I started skiing when I was five years old, and I have always loved the sport. For many years I thought, Wouldn’t it be wonderful to ski for the United States Olympic team! Finally, when I was old enough to go on a mission, I was given the chance to be an alternate for the United States team.
The Olympics! It was something I had worked for and dreamed about for years. Fortunately I had a very wise bishop, who happened to be my father. When I asked him, “Would the family be just as proud of me if I skied for the United States Olympics team instead of serving a mission?” his answer was, “That’s not for the family to decide; it’s your choice.” He urged me to fast and pray about it. I took his advice, and then I knew which choice was right: I should serve a mission.
I was called to the Western Canadian Mission. For as long as I can remember, I have known that the Church is true, but my mission helped strengthen my testimony even more and helped me appreciate what a testimony really is. My mission changed my life, and I have never regretted making the decision to serve. This experience taught me the importance of always choosing the right, just as you children are taught in Primary today.
I was blessed when I was younger to have a close-knit group of friends in my ward, and we had a lot of fun together. They were all good examples to me. One of them was Joel R. Garrett. One thing I’ll never forget about him is that whenever someone said something that was a little off-color, he left the group. He stood up for everything that was right, in spite of what others might think. I can remember times when I was tempted to do something and I’d think, Joel Garrett wouldn’t do that. So I wouldn’t do it. Children, you need to know that your friends can affect the kinds of choices you make. If you choose the right kind of friends, they will help you make good choices.
I appreciate the sacrifices made by the pioneers in our behalf. My great-grandfather, James Jack, became converted to the Church while he lived in Scotland. He sailed to the United States and made the trek across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley, where he became the personal secretary to Brigham Young. After President Young’s death, James Jack served as secretary to other prophets as well. I have a great deal of respect for my great-grandfather. He left a comfortable life in Scotland to travel all the way to Utah, and he lived in difficult times. I appreciate his courage, his faith, and especially his willingness to do whatever he was asked to do in service to the Lord.
Children, I hope that each of you will understand what a special person you are. You came to this earth with talents and the ability to succeed if you will put forth the effort. Be wise in the choices you make, remembering always that true happiness comes from keeping the commandments and serving others.
One of the great blessings given to you and all of God’s children is that of prayer. Each day you can visit with Heavenly Father and give Him thanks for all you have and then ask for the things you need. I personally want you to know that our loving Heavenly Father will hear your prayers and answer them, and He will help you to always choose the right.