I grew up in Guatemala City, Guatemala, with seven brothers and seven sisters. Raising a family that size was not easy, and my father had to work at two or three jobs at the same time. But my parents were happy people, and they taught us by example to be happy and enjoy life.
We learned from them that the Lord would bless us with the basic needs of life if we did our best. They also taught us that while we needed food to sustain us and clothes to cover us, it did not matter if we had one suit or two. One was enough. And we learned to share everything that was possible to share.
I began attending LDS meetings when I was 10 years old. My family investigated the Church for nine months, and I was baptized when I was 11. I really enjoyed Primary. There was only one branch in the whole city in those days, and Primary was held on Saturday. We had to walk five kilometers to Primary each Saturday.
My Primary teacher once told me, “The day will come when you will be a leader in the Church.” I smiled and thought, She is telling me that to keep me quiet. But when I was called to be a stake president, the first woman I interviewed to renew her temple recommend was my Primary teacher. It was a spiritual moment, and we both enjoyed it.
When I received the Aaronic Priesthood, I had a strong feeling of respect for it. I felt important in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, my ordination as a deacon changed my whole life, because since then, every time I am tempted to do the wrong thing, I think, I am a priest of the Lord, and he wants me to do my best.
I was the only member of the Church in my high school, and some of the other students began to ridicule my standards and test my resolve to keep them. I played on my high school all-star soccer team. My teammates usually used bad words, but they accepted the fact that I spoke according to the teachings of the Church. And when a disagreement started during a game, they knew that my position would be that of peacemaker. They tested me with liquor, with immorality, and with other temptations. But when they discovered that I was really serious about my commitments, they respected me.
Making the right choice was not always easy. My father and mother had a difficult time providing for their large family, so those of us who were old enough did our best to help out. When I was 18 years old, I needed to buy a pair of pants, but after sharing my salary with my family, all I had left was the exact amount I owed in tithing. I was tempted to spend that tithing money for those pants, but I paid my tithing, and during the next week I got an extra job that allowed me to buy the pants.
Of course, making right choices doesn’t guarantee a life free of troubles. For example, mathematics was very difficult for me. When I failed the same test two or three times, I wanted to abandon school; instead, I learned to work hard and got the necessary grade needed for graduation. Some young people are good at school. They get the answers easily and have an advantage over the rest of us, but if they do not learn to work hard, even with great intelligence, they might fail in their lives. A weakness can be a great blessing when we overcome it.
When I was younger, I noticed that most of us are dissatisfied with ourselves. We want to be taller (or shorter), thinner (or larger). We want to be smarter and richer. We want to be better looking. We look enviously at others who seem to have greater gifts or fewer sorrows. I think that we each need to deal with our own challenges and not envy people whose lives seem to be easier.
Do you know that the very gift you yearn for may be someone else’s challenge? Each of us receives gifts and challenges suited to our own needs, and we should not compare ourselves to others. You are yourself, and you need to be yourself always. Heavenly Father will help you become your best self.
Because we are children of God, we can overcome every problem. We may not do it quickly or easily, but with his help, in his own time, we can do it.