My Father Taught Me

Read what living prophets and apostles have shared about lessons they learned from their fathers.

President Thomas S. Monson

President of the Church

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President Henry B. Eyring

First Counselor in the First Presidency

A young Henry (Hal) Eyring as a boy and his father Henry Eyring.

A father or a bishop or a senior home teaching companion who shows that he trusts a young priesthood holder can change his life. My father was once asked by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to write a short paper on science and religion. My father was a famous scientist and a faithful priesthood holder. But I can still remember the moment he handed me the paper he had written and said, “Here, before I send this to the Twelve, I want you to read it. You will know if it is right.” He was 32 years older than me and immeasurably more wise and intelligent.

I still am strengthened by that trust from a great father and priesthood man. I knew that his trust was not in me but that God could and would tell me what was true (“The Preparatory Priesthood,” Oct. 2014 general conference).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his father, Karl A. Uchtdorf.

To this day, I am deeply impressed by the way my family worked after having lost everything following World War II! I remember my father—a civil servant by education and experience—taking on several difficult jobs, among which were coal miner, uranium miner, mechanic, and truck driver. He left early in the morning and often returned late at night in order to support our family. …

It wasn’t easy, but the work kept us from dwelling too much on the difficulties of our circumstances. Although our situation didn’t change overnight, it did change. That’s the thing about work. If we simply keep at it—steady and constant—things certainly will improve (“Two Principles for Any Economy,” Oct. 2009 general conference).

President Boyd K. Packer

President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Boyd K. Packer as a young boy.

In 1947, to mark the centennial of the pioneers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, a “wagon train” of cars reenacted the trek. The travelers met in Nauvoo, Illinois, and then followed the pioneer route to Salt Lake City. Like other drivers in the caravan, Ira Packer [father of Boyd K. Packer] had rigged a cloth wagon top over the roof of his car and attached a plywood ox on each front fender. With his children gathered to see their father and mother off on the trip, Ira took a paint brush and “branded” the two oxen, painting “I.W.P.” on one and “E.J.P” [Ira Wight Packer and Emma Jensen Packer] on the other. They represented, he said, “the best team that ever pulled together in this life” (Don L. Searle, “Disciple of the Master Teacher,” Ensign, June 1986).

Elder Russell M. Nelson

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Russell Nelson as a young boy and his father, Marion C. Nelson.

I never met my Grandfather Nelson. He died when my father was only 16 years old. At the time of Grandfather’s passing, he was superintendent of public instruction for the state of Utah. He owned a handsome pocket watch, which my father later gave to me. Now that watch is a tangible link between us.

I think of my Grandfather Nelson with deep feelings of gratitude. I received much of my early education in schools he helped to develop. And I cherish my membership in this Church, to which both of his parents were converted in Denmark about a century and a half ago. In fact, all eight of my great-grandparents were converts to the Church in Europe. Of the others, one joined the Church in Sweden, two in England, and three in Norway. How grateful I am to these pioneer predecessors! My debt to them is reflected in these biblical verses: “One soweth, and another reapeth” that “both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (“A New Harvest Time,” Apr. 1998 general conference).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A young Dallin Oaks. His father was Dr. Lloyd E. Oaks.

“One winter evening when I was about five or six years old, my father took me for a walk downtown. This was during the depression, when jobs were few and many homeless, hungry people were on the streets. My father and I were looking at all the store windows as we walked, and soon we found ourselves standing in front of the window of a sporting goods store. It was full of bright things that would catch every boy’s fancy—things like fishing lures and pocketknives for whittling.

A shabbily dressed boy was standing near us, looking longingly into the window. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but my father went over and spoke with him briefly, then put his hand on his shoulder and led him inside the store. I watched as he took the boy to a showcase of pocketknives, told him to pick one out, then paid the shopkeeper for the knife.

I didn’t get a pocketknife that day, but I did get a lesson. At the time, I felt let down, as a little boy would feel when the gift he thinks is his goes to someone else. But as my father and I walked away from the store, he said, “You have me. He doesn’t have anybody.” Later I realized how generous and how sensitive to the needs of others my father was” (“Friend to Friend,” Friend, June 1997).

Elder M. Russell Ballard

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Russell Ballard as a young boy and his father, Melvin Russell Ballard, Sr.

His father was the owner of Ballard Motor Company. “He had a profound impact on my life,” Elder Ballard says. “He instilled in me the desire to work hard” (Kathleen Lubeck, “Elder M. Russell Ballard: True to the Faith,” Ensign, Mar. 1986).

Elder Robert D. Hales

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A young Robert Hales. His father was J. Rulon Hales.

When I was in the ninth grade, I returned from my first out-of-town game with the varsity baseball team. My father discerned that on the long bus ride home I had witnessed language and behavior that was not in harmony with the standards of the gospel. Being a professional artist, he sat down and drew a picture of a knight—a warrior capable of defending castles and kingdoms.

As he drew and read from the scriptures, I learned how to be a faithful priesthood holder—to protect and defend the kingdom of God. The words of the Apostle Paul were my guide:

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13–17) (“Stand Strong in Holy Places,” Apr. 2013 general conference).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A young Jeffrey Holland. His father was Frank D. Holland.

My dad, a self-educated accountant, a “bookkeeper” as they were called in our little town, with very few clients, probably never wore a new suit or a new shirt or a new pair of shoes for two years so his son could have all of those for his mission. … And not one word of that was ever conveyed to me on my mission. Not a single word was said regarding any of it. How many fathers in this Church have done exactly what my father did? (“Because of Your Faith,” Oct. 2010 general conference).

Elder David A. Bednar

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

David Bednar as a young man. His father was Anthony George Bednar.

I believe I was in my early teenage years when the following conversation occurred with my father. We had just returned home from attending our Sunday meetings together, and I asked my dad when he was going to be baptized. He smiled and said, “You are the one always asking me about being baptized. Today I have a question for you.” I quickly and excitedly concluded that now we were making progress!

My dad continued, “David, your church teaches that the priesthood was taken from the earth anciently and has been restored by heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith, right?” I replied that his statement was correct. Then he said, “Here is my question. Each week in priesthood meeting I listen to the bishop and the other priesthood leaders remind, beg, and plead with the men to do their home teaching and to perform their priesthood duties. If your church truly has the restored priesthood of God, why are so many of the men in your church no different about doing their religious duty than the men in my church?” My young mind immediately went completely blank. I had no adequate answer for my dad.

I believe my father was wrong to judge the validity of our Church’s claim to divine authority by the shortcomings of the men with whom he associated in our ward. But embedded in his question to me was a correct assumption that men who bear God’s holy priesthood should be different from other men. Men who hold the priesthood are not inherently better than other men, but they should act differently. Men who hold the priesthood should not only receive priesthood authority but also become worthy and faithful conduits of God’s power. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C 38:42).

I have never forgotten the lessons about priesthood authority and power I learned from my father, a good man not of our faith, who expected more from men who claimed to bear God’s priesthood. That Sunday afternoon conversation with my dad many years ago produced in me a desire to be a “good boy.” I did not want to be a poor example and a stumbling block to my father’s progress in learning about the restored gospel. I simply wanted to be a good boy. The Lord needs all of us as bearers of His authority to be honorable, virtuous, and good boys at all times and in all places.

You may be interested to know that a number of years later, my father was baptized. And at the appropriate times, I had the opportunity to confer upon him the Aaronic and the Melchizedek Priesthoods. One of the great experiences of my life was observing my dad receive the authority and, ultimately, the power of the priesthood (“The Powers of Heaven,” Apr. 2012 general conference).

Elder Quentin L. Cook

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Quentin Cook as young boy and his father, J. Vernon Cook.

Even worthwhile endeavors need evaluation in order to determine if they have become distractions from the best goals. I had a memorable discussion with my father when I was a teenager. He did not believe enough young people were focused on or preparing for long-term important goals—like employment and providing for families.

Meaningful study and preparatory work experience were always at the top of my father’s recommended priorities. He appreciated that extracurricular activities like debate and student government might have a direct connection with some of my important goals. He was less certain about the extensive time I spent participating in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He acknowledged that athletics could build strength, endurance, and teamwork but asserted that perhaps concentrating on one sport for a shorter time would be better. In his view, sports were good but not the best for me (“Choose Wisely,” Oct. 2014 general conference).

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A young Todd Christofferson and his father, Paul Vickery Christofferson.

Years ago, when my brothers and I were boys, our mother had radical cancer surgery. She came very close to death. Much of the tissue in her neck and shoulder had to be removed, and for a long time it was very painful for her to use her right arm.

One morning about a year after the surgery, my father took Mother to an appliance store and asked the manager to show her how to use a machine he had for ironing clothes. The machine was called an Ironrite. It was operated from a chair by pressing pedals with one’s knees to lower a padded roller against a heated metal surface and turn the roller, feeding in shirts, pants, dresses, and other articles. You can see that this would make ironing (of which there was a great deal in our family of five boys) much easier, especially for a woman with limited use of her arm. Mother was shocked when Dad told the manager they would buy the machine and then paid cash for it. Despite my father’s good income as a veterinarian, Mother’s surgery and medications had left them in a difficult financial situation.

On the way home, my mother was upset: “How can we afford it? Where did the money come from? How will we get along now?” Finally Dad told her that he had gone without lunches for nearly a year to save enough money. “Now when you iron,” he said, “you won’t have to stop and go into the bedroom and cry until the pain in your arm stops.” She didn’t know he knew about that. I was not aware of my father’s sacrifice and act of love for my mother at the time, but now that I know, I say to myself, “There is a man” (“Let Us Be Men,” Oct. 2006 general conference).

Elder Neil L. Andersen

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Neil Andersen as a young child. His father was Lyle Andersen.

I have thought at times how different my children’s lives are from my own growing up on a small family farm in southern Idaho in the 1950s and 1960s. Long days building a fence with my father, silent hours of moving irrigation pipe in potato fields, a home with one television that received only three channels, no computer, no MP3s, no mobile phones, few trips beyond nearby towns, few distractions, and much time with family—these were the building blocks of many of my generation (“A Gift Worthy of Added Care,” Ensign, Dec. 2010).