on our farms, dairies, and orchards. From them we had to wrest a living or go without.
“But even in those primitive circumstances on the frontier, my parents saw to it that I went to Primary. I remember the very room in which we met. It was in a community building that served as a chapel, a schoolhouse, and a recreational center. I remember the devoted teachers, the songs they taught us, the lessons they gave, and particularly the many walks along the river and the hikes on the smooth, grass-covered slopes of the nearby foothills. To this day I can almost breathe the exhilarating atmosphere and feel the cool sand under my bare feet and between my toes following a summer shower.
“The lessons learned and the aspirations stirred in me through those activities have stayed with and guided me all through the years.
“Our teachers taught us from the hymnbook such songs as ‘Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning,’ ‘An Angel from on High,’ ‘I Know That My Redeemer Lives,’ and ‘O My Father.’
“I thank the Lord with all my soul, and bless my teachers, that I was taught these gospel songs in my youth. All through the years they have been flowing through my mind. I have hummed and sung them as I have ridden over interminable miles in my present ministry. By their messages I have been inspired to reach heavenward.”