Friend to Friend

From an interview with Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy, currently serving as President of the Africa Southeast Area; by Kellene Ricks Adams

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We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

I was born on a little dry farm in northern Utah in 1934. By the time the doctor drove the thirteen miles from Logan to our house, I had already arrived.

I was born blue because I wasn’t breathing right. The connection between my heart and lungs was not very good, and doctors told my parents that I would have serious health problems. My family prayed hard that I would be healthy, and none of the things the doctors predicted happened. In fact, I was six feet tall by the time I was thirteen! I know that this was a blessing from Heavenly Father.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know that Heavenly Father lives and that He loves me. I have always known that the gospel is true and that Joseph Smith is a prophet. The scriptures teach that every single one of us is born with the Light of Christ, or a sense of what is right and wrong. I was blessed to have parents who taught me things that made that light grow stronger. Not only did they teach me good things, they also showed me the right way to live. My parents didn’t say bad things about other people, they didn’t criticize Church leaders, and they never used bad words. I’m so grateful for their example.

One of my earliest memories is of waking up one morning when I was about four years old and seeing my mother lying on her bed in terrible pain. She couldn’t get up. She told me to get my Uncle Mike, who lived about three hundred yards (270 m) down our country lane.

I climbed up on a stool and cranked the telephone, trying to call my uncle. When that didn’t work, I hurried outside, calling his name.

Somehow Uncle Mike heard and came. As soon as he saw Mother, he knew something was wrong. He bundled her up, carried her out to his car, and drove her to Salt Lake City.

The doctors never did know exactly what was wrong with Mother, but she was very ill. While she spent months in Salt Lake City being treated, I lived with relatives. We were happy when she came home, even for brief periods, and my older brother and sister and I did what we could to help her until she left for another long period of treatment.

Our family prayed to Heavenly Father often. We always asked Him to help my mother feel better and be strong. Mother also received priesthood blessings. I saw Heavenly Father strengthen my mother and bring her peace. I know that He hears and answers our prayers.

When I was about six, my father bought the only small store in town. He also kept the farm. We were very poor, and Dad worked hard so that he could pay the bills. While Dad worked on the farm, my sister and I worked almost every day in the store. We had two gas pumps out front, and even as a youngster I learned how to pump gas into cars. I also learned how to write up sales. Sometimes I took care of the store all alone, even though I was quite young.

Mother spent most of her time in bed because she was sick, so I learned early to do chores and be responsible. I did the family wash and ironed my own clothes. From her bed, Mother taught me how to make bread, and that became my weekly chore. Of course, few children like to clean their rooms, and I was normal. I could put that off because it was upstairs and Mother didn’t get up there often! But I did all my other jobs as best I could.

Dad was in the bishopric for seventeen years, practically the whole time I was growing up. My sister and I would walk the three-quarters of a mile to church and sit in the congregation and watch Dad up on the stand. Then we’d walk home and tell Mother about what we’d learned. Mother’s health gradually improved, and from the time I finished high school, she lived a normal, active life.

Seeing Dad up on the stand is a fond memory because I knew that Dad was doing what Heavenly Father wanted him to do. As long as he was trying to do what was right and serving Heavenly Father, everything was OK. Nothing was lacking in our lives. I knew that Dad was doing his best. I knew that Heavenly Father was taking care of Mother. And I knew that all I had to do was do my best, and Heavenly Father would help us.

We all must have faith in Jesus Christ. When we have faith in Jesus Christ and hard things happen in our lives, we can be strong. We can know that Heavenly Father loves us, He is aware of us, and He is there for us.

As a toddler

Riding his pony, Ace

With his older brother LaMon

Elder and Sister Simmons

With his parents and a cousin

As a Scout