When I was five years old, I had the job of taking out the trash. In those days, a garbage truck didn’t come to pick up the trash. We had to burn it in the backyard in a cement box called an incinerator. My chores included burning the trash.
One day, I decided that I didn’t need to take the trash all the way outside to burn it, as my parents had taught me to do. I put it all into the kitchen wastebasket and burned it right there in the kitchen. Before I knew it, the kitchen cabinets were on fire! Fortunately my older brother came into the kitchen and yelled for my mother. The fire was quickly put out, with little damage to our house. That experience taught me to follow the guidance of my parents because they knew about dangers that I did not understand.
I soon learned to follow another kind of guidance, too. When I was young, Primary was held after school in the middle of the week. One day when I was about six years old, I was walking from Primary to my grandparent’s house. While I walked, I was thinking about the Primary lesson my teacher had just given about “turning the other cheek,” rather than trying to get even. She had taught us that fighting and quarreling are contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
As I walked along, a small group of older boys started pushing me and taunting me to fight. Normally when someone picked on me, I tried to “even the score.” But at that moment, a powerful feeling came over me that I should not follow my natural instinct to fight. After calling me a few insulting names, the boys went on their way, disappointed that they had not made me fight. This was one of the first times I remember the Holy Ghost whispering to me. Clearly, the Holy Ghost has been the strongest influence in my life.
Growing up, I had lots of fun with my older brother and my younger brother. We had water fights with water hoses and garbage can lids. We took apart roller skates and made them into scooters. And I always looked for ways to earn money. One summer, I picked vegetables from our garden and sold them around the neighborhood—until my mother found out! I was selling what she was counting on as food for our own family. When I got older, I mowed lawns and did other jobs around the neighborhood.
In some ways, my childhood was not typical of most General Authorities. My brothers and I grew up mostly without a father in our home. My mother had to work very hard to support us. She was away from home most of the time, either working or going to school at night to improve her skills and income. I did not have much gospel teaching at home. But somehow the Holy Ghost guided my brothers and me to hold to the iron rod and follow the teachings of the gospel.
When I was a child, President David O. McKay was the living prophet. Whenever I listened to him or heard his teachings, it left a great impression on me. Often he taught about how important a good home is. But what he taught did not make me resent the fact that our family was not like the ones he described. Instead, his teachings made me determined to do my part to make our home better. This determination has stayed with me and has been a guiding light.
The Holy Ghost guided me again when I was confused about what was really true. I spent my early years attending a Catholic school. When I learned the teachings of a different religion at school, I sometimes felt confused. I think maybe I felt a little like Joseph Smith did when he didn’t know which church was right. But as I got older, the more I read the scriptures, the more I was guided to the true light of the gospel. The teachings of the Church had logic and harmony, and the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that they were true.
I love to read about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the great heroes from the Book of Mormon. I think my love of reading started when my grandfather told me stories about his childhood. He had left his home in Kentucky at a very young age and worked his way across the country. When he was a young man, he worked in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, traveling throughout the United States. I thought his stories were so fascinating that I went to the public library and checked out every book about William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Ever since then, I have loved reading about famous heroes and great leaders. So when I learned about the marvelous heroes of the Book of Mormon, and about the Prophet Joseph Smith and other leaders of the Church, I loved reading about them, too.
The Holy Ghost guided me when I had to decide whether or not to go on a mission. When I became old enough to serve a mission, no one suggested that I go. In fact, I didn’t really know much about what a mission was or what it required. But my patriarchal blessing had mentioned something about a mission, and that had stuck in my mind. And the Holy Ghost whispered to me, urging me to tell my bishop that I wanted to serve a mission. I knew what I should do. As a missionary in Uruguay, I really enjoyed going from door to door to tell people about the gospel.
Children, you are a force for good in this world. You have a great impact on your parents and all the adults around you. Your expressions of love and your approach to life often make us think of the Savior’s teaching that we need to become as little children. When our five children were young, it was often a struggle to get all seven of us together for family home evening. Then one day, our ten-year-old daughter said, “Dad, rather than giving the lesson first, why don’t we play a game first?” And she was right! That change was what our family needed to eagerly gather together.
As a child, you are very special to the Lord. The Lord has given you many godly gifts and yet-to-be-discovered talents. The Lord will also give you an extra portion of His Spirit, and He will guard you with a shield of spiritual protection.