When I was a young boy, two Primary teachers had a great influence on me. The first was Sister Wedtstein. She remained interested in us and our activities long after we left her class. As long as we were in the same stake, she stayed in touch.
The second was Sister Baker. Besides spending time in the classroom, we had a lot of activities. We went on hikes, had campfires, and roasted hot dogs. Her husband owned an airplane, and we often went to the airport to watch him take off. I still have pictures of those times, and they always bring back wonderful memories.
As I think about Sister Wedtstein and Sister Baker, I don’t remember in detail what they taught us. But I remember the deep love they had for us and the great respect we had for them in return.
Other good influences in my life were the people I knew when I attended college at Brigham Young University. I hadn’t planned to attend BYU. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to play college football. I had already been contacted many times by an important university, which was encouraging me to play football there. But when the time came to commit myself to go there, all the encouragement stopped. I was devastated. I wondered why they had encouraged me so much only to suddenly change their minds.
Then one day I was out working on the farm with my family when someone ran out to tell me I’d received an urgent phone call. It was from the assistant football coach at BYU. When I called him back, he asked me to come play football there. I had never been to Provo. I didn’t know anything about BYU. He invited me to visit the school before making my decision, but I knew I wouldn’t have time because my family needed me to work on the farm. After thinking about it for a moment, I said, “OK, I’ll come play for BYU. Just tell me what day you want me to be there, and I’ll be there.”
This sudden decision was a turning point in my life. Had I not met the bishop of my student ward, my friends, and my roommates there, I might not have decided to serve a mission. They were all good influences on me.
At the end of my second year playing college football, we had a coach who was not a member of the Church. He didn’t understand why young men served missions, and he discouraged us from going. But a certain number of players committed to serve missions anyway. Thanks to the good examples around me, I was one of them.
Looking back, deciding to serve a mission turned out to be a wonderful blessing. It was one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in my life, and it contributed so much to the blessings and the testimony that I have now. I know that the Lord’s hand was in all of the decisions I made throughout my life that allowed me to be influenced for good.