Like Nephi in the Book of Mormon, I was “born of goodly parents.” There were twelve children—mostly boys, only two girls—in my family. I was the tenth child. For many years my father had to work far from home. He was a construction worker on highways. Sometimes he was away for weeks and could see us only from time to time. My mother worked hard figuring out how to feed and dress us and take care of us. She worked miracles with the little money that Father earned.
When I was only about four years old, I lived in a small town in the state of Coahuila, Mexico. The town had perhaps a hundred people in it—and Coahuilan chestnut monkeys. Here, I first became aware of the Bible. Some men who taught Bible stories to children came once a week. I don’t remember what religion they belonged to, but from the very first time I heard the Bible stories, I loved them. My older brother and my younger brother, too, liked to hear them.
My father was very fond of reading the Bible. He wasn’t a Catholic, but my mother was. She took us to the Catholic church from the time we were very small. Then, in 1956, when I was twelve, the LDS missionaries came to our home. My mother didn’t want to listen to them and, rather than offend them, told them to come only when my father was home. They did and began to teach us. Only two of my brothers were still at home with me—the others were all married.
The missionaries were not only competent but very inspired in getting my mother and us children involved. Each time they came, they read something to us from the scriptures—almost always from the Book of Mormon—and the next time they came, they asked us to report on what they had told us and on what we had read. The three of us and my father and mother were baptized six months later.
When I was baptized, I was already too old for Primary. Even so, I attended it for two years. I did hold the priesthood, but the branch was small and the Primary teachers were so good that I went there. I loved it and was grateful that the teachers didn’t tell me that I couldn’t attend because I was too old. I remember three outstanding teachers. Olga Ramos, Lida del Bosque, and Irma Torres were their names. All three cared a great deal about us children. They diligently taught us and had activities for us. They were young adults then. Now they are married women with grandchildren. I am very grateful to them because it was through their teaching that I learned the gospel.
Once I was baptized, the Church was my world. What I loved best was to be at church with the other members. I remember many times being there on Saturdays with the deacons, cleaning the chapel and preparing it for Sunday. I also participated in the branch’s Mutual activities. From seeing the missionaries in Primary and at home, I decided early in my life to go on a mission. When I served my mission, I was very happy. I served two years in the west of Mexico.
I want to tell you children of the Church to obey your parents. Listen to your parents. Know that everything that they tell you is for the best. Every father wants what is best for his children—for them to obey the commandments of the Lord, to decide from the time they are little to go on a mission, and to marry in the temple. If you decide in your minds and hearts now, while you are young, to do these things, you will be good missionaries, good spouses, and good parents. I believe that the thing the world needs most is to have good mothers and good fathers guiding their families. If the world were more concerned about preparing boys to become good fathers, and girls to become good mothers, the world’s problems would take care of themselves.
Children, keep away from those things that would separate you from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ—things like lying, stealing, using drugs, violating the Word of Wisdom, doing whatever things the prophets have taught us are wrong.
Be careful in choosing your friends. Learn how to choose them wisely when you are young, and be just as careful in choosing them as you grow older. Friends influence us very much, so if we choose good friends, they will help us to do good things; but if we don’t choose good friends, they will influence us to do bad things.
Prepare now for a mission. Keep yourself morally clean. If you keep yourself clean and worthy in every way, if you take the sacrament worthily every Sunday, if each week, each day, you don’t dirty your hands with the things of the world, then you will be very powerful missionaries and later you will be leaders in the Church.
All the General Authorities—the prophet, President Benson; his counselors, President Hinckley and President Monson; the Apostles; and all the Seventy—love you children very much and have confidence in you.
I love the children of every continent and isle of the earth. I know that Heavenly Father provided for everything to be ready for each one of you to be able to reach your full potential and become all that you, your parents, Church leaders, and Heavenly Father want you to be. Say in your heart as the third President of the Church, John Taylor, did, “The kingdom of God or nothing!” (Ensign, May 1980, page 34). The Lord Himself said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (3 Ne. 13:33).
Again I say to all the children in the world that I love you and that with the power and authority that I have as a General Authority of the Church, I bless you that you can gain all that your parents want for you. Where you live is not important, nor the color of your skin or your eyes or your hair. Everyone on earth is a son or daughter of God, and He wants us to return to Him as clean and innocent and worthy as we were when we were born. I say this with much love and affection to all the children in the world, member and nonmember, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.