For His Wife and Children
My father died when I was ten years old. I don’t remember him going to church or praying with us—except at mealtimes, when he always asked someone else to say the blessing on the food. He never presided over a family home evening. But I do remember the many happy hours we spent playing with him.
I never heard my father bear his testimony, but I do remember the many different, fanciful stories he told about why he had two toes missing from each foot. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned from my mother that his toes had been amputated after being frozen as he trudged along icy roads on his mission. And as I grew older, I learned that my father truly knew the meaning of love and sacrifice—of which he taught me the supreme lesson.
Each summer, my father left his trucking business and our family moved to a summer resort near Salt Lake City, where my father worked as a manager. My brother and I delighted in the merry-go-rounds, giant racers, whirligigs, and carnival sights and sounds that will always be associated in my mind with my young, handsome, fun-loving father.
It was here that on one hot August evening a cloudburst sent a forty-foot wall of water roaring down a nearby canyon displacing boulders bigger than houses, as well as everything else in its path. At the mouth of the canyon, the wall of water turned the little creek behind our cabin into a murderous, rushing torrent. Both my father and my brother were at the resort at the time; my mother, my little sister, and I were at home.
The flood hit our small cabin, situated on lower ground near the creek. Hearing the roar of the storm, my mother opened the door. When she saw the rushing, rapidly rising water, she picked up my 18-month-old baby sister, grabbed me by the hand, and headed for higher ground. Before she had gone a few yards she was knocked to her knees by the water, so she tried to go back to the cabin. But the cabin collapsed, and we were swept downstream with it. The floor of the cabin wedged between two trees, and we were pinned against one of the trees by it. My little sister was knocked out of my mother’s arms and was swept away. I remember my mother saying, “Beth, pray!”
As we prayed, lightning struck the other tree, and it burned brightly. My father had been told of the flood, and he came rushing to save his family. The light from the burning tree helped him locate us in the dense blackness.
With no concern for his own safety, he plunged into the maelstrom and with a superhuman effort tore away the floorboards of the cabin. His fingernails were torn off as he clawed at them, but he freed my mother and me.
By that time other rescuers had come. Someone carried me to higher ground. My father and several others followed with my mother, who was seriously wounded.
When we were safe, my father turned back to try to find my baby sister, but before he could find her he collapsed and died. An autopsy showed that he had died of over-exertion. The chambers of his heart had burst with the extreme effort of tearing away the floorboards against the overpowering force of the current.
I am grateful for my father, who unhesitatingly gave his life that my mother and I might live. As we are told in the scriptures, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13.)
Serving My Family … and God
My friend’s testimony inspired the “guilts” in me. She was thanking half the ward for the kindness they had shown her family during a recent crisis. She thanked some for meals, some for child care, and some for hauling out mountains of laundry. The members of the ward beamed back at her. I squirmed.
What crisis? I wondered. I was sadly, guiltily uninformed. Why hadn’t she told me she needed help?
I berated myself. It was up to me to find out, wasn’t it? Did I forget to say, “How are you?” Then she could reply, “Oh, our family is in the midst of a horrendous crisis, but other than that, we’re fine.”
Admittedly, I had been a little out of touch because I had been recuperating from the recent birth of my new baby. But that didn’t soothe my feelings of guilt. I went home, feeling that I wasn’t doing my share of service, and that I needed to do something about it.
But I had three boys to feed, bathe, dress, clean up after, read a story to, and get to bed—along with caring for our newborn baby. She was hungry every time she was conscious, wet every time she wasn’t, and crying most of the time in between. I didn’t have time to think how I could serve others.
Yet the thought that I must serve persisted all day.
Evening came. I put the boys in bed, then nursed, rocked, changed, nursed, and soothed the baby and put her to bed.
At about eleven o’clock, I finally had all the children tucked in—or so I thought—and I eased my weary body into bed with a sigh of relief.
The baby began to cry. I waited. Does she mean it? I thought. She meant it. I sighed another kind of sigh and pulled myself back up to rock and soothe some more.
Contented at last, the baby curled up. I paused, exhausted, to watch her for a quiet moment. My legs ached, and I realized that I had been on my feet all day—even throughout the testimony meeting.
Just as I was about to berate myself again about not having the time or energy to serve others as I would have liked to, I was interrupted by a powerful feeling that seemed to fill the room. I felt as if there were angelic beings watching over my daughter and that they were aware of my thoughts. They seemed to let me know, without words, that I was performing valuable service. They were aware of my round-the-clock service to my family, and I felt that they were encouraging and reminding me, “When you are in the service of your fellow beings—even your own family—you are in the service of your God.”
My Father, the Truck Drivin’ Mormon
For thirty years, my father was a truck driver. Though truck drivers tend to be stereotyped as hard-living, rough-talking men, my father was neither of these. He lived the gospel, and he considered his job an opportunity to serve others and to teach them about the Church.
Once while checking over his truck at a rest area near Decatur, Texas, he noticed a car with a flat tire. Lying in front of the car was an obviously sick man, unable to finish changing the tire. Inside the car were the man’s worried wife and their small child. My father went over to them and asked if he could help. The woman explained that they needed to be in Wichita Falls the next day for a new job, but that her husband was too ill to loosen the lug nuts to change the tire. “I’ve been praying for somebody to come and help us,” she said.
Father had the new tire on in just a few minutes. The woman thanked him and asked how they could repay him. He felt impressed to tell them that he was a Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “There’s something I’d like you to do—take the opportunity to look at the Mormon Church, listen to the missionaries, go to church … I know it’s true.”
The woman was touched. “I promise I’ll find out more about your church,” she said.
My father has been the answer to more than one prayer. One night, while making a run to Kingman, Arizona, he saw what he thought was a small light a few yards off the side of the road. He felt impressed to stop even though he couldn’t see a car. He pulled over, got out of the truck, and walked toward the light. He found a young woman holding a small flashlight with almost-dead batteries. Her car had rolled down a ravine where it could not be seen from the road. Her friend was still in the car.
Father cut the seat belt and pulled the unconscious girl from the car. She regained consciousness several minutes later. Another motorist stopped to see what had happened and went for medical help. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the first young woman told him, “You don’t know how much I appreciate your help. I tried for two hours to get someone to stop.”
Father also felt the Lord’s protection in his own life. One night, about 2:30 A.M., he had just driven through Fort Worth, Texas, on his way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He said of the experience: “I was driving alone. I had been driving too many hours and went to sleep while driving. I don’t know how long I was asleep, but I woke up suddenly and grabbed for the steering wheel. My hands had been at my sides. It happened very quickly, but as I was fighting to get my hands on the steering wheel to get control of the vehicle, I observed two arms with the shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbows and two hands holding the steering wheel. I recognized these arms and hands. I had watched them many times as a boy while Daddy drove his truck.
“I can’t explain how such an incident can occur, but I do know that I wasn’t driving the truck. I was asleep! The truck was running down the highway in the proper lane. There was traffic in both directions. Some way, Daddy was driving the truck for me.” His father had passed away some years before.
Yes, my father was a “truck drivin’ Mormon”—one who had a great testimony of the Lord’s work and who influenced others’ lives for good by his service and example—wherever and whenever he drove.
Joseph Wayne Richardson, the author’s father, was fatally injured in December 1984 when the truck he was driving hit some black ice.
My Mission across the Centuries
As the patriarch lifted his hands from my head, neither he nor I guessed that a major part of my patriarchal blessing would be fulfilled so soon and in such a surprising manner. The very doctrine that had thrilled me at my conversion two years before—the responsibility of seeking after my kindred dead—had been specifically mentioned three times in my blessing. But when I had joined the Church as the only member in my family, the task of compiling my genealogy had seemed mountainous.
A few years after I received my patriarchal blessing, I left for my mission in France and Belgium. I hoped to do some genealogy there as well. My father had mistakenly told me that Jaccard was an anglicized spelling of Jacquard, a familiar French name, and I hoped to be able to find some information about my ancestors while I was in France.
Near the end of my mission, I was given a mission home assignment in which I worked with members in doing genealogical research and temple work. One resource left me was a small book titled “What Do I Know about Genealogy?”
As I thumbed through the book for the first time, I came to a list of contributing authors. Standing out among the other names was that of Dr. Joseph T. Jacquart. Here was yet a third spelling of a name that could be pronounced the same as mine! Dr. Jacquart’s address was listed as the Belgian Center of Genealogical and Demographical Studies in Brussels—the same city in which our mission home was located.
I immediately called the center and made an appointment to meet with Dr. Jacquart. When we arrived at the center on the appointed day, we were informed that Dr. Jacquart was ill. The president of the center graciously gave us a tour of the building. We asked him what he knew about the Church and if he would like to know more.
His answer surprised me. “Yes!” he said. “Would you come to the next monthly meeting of our society and give a lecture on Mormon genealogy? In the meantime, I will contact Dr. Jacquart and give him your pedigree information.”
My companion and I arrived on the appointed day to find the lecture hall filled with people. As we set up our equipment and visual aids, a white-haired gentleman who turned out to be Dr. Jacquart greeted us. He gave me a genealogical map of France, Belgium, and Switzerland, and explained that Jacquard was French, Jacquart was Belgian, and Jaccard was Swiss. He added that he had written an article on the Swiss Jaccards and had the addresses of several people in that country who were probably my relatives.
A few weeks later I was released from my mission. With addresses in hand, I called at the home of Dr. Robert Jaccard in Bern, Switzerland. He quickly established my connection to him and noted down the pedigree information I had. He recommended that I search the archives in Besancon, France—just across the border from the Swiss village of Sainte-Croix where the Jaccard name had originated.
In Besancon, I found the link between America and Switzerland on my line. About a month after I informed Dr. Robert Jaccard of my findings, he sent a letter containing all of the names of fathers and mothers in the Jaccard line back to 1350 A.D.—all from Sainte-Croix. Since then, I have researched the complete family groups for these ancestors, and many of them have had their temple work performed.
Looking back on this experience, I think that many of my ancestors beyond the veil must have taken an active interest not only in my missionary work but also in my other mission—to find my genealogy. That “family mission” has spanned a length of time far greater than the two and one-half years I served in Europe.