Greetings and a belated happy new year, brothers and sisters. I just wanted to relate to you my thoughts and feelings about having the opportunity to visit with you in December. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to visit with you and see the places where I spent the majority of my youth. The experience was a fascinating one for me. As I related it to my sister, Christine, "It's not like when we go back to Utah where we only went to High School. When we were there, we were beginning to define for ourselves the roles that we would play in life. But it's in California, at our elementary and junior high schools, at church, in our neighborhoods, where we were most receptive to the external influences around us... good and bad." As I look back at my stay with you, A few things in particular come to mind. One was seeing every man I called Bishop while I was living there. From Gary Prescott to John Manacheck(Spelling?). Hearing my neice ask me, "Have you been to this church before?" and answering her with, "Sweety, this is where I was baptised." However, the most remarkable thing I remember about my trip was wondering where all the children I grew up with were. I didn't see a single one of them... Just these adults who looked vaguely familiar who just happened to have the same names as those kids. Frankly, I was blown away! I shudder to think what their thoughts were of seeing me after all these years.
This, the Oakhurst Ward, is where I first learned the basics of the Gospel... and though I have taken the opportunity to reintroduce myself to it from time to time, it was in that building where I entered the waters of baptism, at that podium where I gave my first talk and bore my testimony for the first time, in those classrooms where I first learned about the role the Savior has in my life.
I wish I could have stayed longer to visit with more of you. Tom and Robbin... I'm coming over for dinner sometime... don't know when, but I'll be there. Same goes for the rest of you.