There is probably no other influence more important to a person's life than the family. From the moment we are born, we are surrounded by family. In most cases, this family is mortal but in others, they are spiritual. We are never alone as we make our journey through life. There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the influences my family has had in my upbringing and personality.

Our FamilyI was born in Idaho Falls Idaho on March 9, 1961. I am the oldest son of Jerry and VelDean Summers. I am also the oldest grandchild on my mother's side of the family as she is also the oldest in her family.

My Grandpa Summers from my father's side gave each of his grand children a nickname. I cannot remember ever being called by my given name by my grandpa, even to this day. For one reason or another, he decided upon Rowdy as my nickname. I personally didn't think that fit but everyone around me seems to believe grandpa received divine revelation when he chose that name.

I was blessed by my father in church as an infant and I remain grateful that he was able to perform this ordinance. Besides my blessing, he also baptized me when I was eight. I have two younger brothers, Rod who is three years younger than I am and Mike who is eight years my junior. As a child, I enjoyed Hot Wheels cars and Batman on television. I collected baseball cards and rode my bike.

My greatest memories from childhood was the time I spent outside playing. Our front yard constantly had a ballgame being played. Each spring we played baseball all the way through fall. When baseball was over we played football. When the snow came we put on our skates and played hockey. It was a time of innocence that will live forever in my memories.

On June 18, 1981 I married my eternal soul mate, Trina Jensen. We had been dating since we were Sophomores in high school and after much coaxing she finally agreed to marry me. We chose this date for two very special reasons. The first was June 18 was also my grandma and grandpa Olsen's anniversary.

I spent many happy times with my grandparents especially the summer months. Rod and I would usually spend our summer vacations with grandpa and grandma. Grandpa was a carpenter and he travelled around the west building things. One summer we lived in Yellowstone Park. Each day Rod and I would hike the park and explore its treasures. I will never forget the experiences I had.

The second reason we chose June 18 to be married was that we had a special couple in our Ward who were married that day. Brother and Sister Dalling were amazing people who helped me in time of need as I was desperately trying to find my mortal way. Unfortunately, a few days before we were to be married, Sister Dalling passed away. I still believe she was with us on our wedding day. I could feel her spirit's presence during our ceremony.

In May 1983 Ashley Linn Summers came into our lives. She was a beautiful girl and I can remember being in the delivery room as she took her first breath. I watched as they cleaned her up and handed her to me. See seemed so light and yet I felt a weight as no other as I suddenly realized that I had become a father. As many other men, I was not prepared to be a father and to this day struggle to determine how best to manage this most important calling.

I will never forget the events of March 13, 1985. I was away on business in Salt Lake City Utah. Trina was due any day yet I had to be away. I remember coming back after meeting with a customer and having my boss call me into his office. There he explained that Trina was at home and had gone to the hospital. She had gone into labor and the doctor could not find a heart beat with our child. I immediately went to the airport and flew home to be with my wife. I arrived just as they delivered Lindsay Marie Summers who passed away during birth.

I can think of nothing more painful than a parent having to bury their child. We had just moved into a new house and we knew few people. But the night Lindsay passed away, we received a visitor. Bishop Pete Curnutt stopped by our house. He had been away and had no idea what had transpired in our lives. Yet he knocked on our door and called me outside.

He explained that he had been on a trip in the mountains riding his horse. He came over a hill and met the spirit of a young girl. She talked to him explaining that she was our child and that he needed to go to our house to tell us all was according to plan. She was now returning to our Heavenly Father and she would be waiting for us when we pass through the Heavenly veil after death. It was an emotional exchange and I knew in my heart that all would be well.

A year after Lindsay's death, Mallorie Anne Summers came into our home. She was born two days after Ashley's birthday so each year we have a constant party during May. She has been a calming force in my life. Although she loves technology and thrives in that environment, she is my most creative child doing well in music and the arts. She is nearly the opposite to Ashley's analytical mind and the two of them complement each other. From an early age, Mallorie has taken to the other children becoming almost their second mother.

We were blessed four years later with the birth of another daughter, Tiffany Dawn Summers. She was born a day before Grandma Olsen's birthday in June. From the moment she was born, everyone exclaimed that she was a mirror image of her mother. Although this was a point of contention with Ashley, she was still welcomed with open arms to the family.

As Tiffany has grown, she has indeed become just like her mother. She is tall and VERY thin. Above all, she is athletic. There is not a sport that Tiffany cannot do and do well. She had the most natural athletic ability I have seen in any of the girls.

Whitney was born in January 1994. She was the second child born in the new year in Idaho Falls. I have always joked that the first baby of the new year gets all the gifts while we got the ultimate prize. Whitney is the most intellectual of all the children. At home she is quiet and reserved but at school she seems to be more open with her friends. Whitney has always found solitude in being by herself and she is comfortable around people as well. I am most interested in seeing her personality develop.

Dakota Jeffery Summers was the only child we have had born outside of Idaho. He is also the only boy in our family. Everyone always commented that boys are so much different to raise than girls and I thought that humorous and absurd. I have now completely changed my mind and could not agree more. He is hilarious to be around as he begins to develop his personality. He is a tease and loves to laugh. He is also a natural athlete who throws right handed and bats left. He is adept at basketball and baseball but his real love is soccer.

We have spent a substantial amount of time at the soccer fields as Dakota progressed from recreational leagues to competitive teams to club soccer all the way through high school. Now that he has graduated, so many memories we have are of the family standing on the sidelines cheering at his matches.

As each of the kids were born, I took it upon myself to continue my Grandpa Summers tradition of giving each of them a nickname. Ashley was given the name "Skeeter" since she was constantly buzzing around as a child. Mallorie was called "Pookie" since she always liked to cuddle like a little teddy bear. Tiffany we called "Tiffy Monster" since she was always trying to scare everyone with her athletic hi jinx. Whitney was given the name "Pooh Bear" since Tiffany as a child always thought we were talking about Winnie the Pooh when we mentioned Whitney. Dakota got the name "Bubba" partly to differentiate him from the girls, partly because his diaper always seemed to drag bearing him out.

As time marches on we have seen all of the kids grow up and go to college. Now we are seeing them get married and start families of their own. It has been a humbling experience to watch as they have each found success in their careers and with their families.

I am grateful to be the patriarch of this family and hope that I can instill upon them the important lessons of this life. It is my goal to prepare them for their journey through the time of mortality so that their mission here on earth is successful. We must all strive for perfection if we are to return to heaven and eternal life.