"Let us reflect gratitude for our fathers,” says President Thomas S. Monson. Fathers, as patriarchs of their families, are primary providers of the necessities of life and protectors of their families (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”).
“Father … is ever willing to sacrifice his own comfort for that of his children,” President Monson continues. “Daily he toils to provide the necessities of life, never complaining, ever concerned for the well-being of his family. This love for children, this desire to see them well and happy, is a constant in a time of change.”
The scriptures tell of one father who was a constant during a time of change. As the Nephites became wicked, Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, remembered and held onto the goodness of the words and works of their father, who had taught them to keep the commandments and spread the word of God. Helaman also taught his sons to remember their ancestors and remember their good works (see Helaman 5:5-6).
Uncle Elias and a Legacy of Love
Like Nephi and Lehi, President Monson reflects on the good works of his own father. He remembers accompanying his father on Sunday afternoons as he picked up Uncle Elias to take him for a ride around the city. His father would carry his frail uncle—crippled with arthritis—to the car and place him in the front seat, where he could get the best view.
“The drive was brief and the conversation limited, but oh, what a legacy of love,” he says. “Father never read to me from the Bible about the good Samaritan. Rather, he took me with him and Uncle Elias in that old 1928 Oldsmobile and provided a living lesson I have always remembered.”
Learning and a Little Red Wagon
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also remembers the good works of his father as he looks back to the early years of his life when his father served as bishop. His father balanced the calling with a demanding legal practice, involvement in civic affairs and public speaking, and a family of a wife and six children.
“When I was about six years old, I received a red wagon as a Christmas gift,” Elder Perry says. “The little red wagon provided a real bond between my father and me. In his busy life, he had to find ways of involving his family in activities without diminishing his own productivity.”
Much of his father’s service as a bishop occurred during the Great Depression in the 1930s when many ward members were in desperate need. Bishop Perry had the responsibility to supply life’s necessities to these members. This was a good activity for a bishop, his son, and the little red wagon.
“I would come home from school and find stacks on the side of the garage—flour, sugar, wheat, and other commodities. I knew that that evening my father and I would have the opportunity of being together.
“When he would arrive home, the little red wagon was loaded with supplies to take to a family. The two of us, walking and talking together, would complete our welfare assignment by delivering the commodities to those in need.
“I was able to witness firsthand the love and care a good priesthood leader had for his ward members. More important, I had an opportunity of spending precious time with my father.”
Cleaning Trays to Teach Respect
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles remembers that his father taught him to respect the priesthood. While Elder Hales served in the Aaronic Priesthood, the sacrament was passed using stainless steel strays that were often dulled with hard water spots as a result of spilled water.
“As a holder of the Aaronic Priesthood, I was responsible for helping to prepare the sacrament,” he says. “Father asked me to bring home the trays, and together we cleaned them with steel wool until every tray sparkled. When I passed the sacrament, I knew we had participated in making the sacrament ordinance a little more sacred.”
Someone to Greet Mildred
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, remembers the afternoon his mother died. The family left the hospital for home, and when they arrived they sat quietly in the darkened living room. His father excused himself and went to his bedroom for a few minutes but came back with a smile on his face.
The widowed father explained to the children that he had been concerned that there would be no one to greet their mother in the spirit world and she would be lonely.
“He had gone to his bedroom to ask his Heavenly Father to have someone greet Mildred, his wife and my mother,” President Eyring says. “He said that he had been told in answer to his prayer that his mother had met his sweetheart. I smiled at that too. Grandma Eyring was not very tall. I had a clear picture of her rushing through the crowd, her short legs moving rapidly on her mission to meet my mother.
“Dad surely didn’t intend at that moment to teach me about prayer, but he did,” he continues. “I can’t remember a sermon from my mother or my father about prayer. They prayed when times were hard and when they were good. And they reported in matter-of-fact ways how kind God was, how powerful, and how close. The prayers I heard most were about what it would take for us to be together forever. And the answers which will remain written on my heart seem to be the assurances that we were on the path.”
First—and Last—Edsel Dealer
As a young businessman, long before his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder M. Russell Ballard learned an expensive lesson because he did not listen to the counsel of his father.
“My father and I were in the automobile business, and the Ford Motor Company was looking for dealers to sell their new line of cars. Ford executives invited my father and me to a preview showing of what they thought would be a spectacularly successful product,” Elder Ballard says.
When Elder Ballard and his father, who had over 35 years experience in the business, went to look at the Edsel, his father cautioned him about becoming a dealer for the new product line. But the Ford sales personnel were persuasive and Elder Ballard became Salt Lake City’s first—and last—Edsel dealer. Elder Ballard describes the Edsel as a “spectacular failure.”
“Now, there’s a powerful lesson for all of you in this experience,” Elder Ballard counsels. “When you are willing to listen and learn, some of life’s most meaningful teachings come from those who have gone before you. They have walked where you are walking and have experienced many of the things you are experiencing. If you listen and respond to their counsel, they can help guide you toward choices that will be for your benefit and blessing and steer you away from decisions that can destroy you. As you look to your parents and others who have gone before you, you will find examples of faith, commitment, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that you should strive to duplicate.”