I was born and raised in Colonia Dublán, one of the Latter-day Saint pioneer colonies in northern Mexico. Colonia Juárez, where the temple is being built, is about twelve miles from Colonia Dublán. My grandfather came to Mexico with the first settlers from the United States.
Living in the colonies contributed greatly to my testimony because we had to rely on the Lord for so many things. School was sponsored by the Church, as well as our activities, such as plays, concerts, and sports. We had no telephones and no television. Everything we did was connected to the Church.
Prayer was a very important part of my life. As a child, I was taught to pray. I remember one time when I was riding out to the ranch with my father. As he drove, he started humming or singing, “‘Ere you left your room this morning, Did you think to pray?’” * Then he glanced at me and asked, “Son, did you pray this morning?”
“Don’t you pray in the mornings?”
“I pray at night,” I replied.
At that moment, he took the time to explain to me the importance of praying in the morning and at night. From that time on, it became part of my life to pray both morning and night. In 2 Nephi 26:15 [2 Ne. 26:15], we are told that “the prayers of the faithful shall be heard.” We often experienced that scripture. I learned in my youth that as we were faithful and did our part, the Lord blessed us.
My father was a rancher. The colonies are normally quite dry. At first there weren’t many deep wells, so most of our water came from the river. Rain was very important, and it was scarce. We had a couple of man-made lakes to store the water in when it did rain. We had to rely on the Lord for our blessings, and quite often the ward fasted.
I remember one time when I was about eight years old and we were in a drought situation—it had been a long time since it had rained, and we needed it desperately. Our ward had a special fast, and by the time we left our sacrament meeting, the clouds had gathered and it started to rain. We relied on the Lord because of our need. Sometimes our family fasted for the blessing of rain, and it rained. It was a matter of knowing that if we did our part, the Lord would bless us. That built great faith in me as a young boy.
I also remember when my eighteen-year-old sister was so sick that we didn’t know whether she would live. Our family fasted and prayed, and she received a blessing. She completely recovered and later married and had seven children.
To grow fruit there is a yearly challenge. After the fruit has blossomed, if it gets extremely cold, the blossoms will freeze, and the whole crop will be wiped out. Just as the fruit farmers relied on the Lord for rain, they also relied on the Lord to help them protect their crops. One time we had a long, hard cold spell that lasted night after night. Our stake president asked for a special fast that the elements would be tempered, and we were able to save our fruit.
Anson B. Call was the bishop when I was a young boy. He was bishop for twenty-five years. He was a man of great faith. Pancho Villa was one of the leaders of the revolutionaries in Mexico. He had sworn in his wrath that he was going to kill all the North Americans living in northern Mexico. He killed some United States soldiers and was headed toward the Latter-day Saint colonies.
When the Saints in the colonies heard about this, they were concerned because they were right in his path. Bishop Call and some of the other leaders were asked what to do. Bishop Call said that he felt impressed that all the families should go home, say their prayers, turn out their lights, go to bed, and trust in the Lord. I imagine that many didn’t go to sleep. When Pancho Villa was near, a miracle happened. It looked to him like the town was lighted. He thought another army was there, so he went around it. Hearing these stories and seeing great men like Bishop Call and others strengthened my faith.
A few months ago, my secretary said that there was a man out in the hall who wanted to talk to me. He brought in his seven-year-old boy, who was going to have a birthday in a few weeks. The father said he was concerned because his son wanted to be baptized but not when he was eight. He wanted his brother who was serving a mission to baptize him, and that meant waiting another year.
I asked the little boy to read some scriptures with me about baptism. Then I asked him what he thought Jesus Christ would want him to do. He said, “Well, He would want me to be baptized.” I asked him if he wanted to let his father baptize him on his birthday. I told him to go home and pray about it. On the night of his birthday, I called and asked him if he had been baptized, and he said yes. He had thought about it and prayed about it and realized that that was the right thing to do. So he had had the faith to be baptized. Reading the scriptures was an important part of that experience because as he read the scriptures, he thought about what Jesus wanted him to do.
I want children to know that I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He loves us. He especially loves little children. We read in the Book of Mormon that when Jesus Christ visited the Americas, He blessed the little children and prayed for them. (See 3 Ne. 17:11–24.) I know that Jesus Christ loves little children. He is the Savior and Redeemer. If children have faith in Him and pray to Father in Heaven, He will bless their lives.