Friend to Friend: Treasure the Gospel

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“Friend to Friend: Treasure the Gospel,” Friend, May 2001, 6

Friend to Friend:

Treasure the Gospel

And as I partook of the fruit [of the tree of life] it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also (1 Ne. 8:12).

I grew up in the little town of Cedar Fort, Utah, and it was a wonderful place to live. I had lots of uncles and aunts and cousins nearby. I had only one brother, Gerald, who was eight years younger than I.

When I was a boy, our family had a cow, which was my responsibility to milk, and a horse, which I loved to ride. In the winter, I loved sledding down hills and riding in a sleigh pulled by horses. In the summer, the men of our ward rounded up wild horses from the range and caught steers for a rodeo. There was always a children’s rodeo, too, in which we children rode sheep and caught greased pigs.

I went to school in a two-room schoolhouse. There were three boys and one girl in my grade. The first-, second-, and third-grade classes met together in the Little Room, and the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade classes met in the Big Room. Having several grades together in the same room was a marvelous way to learn. If you were a little bit ahead in a subject, you could do the same work as the next grade. Every morning, the teachers rang the school bell and we marched in, repeated the Pledge of Allegiance, then started our day.

For me, however, school really began when I got home. In the afternoon, my mother, who was a teacher, asked what I had learned and we discussed it together. She also taught me other things, and she made sure I did my homework. The year I graduated from high school, I was named Representative Boy for my class. I’m sure I got that honor because my mother had taught me to have good work habits.

My mother was very loving and kind, and she had a very strong testimony of the gospel. She always expected me to be in church, to honor the priesthood, and to excel in whatever I did. My commitment to the gospel came from my mother.

My dad had many skills, and he also taught me many things: how to ride and take care of a horse, how to set traps, how to work, how to take care of a garden, and how to be honest.

When I was twelve years old, my family moved to American Fork, Utah. Danny and Kelly Brewer and their widowed mother, who had remarried, lived across the street from us. I have never known such wholesome boys. They never swore and they always went to church because they wanted to.

They played tennis, so I learned to play tennis, too. Kelly became my tennis partner and best friend. It’s one thing to be a good person on your own, but it’s much easier when you have a friend who also wants to be good. I’m very thankful for the good influence of those boys.

When I was a junior in college, I married my high school sweetheart, Clea. After three years of serving in the Navy as an officer on a destroyer and attending graduate school, I moved with my wife to Detroit, Michigan. I worked there for many years for Ford Motor Company, and that’s where we raised our four children. Once I had to travel to Asia for my work. There was a cholera epidemic in Asia at the time. Before I left, I got a shot to protect me from getting cholera, but the doctor forgot to record on my passport that I’d had the shot.

When it was time for me to return home, I gave my passport to the government official. He noticed that it did not show that I had had a cholera shot, which was required. He said that I could not go home until two weeks after I had the shot. I told him that I had already had one. He said that if I gave the emigration officials fifty dollars, they would let me leave without having the shot. I knew that it is dishonest to bribe officials, so I went to the United States ambassador and asked him to call the doctor who had given me the shot. With his help, I was allowed to leave.

Someone I know once said, “Wrong is wrong, even though everyone is doing it. Right is right, even though no one is doing it.” This is a concept you need to use all your life. You don’t have to lie. Don’t get into the habit of telling fibs. Honesty is a good habit.

In 1984, Clea died of cancer. That was a very difficult experience. As you go through your life, you will have many difficult challenges, too. Some of these challenges will be too big for you to handle by yourself. Picture a very hard challenge as a great rock that you need to move. If you try to move it all by yourself, you probably won’t be able to do it. But if you have a lever, you can lift the rock.

When you face a difficult challenge, you may need a lever. Prayer is like a lever. When you pray, you can overcome challenges you cannot overcome on your own. You might have a subject at school that is very hard for you. Use your own best efforts to study that subject. Then, when you’ve done all you can, ask Heavenly Father to help you. Prayer can give you the extra help you need. Following the prophet is another lever that can help you avoid problems and overcome challenges.

In 1988, I married Mary. We served a mission in Mongolia. Many people there are nomads, and they live in tent structures called gers. These tents have a stove in the center, and they are very warm even in the cold, cold winters. We learned many things from the Mongolian people. They are a very generous people who will invite you into their home at any time. They honor and respect older people. Whenever we ate with them, they always offered us what they consider the choice part of the sheep—the thick fat on its back.

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi saw a vision of the tree of life. The delicious fruit of the tree represents the precious truths of the gospel. After Lehi tasted how sweet the fruit was, he had a great desire for his family to taste it also. I have experienced how sweet and precious the gospel is. I pray that my own children will always understand the importance of the gospel and that they will raise their children in the Light of Christ. This is my desire for you, too. I hope that you will always treasure the gospel because it is precious above all other things.

At age 5 or 6

Elder Richard E. Cook and his wife, Mary

Mongolian nomad

Elder Cook and his family

On his horse

Elder Richard E. Cook and his wife in Hong Kong

Illustrated by Brad Teare