Once, when I was twelve, my parents allowed my friends and me to spend a few days in a cabin in the mountains not far from my home. We spent time hiking and exploring the forest, and we even cooked our own food.
After a few days, we got tired of our own cooking and decided to go to the store, which was about three miles away. With several dollars between us, we hiked there under the hot sun, dreaming of the frozen fudge bars and other treats that we would buy.
Finally we arrived at the store. What a welcome sight it was! Inside was a pinball machine that cost one nickel to play. After playing a game, a person might get his nickel back, or he might not. Soon my friends and I had spent all our money on the pinball machine, and we had to go back to the cabin with nothing but growling stomachs and tired legs to show for our trip. I learned from that experience to never gamble again. I also learned that sometimes we have to put off what we want right now for what is really more important.
Many years after that experience, when I was approaching age nineteen, my bishop, A. Palmer Holt, asked me to serve a mission. I told him that I couldn’t go. When he asked me why, I said, “I can’t go out and teach the gospel because my testimony isn’t strong enough. I like what I hear at church, but I don’t think that I could tell people to join if I don’t know for myself that it’s true.”
Bishop Holt did not criticize my lack of faith. He simply asked, “How long are you going to stay in this condition? Are you just going to continue because of your parents’ or your friends’ testimonies, or are you going to find out for yourself? You have to pay the price. I suggest that you pray about it and spend time seriously studying the scriptures.
The bishop’s counsel gave me much to think about. I had been attending the University of Utah at the time, but I didn’t register for the next quarter of school. Instead, I stayed home and for the first time made an honest attempt to truly study the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I prayed to Heavenly Father often, asking Him to bless me with a testimony.
About two months went by, and nothing happened. Then one Sunday I came late to testimony meeting and slipped quietly into the chapel to sit on the back row. As I listened to the ward members bearing their testimonies, I remember one sister in particular saying she knew that the Book of Mormon was true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I thought, I wish I could say that.
Suddenly I found myself on my feet, expressing my feelings about the gospel and saying that I knew it was true. I felt as though I were on fire. There was no doubt in my mind about the gospel’s truthfulness.
That testimony meeting was a turning point for me. It was an overwhelming experience, and ever since that day, I have known that Jesus is the Christ and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His Church upon the earth today.
I know that the promise given in Moroni 10:4–5 [Moro. 10:4–5] is true, that if you pay the price by spending time studying the scriptures and praying sincerely to Heavenly Father, you can receive a witness of the Holy Ghost. It happened to me, and my testimony has remained firm ever since.
Soon after that meeting, I was in Denmark, preaching the gospel as a missionary. It was wonderful to be able to promise people that if they would read the Book of Mormon and pray with sincere hearts, the Holy Ghost would witness to them of the truthfulness of the gospel. For me, that witness has returned again and again. I have learned that the Spirit comes in different ways. I had felt the Spirit before my experience in testimony meeting, but I simply hadn’t recognized it.
As children, you can learn to listen and look for the Spirit in your own lives. If you read the scriptures by yourself or with your family and you have feelings of peace, happiness, and joy, those feelings are coming from the Holy Ghost. You may not often feel the Spirit in dramatic ways. Often it takes great effort to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, and they may be more quiet than you expect. But if you will pay the price, as my bishop counseled me, the Holy Ghost will let you know that the gospel is true.
You children of the Church are of priceless worth. I wish you could understand your great potential and how wonderful it is that each of you is a child of God, with the potential to do great things. You have the ability to do much good in the world. I believe that very strongly.