In my childhood, my family went through some very troubled times. My parents divorced when I was five. My mother remarried, but divorced again. My three younger siblings and I all lived with our mother in one room in one of the worst parts of Glasgow, Scotland. Home life was quite dark, challenging, and poor.
When I was about 10, I went to a little Christian Sunday School group that met at the end of the street. We sang songs, and a teacher taught us Bible stories. One Sunday, our teacher told us the story of Zacchaeus.
Jesus was passing through the city of Jericho, and there was a great crowd of people surrounding him. A man named Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus pass by, but Zacchaeus was not very tall. He ran ahead and climbed a tree so he could see Jesus in the midst of the crowd.
Jesus looked up and called him by name: “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”
Zacchaeus was not a popular man. He was a tax collector. Many people, seeing with whom Jesus was going to spend the day, murmured because they didn’t think Zacchaeus was worthy. Yet Jesus chose to spend time with him.
We don’t read much in the scriptures about what happened while Jesus was in Zacchaeus’s home, but we do know what the result was. Zacchaeus repented and became converted. Jesus said that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus. (See Luke 19:1–10.)
I wondered, if Jesus knew the name of Zacchaeus, did He know my name? If this thing called salvation could come to the home of Zacchaeus, could it come to my family? If Zacchaeus could be saved, could I? I know now that the Holy Ghost prompted me to think those thoughts.
Within two years, I discovered that the Lord did know my name and that salvation could come to my family. The Lord sent missionaries from His Church to find us. My mother was not very interested in religion, but the missionaries knocked on our door on a very rainy, wet day. They had been out working all day long, and they were soaked to the skin. My mother invited them in to get warm. When I came home from school, the missionaries were sitting by our electric heater, steam rising from their clothes. That began our teaching experience. A few weeks later, we were baptized and confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Being members of the Church has been a great blessing in our lives. We found peace, direction, and hope. I grew up to serve a mission, marry in the temple, and become the father of four children. I became the first person in all the generations of my family to attend university, and I enjoyed a successful career.
Children, Jesus is real. He lives. He knows you one by one, name by name, wherever you are in the world. Whatever your situation is, know that you are better than you think you are. There is such goodness in you! Even if there are things in your life that are very hard—even if there is some pain—remember always that Jesus loves you. As you simply do the best you can and try to follow Him, you will go on to do great things.