I learned at an early age about service in the Church. One of my memorable Church experiences took place shortly after I graduated from Primary. One day, my parents told me that Brother Jim Barton, the deacons quorum advisor, had called and wanted to meet with me at our home. No one had ever made an appointment with me before, so I was quite excited—and a little nervous.
When Brother Barton arrived at our home, he sat down with my whole family, which included my parents, my younger brother, and me. He talked about the importance of Church callings and explained to my family about my new calling as the president of the deacons quorum. He asked my parents and my brother if they could support me in that calling. They said that they would.
We talked about the importance of service and of Church callings, and the responsibilities I would have as president of my quorum. Brother Barton testified that the Lord had called me, and he outlined the keys that I would hold in this new calling.
His visit took about an hour, and it made a huge impression on me. I was deeply impressed by the importance of Church callings—of any Church calling. I was also impressed that an adult would take the time and make the effort to help someone so young understand. That one experience set the tone for every Church calling that followed. It also set a pattern for me as I have extended Church callings to others. There is no small Church calling, and the Lord needs us to do our part and do it as well as we can, to share the gospel with others, and to help the Church run smoothly.
When I was about 14 years old, the Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Sunday School. I was one of 500 Sunday School students invited to sing in a choir for the Sunday School conference, which was held in the Tabernacle as part of general conference in April 1949. President George Albert Smith, President of the Church during that conference, showed the congregation a time capsule dealing with the event and containing items related to the history of the Sunday School. It contained a form of phonograph record made in the 1940s.
During the meeting, it was announced that the box would be opened in 50 years. I remember, as a boy in the choir in that meeting, thinking how I would love to be in attendance when that box was opened fifty years later. In 1999, I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, for general conference. During the training for the General Authorities, we were invited to attend a meeting at which that box was to be opened for the first time after fifty years of being sealed! It was exciting as a boy and as a man to have been part of those two milestones in the history of the Sunday School.
One of the lessons all the boys were taught in Primary in those days was about Creed Haymond, a young Latter-day Saint who was captain of the University of Pennsylvania track team. The night before a championship meet, his coach had told him to drink a glass of wine to avoid becoming “stale” from overtraining. Brother Haymond refused. He had long ago promised his mother that he would never disobey the Word of Wisdom. The coach insisted, but Creed Haymond stood firm. The rest of the team drank the wine and became violently ill, but Creed went on to win three events, setting a new world record in one of them.
A few years later, when I was a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood, our family moved to a different area. I was called to be what we now know as a home teacher to Brother Haymond, my hero from Primary days. I asked if he could tell me all about the story of his racing experience. It was very exciting to be able to hear from him, in person, about the event which had been such an inspiration to me earlier.
In speaking of heroes, I have been greatly blessed in my lifetime to be in church services where each of the prophets since Heber J. Grant spoke. I grew up in Salt Lake City, and President Grant spoke in our ward. I remember him talking about his desires to play baseball better, write better, and sing better. He talked about how hard those three things were for him and how he practiced to become better at them.
I was about eight years old at the time, and I wasn’t a very good baseball player. I didn’t write very well, either. And although I loved to sing, especially the Primary songs, I didn’t sing very well. So I related to President Grant, and his story gave me hope that I could do better.
Throughout our lives, prophets give us direction and counsel that show us how to live. They are aware of the world we live in and all the challenges we face. They know our struggles and our trials. They let us know what we should be doing. The prophet can help us know how to successfully meet the challenges we face and how to be happy and feel peaceful. If we follow the prophet, we will never be led astray and we will be able to return to our Heavenly Father.