My parents did not belong to a church when I was a boy, and they didn’t talk much with me about Jesus Christ. But even as a little child, I always said my prayers. I slept in an upstairs loft on a couple of mattresses. I climbed the stairs, knelt beside the mattresses, and talked with Heavenly Father. Then I rolled into bed. I’m sure I didn’t use hallowed language, but I learned to feel comfortable praying, so that when I heard the missionaries as a teenager, it was an easy thing for me to pray about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and to ask Heavenly Father if the Church was true.
My family and I lived in Eugene, Oregon. We had tents and fishing poles and sleeping bags, and nearly every weekend during the summer we went on family camping trips. I don’t remember specific lessons my parents taught us, but I learned to be honest and kind by following their examples. My mother, father, sister, and I spent hours fishing—fly fishing, lure fishing, bait fishing. I thought the world revolved around a fishing pole.
Fishing takes skill and preparation, and it’s an exciting challenge. But one of my favorite things about fishing was observing Heavenly Father’s creations. I enjoyed the quiet peace of the river and the time fishing gave me to think.
When I was in high school, my friend Skip Stewart invited me to play basketball with the team at his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I thought, “Oh, brother, that’s not going to be good basketball. But I guess I might as well.” As it turned out, the team was very good—so good that we traveled to play in a large tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. While there, I heard President Joseph Fielding Smith speak at a banquet, and I felt very impressed with “the Mormons” and their teachings. When I went home, I asked to have the missionary discussions. Soon I was baptized.
Before joining the ward team, I didn’t know the other teammates very well, but as we played basketball together they quickly became my friends. In fact, all of Skip’s friends from church became my friends—the boys who played basketball and also the girls who were their age. I didn’t know how to dance, so after Mutual activities several of my new friends and I would go to someone’s basement and play old records while they taught me how to dance. I’m still not a good dancer, but they taught me enough so that I could impress Carolyn Lake, another Latter-day Saint girl. After my mission to the Gulf States, Carolyn agreed to marry me.
Going on a mission prepared me for other Church responsibilities. You children can be wonderful missionaries. Invite your friends of other faiths and their parents to your baptism. Outside the temple, there is nothing as sacred or as spiritual as a baptism. Your friends may not understand very much about the ordinance, but they will be able to feel the Holy Ghost.
I encourage you children of the Church to find quiet times to think and to talk to Heavenly Father. Quiet time can be reading, painting, fishing, or building a fort outside. You don’t have to be alone; you can have friends or family with you. As you spend time away from television and computer games, you will develop your relationship with Heavenly Father, and you will learn that the Church is true.