“I was born in a small hospital in Lehi, Utah. My parents expected a girl so I was named Gene, (a name which could either be used as a girl’s or a boy’s name),” muses Elder Cook. “I also had another nickname when I was young. My mother called me Wiggly Worm because I could never sit still in a meeting.
“My mother was a peacemaker. She would always smooth over arguments between family members or iron out neighborhood squabbles. She was an excellent teacher and taught all of her children to do what is right. I will never forget her kindness to others.
“I used to go hunting sometimes with my father. After he died I went alone, but quickly realized that I hadn’t enjoyed hunting much—what I had really enjoyed was being with him. Dad was the kind of father, who, when his two sons were hoeing weeds and knew they were going to die if they didn’t stop to get a drink, would say, ‘One more row, boys.’ And when we made ice cream he’d encourage, ‘Only ten more cranks, son.’ He taught me self-discipline and to go to bed early and get up early. He always helped me ‘stretch’ my efforts.
“I recall that when I was eleven years old my father told me that I had to earn all the money for my own clothes and that I should also start saving for my mission. When my mission call came, I told my father that we needed to go down to the bank and make necessary arrangements for my mission money to be withdrawn monthly and sent to me. I will never forget my father saying, ‘You didn’t think I was really going to make you pay for your mission, did you? I just wanted you to learn to work. I wouldn’t want to miss the blessing of supporting you in the mission field. You save your money, son, you’ll need it when you return.’
“My older brother, Ron, has always been an inspiration to me. I recall one evening when he came home from a Church youth meeting and announced to the family that his teacher had told him that he had to gain his own testimony and receive his own witness and to not rely on that of others. He said—almost prophetically—‘I’m going to gain that personal witness and testimony, no matter how long it takes or what the cost.’
“Ron began reading and studying the scriptures and fasting and praying. One morning a short time later, he was suddenly stricken by a paralysis. He could not move his body and his right side was in terrible pain. He was barely able to whisper to Dad that he wanted a blessing. No sooner had Dad finished blessing his son than Ron was miraculously cured! My brother uncoiled his tense body, straightened up, and was free of pain.
“When he was later examined by a doctor, the diagnosis was that he had had what appeared to be a ruptured appendix but that no trace of damaged tissue was found in his body. Later, my brother told me that during this experience he received his special witness that the Book of Mormon and the gospel were true. He wanted me to know, however, that he had received this knowledge before Dad had blessed him before his healing. He truly had shown faith before the miracle.
“This experience really influenced my life and at age twelve I began a fervent study of the Book of Mormon. I, too, received a personal witness and confirmation of the truthfulness of the gospel. I knew then, and have never doubted since, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that the gospel is true.
“My message to the children of the world is this: study and pray while you are young so that you, too, might receive this same witness.”