Friend to Friend


Elder Sterling W. Sill

“I was born in Layton, Utah,” Elder Sill stated. “Soon after my birth we moved onto a twenty-acre farm my father had a mile and a half north of Layton. There were several modest homes on the street where we lived, and I could never understand why it was called Easy Street, because we were all very poor and had to work very hard. My family’s house there had only two rooms: a little eight-foot by ten-foot bedroom for my parents and a room about fifteen feet long that served as the living quarters for the family. Attached to the house was a little lean-to where my brother, Russell, and I slept. It measured about six feet by eight feet. And in the wintertime, our bed was often covered with snow.

“My parents were wonderful. Even though we lived under hard circumstances, they never complained about our poverty. I was the fourth of ten children they had to care for. My father worked as a farmer, a schoolteacher, and a postmaster. However, he was disabled most of his adult life, which gave me the opportunity to partially pay him back for his earlier assistance to me.

“We lived two miles from our meetinghouse. I always walked to church, and I always attended church from the time I was eight years old. I had a kind of compulsion to go to church, which I did not then understand, inasmuch as no one—not Mother, Father, the bishop, or anybody—urged me to go.

“It was my job at home to make the fire each morning. My father would call to me from his room when it was time to make the fire. Because of the extreme cold in our plasterless house, which allowed the air to blow through the walls, and because there wasn’t time to completely dress, I became expert in making a fire in the shortest possible time. I would prepare the kindling, paper, and coal the night before. Then in the morning I would dump the ashes from the grate; take off the stove lids; put in the paper, kindling, and coal; light the match to the paper; put the lids back on; and see if I could get back into bed with my brother before I froze to death. Sometimes it was about an even race.

“I also helped with other chores, which included feeding the pigs, milking the cow, keeping the stable clean, and feeding the other animals. Unfortunately we frequently had little to feed the animals. During the summer I used to herd the cow out on the street, where she would eat the grass along the ditch bank at the side of the road. One of the great trials of my young life was that sometimes I had to herd her on Sunday. Otherwise, she would not get anything to eat, and she furnished a large part of our food supply. We also had a chicken coop with a few laying hens. My mother used the eggs to trade at the store for things we needed.

“One of my most vivid memories is of the irrigation reservoir that my father built. During the week we used to play in the reservoir. I got a couple of railroad ties and made a raft on which I could sail. Frequently we went swimming in the reservoir. One time the reservoir sprung a leak in its bank along the outlet pipe. It started as a little trickle but soon became a large stream. Before we could stop the leak, the water had washed away part of the dike that served as the bank of the reservoir. Several men from around the neighborhood tried to help by shoveling in dirt, throwing in rocks, and stacking sandbags, but they were unable to control the escaping water, which did a great deal of damage by washing away the crops that were below it. Many times after that I had a kind of nightmare dream about our farm being washed away.

“When I was older, my father permitted me to have a little bit of land of my own to cultivate. I planted raspberries, blackberries, dewberries, and all kinds of garden produce to supplement our food supply. I used to get a seed catalog every year, and I loved to look at those beautiful pictures of radishes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, etc., and imagine what I could produce by putting a few seeds into the ground. I loved the soil, and I loved to see things grow.

“I think that I learned more on the farm that helped me to succeed in life than I did in any other place. It was while farming that I learned how to work consistently, joyfully, and to the best of my ability. I was motivated by my own enthusiasm, without any prompting from others.”

Elder Sill wishes to impart this message to the children of the world: “In our preexistence, we lived with God, who is our Teacher and our Eternal Heavenly Father. And by the quality of our lives there, we earned the right to be born and to live now.

“What a great time it is to grow up under the most favorable conditions that have ever been known upon our earth. Many of you will have all of the education you could possibly desire. The gospel has been restored in a fulness never before known so that the pathway to eternal life is now brilliantly lighted and perfectly marked. No one need get off that strait and narrow way leading to the celestial kingdom, except by his own choice. God, who is concerned about our destiny, will abundantly bless us if we will always remember to serve and to worship Him.

“The best success formula that I know of in the world is to keep the Lord’s commandments with no exceptions permitted. In the words of Dicken’s Tiny Tim, ‘God bless us, every one.’”

[illustration] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney