In 1832, two years after the Church was organized, two missionaries went out into the New York area to preach the gospel. A man by the name of John Tanner, who was a very influential man in that district—community-minded and religious—heard that they were coming and that they were going to hold a meeting in the schoolhouse in his town that night. He was determined that they would not preach any false doctrine in his community, so he attended this meeting to keep them straight. Because he had been crippled for many months, he had to be wheeled to the meeting in a wheelchair, and he had his son wheel him right up in front of the pulpit so that he could look the missionaries in the face and correct them if they began to teach any false doctrine.
One of the elders told about the great apostasy and how the Church was reestablished. And then the other elder got up and told about the translation of the Book of Mormon and the doctrines taught therein and then bore his testimony.
John Tanner didn’t interrupt either one of them while they were speaking, but when they finished he said to his son, “I would like to meet those young men.” His son went up, brought the young men down, and introduced his father to them.
The father asked them if they would like to come and stay with him that night. Being good missionaries, they accepted his invitation and went home to stay with him that night. They talked about the gospel, and he asked them questions until the early hours of the morning. He became so interested in the gospel that he said, “If I were able, I think I would like to apply for baptism.”
One of the elders asked, “Do you think that the Lord could heal you?” He answered, “The Lord could if he wanted to.” And the elder said, “Would you like us to administer to you, give you a blessing?” He said he would, and the elders administered to him. That very day he left his wheelchair, never to return to it, and walked four miles to be baptized.
I have often thanked my Heavenly Father that those two missionaries went out and preached the gospel to John Tanner and that he had the courage when he heard the truth to accept it, even though he knew he would be ostracized in the community if he joined the Church.
Some years later he learned that the Church was in financial difficulty. Since he was well-fixed financially, he sold everything he had and gave it to President Joseph Smith to help meet the obligations. He remained true to the faith.
I am so thankful that his son remained true to the faith, and his son remained true to the faith, and his son, who was my father, remained true to the faith. And as a result I am here as a member of the Church today in the position I hold.
In my home my father taught the importance of living a good, clean, moral life. He taught me early that I was a spirit child of God, literally a child of God, that God is a living person, and that Jesus Christ, who is a living person, came and gave his life for us. He taught me how important it is and what a great privilege it is to kneel down and pray to our Heavenly Father, knowing that he is there. He taught us to pray. We had family prayer every night and every morning. I remember so well as we knelt down in prayer how my father talked to the Lord. It was not a routine prayer; he talked to the Lord. He taught us to have our private prayers as well, that we should go to the Lord, talk to him, tell him how grateful we are for his blessings, and ask him to let his Spirit attend us and his blessings be with us.
My father was a great pal, a great friend, and was greatly interested in our enjoyment and our success. I remember when he took some of us on a trip, and when we came back one of my friends said, “I wish I had a father like yours.”
Besides expressing his gratitude for the many blessings we received, when my father prayed, he asked our Heavenly Father to help us solve our problems. In the morning when he asked the Lord to let his blessings and his Spirit attend us that we might be successful in our work, he would also say, “We will report to you tonight.”
I remember one night as we knelt down in family prayer, Father said, “Eldon did something today that he shouldn’t have done and is very sorry for it.” And then he said, “If you will forgive him, he will never do it again.” I didn’t want the Lord to know that I had made that mistake that day, but I decided to never do it again.
I remember so many things about my training in our home. What wonderful religious training I received. One thing my father said about praying was, “If you want your prayers to be answered, you had better do your part. Get off your knees and go to work.”
He taught us to keep the Word of Wisdom strictly, saying that our body is a holy tabernacle and we should not defile it in any way. And he taught us to be honest and true and honorable in all of our transactions and dealings.
From the time I was a little boy, he taught me something I remember so well: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.)
He taught us how important the priesthood is, and what a great power it is if a person will receive it and magnify his calling.
I remember so well an experience I had when I was a boy of about 14. My father was a bishop. There was a death in the ward, and he was going to prepare for the funeral. He asked my brother and me to do certain things while he was gone. We thought he would be gone quite awhile, and we decided to ride some calves before we did what he had told us to do. We thought we would have plenty of time, but he came home while we were still riding those calves, and he called us over to him. Though he had never whipped me, I thought maybe I was going to receive a whipping at that time. But he pointed his finger at me and said, “My boy, I thought I could depend on you.” That hurt me very much. I can still almost recall the exact feeling I had at that time. I made up my mind he would never have a reason again to say, “I thought I could depend on you.” Right then I made up my mind that the Lord would never have reason to say, “I thought I could depend on Eldon Tanner.” It has helped me greatly in my life. The things I learned while I was a boy have helped me all through my life.
When I was in government service and when I was in industry, I prayed regularly to my Heavenly Father to guide me and direct me that I might do right. And in my present position I pray earnestly and seek the direction of the Lord in all do.
I would like to bear my testimony to you that if you live as you should, keep the Word of Wisdom strictly, keep the Sabbath day holy, and pray regularly, you will be better citizens, you will be happier, more respected, and the Lord will bless you in all things. Again I want to bear my testimony that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ at the head of the Church directing it through a prophet.
May we all live worthily, accept the teachings of the gospel we have embraced, be an example to the world, and prepare ourselves for salvation and exaltation and eternal life, I humbly pray.