I was born in Utah, but most of my memories begin in Boston, Massachusetts. I do have a faint recollection at age two and a half of a white-topped buggy with my grandfather in the driver’s seat. My parents, myself, and my six-month-old brother were being taken to the nearest railway station forty miles away. My next recollection is looking out of a rain-streaked window from a hotel room in Boston. I see in memory the round drops of rain rolling down the window as I pressed my nose against the cold glass.
During my life I have found that it is very important for children to listen carefully to their parents. They can learn much from them. My father was a music student in Boston. He sat at a rented piano and played the music of Edvard Grieg, Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Robert Schumann. I can still hear that music and over the years I have learned to play most of it myself. It has added greatly to my appreciation of the world into which I was born. Those beautiful sounds have made a great contribution to my life, crowding out many of the uglier sounds we occasionally hear.
Best of all, I remember sitting on my mother’s lap, hearing her tell me the story of the boy prophet Joseph Smith, who went into the woods to pray. Near our apartment were many churches. I heard their bells and saw their domes and steeples when we took walks together. So when Mother told me of Joseph’s concern over which church he should join, I was able to understand his confusion before the First Vision.
I distinctly remember my mother telling me in those early years that everything I said or thought or did was in some almost magical way recorded—that someday I would have to be judged according to what I had said, thought, and done. This did not frighten me, but it gave me a growing sense of responsibility for my actions. Today with cassettes, video tapes, and other inventions, I have gained a fuller understanding of what she was telling me about the record of my life.
I hope that you will have the experience of being taught to read by your parents. Since my father was busy at the New England Conservatory of Music all day, my mother taught me to read when I was about four years old. One day we walked down Huntington Avenue to the shops in the center of Boston. We went to the publishing house of Little, Brown and Company. There we were shown a lot of children’s books. Mother bought several that were suitable for my ability. One was an attractive little primer that inspired my imagination. It was called The Brownie Book, a story about imaginary little creatures who did good deeds and went on a trip to the moon! I could see the moon out of our window at night. It seemed such an important object in the sky. The idea of anybody going to the moon brought many stimulating thoughts to my eager, young imagination.
Another book was a primer describing the coming of the Pilgrim fathers, the establishment of the American colonies, and the development of the nation into which I had been born. I was deeply impressed by it.
About this time, President Joseph F. Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency suggested to members of the Church that they hold a family home evening once each week. Accordingly, my father would gather us around a little table after supper to read the Book of Mormon. We read it from cover to cover that year. Because Mother had taught me to read, I was privileged to take my turn in reading aloud. What excitement I experienced as we approached the Third book of Nephi and the coming of the Savior! With feelings of sadness we continued through the books of Mormon, Ether, and Moroni. These feelings were strongly reinforced by my father.
Father told me the story of Grandfather Durham, who had been inspired to compose a melody called “The Nephite Lamentation.” Thomas Durham had been promised in a patriarchal blessing that he would hear music as it was sung in the heavens. My father related how one night my grandfather had a dream. In it he saw twenty-four men by a stream. They looked very sad. Their leader arose and addressed them. Then he heard a melody played on what sounded like a trumpet. The impression came to him that it was a dream concerning Moroni and the last twenty-four Nephites. He awoke. In the late hours of the night he went to his little organ and played the tune he had heard and wrote it down. Later, a choir in the Parowan Ward in southern Utah sang the tune to the words of “O My Father.” It was published in modified form in the old Primary songbook as arranged by Henry E. Giles.
Hearing this music and reading the Book of Mormon in these early years with my parents made a forceful impression upon my mind as to the reality and truth of the Book of Mormon.
I hope that each of you will watch and listen carefully to what your parents say and do. I pray they will teach you well. I also hope that the music you hear in your home will be uplifting and inspiring, because we believe that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (A of F 1:13.) The place to begin with good things is at home with your family.
Finally, let us all remember the commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Ex. 20:12.)