My father died in an industrial accident when I was just two years old. Even though she had seven children to raise—I was the youngest—and very little money, my mother served as Relief Society president, helping others with their difficulties. She taught us the value of service, of always being willing to do things for other people, of giving of oneself and one’s time and talents to other people.
I have always adored my mother. She taught me the principles of the gospel. I have always prayed, I have always been active in the Church, and I have always had a testimony, thanks to my good mother.
Mother bought a court of twelve little houses in central Salt Lake City and used the income from that to raise her family. We children had to help take care of these places: We sanded and varnished floors, and did wallpapering, plastering, plumbing, painting, and whatever else needed to be done.
When I was about nine years old, I wanted to help with family finances, so I went downtown one night without telling my mother and got a job selling newspapers on the corner. After that I got a paper route, then worked in a grocery store and later a service station. I have always had a job since then.
My wife and I have tried to teach the values of work and service to our children. All seven sons—one was a foster child who came to live with us when he was a teenager—and our daughter worked at my lumber company as they were growing up. And one of the Christmas traditions that we started many years ago is still carried out each year by the entire family, including grandchildren: On the Monday before each Christmas, we take homebaked gifts and visit old friends and the widows in the neighborhood where I grew up.
At one time, Ben, Jr., and Brad, my two oldest boys, belonged to a Japanese Scout troop because our ward didn’t have a Scout troop. One day the Scoutmaster took the boys on a hike in the Zion Narrows in southern Utah. Their progress was slower than anticipated. Concerned that the park officials whom they had checked in with would be worried about them, the Scoutmaster asked my sons and a couple of other boys to hike ahead by themselves and let the park officials know that everyone was OK. The boys took a wrong turn into a dead-end canyon and didn’t know what to do. The other boys were not Latter-day Saints, but they turned to Ben and said, “Maybe you’re the one who ought to pray for us to help us get out of here.” After he offered a prayer, Ben said, “Let’s go,” and they turned and walked out without any problem. How grateful I was that my children had learned to pray, that they had faith in that prayer, and that our Father in Heaven would help them find their way safely out of the canyon.
My message to children is: Follow the counsel of your parents, and know how much they love you. Know the value of having good friends. Choose good friends with the same high standards and values that you have.