Elder Russell C. Taylor’s two grandfathers, Hyrum M. Taylor and Joseph H. Dean, were among those who were called by the Church to settle Red Mesa, Colorado. “My father was called as a bishop at the age of nineteen, succeeding his own father,” Elder Taylor said. “He was single at the time, but he married my mother two years later. The home where I was born was a very humble home.”
When Elder Taylor was two and a half years old, his family packed everything they owned into the back of a truck and moved to Provo, Utah. “After our arrival,” Elder Taylor related, “my older brother Hal and I slept in a small toolshed out in back of our house. In the winter it was very cold, but we had home-made quilts that kept us warm and dry, and we didn’t complain about our circumstances.
“We had some acreage with a large garden; we also had chickens, pigs, and a cow. I grew up feeding the animals and cleaning the chicken coops and the cow barn. My father and I had an agreement: I would clean the barn every Saturday exactly as he had taught me to do it, and in return he would give me ten cents to go to the Saturday matinee and two cents for penny candy. There was a different movie at the theater each week, and I really enjoyed those Saturday movies.
“My mother worked harder than any woman I have ever known. She had eight boys and one girl, and she taught us discipline by having us work around the house and in the garden.
“I remember that many summer mornings when we’d go into the fields, Mother was right at our sides. We’d pick fruit and berries to can and store throughout the winter. The garden rows seemed very long to me as I worked up and down them throughout the summer.
“My father was a very gentle person. He disciplined us by letting us know that if we did wrong, we disappointed him. He and I were great friends, and he made me feel loved. I knew that he really cared about me. I felt a special bond with my father, for I was born on his birthday, November 25.
“At Christmastime our family would string popcorn and cranberries on thread to decorate the little Christmas tree. Maybe we would only have one gift and a few pieces of candy and popcorn, but they were wonderful Christmases, filled with love and fun family activities.
“We skated on Utah Lake during the winter. Sometimes we would go out a little too far on the ice, and we would hear it crack beneath us. In the summer we would swim in the Provo River, diving off the rocks into the cool, clear water. We played kick the can, hide-and-seek, and marbles; and we used a large tin can nailed to the garage and a little rubber ball to play basketball.
“We always attended church. I was sometimes wiggly and didn’t show all the interest that I should have shown, but I knew that what I was learning there were the things that really mattered.
“One of the spiritual experiences that I remember best from my youth happened when I was about five years old. My next older brother, Jay, had just been baptized. He was walking down a road between Provo and Orem. A man who had been drinking came swerving down the road in his car, and the door handle of the car caught my brother at the back of his neck. Jay had a serious fracture and concussion. We all prayed that he would get better, but after twenty long days in the hospital, he died. I vividly remember my mother and father sitting with us and saying, ‘Jay has gone back home to the God who gave us all life. The Lord could have saved him, but for some reason He didn’t. There will be a work for Jay to do where he is now, and we should not question the Lord. We should not have any bitterness or lasting sorrow.’ We all resolved that we were going to trust the Lord, and we all knew that someday we would again be with Jay.
“As I was growing up in Provo, there was another boy my age in my grade at school. His name was Walt Hansen. He and I were great friends; there was a great bond between us. His family did not attend Church, but Walt came because of the influence of his friends who reached out to him. Years later he became a bishop in the Provo Sunset Ward, and I’ve often heard people say that Walt Hansen was the most kind and helpful bishop that they had ever known. I hope that you children will realize that you may be a good influence in the lives of your friends and help someone else discover the gospel.
“I have two messages for young people: First, try to look on the bright side of things—look for the very best in people and in life. Have confidence in yourself, be happy, and develop good feelings about yourself. Try hard to please your Heavenly Father, because there is much joy from being obedient to the Lord’s teachings. Remember that you never know what the Lord has in store for you. When my parents brought me to Salt Lake City to general conference, we would sit in the balcony of the Tabernacle. I would look down and see the General Authorities. They seemed to be very wise, and they spoke with confidence. I felt the spirit of their testimonies and their love for the Lord. Now I sit in one of those red chairs, but I never thought back then that I would have such a calling.
“My second message to you is to pray to your Father in Heaven. Picture Him in your mind as the personal, loving, kind Father that He is, One who expects you to do your best in your Church assignments as well as in life. Pray for inspiration on how to live your life. I have found that most of my inspiration has come after I have prayed and while I am doing the things that I know that I should be doing. Inspiration and blessings flow as we serve our Heavenly Father.”