My grandmother, Mildred Riggs, was a great influence in my life. When I was a young boy, my grandfather died, and Grandma Riggs moved into our home. She lived with us during most of the time I was growing up. She went on a mission, and when the time came for me to go, not many people from my hometown were serving missions. But I thought, “If Grandma Riggs can go on a mission, then I can go on a mission, too.” She was a wonderful example to me. She exercised, read the scriptures, and prayed regularly.
One day I was walking by Grandma’s room. Her door was closed, but as I walked by I heard someone speaking. As I listened, I heard Grandma’s voice, and then I heard silence. Then I heard her voice again, and then I heard silence. I cracked open the door and looked in. She was praying. I realized then that she was speaking with Heavenly Father and waiting for His answers.
I also learned about prayer from my mother. I grew up in the country on a cattle ranch. When I was eight or nine, my dad gave me a Shetland pony for my birthday, and I was really happy because I liked horses. A few days after I received this gift, a couple of boys asked if I wanted to go horseback riding with them. Mother said that I could go, so I rode with them for about three hours into the mountains. Suddenly, the two boys looked at me and said, “We have to go home now. We promised our mothers we would be back soon.” They had big horses. Mine was a little pony. They took off on a gallop, and my little pony couldn’t keep up with them. When they got out of sight, I stopped and I had no idea where I was. I became frightened.
Then I remembered what my mother had told me—if you get in trouble or if you need help, remember that you can pray to Heavenly Father. I got off my pony, knelt on the ground, and prayed. I don’t remember what I said, except “Please help me to get home.” After I finished my prayer, I got back on my pony. I sat there for two or three minutes holding the reins, not knowing what to do. I decided to drop the reins on the horse’s neck. After a few seconds, the horse started to walk. He walked faster and faster, and just before dark he walked into our backyard.
I learned two things from this experience. The first is that if we will pray to Heavenly Father in sincerity, He will answer our prayers. The second is that a horse knows its way home! I didn’t know that before I prayed.
For the first 12 years of my life, my father didn’t go to church. He and my mother had been married in the temple, but he had stopped going to church after that. My mother and I prayed for him, and almost every Sunday morning we went to the edge of his bed and said, “Please get up and go to church with us.” He was never upset or unkind to us about it, but he always had something else to do.
I was an only child until I was 12 years old. Then my mother was able to have another child, a little sister. The Sunday came to take her to church to be blessed. My mother said to my father, “Your little daughter is going to be blessed today.” I said, “Dad, please come with us to church. You can’t miss it.” A little while later, he came out of the bedroom dressed in a suit, a white shirt, and a tie.
We went to church and sat on the second row in the chapel. After the opening hymn and prayer, the bishop picked up my little sister and took her to the front of the chapel to be blessed. I sat close to my father on his left side, and during the blessing I felt his arm begin to quiver. I looked up, and tears were running down his cheeks. After the blessing, I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He said, “I’ll never let this happen again.” I asked him what he meant. He answered, “I’ll never let another man do what I ought to do.”
Three or four weeks later, our bishop called my father to be a counselor in the bishopric. A year and a half later, he was called to be a member of the stake presidency.
Heavenly Father answers prayers, and people can change. Be patient. The Spirit can help people you love to change bad habits.