There was only one ward for all of northern New Jersey when I lived there for a few years as a boy. We met in a Protestant meetinghouse that the Church had purchased. Although it was different from our common Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, it was beautiful in its own special way.
In the chapel, a large lacquered plaque hung over the pulpit. Inscribed on the dark wood in gold lettering was Joshua’s great statement: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
Every Sunday in sacrament meeting, I looked up and gazed at that plaque. Those words burned deep into my heart. There was something about Joshua’s statement that really impressed me. While looking at that plaque, I really gained a love for the Lord and for His gospel. I have never forgotten my feeling for those words. My wife and I even named one of our sons Joshua.
Another of my earliest memories is of sitting in Primary and listening to the Joseph Smith story. I knew it was true. I just knew it was true! I still remember the depth of my feelings for the Prophet and for my pioneer heritage.
In fourth or fifth grade, I had an assignment to give a report on a subject from American history. I gave my report on Joseph Smith, the Church, and the pioneers. I was the only member of the Church in my school, and I wanted to share my heritage. I talked through one class period, and the teacher invited me to take another class period and tell more the next day.
I knew the Church was true then, and I’ve always known it. I gained my testimony while looking at that plaque in the chapel and while attending Primary. Since those days, I’ve never questioned it. But that doesn’t mean it has always been easy to do what is right.
When I was twelve years old, the junior-high music teacher invited me to play the bass viola in the school orchestra. I had to take one semester of instruction before I could join the orchestra. One day a week, the music teacher taught a lesson to me and two other boys. The rest of the week we went into a vacant classroom to practice.
We were practicing in the unsupervised classroom one day when one of the boys—he was a year older and was bigger than I was and something of a bully—started looking through the drawers and cupboards. He found a stack of phonograph records. Looking through them, he said, “I’d like to have these records, and I think I’ll just take them.” The other boy was his friend and agreed to help him. Then the bigger boy turned to me and threatened, “Don’t you tell anybody, or I’ll beat you up.”
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want him to beat me up, and I didn’t want to be a tattletale. But I knew that stealing was wrong. I went home from school that day very troubled. When my dad came home, I asked if I could talk with him. I told my dad what had happened at school and asked for his advice.
“Well, Son,” he said, “you just need to always do what’s right, whatever it is. It may be hard sometimes, but you must always do what’s right.” He didn’t tell me what to do; he only taught the principle.
I knew that what Dad said was true, and I knew what I should do. But choosing the right isn’t always easy. After I prayed about the situation, though, I felt even more sure of what I should do.
The next day the three of us went back to the unsupervised room again to practice. I was scared because I didn’t know how the boy would respond to what I was going to say. I summoned up my courage and said, “You’re going to bring those records back. And if they’re not here by tomorrow, I’m going to turn you in. You have until tomorrow to bring them back.”
I waited nervously for his answer. He swallowed hard and was silent, but he didn’t attack me. The next day he brought the records back. I’ve always appreciated my dad for his wise counsel to choose the right.
Children, always, always choose the right! Make a decision right now, while you are young, to choose the right and to serve the Lord. I know that when we choose to follow Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit really does guide us. Engrave in your hearts the pledge that was engraved on that wooden plaque: “We will serve the Lord.”