“My grandfather was a patriarch. His health was deteriorating, and Mother wanted him to give my brother and me our blessings, so she took us to his home, where he sat on the edge of his bed in his bedclothing and gave us our blessings. It made me remember the story in the Old Testament of Isaac blessing Jacob, because Isaac, like my grandfather, was old and infirm. When he gave us our blessings, what he said was truly prophetic. He died a few months later.”
The oldest son of William Henry and Isabelle Bawden Bangerter, and the second of their eleven children, Elder William Grant Bangerter describes his parents as “choice people totally devoted to the gospel and committed to bringing up their children ‘in the nurture and admonition of the lord’ (Ephesians 6:4). My parents were married in the temple. All of their children and grandchildren who are married have also been married in the temple. They believed in being active in the Church and in accepting callings, whatever they were. My father was a bishop for thirteen years, nearly all of my growing-up years. I always felt that it was an honor to be the bishop’s son. I looked up to my father; I knew that he was somebody important.
“Mother insisted on obedience. Perhaps her most famous quote was ‘To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams’ (1 Sam. 15:22). The second part of that scripture didn’t make sense to me when I was little. I didn’t understand it until I learned to really study the scriptures and discovered that hearken means obey and that the fat of rams was an important sacrifice in Old Testament times.
“I grew up on a farm in Salt Lake Valley and learned to appreciate work. I developed a tremendous love for the outdoors, for crops and animals, and for all nature.
“We had a gentle horse that I could put the bridle on by climbing onto a wagon wheel. I was riding that horse the day I was to be baptized, and it slipped and fell in a muddy spot in the orchard. I sprained my leg when it fell, and I couldn’t be baptized until the following month.
“Our summertime baptisms were performed in the irrigation ditch across the street from our chapel; the water wasn’t sparkling clean. My father was the bishop, but he didn’t baptize me. He felt that he should pass the privilege around, so he called a priest in the ward and asked him to baptize me.
“Each year of my childhood I looked forward to three occasions with great excitement and anticipation—camping in the mountains, the coming of the threshing machine, and Christmas. Just about all the fathers in my ward went on the fathers and sons outing. We would go up Big Cottonwood Canyon, just east of Salt Lake City, for three days and hike and swim. Up that high, the water was really cold, but we felt that if a lake was big enough to swim in, we would try it.
“The old steam-powered threshing machine would usually come in midsummer, and it was quite a spectacle—like having the circus come. We kids had a goal to work on it someday, and when I was older, I spent two summers working on the threshing machine.
“I really looked forward to Christmas. Our gifts were modest, but the spirit in our home was special as we celebrated together the birth of the Savior.
“In the Book of Mormon is a test: ‘And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“‘And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.’ (Moro. 10:4–5.)
“When I first read that, it didn’t strike me as being much of a test, because I had never had any doubts about the Church. However, I wondered a lot about how I could get experiences of a spiritual nature. I wanted to be closer to the Lord. And the time came when I found myself driven to plead for His Spirit to be with me. As a result of my prayers, I received a witness that was vivid and strong, and that experience, along with many others, has satisfied many of my longings. Even so, I continue to seek an even closer relationship with Him.”
This is Elder Bangerter’s message to children: “Love your parents. I don’t think that parents experience anything greater than the love that they feel for their children. And if you love them back with all your heart, you’ll better feel their love—and Heavenly Father’s love—for you.”
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