Elder William R. Bradford developed three loves during his childhood: a love for missionary work, a love for fishing, and a love for farm life. His motivation to be a missionary was inspired by the examples of his parents and his grandparents, who were involved in missionary work a good part of their lives. He remembers “Mother gathering us around her to tell us stories of her experiences as a youth in the mission field. She also taught us from the scriptures.”
William Waddoups, Elder Bradford’s grandfather, “spent thirty-five years of his life in Church service. He was the first president of the Hawaiian Temple and a president of the Hawaiian Mission; he also served as a mission president in New Zealand, Tonga, and Samoa.
“My Grandfather Waddoups was a saintly man and a great teacher of the doctrines of the Church. Whenever he gathered his grandchildren together, he always had lessons for them. His influence and example strengthened my desire to work hard and faithfully in the Church. I have had a very special, spiritual relationship with him.
“Grandfather was called as a missionary to Hawaii in 1906, the year my father was born. But he was unable to take his family with him.”
When Elder Bradford was twelve years old, his father and mother were called to preside over the Temple Bureau Mission in Laie, Hawaii. “While living there,” Elder Bradford said, “I developed a great love for fishing. A grand old Hawaiian man—a counselor in the branch presidency—often took a group of us fishing. I’ve been a fisherman ever since, and I have taught my children how to fish. They love it too.”
Except for the time his family lived in Hawaii, Elder Bradford spent most of his childhood in Mapleton, Utah. It was there that he learned about animal husbandry and agriculture, interests he pursued as an adult. “When I was a boy, I milked cows, helped raise horses, and did other kinds of farm chores. When I was very small, I would put a bucket of grain down on the ground, and when the horse lowered its head to eat out of the bucket, I would climb onto its neck and scoot onto its back. Later I learned how to break and train horses properly and how to groom and put shoes on them. I also participated in rodeos as I was growing up, and I won quite a few awards.
“My father and I trained ponies (mostly Shetlands) to ride; to work in harness, pulling stagecoaches and surreys; and to work as live merry-go-round horses. We took the first Shetland ponies to Hawaii. I bred and trained horses until I was called as a General Authority.
“Dad was a hard worker in his business and in the Church. He tried to make his time at home with the children quality time, and he was a very good teacher. His method of teaching was to thoroughly explain something to us and then to have us do it, sink or swim. He used to say that he didn’t want to put an old head on young shoulders but that he wanted us to learn as quickly as we could.
“I remember once when Dad had my brother and me help him build a corral. After we had measured where the postholes would be, Dad suggested that we have a posthole-digging contest the next morning and that he would challenge us both. He would start digging in one direction, and we would start digging in the opposite direction. Whoever dug the most postholes would win.
“Unbeknownst to us, Dad slipped out that night, and at each place where he was going to dig the next day, he soaked the ground with water. The next morning Dad easily shoveled the dirt and rocks out of his holes while we struggled with digging bar, pick, and shovels. The lesson we learned was that there is often a better way to accomplish a task if you think about it carefully.
“Childhood is a wonderful time in a person’s life. I would counsel children to remember to do three important things: (1) Listen to what your parents have to say and obey them. Our Father in Heaven has given you parents to look after you until you are able to provide for your own physical needs and until you are mature enough to make correct decisions. (2) Pray often. Prayer is communication with your Heavenly Father. (3) Develop faith. Develop faith by studying the teachings of Jesus Christ and by praying that you will be able to understand the meaning of the scriptures.
“Remember that the Lord told His disciples, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [Matt. 18:3].”