“It was not easy to raise Ronnie Rasband, let me tell you. I was busy and high-spirited. In other words, I know I was a handful.”
I am here today in large part because of the testimonies of my dear sweet wife, Melanie, and my angel mother, Verda. It was not easy to raise Ronnie Rasband, let me tell you. More than a few times, my Primary teachers stopped my mother, who was the stake Primary president, with accounts of what Ronnie was doing. I was busy and high-spirited. In other words, I know I was a handful.
My dear sister, Nancy, tells the story of when I was about seven or eight years old. Let’s say seven because that would be before my age of accountability! One day, I was wanting my mother’s attention—she was busy in the living room with a potential client. My mother made exquisite, beautiful porcelain dolls. She had a kiln in the basement of our modest little home and taught others her skills. That day she was displaying the dolls on a table for her guest to see. After repeated demands and in frustration, believe it or not I knocked that table over. The dolls fell to the ground and shattered. My mother was righteously furious with me and quite firm. She had good cause, and I must admit, it was not one of my best moments.
My dad was a Wonder Bread truck driver. He would rise at about four every morning and return at about six in the evening. He worked long hours, and his example was not lost on me. My mother was home, adding to the family income as she could, making those porcelain dolls and raising little Ronnie. She taught me how to work, to stay with a task until it was finished. I worked at home until I was old enough to get a job, and that training made all the difference for me as I began to make my own way out in the world.
My mother served in Church leadership positions on both the stake and ward levels. She taught me to love the scriptures and to turn to them and to the Lord for answers. Time and again she bore her testimony to me. Her work ethic was remarkable, but her covenants made with her Father in Heaven were the source of her strength, and she expected the same from me and my brothers and sister.
One day when I was getting old enough to get into trouble, we had a heart-to-heart talk. She asked me to promise that I would always obey the Word of Wisdom. I promised I would and determined I would never let her down. That pledge stayed with me, surfacing in my mind when things were in front of me that could have taken me off track. I have tried to never deviate from that promise, because I had given my word to my mother.
When I was called to preside over the New York New York North Mission, President James E. Faust, my boyhood stake president, invited Sister Rasband and me to his office to extend the call and tell us the location of our assignment. Even then, he sweetly called me “his Cottonwood boy!”
As we concluded he said, “Ronnie, let’s call your mother, Verda, and tell her the good news!” He had served as president of the Cottonwood Stake at the time of her presidency assignments and knew her influence had helped me be both able and worthy for my missionary service. She had followed his wise counsel: “Surely no more important work is to be done in this world than preparing our children to be God-fearing, happy, honorable, and productive.”
As I said before, I stand here today because of a righteous mother who taught me the way home to my Father in Heaven. I believe by divine design that was part of her purpose in mortality. My Father in Heaven sent me to Verda and Rulon Rasband, both having been divorced and both having spent years as single parents before entering a wonderful second marriage. I was born in the covenant they made at the altar in the temple. Because of that sacred commitment, I am sealed to them for time and for all eternity. Our family connection continues with the covenants my wife and I have made in the temple and our children have made as well.
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