I was raised in a Latter-day Saint community but was not a member of the Church. My mother used to say to me, “Be a good example to all these Latter-day Saint boys and girls!”
Even though I wasn’t a member, I attended Primary. Students got out of school an hour early on Wednesdays to go, and if I hadn’t gone to Primary with my classmates, I would have been the only one left in my school class! I learned to pray in Primary.
After school I’d go to my dad’s bakery, stand on a can next to him, and learn about running a bakery. When I’d leave to go play with my friends, one of my Primary teachers would step out from where she worked as a dishwasher, take hold of my hand, and say, “Are you being a good boy?” It didn’t matter what I had on my mind, whether it was good or not. I would say, “Yes.” If I had been planning mischief, my plans would change. I knew that she loved me.
Another one of my friends was an older man who owned a flower shop. I’d often go see him, and he’d let me use his microscope. When he died, I didn’t know where he went. I was afraid. I worried about it for almost two years. I came to the point where I had to know if Heavenly Father was really there.
One night, while sleeping outside, I knelt by my cot and poured my heart out to the Lord for a long time. I asked Heavenly Father, “Are You there and do You love me?” As I was kneeling there, I felt a warmth from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. I heard and felt these words: “Yes, I’m here, and yes, I love you.” I know that if Heavenly Father knew and cared about a little boy in Wyoming, He knows and cares about all of us!
At age 15, I went on a Scout jamboree. There were 50 boys who weren’t members of the Church and 250 who were. On the way, we made stops so the Latter-day Saints could see Church history sites while the others went swimming. As we got off the train to go to the lake, it was almost like invisible hands turned me around to stay with the Latter-day Saints.
As I stood where the Nauvoo Temple now stands, I felt the same warm feeling I’d felt as a little boy. I felt it again at Carthage Jail when they showed us the room where the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. Later we went to New York and visited the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove. I felt the same feeling again. That Sunday as I walked into the chapel with my Latter-day Saint friends, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was home. I came home from that trip knowing that Joseph Smith was God’s prophet.
Today I have 9 children and 33 grandchildren. I see how the Lord’s hand molded the life of one little boy so that he could grow up and have an eternal family. It was no accident that I was raised in a loving Latter-day Saint community with a good family and friends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being nurtured and prepared to join the Church and to be given the opportunity for eternal blessings.
Each of us has the divine potential of eternal life. Children, you are being prepared for and guided to that opportunity. Families are meant to be forever. Be good boys and girls so you can receive all the blessings Heavenly Father wants you to have.