Derek Cuthbert was born in Nottingham, England, not far from Sherwood Forest, the home of Robin Hood: a legendary English outlaw and folk hero. “I actually lived near Nottingham Castle, which is, of course, a place featured in Robin Hood stories,” recalled Elder Cuthbert. “There is still a Sheriff of Nottingham, and he is appointed from time to time to assist the Lord Mayor of Nottingham. Men have been appointed to that office for hundreds of years.
“In Sherwood Forest there’s a tree called Major Oak, meaning large oak. Many call it Robin Hood’s tree. It’s hollow and you can get perhaps twelve people standing upright inside the tree. The tree is 1,500 years old and is said to have been Robin Hood’s hideout. People come from far away just to see this tree.”
Elder Cuthbert and his family are converts to the Church. “We were baptized on a January evening in 1951,” he said, “and we didn’t have a beautiful chapel such as those located in many parts of the world. Our meeting place was in an old house, where the missionaries had constructed a baptismal font under the floorboards. My family was among the first group to be baptized in the font. We were very happy and excited and had been looking forward to our baptism, because each of us knew it was what Heavenly Father and Jesus wanted us to do. Although it was a very cold evening, we felt warm as we went into the baptismal font.
“After our baptism and confirmation, we had an even warmer feeling because we knew we had been baptized into the Lord’s true church. It helped us to start again and to feel clean and pure.”
Athletics have always been one of Elder Cuthbert’s great loves. He believes in training and disciplining the body by eating the right foods and getting plenty of exercise.
“I’ve found that rope skipping is a very good exercise,” he said. “When I was younger and training for track and field events, I did a lot of rope skipping. I found it was just as effective as jogging without having to go such long distances.
“I remember a special boyhood experience when my father once took my brother and me to an athletics competition, and I saw a man throwing the javelin for the first time. It made a great impression on me as a ten-year-old boy. Several years later when I was in school, after a lot of practice, I won the javelin event and became Victor Ludorum (Latin for: Winner of the Games) with successes not only in the javelin and discus, but also in the high jump, long jump, and middle-distance running events. Later still I represented the University of Nottingham and became a qualified javelin and discus coach.”
Derek Cuthbert was twelve years old when World War II began. He has a vivid recollection of having air raid drills at school and of going down into the air raid shelter. He and his brother helped their father build bunk beds for their underground shelter in the garden. He recalled the long period of rationing in England that lasted for a number of years. Food, clothes, furniture—everything was rationed. He remembers putting all the basic food items for one person for a whole week on a dinner plate—“Fifty-six grams of butter, a little bit of sugar, a slice of meat, and one egg if we were lucky. We had to make ourselves full by eating homegrown vegetables.
“During the war we did a lot of praying when the air raid sirens sounded, and we often went down into our bomb shelter in the garden in the middle of the night.”
Elder Cuthbert has a powerful testimony regarding children: “I have a bright testimony that children, as spirits, are in the presence of God before birth into mortality. They come into this life innocent and pure, and should they die before the age of accountability, they are still innocent and return to the presence of God. ‘Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten.’ (D&C 29:46, 47.) An adult must cleanse himself and become ‘as a child, submissive, meek, humble …’ (Mosiah 3:19.)
“I love the words of the Savior: ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 18:3.)
“When I travel and attend stake conferences, I look forward to visiting the children in the stakes and giving them a message from President Kimball,” states Elder Cuthbert. “I also love to bear my testimony to them and tell them how much Heavenly Father loves them. He really loves you and wants you to talk to Him in prayer and tell Him how grateful you are for His love. He has shown His love in so many ways; by making it possible for you to live here on earth, by giving you a family, and especially by the gift of His precious Son, Jesus.
“Jesus loves you very much. That is why He came to earth to teach us how to get back to Heavenly Father. Then He made it possible for you to be forgiven if you do something wrong. Finally, He gave His life as a ransom so that you could live forever with your families.”
Elder Cuthbert concluded with a fervent personal testimony: “I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I know He speaks to us today through President Kimball, who is a true prophet of God. Children, always do what the Savior would do and say what He would say so that one day you will see Him and He will take you into His arms.”