I have been afraid many times in my life, but I have always been blessed and helped at those times. I think all children face fearful moments, and I want you to feel reassured when those times come.
As a young boy of five or six years of age, I had a powerful experience with prayer. My grandfather, who was not very old at the time, was very ill—feverish, ashen, and almost unconscious. It was a real crisis for our family. He lay in a bed that had been set up for him in his living room, and many of our family members, as well as our stake patriarch, knelt in a circle around his bedside to pray for him.
Although I was the only child in the room, I was invited to be in that prayer circle. Each member of the circle took a turn saying a prayer out loud. Then I, as the youngest one there, was called upon to pray last. I had participated in family prayer, the blessing on the food, bedtime prayers, and the other prayers that children say, but I had never experienced prayer like this before. People were crying, and everyone was anxious and concerned. It all seemed awfully important and urgent and somewhat frightening.
As a result of these prayers, my grandfather’s health was restored. The patriarch later told me that he felt my grandfather had been healed primarily because of my prayer. I have never forgotten that experience. Because I was so frightened at the responsibility to pray in such a setting, prayer took on a deeper meaning for me.
Children, you can make your prayers more meaningful by picturing Heavenly Father as you pray. Picture him right in the room with you, and talk to him the way you would talk to a loving father. It is also important that you pray out loud. I think that when we say the words, it means more to us, and it means more to God. Silent prayers are good, too, but you will gain a great deal by hearing from your own lips the words you are saying to your Father in Heaven. It will help you concentrate more easily.
I remember learning about Lehi’s vision in the Book of Mormon when I was quite young. I could picture the iron rod leading to the tree of life, and the frightening mist of darkness that swept around the path leading to the tree. I understood that if you held on to the rod, no matter how scary the darkness was, you wouldn’t get lost.
I have had the frightening experience of feeling lost more than once. When I was very little, I went to Salt Lake City, Utah, with my parents. I had never seen such a big city. My mother, who thought I was with my dad, went into a store. My dad, thinking I was with my mother, stayed outside to wait while she shopped. But I just kept walking down the street. Before I knew it, I was half a block away and didn’t see a single familiar face or place. I didn’t know what to do. I was petrified with fear. My parents quickly realized I was gone, however, and it took them only a few minutes to find me.
That experience, as well as others, helped me understand the importance of the rod of iron in Lehi’s dream. Just as the rod kept people from getting lost as long as they held on to it, so, too, will the word of God help to keep us from going astray. As long as we follow him, always try to do what is right—even if we are confused at times and aren’t exactly sure of where we are or where we are going—and pray, God will help us and will lead us back to him.
Near my family’s home in St. George, Utah, was a big hill where I loved to play. One day as I was playing there with my older brother, Dennis, I slipped and tumbled onto a huge, prickly cactus plant. I had cactus spines everywhere—in my shoes, my trousers, my shirt. Frightened and in pain and scarcely able to move because of all those sharp spines, I started to wail at the top of my voice. Dennis tried to help by pulling out the spines, but that seemed to hurt even worse and caused my skin to bleed. Finally, to my surprise, Dennis turned without a word and ran down the hill. I thought, Oh boy, that’s great. Right when I need him, he runs away. I was afraid I was going to be left alone with that cactus in me forever.
Soon, however, I looked up, sniffling, to see him struggling up the hill with his small red wagon. He had run home to get it, and he pulled it all the way up the hill, tugging and pulling and huffing and puffing, so that he could take me home in it.
In some ways, the love my brother showed for me that day was like the love the Savior has shown for us. I would not have been able to return home without the help of my brother, just as we would not be able to return safely to our heavenly home without the selfless, loving help of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He paid a terrible price to do this for us, a price that caused him great pain and suffering. Yet because of him, our fears are calmed and we are able to have eternal life.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have a special love for children. They will always hear your prayers and calm your fears. If you are ever really frightened, try to remember this hymn, written by a man who lived in the town where I lived when I was a child:
Dearest children, God is near you,
Watching o’er you day and night,
And delights to own and bless you,
If you strive to do what’s right.
He will bless you,
He will bless you,
If you put your trust in him.
(Hymns, number 96)