I was given my first Bible when I was eleven years old; my Primary teacher gave one to each of us boys in her Primary class. It was the only Bible I owned until after my mission. My parents offered to buy me a set of scriptures right before I left, but I didn’t want one. That Primary Bible had become very precious to me in my early teens as I began to gain my testimony of the gospel.
Before I left on my mission, that same Primary teacher got up in sacrament meeting and bore her testimony. She was going through a difficult time—she had a strong testimony but wondered if her service in the kingdom was sufficient or worthwhile. After she sat down, I got up and bore my testimony, sharing my love for the scriptures and especially that Bible. I told her what a powerful influence her simple gift had had on my life. It was the first time I ever cried when I bore my testimony, and I was embarrassed. But it was important that she know what a good influence she’d had on me.
We all influence people every day; we would be amazed if we realized the people who were watching us and learning from us. Our testimonies, whether spoken or silent, truly do reach out and touch others.
Other quiet testimonies have had a great influence on me. My sisters and I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Annual summer trips to my grandfather’s farm in Utah are some of my favorite childhood memories. His farm and the small commu-nity near it had a pioneer-like feeling that I have never forgotten. It strengthened my testimony and gave me a deep sense of tradition. I enjoyed feeling like I was a part of it.
Both of my parents came from Utah, and their pioneer-like examples were also important to me as I was growing up. When I was about eight years old, my father was called to the stake presidency. He served in it the rest of my growing-up years, except for one year when we lived in Washington, D.C. I watched him sit on the stand and serve quietly and faithfully.
I was shy and a bit of a bookworm. I’d pick reading and arithmetic over recess and soccer any day. I always did well in school, and I earned good grades. But my mother knew that I needed more than straight A’s in school. She always encouraged me to do active things and to get involved in other activities. Most of the time I would have stayed home, but her influence helped me gain other leadership abilities, and I developed a willingness to meet challenges and try new things. By the time I left high school, I was “into” varsity basketball and many outside clubs and other activities.
One of my most recent challenges has been with my health. I had to return to the United States from serving in the Europe East Area presidency because of kidney failure. I had to have dialysis treatment, and I’ve been in the hospital often. Last summer I had a kidney transplant. All this has helped me gain greater compassion for those who suffer and those who are ill. I’m touched by the nobility of the people I’ve met, and I appreciate now more than ever before the degree to which many of the Lord’s children suffer. I desire to be more sensitive to that.
The Lord has certainly blessed me. I’ve been able to continue to serve despite some setbacks. I want to be able to influence others the way so many people—my parents, my mission presidents, my teachers—have influenced me.