I have always enjoyed nature and the outdoors. I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and one of my favorite things to do when I was out of school in the summer was to go to my aunt’s ranch. There I herded cows, rode horses, swam in the canal, and often slept in the haystack under the stars.
Oh, how I admired the boys and girls who lived on ranches and farms! They had opportunities that those of us who were raised in the city never had.
However, within a half mile of where I lived in Boise was a river that ran through the city. There was a wooded area there that I loved to go to after school or on Saturdays. My dog was my pal, and we went there together and sailed boats or made whistles out of willows. We watched the beavers make dams and the fish swim in the water. We watched the birds build nests and hatch their young.
As I grew older, I joined the local Boy Scout troop and enjoyed hiking and camping in the summertime with my friends. Many of these boys were in Primary with me. My mother was Primary president, and my younger sister, Dorothy, and I were regular attenders.
My father, however, was not a member of the Church, and when I had my eighth birthday, I was not baptized.
I did have a testimony, though. I knew that God lived. My mother had taught me to pray and to thank Heavenly Father for all the things that I enjoyed. I often thanked Him for the beauty of the earth and for the wonderful times that I had at the ranch and by the river and with the Scouts. I also learned to ask Him for the things that I wanted or needed.
I went to all the Church meetings and activities, but it wasn’t until I was twelve that I really missed not being baptized. By that time, all my friends had been ordained deacons. Because I wasn’t an official member of the Church, I wasn’t able to do many of the things that they did. Passing the sacrament and building a fire to warm up the meetinghouse were only two of the responsibilities that I watched my friends do without me.
So my sister and I began coaxing our father to allow us to be baptized. We also prayed that he might say yes. We were overjoyed when he finally gave his consent, and I was baptized when I was thirteen years old. A whole new world opened up to me as I learned the responsibilities of being a member of the Church and holding the priesthood.
I’m grateful for the influence of the Church in those early years and for my mother’s teachings. Even though I wasn’t baptized until later than many children, I knew that God loved me and listened to me.