Growing up in Huntsville, Utah, I was very aware of the presence of President David O. McKay in our community. Once, when I was ten or eleven, I met him at the dairy where he frequently came to get milk, and he asked who I was. He said that he knew my father and my grandfather and that surely I would turn out pretty good because of them.
When I was eighteen, my dad, my grandpa, and I went together to receive our patriarchal blessings. That was a spiritual highlight of my life. My grandpa was promised that if he remained faithful, he’d inherit the celestial kingdom. He was in his seventies then, so I knew where he was going to be. My dad received a wonderful blessing, and I did too. My spiritual heritage has given me a desire to do what’s right and to honor our family name. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been tempted to do wrong and thoughts of my father’s and grandfather’s goodness have prompted me to make better decisions.
I grew up on a farm, and I loved working with cattle and with all our other animals. I always had a favorite dog: first Ranger, then Randy, then Tippy, and a lot of others. There were a number of horses, too, that I rode and came to love while I was growing up. I’d ride backward and standing up as well as the right way, and I’d sometimes slide off the hind end like a slippery slide. Once when I did that, I got kicked in the back of the head and had to be taken to the hospital.
For a good part of my young life, I carried my gym bag in one hand and a cornet case in the other. There was always a conflict between my gym bag and my horn case. My mom kept promoting music, and I kept promoting athletics. Although I wanted to be a great athlete, I had only average abilities, so eventually the cornet prevailed. I studied the cornet for ten years, taking lessons every week. Music has been associated with a lot of my most spiritual moments in life: while singing hymns in the mission field, at family home evenings, and at sacrament meetings, and while attending musicals and concerts.
When I got back from my mission and went to Brigham Young University, my bishop, Reid Bankhead, had a great impact on my life. He taught about Christ and urged us to read the scriptures daily, especially the Book of Mormon. Ezra Taft Benson was one of my heroes even then, long before I knew that he’d be our prophet and make studying the Book of Mormon one of the key elements of his ministry. I doubt that a year has gone by since then in which I haven’t read the Book of Mormon.
My older brother, Gary, is two years my senior and was born mentally retarded. He attended public schools until about fourth grade. Part of my early years were spent defending him from the teasing and taunts of his classmates. I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so unfeeling of his situation. Because of my experiences with my brother, I developed a sensitivity to people who are different in any way. We all need to be like Jesus and reach out to those who are different from us. Thinking about the Savior and making Him a part of our lives helps us develop compassion. Jesus ought to be our best friend. Through prayer and thinking about Jesus, we can develop a greater sensitivity to other people and their needs.