My great-grandfather Isaac Turley was one of the founders of Colonia Juárez, Mexico. My father was born in 1897 in Colonia Juárez. The Latter-day Saint colonists were expelled from Mexico in 1912 because of the Mexican Revolution. The Turleys moved to El Paso, Texas, for two years, then returned to Colonia Juárez. Later my father returned to El Paso and met and married my mother. I grew up there.
Living next to the border between Mexico and the United States, we enjoyed traditions of both cultures. Every year in school we had piñatas. One year I was sitting on the first row and the blind-folded child successfully hit the candy-filled piñata with a stick. I was the first one able to reach the candy when the piñata broke open. I had my arms around the whole thing. Within two or three seconds every other child in the school was on top of me. I was just flattened, and I lost everything.
The lesson I learned from that experience was that sometimes when we are greedy and try to take it all, we end up losing it all. If I had started passing the candy around, the other children wouldn’t have all jumped on top of me. But because I tried to take so much, I lost everything.
As a child, I was influenced by a lot of people, especially by my parents and my uncles and aunts, friends, teachers, stake president, and the prophet. But if I were to pick just one person who influenced me, it would be President Spencer W. Kimball. Living in El Paso, Texas, we belonged to the Mt. Graham Stake, which was centered in Arizona. President Kimball was our stake president at that time. His wife, Camilla, was first cousin to my father, so we were related.
Whenever President Kimball came to El Paso on stake business, he stayed at our house. At that time my father was on the high council. One of the things I remember about President Kimball was how businesslike he was and how fast he worked. He typically, like my dad and many of that generation, had bread and milk for supper.
He was a marvelous man. He took a special interest in me—at least that’s the feeling I had. Later I learned that everybody felt like that. He was the first Church leader to invite me to go on a mission. He wrote to me, telling me about his mission, and that influenced me.
When I received my mission call, I traveled to Salt Lake City to enter the mission home. At that time, missionaries were set apart by General Authorities. I was set apart by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who was then an Apostle.
He also performed the marriage and sealing of my wife and me. On several occasions when we lived in Salt Lake City and there was illness in our family, he responded to a call for a special blessing. And when we lived in the state of Washington, he took time out to visit with us there.
I remember visiting with him after he had been called as President of the Church. What a humble man he was. Here he had been called to be the prophet, yet he and his wife took the time to have a family home evening with our family and all the children.
One of my favorite scripture stories is of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt. It gives us a tremendous example of someone who has faced adversity, someone who has been tempted, somebody who had every reason to be angry with his brothers, and yet who worked through all of those problems. I am sure a lot of it was because of the way he thought. His thoughts were righteous. He was merciful. He was humble and teachable.
Joseph took advantage of every opportunity that was given him. When he was a slave, he was the best slave. And when he was a prisoner, he was the best prisoner. Of course, he had to be meek and teachable and listen to the Spirit to be able to interpret dreams. Other people had tried and had failed. He had be to able to communicate with the Lord. He was a very special person.
Joseph is a good example for young people because he fled evil when in its presence, which is what young people should do. He was merciful to his brothers. I think we need to be merciful and respond to the whisperings of the Spirit. He was an instrument in the hands of the Lord, and we can be, too.
My message to children is to think. The students who are really excited about their schooling are the ones who think about a lot of things. They ponder over opportunities and solutions and ways to use information.
How do you learn to think? By reading the scriptures; by conversations with good people, leaders, others; by reading good books; and by watching good television. If you don’t ponder and think, you can’t be creative. The creative process comes from being able to think and to concentrate the mind, to ponder.
When the Savior was teaching the Nephites, he saw that they weren’t quite understanding what he was teaching. He told them, “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again” (3 Ne. 17:3).
Children, fill your minds with good thoughts, take in good information, read good books. What a wonderful thing it is that we have minds to work with! We can get inspiration by pondering. The Lord helps us as we plan and study and think. A scripture says, “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). If you think positively, you are going to be positive. If you have righteous thoughts, you are going to be righteous. If you think mercy, you are going to be merciful. Think kindness, think love.