Friend to Friend


Hold to the rod, the iron rod; ‘Tis strong, and bright, and true. The iron rod is the word of God; ‘Twill safely guide us through. (Hymns, no. 274.)

I grew up in a fine home, and although my parents weren’t active in the Church at that time, my mother always made sure that my brother and I went to Primary. That was where I learned about the gospel, but we didn’t talk about the scriptures as much as children do today.

When I was a young teenager, I got my first job—in construction. I came home after the first or second day and said, “Mom, something happened today that I’ve never experienced before.”

“What was that?”

“At ten o’clock and at two o’clock the crews shut down for a coffee break, and everyone drank coffee. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat by myself.”

My mother said to me, “Dave, tomorrow morning when they have their coffee break, open your lunch box and I’ll have something there for you.”

I was excited about that because I was a typical teenager and really got hungry. But I didn’t see how my mother could possibly stuff anything more into my lunch box!

The next morning at ten o’clock, when it was time for the coffee break, I opened my lunch box. I saw a small book my mother had placed there—a book containing the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.

Now, I’ll be honest with you—when I first saw my “treat,” I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. I’d never seen this collection of scriptures before. But I opened the book and started reading. I read during the break that afternoon too. Every day my mother put the book in my lunch box, and every day I read from it. From that time on, I let the scriptures become involved in my life and give me thought, purpose, direction, and answers to many of the things I was concerned about.

My sweetheart and I had been married about six years and were just starting our family, when I was called to be a bishop. I was only twenty-six years old. I’ll never forget one of the first times a young person came to me with a problem. As we sat in my office, I prayed silently, “Father, what can I do? What should I tell this person?”

A scripture came to my mind, a verse found in 1 Nephi 15:24 [1 Ne. 15:24]: “And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.”

I said to that young person sitting in my office, “It will be important to you to hang on to the rod, which is the word of God found in the holy scriptures. Satan won’t be able to overpower you anymore with his temptations and his fiery darts if you’ll hang on to the rod.” We came up with a hand signal that meant “Hang on to the rod.” Soon that hand signal spread to all the young people of the ward, and whenever they saw me, they gave me that signal: “Hang on to the rod.”

One day I was at a service station, talking with a friend who worked there. He was filling up my car with gas, and as we stood there, a school bus went by and I heard someone call out, “Heyyyy, Bishop!” I looked up to see one of the priests in my ward calling to me and giving me the “hang on to the rod” signal. I returned the signal as the bus drove by.

The following Sunday, that boy came running up to me as fast as he could. “Bishop Stanley! Bishop Stanley! Remember last week when you were filling up your gas tank at the service station and I gave you the signal?”

“Yes, I remember it.”

“Well, the friend sitting by me said, ‘Who was that tall man at the service station that you were threatening to punch?’ And I told him what our ‘hang on to the rod’ signal really meant.”

The boy then told me that his friend wasn’t a member of the Church and that he was then able to talk about the gospel with this friend as a result of our little “hang on to the rod” signal.

Children, it is important that you, too, learn to hang on to the rod. One way to begin is to find one good scripture, with the help of your mother, father, or a teacher, if necessary. Memorize that scripture so that you can quote it and begin to feel its power in your life.

Our prophets have told us to study the Book of Mormon. Young people who learn to love this book early in life, even if their families are inactive and they have to do it on their own, will become mighty missionaries and leaders in the Church. They will receive a power that will help them and guide them throughout their lives, and the fiery darts of the adversary won’t be able to overpower them.

[illustration] Illustrated by Janae Westhoff

[photo] Five years old

[photo] At three, with his little brother, Paul

[photo] One year old

[photo] Elder and Sister Stanley