My parents and teachers didn’t preach a lot, but they didn’t need to. The feelings of love and confidence they instilled in me, and the lessons they taught by their good examples, have stayed with me all these years.
One of my earliest memories of Primary is the day that my teacher, Sister Johnson, invited our Blazer class to her home. Her husband was a carpenter and helped us construct birdhouses. Then, using the scriptures and quotes from modern-day prophets, she talked about the importance of being kind to all of God’s creatures.
I don’t remember too many of the actual lessons taught in Primary, but building something with my hands made that lesson come alive for me. To this day, I try to be nice to birds, as well as to other animals.
Sister Johnson wasn’t the only one who used birds as a teaching tool. My mother was an outstanding woman, diligent in many ways. In particular, I remember her helping me earn my bird-watching merit badge.
I come from a family of eleven children. My mother must have gone to bed very tired each night. Nevertheless, she still got up early, woke me up, and drove me out into the countryside and pointed out the different birds to me. I will never forget that lesson of love.
I was quite young when World War II started, but I was old enough to be frightened by what was happening. My father assured me that the Lord was in control and that all would be well. As he told me not to worry, he put his arms around me, enveloping me in security and love. I had the same feeling of safety as we knelt in family prayer and I listened to my father, a bishop, pray for the servicemen who were from our ward. I knew that Heavenly Father lived and that He was listening.
Some things I learned by what I did, rather than from someone else’s actions. One Christmas a favorite aunt gave me a book of illustrated stories from the Old Testament. Outside, the weather was cold and the wind was howling. I couldn’t sleep. I waited until everybody else was asleep so that I wouldn’t disturb them, then gathered up my blanket and settled down near the forced-air heat vent and read that book for hours at a time. Before that I hadn’t been much of a reader, but I was entranced by that book. I really developed a love for the scriptures at that young age.
These early experiences created a feeling of love and security in my life. The lessons and good examples that I remember best were the ones that involved doing something. If you can experience what I experienced, if you will learn from people who love you and who do things for you and with you, if you strive to do what is right yourself, you will build a strong foundation in the gospel that will bring you a comfort, safety, and joy that can last forever.