I’ve always been drawn to the scriptures, largely because of my home environment. I could feel my parents’ love of the scriptures. When I was twelve or thirteen years old, I asked for a Bible for Christmas. I still have that Bible, and it is a treasured possession. Soon after receiving it, I began reading Genesis. It took me a long time to read the Bible from cover to cover, but I really learned to love the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. It taught me a lot of things.
I also learned a lot from living around animals. My father was a veterinarian, and we had some fifty or sixty head of sheep when we lived in Lindon, Utah. One spring, just when the sheep were ready to lamb, there was a freak blizzard. My father was away on a business trip, and my grandfather was at work. Nobody else was around, and all of a sudden the sheep started birthing lambs. I was called home from school by my mom.
Grandfather took a few minutes off work to show me how to rub down the lambs with gunnysacks. That would keep their blood flowing to keep them warm. Then he had to leave because he had an emergency of his own at work.
I was alone with all the sheep, most of them having lambs. I was almost in tears, thinking that I couldn’t take care of them all and that we were going to lose the lambs. Still, I went to work, and after all the sheep had given birth, I was surprised to find out that we hadn’t lost one lamb! That experience taught me the value of persistence and self-reliance. Sometimes you just have to do the job because nobody else is available. It’s tough, and there are many challenges, and you may want to give up. You may think that you’re not strong enough or that you don’t know enough, but just do your best and keep going.
When I was a teenager, my family moved to New Jersey. I stayed behind with my grandparents for the summer and helped them farm. One morning I was slow getting out of bed. When my grandfather came to get me, he found me kneeling by my bed, in the middle of my morning prayer. He quietly went out and waited for me. As soon as I finished, he came in and gave me a big hug and said how pleased he was to see me praying. He told me how much it meant to him to pray and how he always began the day by praying. There was no reprimand for being late. I’ve always felt that praying was more special because of the way he reacted.
At the end of the summer, I joined my parents and four brothers in our new home. I will always be grateful for those years in New Jersey because it was then that I came to a good understanding of the gospel and how much it matters.
My brother, Greg, and I participated in the Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York for two summers. One summer, when I was about sixteen years old, I was really searching for a personal testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I thought that this would be the perfect time to get it. One night after the performance, I decided to go to the Sacred Grove alone. It was a beautiful, clear summer night. I thought, This is it—the place, the time. What more ideal setting could I have? I prayed for a long, long time—well over an hour. Nothing happened. I finally gave up and walked back to Palmyra, wondering, What did I do wrong or what didn’t I do right? What was missing?
I’ve since thought a lot about that experience. One of the lessons I learned from it was that you shouldn’t try to dictate to God the timing or the content of revelation. It was later that summer—when I was home by myself in a little basement bedroom, reading the Book of Mormon—that a witness came very powerfully. It just overwhelmed me. I know from that experience the truth of what Joseph Smith witnessed and the truth of the Book of Mormon and the reality of the Savior. That hasn’t been my only witness, but it was a great strengthening of my testimony.
I found that you don’t have to be in a special place to receive that witness. You will receive answers to your prayers if you are earnest and keep asking and searching. I’m glad now that my answer didn’t come to me when I first asked. I might have thought that you have to go to the Holy Land for a testimony of Jesus or to the Sacred Grove for a testimony of Joseph Smith. Anywhere in the world, the Lord will speak to you.