I grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on the edge of town. Across the street were fields where pheasants flew and where we played in the snow. Later our new chapel was built there. I went over every night after school to help build the chapel, handing bricks to bricklayers and cleaning up the construction site. I remember that I took great pride in that chapel. I wanted to take good care of it because I had helped build it.
My mom has been a Relief Society president and a Young Women president. Dad was not active in the Church, but he was a very good man.
My testimony has always been a part of me. I have always had a gift of faith. I remember saying my prayers every night, even when I didn’t feel like it.
I also knew that I felt at peace with myself when I did what was right. I learned when I was in the third or fourth grade how it felt to make a wrong choice. The rules at school were that we could not throw snowballs and that we could not go off the school grounds. One day I got in a snowball fight and crossed the street to get the advantage in the fight. Afterward I felt bad because I knew I had done something wrong.
I remember going to the Idaho Falls Temple when I was twelve to do baptisms for the dead. I felt really good about doing that. I encourage you to do that when you have the opportunity.
As we were growing up, my younger brother and sister and I had lots of fun. We didn’t play video games or watch TV. We played active games—red rover, kick the can, and cowboys—and we floated in inner tubes down the irrigation canal where Mom had taught me to swim.
We always had work to do. When I was eight or nine, we picked potatoes for farmers. We earned seven and a half cents for each half sack we picked. At eleven, I got a paper route. I remember coming home after delivering papers in weather twenty degrees below zero and sitting on my hands to try to warm them up. Later on I hoed beets, moved sprinkler pipe, and hauled hay. And when I was a little older, I paid for braces for my teeth with money I earned working at a grocery store.
My parents always felt that it was important for me to get an education. When I was a junior in high school, I wanted to buy a car. It was the prettiest car I’d ever seen, a white 1950 Oldsmobile convertible, and its price was four hundred dollars. I had just four hundred dollars in my bank account. This is going to work out great, I thought.
When I told my mom about my plan, she asked, “How will you get to college?” Then she said, “I believe that if you will save your money and go to college, you will be able to buy an even nicer car.” I thought and prayed about it and decided that she was right. I saved my money and went on to college. Then, when I had finished the “twenty-second grade” and had my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, I bought an old classic convertible. I still drive this car. It reminds me that if you are patient, follow good counsel, and follow the Spirit’s guidance to do what’s right, there will be all kinds of rewards.
Buying and acquiring things when you are young is unwise. Invest in yourself with education. And the kind of education we will need most through the eternities is spiritual.
Dad was very keen on my going to school, and he had told me that I had better not go on a mission. But one night I talked with my friend Harry about missions until 2:00 A.M. He told me, “You have the opportunity to go on a mission now. You might not always have that opportunity.”
I didn’t know if Dad would support me, but I asked my mother to ask him. When I finished my first year of college, I went home. We were doing the dishes one night, when my dad said, “Stephen, if you want to go on a mission, that will be all right.”
I was called to serve my mission in France. After serving twenty-eight months, I got a telegram telling me that my dad had died of a heart attack. I went home to attend the funeral and to help Mom, and Harry’s words came back to me: “You might not always have the opportunity to go on a mission.” If I had put off serving my mission, my widowed mother could not have afforded to send me.
Many of you children today feel unsettled and worried. You hear about serious problems and dangers in the world. But you do not need to be fearful. There is a way to be guided away from what’s bad for you. Your parents and the Holy Ghost will help you if you will just ask what is good and right for you.