I grew up in a home where our parents read to us. My father especially loved the scriptures and read to us from them from the time we were small. He often sat in his chair in the evenings, reading the scriptures. I cannot remember exactly when I first became interested, but I am sure that I was influenced by seeing how my parents loved and cherished the scriptures.
We didn’t have television, of course; and the radio didn’t consume our time, so there was room in our lives for other things. During my teenage years, my friends were often in our home. We would all sit around and visit, and it was not uncommon for them to ask my father gospel questions as they saw him studying there. He would always answer us from the scriptures, and we felt the simplicity and power of the words.
I remember walking home from Primary one afternoon when I was about eleven years old. I had been deeply moved by the lesson Sister Squires had taught us about Gethsemane and the Savior’s crucifixion. I remember saying to my father that since Jesus Christ was God, this suffering would not have hurt Him as much as it would an ordinary person.
My father got the scriptures from our living room and read to me from the nineteenth section of the Doctrine and Covenants. He read several verses to me, among them verses 16–19:
“‘For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“‘But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
“‘Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“‘Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.’” [D&C 19:16–19]
After my father finished reading the scriptures, he turned to me and said, “Because Jesus Christ was God, it hurt Him more, not less.”
Don’t think that only grown-ups can understand the doctrines of the Church or learn from the scriptures. The Spirit can help you feel and know these things too. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you read or hear—grown-ups don’t, either. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Sister Squires told us about the Savior’s Atonement and Crucifixion. Her lesson troubled me. It led me to ask more questions. I’m also grateful to a father who knew the scriptures and who didn’t think I was too young to learn. I’m sure Sister Squires didn’t tell us everything she knew, and I’m sure I didn’t understand everything she told us. But I felt that day what I think she felt, and it made a difference in my life.
When I was in high school, I lived in Idaho. They dismissed school for a couple of weeks every fall for the students to help in the potato harvest. One day when I was picking up potatoes, the boy working with me began to tell me things about the Prophet Joseph Smith that I didn’t believe were true. I don’t think I discussed my concerns with anybody. I just naturally went to the Book of Mormon and began to read. Nobody told me to do this. It just seemed right. From what I read there, I knew that a bad man could not have written it.
For a high school research paper, I chose as my topic non-Mormon explanations of the origin of the Book of Mormon. I remember going to the library and gathering everything I could about how Joseph Smith might have created it. The arguments weren’t convincing. I thought, Is this all that they can come up with? The project got me thinking, and as I studied, I also prayed. I suddenly realized that I knew the gospel was true. I believe I had really known this long before, but the study and prayer helped me to recognize it. After this experience, I knew for sure that I was going on a mission.
Later in my life, I talked to President Marion G. Romney. He said about his own youth, “I don’t know any better today than I knew then that the gospel is true. But I do know the gospel better today.” I knew as a young man that Joseph Smith told the truth. My testimony was really a continuation of what I had been taught and what I was doing—reading the scriptures, praying, and trying to keep the commandments.
I had another experience that strengthened my testimony both of the scriptures and of living prophets. I attended general conference and sat way up high in the choir seats. I distinctly remember listening to President George Albert Smith, the President of the Church, as he stood at the pulpit. I remember feeling the same way listening to him as I felt reading the scriptures. I know now that because he was a prophet of God, the things he was saying were scripture. The spirit I felt was the Holy Ghost bearing witness of that to me.