When Elder Henry D. Taylor was a little boy living in Provo, Utah, he often walked across the lane from his home to his grandmother’s house. Whenever he visited her, she would offer him crackers, raisins, or other delicacies. “One day, however,” Elder Taylor recounts, “without waiting to be offered a treat, I reached into the box where the crackers were stored and, much to my amazement and anguish, put my hand into a mousetrap that had been set. This remains as one of my earliest recollections.”
Elder Taylor was the fourth boy born to Arthur and Maria Dixon Taylor. Later two more boys and two girls joined the family. Elder Taylor’s father and three older brothers, as well as his two younger brothers, all had red hair, but Henry had dark hair like his mother. He has often jokingly said, “I must be the black sheep of the family.”
Although they lived in town, where Henry’s father was a businessman, the family owned a fruit farm several miles from Provo. Elder Taylor recalls that “for several years we moved to the farm for the summer. Father would travel by bicycle or horse and buggy to his work at the Taylor Brothers Company. We learned to spray the fruit trees, to irrigate them, and to harvest the fruit. Night irrigating was a cold, unpleasant task, and it discouraged us from wanting to become farmers.
“Mother gloried in farm life. She had a beautiful garden and enjoyed picking the various kinds of vegetables and fruits when they were ripe. In the evening she delighted in walking along the brow of the hill and in admiring the magnificent sunsets. I suppose from her enthusiasm most of us children developed an appreciation for sunsets and other beauties of nature.
“Father and I would often drive from Provo out to the farm. Just over the Provo River bridge was a grocery store with a blackboard in front that was used for advertising. Across the top of the blackboard was scrawled the saying, ‘As we travel through life, let us live by the way.’ On our return to Provo, I would recite this statement. Father would chuckle as he caught the hint. We would stop the horse in front of the store, and he would buy me an ice-cream cone.”
Later on, instead of spending summers at the farm, Elder Taylor’s family would move up the canyon to a tent-cabin and stay until school started in the fall. Moving up the canyon meant moving the cows as well. Because it was very hard on cows (and boys) to walk in the heat of the day, Henry and one of his brothers would leave between 3:30 A.M. and 4:00 A.M. in order to reach the mouth of the canyon by sunup.
“It was the summers that brought us together. I remember the annual building of a raft to float down the Provo River (Huck Finn style), swimming in the same waters, trekking over the mountainside to gather logs for bonfires in anticipation of Indian stories to come, leaping from a tall swing to see how far we could jump, hiking up Mount Timpanogos with John Swensen or Uncle Walt Dixon long before easy trails had been constructed.”
Reminiscing about his happy childhood Christmases, Elder Taylor remembers that “just through the block from us lived Professor Robert Sauer, a German convert. He was a music instructor at Brigham Young University and the leader of its band. While it was still dark on Christmas morning, Brother Sauer would arise, stand on his front porch, and play ‘Silent Night’ and ‘The Holy City’ on his trumpet.
“Father and Mother went to great lengths to make Christmas a happy time for us. One Christmas a piece of string led from our filled stockings to our major presents hidden somewhere in the house. Hours had been spent making these preparations. We boys arose before we were supposed to, and in the dark we accidentally broke the strings. Father and Mother had to spend the remainder of the night repairing the damage.
“We were a missionary family. There was never a question about whether or not we would go on missions; it was just a matter of waiting until we were old enough to serve. Father and Mother themselves went on a mission to England.”
Elder Taylor received a call to the Eastern States Mission. But during the summer before he was to leave, he and a brother had drunk some contaminated water while on a trip to southern Utah. As a result, Henry contracted typhoid fever and was not able to leave until later. He recalls that “when I first reached my mission, our room wasn’t well heated. We had our study class at 6:00 A.M., and I would don my bathrobe and sit there with my teeth chattering. I found that putting a hot toaster under my chair helped a little.”
At that time missionaries often traveled without purse or scrip. Elder Taylor said that during his mission “the Lord was good to us, and the people were kind and provided us with food and lodging. My mission experiences were humbling and inspirational.
“I salute you noble young people. You will be the leaders in your communities and the Church in the very near future. Live clean and useful lives. Happiness comes from keeping the Lord’s commandments. I leave my blessing with you, and pray that our Heavenly Father will guide, guard, and protect you.”