Finding My Father


My search for my father went on for years. In the meantime, I found my other Father and my very large family.

My parents separated when I was born. I was three months old when I left Chile by ship with my mother, crossed the Strait of Magellan, and landed in Uruguay where I was raised. I knew who my father was but did not know if my father really loved me. I still have the two or three cryptic letters he wrote to me, generally responses to eager letters from me.

In a way I relate my feelings to those of Joseph in Egypt. Soon after Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, he asked them an interesting question, “Doth my father yet live?” (Gen. 45:3). Joseph had asked his brothers at least twice if their father was still alive. He could not have been told more directly about his father’s status—his father was still alive. So why did Joseph ask this question yet again?

One young boy I read about, a boy who had been separated from his own parents, upon hearing the story of Joseph said, “Maybe what Joseph meant to ask was not if Jacob was alive, but rather, ‘Is my father yet alive? Does he still think about me? Is he still my father?’” Perhaps Joseph was really inquiring about his personal relationship with his father.

Like Joseph, I longed for my father’s love. When I became a teenager, the need to have this love was exacerbated. My heart became hungry for a father’s understanding. During those years, my rebellious, angry statement, “I do not have a father,” only meant, “I wish I had one.” It was then that I found the missionaries of the Church, and they taught me the gospel.

I still remember the first discussion. Elder Giles asked me to read the first scripture I ever read. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).

That day I found my family and my Father in Heaven. The scripture told me that He, my Heavenly Father, was yet alive.

Four years after I joined the Church I learned from relatives in Chile that my earthly father had died. The separation from my father’s memory became even more definitive. The need to know him and to be closer to him did not subside, however. As soon as I could, I took his name to the temple and did vicarious work for him, which allowed me to feel closer to him. But I still knew little about him and wanted to know more.

Two years after my father’s death, I left Uruguay on a mission to Peru. Upon my return, life blessed me with a family of my own, university degrees, and a career in business. I became an international executive, which made it necessary for us to move from country to country—Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, and the United States. My home base was then in the United States, and I eventually became a citizen.

Then life took a sudden turn. I became a diplomat for the United States government, first in Mexico, then in Chile. I sought the assignment to Chile because I desired to get to know the country where I had been born and perhaps find more about my father.

A few months after my arrival in Chile, I had the opportunity to make an official visit to Antofagasta, the city of my birth. I knew that my father, a British subject from whom I had inherited my name, had worked at the Chile-Bolivia Railroad as his own father once had. Therefore, I asked my secretary to make an appointment with the president of the Chile-Bolivia Railroad to see what I could learn about my father. As the main diplomat on commercial business, this meeting with the railroad was eminently qualified for my assignment as well.

Because the company’s president was traveling, my secretary set up an appointment with another executive by the name of Jorge Lyon on a Saturday morning. Saturday came. I put on my best suit and headed for the offices of the railroad. Mr. Lyon soon arrived, and I introduced myself as John Harris, head of commerce for the United States in Chile. He was a stately man in his sixties, who had sacrificed part of his day off to see a visitor from Chile’s main trading partner.

I started the conversation with the usual questions about goods transported, tonnage routes, and expansion plans. After a few minutes, Mr. Lyon interrupted me and said, “It is quite a coincidence, but I used to work at the railroad for a man with your same name.”

I remained silent for a moment. John Harris is not a common name in South America, much less in a railroad company in the midst of the Atacama Desert. I knew I had found someone who had known my father personally.

“How was he?” I managed to ask. But inside I was asking questions similar to those of Joseph of Egypt: Did he love me? Did he care about me?

Mr. Lyon answered. “He was a good man. He hired me and trained me. He was a patient and good teacher. He knew the railroad business better than anyone else in the company.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “He was my father,” I said, barely containing a tear.

Mr. Lyon then showed me what my father did and where he worked. I did not find out about his feelings toward me; for that I will have to wait a few years. But in my search I have been able to define my feelings toward him.

That day in the city of my birth, I learned something about my two fathers. I learned about the life of my earthly father, but more importantly, I learned that my Heavenly Father cared enough for me that 33 years after my father’s death he had helped me find the only man alive in Chile who had known my father. If the president of the railroad had been able to receive me, I would have missed the opportunity to meet Jorge Lyon and thus learn about my own father.

I have learned that life on this earth is nothing but a search for a Father: Doth my Father yet live? How is He? Does He love me? I have experienced that as we grow older, in our service as missionaries, teachers, and most important of all, as mothers and fathers in our own families, our yearning to get to know Him gets only stronger. Our prayers become more fervent and sincere.

The most wonderful experience is that eventually, as we face life’s challenges, our hearts learn to listen to His voice. We start to recognize the whispers of His Spirit. All of us who serve Him diligently in various capacities—as worthy fathers and mothers, as bishops, as members of the Seventy, as Apostles, and as prophets, have heard this wonderful voice cutting through, soothing at times, when we feel like strangers and must rise from the depth of our extremities. It is at that time that we learn the answer to Joseph’s question, “Doth my father yet live?”

I have learned that our Father in Heaven lives, that He loves us, that He indeed cares for us and is always close to us. I know I was guided by the Lord to meet Jorge Lyon in order to satisfy my thirst to know my earthly father. How grateful I am for the plan of salvation and eternal life and for the opportunity to reunite with loved ones in the next life.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Sam Lawlor