When I was a teenager, my six-week-old sister, Carol, had whooping cough. Those were the days before antibiotics. I was working then as a grease monkey, or mechanic, at a bus station. I can remember coming home one night after my shift, seeing the lights on in my home, and knowing that it was a bad sign.
As I walked into the house, I saw Carol lying on the dining room table. She was having difficulty breathing and was turning blue from lack of air. We quickly summoned a neighbor, who joined Dad in giving her a blessing. I thought she was going to die, but I watched her stay alive by the power of the priesthood as they got her to the hospital. She stayed there for two or three weeks, and I continued to see the Lord bless her and pull her through. That experience of seeing the priesthood in action impressed itself forever upon my mind.
My father was a convert to the Church, and my mother came from pioneer stock. As early as I can remember, my parents were excited about the gospel, and they continued being excited about it all their lives. That is how I feel about the gospel—and it’s more exciting to me now than it ever was.
As a youth I loved to play basketball. One of my biggest disappointments was when I didn’t make the school team. I stopped growing early, and I probably just was not good enough, anyway. Seeing other boys my age go on to become really outstanding basketball players was difficult—not because they achieved in the sport, but because I hadn’t.
However, that helped nudge me in the direction of the world of words, which, in the long term, has been a blessing to me. At the time, it seemed a poor substitute for basketball, but as I look back on my life, the nudging in that direction meant that I was to have many opportunities I could not otherwise have had.
When I served in the army during World War II, I was asked to write letters of comfort to the wives and parents of those who had been killed. I was also asked to write letters recognizing men for their bravery in battle. So I became more involved in the world of words.
Later, that led quite naturally to the mission field. In those days there was no churchwide plan for the missionaries to follow, and I came up with one that my mission used. So our talents can develop in a meaningful way even though we can’t see it at the time. While I would rather, in my youth, have played basketball, it would end up being more important for me to develop a talent with words. We need to trust in God in the midst of our disappointments. Experiences that seem hard when we are in the middle of them may well be part of God’s tutoring and training.
You children live in a world that may be filled with wars, but you can still have peace at home. You live in a world where there may be hate and violence, but you can still have love at home. You can know that God loves you, even when you may not feel the love you might like to have from your peers. This is talked about in 1 Nephi 11:17 [1 Ne. 11:17]: “I know that he [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” When you are confused and don’t know the meaning of everything that’s happening to you or around you, you can still know, as Nephi says, that God loves you.