My family moved near Manti, Utah, in my sophomore year of high school. We lived at a place called Crystal Springs. By then, it was only a skeleton of more prosperous earlier years, when it had been a popular resort and, thereafter, a large dairy farm operated by my grandfather Giles and his family, including my folks.
We moved to Crystal Springs after my father had a heart attack and lost his job. We didn’t have much in those days, so it was necessary for my father to work as much as he could and for me to take employment as a plasterer’s helper to supplement the family income.
Although my parents were less active in the Church, my mother’s family, also living at Crystal Springs, fortunately were very active. They provided the critical support I needed to stay active in the Church at that time.
Of those high school days, I can remember many nights sitting on the edge of my bed, looking out at the Manti Utah Temple through my second-story bedroom window. I realized that, regardless of whether my folks had ever been there, the temple was a place I wanted to be able to go someday. The temple became a standard for me to measure everything else against.
It was during this time in my life that I began to feel the need to serve a mission. The promises made in D&C 31:5 began to play upon me: “Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back. … Wherefore, your family shall live” (emphasis added). The two key promises in that verse became increasingly meaningful to me.
I made up my mind that I was going to serve a mission. I needed some method of showing the Lord that I truly did love Him in spite of my sometimes foolish youthful actions.
So, with the temple as a standard and a desire to serve a mission, I started to plan for a mission. Not long after that, my father had another heart attack and died. I was still in my first years at the university. With the death of my father, I suddenly realized that if I were to go on a mission, there would be no one to take care of my mother, grandmother, and two sisters.
I was torn between my sense of obligation toward my family and my obligation to Heavenly Father. I wasn’t even sure I could save enough money to get started on a mission, but I was determined that, if it were possible, I would go. I made a decision based totally on my faith in the Lord’s promise: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
Not long after, I received an offer to work at a very good job as an engineering aide in Oregon, in the western United States, which permitted me to save for a mission and send some money home. Still, it wasn’t easy. But as I pondered D&C 31:5 and Matthew 6:33, the Spirit said to me, “If you will seek first my kingdom (a mission), I will take care of your family.” I didn’t know how that would be possible, but I believed the Lord’s promises with all my heart.
When the time neared for me to leave, I still didn’t have all the money I would need to support myself, so I went to my bishop and explained my predicament. He said, “All the help you need you’ve got right at your fingertips.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
He told me to talk to my relatives, even to nonmembers and less-active members, to see if they would help me. “Go bear your testimony to them,” he said. “Tell them you want to serve the Lord, and ask for their help.”
I didn’t know how I was going to do that, but I did, and all those I asked said they would help a little. The high priests group in my ward helped me with the rest.
I was soon on my way to the Spanish-American Mission, based in San Antonio, Texas. After I got into the mission field, the things that took place, both there and at home, clearly confirmed that I had made the right decision. My family was being taken care of as well or better than if I had stayed home, and the joy of missionary service had changed my heart and the direction of my life.
My mission became the great turning point in my life. I could tell myself and my family at home that I knew I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do and that, although I didn’t know how everything was going to work out, I knew it would work out the best for all of us.
During the time I was in the mission field, my mother began to come back to church. And when my sweetheart and I married after my mission, my mother was able to be in the temple with us. Many of those who assisted in financing my mission also drew closer to the Church.
Put your trust in the Lord. The world cries in so many voices for your time, attention, and loyalty. The Lord’s voice is very quiet. To avoid the distractions of the world and to prepare for your mission, I have some advice for you.
First, be sure that prayer is a daily part of your life. When I was in Manti, I milked one or two cows each day in our old barn, which had a big hayloft. In addition to my bedside, that barn was a good place to go for secret prayer. Before I decided to go on a mission, and before I found the scriptures that helped me to do right, I had some very sincere sessions of prayer in that hayloft. I came away from those sessions with a sure knowledge that I needed to put my life in order so I could serve the Lord.
Be on your knees every day, reflecting on your life, on your future, on who you are, and on how you’re going to fulfill your mission on earth so that you can return to your Heavenly Father and be worthy to enter into His presence again.
There are so many things going on in life that prayer often gets pushed aside. Don’t leave your room in the morning and don’t lie down at night until you’ve prayed. Ask Heavenly Father to help you prepare for a mission. He will answer your prayers.
Second, stay active in seminary and institute. That will keep you focused on and reading the scriptures. I shall always be grateful to Brother Ward Magelby for being the kind of seminary teacher who taught with the Spirit and cared enough to counsel me and for Brother J. Elliott Rich of the Logan Utah Institute, who opened my spiritual eyes even wider during my two years of college prior to entering the mission field.
Third, listen to good music. The music you listen to has a profound influence on whether you can receive spiritual promptings. Listen to the beautiful hymns and music of the Restoration. Learn the hymns and songs, and sing them often, alone, with the family, and always in church. I am a witness of the marvelous power of the Church hymns to uplift, edify, and inspire.
Fourth, take time to be with your family. Although my parents were less active, they loved me, and I loved them. They taught me well and prepared me to receive the testimony of Jesus Christ and of the Restoration.
If your family has family home evening, be sure that you’re there. Keep Monday nights free. It will take sacrifice, but Heavenly Father will not let that sacrifice go unrewarded—you just count the miracles and blessings that result.
Make sure that you tell your parents and your siblings that you love them. Tell your Heavenly Father in your prayers that you love Him.
Finally, ask for priesthood blessings, including your patriarchal blessing, to help you “hold fast” to “the rod of iron” and to be able to withstand “the fiery darts of the adversary” (see 1 Ne. 15:23–24). These blessings will bring the Spirit into your life and keep you on target.
There are lots of other things you can do, but these are the basics. They take commitment and sacrifice of other pursuits, but if you will do these things, as I did, to prepare for your mission, you will feel good about serving the Lord, and you will want to do so. You will feel good about saying no to the enticing things of the world and the great deception that you can sin without penalty. You will also be prepared against those with much learning of men, who “think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves” (2 Ne. 9:28).
I testify that God lives and that true happiness is found in obedience to His commandments.