Twenty-one years ago last April, I came for the first time to the Salt Lake Tabernacle for a general conference of the Church. I was awed by the immensity of the building, but even more by the room-filling presence of the General Authorities who were assembled there.
In my growing-up years, many of them had visited our small branch in Montana. We had no television, nor could we receive conference on the radio. So we looked forward to each visit as a special blessing. They had, it seemed to me, a power and faith above other men.
Then on an April day 21 years ago, I discovered one source of a General Authority’s strength.
I was seated with the six children of Elder Ezra Taft Benson, one of whom was my college roommate. My interest heightened when President McKay arose and announced the next speaker. I watched respectfully as Elder Benson, whom I had not yet met, walked toward the microphone. He was a big man, well over six feet tall. He was a man with a Ph.D., a man internationally known as the United States Secretary of Agriculture and a special witness of the Lord, a man who seemed serene and sure, one who had addressed audiences throughout the world. Suddenly a hand touched my arm. A little girl leaned toward me and whispered urgently, “Pray for dad.”
Somewhat startled, I thought, “This message is being passed down the row, and I am to pass it on. Shall I say, ‘Pray for Elder Benson’? Shall I say, ‘You’re supposed to say a prayer for your father’?” Sensing the immediate need to act, I leaned over and whispered simply, “Pray for dad.”
I watched that whisper move along the row to where Sister Benson sat, her head already bowed.
Many times since that day I have remembered that message—Pray for dad, the patriarch of the home. Pray for him as he serves as district president or home teacher. Pray for him when he becomes executive secretary of a civic group, when his business flourishes, or when he takes a cut in salary. Pray as he gives counsel in family home evening. Pray for dad who works long hours so that Jerold can go on a mission and Diane can go to college. Pray for him as he speaks in sacrament meeting or gives mother a blessing that she might be made well again. Pray as he baptizes William or gives a tiny, newborn baby a name and a father’s blessing. And in the evening, should he come home tired or discouraged, pray for him. Pray for dad in all that he might do—the small things and the great.
As years have passed, general conferences have come and gone, and each time President Benson has stood to speak, I have thought, “His children, who are scattered across the continent, are united now in prayer for their father.”
And I have come to believe that the brief message that passed along the row some 21 years ago is the most important message a family can share. What extraordinary power and faith any man can have to meet the daily challenge of his life if somewhere in the world his daughter or son is whispering, “Pray for dad.”