I loved Primary and had many wonderful teachers who taught me the gospel. One, though, was very special to me. Sister Mary Stevenson taught Primary in the LeGrand Ward in Salt Lake City. One summer she taught our class to play the harmonica. She told us that by summer’s end we would play for George Albert Smith, who was then the President of the Church.
We worked hard, and the important evening finally came. Before we left for President Smith’s house, Sister Stevenson told us that we were going to shake the hand of a prophet, that it would be a special experience, and that we would always remember it. What a thrill to be so close to a prophet!
To such a little boy as I was, President Smith looked very tall. He greeted us with a friendly smile. We played two or three of his favorite songs on our harmonicas. When we finished, he shook hands with each of us and thanked us for our visit. Sister Stevenson was right—I never forgot that experience. I shall always be grateful to my Primary teacher for such an opportunity.
I am grateful to all my Primary teachers, who also taught me many other things that have influenced my life. Among them were their teachings about the Articles of Faith and their love of the gospel. They knew that their lessons would prepare me to be a missionary and would help me teach the gospel to others.
Just before my twentieth birthday, I was called on a mission to Finland, where I used both Finnish and Russian languages. I loved teaching the gospel, particularly in a foreign language. Consequently when I returned home, I continued my study of Russian. I liked the language, and I wanted to teach it. I also hoped that someday I would be able to teach the gospel in countries where missionaries were not yet allowed to preach the gospel.
After I graduated from the university, I worked in the Family History Department of the Church and was assigned to the countries in Eastern Europe. Whenever I traveled to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and other countries, I felt that the time was not far off when the Church would be able to send missionaries to them. There was a special feeling among the people. They desired the freedom they knew others in the world enjoyed. More and more they could see and hear about freedom on TV and on the radio. The people were tired of not being able to solve their problems or become what they wanted to be. In many countries the people also wanted to know about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. These important changes in the people, and other changes in their governments, led to the introduction of the gospel into their countries.
In 1987 I was called as president of the Austria Vienna East Mission, which was created to work with the countries in Eastern Europe. The mission began with just a very few missionaries, and the number of baptisms was small. Now many missionaries are serving in countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and Greece, where people only a few years ago could not worship Heavenly Father as they wanted. Many people are listening to the missionaries and are accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
While you are in Primary, your teachers will help you learn the Articles of Faith and the gospel as my teachers helped me. It is important that you learn well. When you are a missionary, you will teach the gospel to others. You will teach them the beautiful lessons you have learned from your years in Primary. You will testify that God lives, has a body, and speaks to man, and that there are prophets and Apostles on the earth today. These truths will have a powerful impact on the lives of those who accept the gospel. I have seen many important changes in peoples’ lives because missionaries brought the gospel to them. I hope you will be such a missionary too.