“Father Figures outside My Family,” Ensign, Mar. 2005, 36–37
As a mischievous adolescent, I once upset our Scoutmaster and ran outside to hide in the parking lot. Soon our bishop came walking between the cars looking for me. Feeling guilty and ashamed for what I had done, I got his attention, expecting a severe reprimand. He quietly approached me and put his arm gently around my shoulders. Walking back into the building, he expressed his appreciation for me and asked for my help in supporting the Scoutmaster.
Years later that same bishop, then a patriarch, gently placed his hands on my head as he delivered an inspiring blessing full of personal revelation. When his dear wife was stricken with cancer and passed away, he invited me, a newly returned missionary, to offer the dedicatory prayer at her grave. Bishop Bowen taught me about love and compassion.
In the extended family of the Church, I was fortunate to have the examples and association of many “fathers,” particularly since my own father was not an active member. Their Christlike examples inspired me, and I’ve occasionally wondered how my life might be different if men like Bishop Bowen hadn’t taken the time to patiently reach out to a young man like me.
As a young Aaronic Priesthood holder, I was assigned to home teach several wealthy, less-active families with Brother Bradford, a successful dentist in our ward. Occasionally our visits were awkward, but during the years we served together, he steadfastly and consistently made appointments during the first week of the month and carried them out as faithfully as if they were professional appointments. Without preaching to or condemning the families we visited, he simply showed by his own example the value of living the gospel. As we drove from family to family, he shared with me positive things these families had done and taught me to regard them as brothers and sisters, not just less-active home teaching assignments.
During my mission several years later and several thousand miles from home, I drew strength from those experiences while standing uncomfortably on the porches of strangers, waiting to share the gospel with them. Brother Bradford taught me understanding and a strong sense of duty.
For our senior prom many of my classmates made elaborate plans to rent limousines and escort their dates in style. I decided not to and opted instead to drive our family’s old car, affectionately labeled “the Bomb.” Concerned for the car’s condition, my mother called a handyman member of our ward to look at it. Brother Allen’s daughters were my age, and his wife had been my Primary teacher. As he was inspecting the brakes, Brother Allen rolled out from underneath the car, looked up at me, and asked in a sincere voice, “Would you like to use our car for the prom?”
I was stunned. Sitting in the driveway next to the Bomb was his gleaming Cadillac. Many fathers would not make the same offer to their own sons, and I wasn’t even taking his daughter! Although I did not drive the Cadillac to the senior prom, I felt humbled by Brother Allen’s gesture of trust and love that surpassed the thrill of driving a fancy car. Brother Allen taught me about thoughtfulness and generosity.
In the solitude of quiet moments, I reflect on the examples of faithful priesthood holders that have deeply touched my life. Their gestures were often small but always significant, and over time they laid for me “the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).