I don’t remember not having a testimony; I’ve always believed the gospel to be true. But I recall a very stormy day in Utica, New York, in 1946 when I was on my mission. It was so bitterly cold and windy that we couldn’t tract.
Utica is in the area of the birthplace of the Church, and many there have heard ugly tales that are sometimes circulated about early Church leaders. My companion and I heard them frequently as we were tracting. Some of them upset me—not that I believed them, but I didn’t know enough to combat them. And so I got a copy of A New Witness for Christ in America, by Francis Kirkham.
I began to study that book with the Book of Mormon with particular respect to the beginnings of the Church in my mission area. As I read, it seemed as if I could almost place myself in those earlier settings, with Joseph and the men who loved him.
One stormy day while I was studying, I began to ponder and worry again about the stories I had heard. The sweetest Spirit came over me, just as though someone had poured warm oil over me. I sat there for several minutes. My companion, an older man, was sitting in the corner of the room, and I secretly prayed that he wouldn’t speak to me while I still felt that wonderful spirit. It lasted for several minutes. There was a deep, wonderful conviction that the Book of Mormon and the things I was teaching were true.
Now, years later, I understand the gospel much better and my love for the Savior is even stronger—but I won’t know any better when I die than I knew at that moment that the gospel is true. I guess I had grown up just assuming that it was, but until then my testimony had never been tested. I’m grateful that the Lord gave me that wonderful experience, which told me that all those things that I had believed and accepted since my youth are true.
I grew up in Glenwood, Alberta, Canada, and attended a small school there. At that time in the Canadian school system, twelfth-grade students had to take a written Provincial test that was issued by the Department of Education. You took the same test whether you attended the largest school in Edmonton or a small school like mine, with only ten or twelve of us in the twelfth grade.
The exam included math, physics, chemistry, history, social studies, and a foreign language. I had studied French with a teacher who didn’t know how to speak it, and when I took the test, I failed to pass the French section. As a result I never received a high school diploma.
I went into the Royal Canadian Air Force after that and then served my mission. During my mission, I gained a great desire to do something more about my education, so after my release and my marriage, my wife and I came to Salt Lake City, Utah.
I took the entrance examination at the University of Utah. I scored very high in math and science but did very poorly in English. When I told the school officials that I wanted to go to law school, they told me that my poor English would make it impossible for me. Well, they knew English, but they didn’t know some things that I knew. A scripture came to my mind: “Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:26–27.)
I knew what I had to do. I took every English class I could while I was a freshman and a sophomore. In addition, my wife and I made a rule. If either of us caught the other saying something incorrectly, the one making the mistake had to put a nickel in a pot. As you might imagine, most of the money in the pot was mine. But I was soon making A’s in English.
I got into law school and graduated near the top of my class, and my knowledge of English became a key to my successful thirty-four years as a lawyer. The Lord demonstrated the truth of that scripture in Ether to me, both in a spiritual sense and in a literal sense. They are not just idle words; they are the words of God.
Wrap yourselves in the gospel in every way, my young friends. You won’t be without challenges, but you will be safe and you will be happy. The gospel net is a great safety net for life.