Elder Spencer H. Osborn was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1921 but moved to Los Angeles, California, with his family when he was four years old. “I spent all my school years in Los Angeles,” Elder Osborn recalled, “and didn’t move back to Utah until after I was married.”
He remembered Los Angeles as being “really lovely. It was a developing area full of orange groves and not quite so many people. We enjoyed going to the beach and often camped there. I can still remember the taste of sand in our food.
“My father was a great, honorable, and good man. I have much admiration for him. He died very suddenly when I was fifteen. All of my growing-up years he was in the bishopric. Ten years after he was in the bishopric of the old Adams Ward, I served in the bishopric of that same ward.”
Elder Osborn’s father’s death was the hardest thing he had to face during his boyhood. His brother William said, “After Father died, Mother, Spencer, and another brother moved to a new neighborhood away from the home and friends they had known for many years. It was a lonesome time for Spencer. I lived about two miles away and built a basketball standard for Spencer in my driveway. He would walk over to my house and play basketball by himself. But even during this difficult time, Spencer was always interested in the Church; he was a solid kid all through his life.”
“I can’t say enough good about my mother. She was a wonderful woman,” Elder Osborn said. “She was a very refined Bostonian and came from comfortable circumstances. She joined the Church, as did one of her sisters, and came out west. My father had been involved in real estate, but when the Depression hit, there was very little work of any kind. After he died, my mother had to support the family. Under the direction of the Relief Society General Board, she started the first LDS Social Services in California, which helped people find employment and helped them with other needs. Mother also served as Relief Society president during my growing-up years. She was always concerned about other people.
“My parents were good examples to me and my four brothers. We always held family home evening, which we called ‘family night,’ long before the program was officially announced.” Because of the age spread between Elder Osborn and his brothers, they did not participate together much in sports or have many common interests. But as adults, the brothers combined to form a clothing manufacturing company, with plants in several cities in Utah. The company is now being run by the next generation of Osborns.
As a youth, Elder Osborn especially enjoyed Scouting. One time when he had gone on a hike into the mountains with his Scout troop, he took a different path from that of the rest of the Scouts, thinking that the two paths would eventually meet. The trail was steep and rocky and did not join the path that the other Scouts had taken, after all. He was lost, and he prayed that the Lord would help him. “A short time later,” he said, “my Scoutmaster, having been prompted by the Spirit to find me, came up the path and helped me back down the trail.”
Elder Osborn especially liked to read biographies; Abraham Lincoln was his hero. Besides reading, he enjoyed playing basketball, camping on the beach, and doing other outdoor activities. He was also a theatrical performer and had leading roles in several plays. Even when he was very young, he liked to dress up and play different characters.
Elder Osborn and his wife, Avanelle, are the parents of seven children. They feel that they are a close family, and they enjoy doing things together. Elder and Sister Osborn are now serving in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and they usually see their family only when they return to Salt Lake City, Utah, for general conferences.
The message that Elder Osborn wants to convey to the children of the Church is the same one that he tries to convey to his own children: “Young people of the Church should develop a spirit of service to other people and to the Lord. Service not only ensures happiness and eternal well-being, it is the foundation of happiness in the Church.
“The world seems to be caught up with the idea of taking care of only yourself, of being ‘number one.’ But that is completely contrary to the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I bear you my testimony that I know that this work is true. I know that God lives and that Jesus Christ is our Savior.”