A number of years ago before the invention of electricity but after the invention of outdoor plumbing, my father was born. He was born when he was quite young to goodly parents. They taught him the gospel and helped him start along the path of life. When young, he lived for a time in Boston as my grandfather attended law school. However, he grew up mainly in Phoenix, Arizona with time spent in St. John’s, Arizona. He loved and still loves spending time outdoors. I think there are relatively few people who have seen as much of the wilderness of Arizona (and Utah) as my father.
Even though my father spends a lot of time outdoors, he also spends a lot of time reading and learning (not that being outdoors and learning are mutually exclusive categories). While he used to read many novels when younger, he rarely reads novels now (“now” goes back many years). Almost every week as we – my siblings and I – were growing up we went to our public library and checked out books. My father would check out many books – all non-fiction – on topics ranging from geology to physics to linguistics (which is what he has a Master’s degree in) to art. He would then either read or skim (if the books were not that great) all of the books before they were due; he always had a stack of books checked out from the library. I do not expect to meet anyone who has the breadth and depth of knowledge that my father has. Even as a teenager I always respected my father’s opinion, even if I did not always follow it or agree with it. I never thought he did not know anything because he always seemed to know everything.
My father has exhibited similarly broad interests in his work over the years. He spent a couple years as an intelligence officer for the Army during the Vietnam War. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Master’s degree in linguistics. He then attended law school and worked for a number of years as an attorney, which he currently does. He owned and operated an Apple Computer store. He owned and ran a digital design and printing business. He taught classes at a local college. He has always worked hard – his idea of taking a break is working in the garden or repairing something or hiking up a mountain (although he does more leisurely things from time to time). For the church, he served as an LDS missionary in Argentina. He also served in various church callings at the ward and stake level.
My father has been many things in his life but greatest of all, he is a husband and father. My father taught all of us children to love the gospel. He always placed the most important things first – whether it was the gospel or family. He has a testimony of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he never shied from sharing that testimony with us. He always read his scriptures, reading the complete standard works regularly. He taught our family during family home evening, although we all would take turns teaching. He always went to church and did his home teaching. He is like those of whom the Savior said these words: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15; emphasis added).
My sister wrote of an experience with our grandfather that is similar in many ways to countless experiences I had with my father. Even though it is about my grandfather, I share it not only for the beauty of the experience but also because it is representative of things my father taught me.
“Almost every year, as is common in late July, a storm builds up. One year the lightning was so fierce that I was terrified. Dad patiently took me by the hand, and we walked over to his father. ‘Ask Grandpa to tell you about thunder and lightning.’
“Grandpa stood in the middle of the circle, holding on to his cap and shielding his eyes from the blowing dirt, and began to teach me about storms. He talked about the movement of storms and what caused them. He talked of larger weather patterns in northern Arizona and electrical phenomena, including how to calculate the distance from you to the lightning.
“But more than teaching me the scientific explanations, Grandpa quietly taught me through his example not to be afraid. He taught me that storms are to be appreciated and admired, surveyed and studied, but not feared. So from thunderstorms and Grandpa, I learned how knowledge and courage can dispel the darkness of fear.” (Source).
My father taught me the beauty of the desert as we hiked in the Superstition Mountains. He taught me the importance of preparation as we hiked the dusty trails of the Grand Canyon. He taught me perseverance as we plodded our way through the Pariah Canyon. He taught me safety as we rappelled down mountainsides. He taught me love as he brushed away my tears. He taught me how to be a husband by how he treated my mother. He taught me creativity as he wove or drew or sang. He taught me service as he helped those around us in need. He taught me lifelong learning by his voracious appetite for knowledge. He taught me a love of family through his family history work. He taught me the gospel through countless Family Home Evenings. He taught me integrity by always keeping his word. He taught me by his word but most strongly by his deed. He lives as he teaches and teaches as he lives. Above all, he taught me that there is no more important thing in life than building my foundation upon Christ. There is no one whose opinions I value more than my father’s. He truly is my hero.