Friend to Friend

From an interview with Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy, currently serving in the North America Central Area Presidency; by Rebecca M. Taylor

Print Share

    Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good (D&C 122:7).

    Elder William R. Bradford

    My father loved horses, and he taught me to love them as well. I helped him raise and train horses and, later on, Shetland ponies for the family business. We used to show the ponies at the state fair, and some of them were quite famous. We even had miniature stagecoaches for them to pull.

    I remember when Dad asked my brother and me to help him build a corral. That afternoon we marked the soil where the posts were to be placed. A lot of hard work digging holes lay ahead of us.

    To make it go faster and to give us some fun, Dad suggested we have a contest. “You two start and go one way, and I’ll go the other. Let’s see who can win—me or you two together.” We agreed and chose our side.

    The next morning, after we had finished the morning chores and had breakfast, we took our shovels and crowbars and got ready for the race. Dad said “Go!” and the dirt started flying. We hardly looked up. I’ll always remember how hard the rocks were and how my hands stung each time I jabbed the crowbar into the soil to loosen them.

    Soon Dad was gaining on us, and we stepped up the pace. It seemed, however, that no matter how hard we dug, Dad was still going faster than the two of us together. We couldn’t figure out how he was doing it.

    After about half an hour, Dad called out, “Take a five-minute rest.” We were very willing and quickly sat down. While resting, we planned how we would work and beat him from then on.

    When we started back to work, I took the crowbar and went ahead of my brother to loosen the rocks while he shoveled them out of the holes. It was then I discovered the reason for Dad’s speed. I came to one of the marked holes that Dad expected to dig, and when I stuck my bar in it, the bar went deep into soft ground.

    I found out that the night before, Dad had quietly slipped outside and poured water into each of his marks. The water had softened the ground, and now all he had to do was scoop it out while we were breaking our backs and hands with the crowbar.

    That experience taught me a valuable lesson: Thinking and planning ahead can make hard tasks easier. Dad could have told us to pour water in the marks of our post holes the night before, but because we learned our lesson the hard way, we have never forgotten it. Don’t be afraid of hard work, but be willing to take advantage of the great wisdom of those who have dug many post holes before you.

    Also while working with horses and ponies, I learned the principles of patience and gentleness. I learned that if I was gentle, never raised my voice, even when things weren’t going well, the animals would respond. These principles work in all kinds of situations.

    My favorite sport is fishing, and I’ve caught lots of fish in my lifetime. This is another situation in which if you’re patient, you’re more likely to succeed. It’s a pattern of life in anything you are trying to do. For instance, if a person is trying to learn to play the piano, he has to be patient in practice, continuing on and on until finally he develops that skill.

    The scriptures make it clear that patience and gentleness are important when dealing with other people. The Lord has said that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness” (D&C 121:41–42). If you approach a problem that way, with patience, gentleness, and kindness, the Lord will help you solve the problem.

    Illustrated by Scott Greer

    Elder Bradford’s two daughters, Marcia and Natalie, enjoying a pony ride.

    As a toddler

    With his daughter Natalie.

    Elder Bradford (top right) with his parents; brother, Richard (front); and sister, Mary Lou.

    Elder Bradford (top, third from left), while serving a mission in Japan.

    Elder Bradford, at left, singing in a barbershop quartet while on his mission.

    Elder Bradford, right, with a friend and some of the fruits of his patience!