A Father’s Legacy

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MMM note: As I was looking for a picture of my dad to post, I stumbled upon a Father’s Day talk that I gave to my ward back in 2008 when I was serving as the bishop. I had forgotten about it. I went in and added links, and  took out the stuff that would be specific to particular stewardship or congregation, and put in in a context that I can share with you, my friends. (Pull up a chair, it’s kind of long.) 

President Hinckley told a story in a masterful speech at BYU about “legacy” that you might remember:

“I thought of an experience I had long, long ago. In the summer we lived on a farm. We had a little old tractor. There was a dead tree I wished to pull. I fastened one end of a chain to the tractor and the other end to the tree. As the tractor began to move, the tree shook a little, and then the chain broke.

“I looked at that broken link and wondered how it could have given way. I went to the hardware store and bought a repair link. I put it together again, but it was an awkward and ugly connection. The chain was never, never the same.

“As I sat … pondering these things, I said to myself, ‘Never permit yourself to become a weak link in the chain of your generations.’ It is so important that we pass on without a blemish our inheritance of body and brain and, if you please, faith and virtue untarnished to the generations who will come after us.

“You young men and you young women, most of you will marry and have children. Your children will have children, as will the children who come after them. Life is a great chain of generations that we in the Church believe must be linked together.” (link)

Many of you come from great pioneer heritage. Many of you are actually the first link in a brand new chain of faithfulness. Thinking about legacy, and with it being Father’s Day, I would like to tell you a little about my father, and explain how his life fits in with President Hinckley’s teachings about the great chain of generations.

My father passed away back in 2003. His name was Horton David McBride – named after his great-grandfather Horton David Haight – one of the great early pioneers of the church. Elder Haight actually crossed the plains 14 times, bringing companies of saints to Zion.

On the other line, my father descended from John McBride – one of the victims of the Haun’s Mill massacre in 1838. My dad’s great-grandfather, James McBride was spared from the massacre only because he was sick that day, and did not go to the mill. James McBride went on to cross the plains with a company led by Brigham Young’s brother. James McBride settled what is now the town of Grantsville, Utah, and other parts of Southern Idaho. My father’s mother came through the Asael Smith line: Joseph Smith’s grandfather.

My father was part of a great legacy that stretches back to the very founding of the church, and by virtue of being his son, I share in that legacy.

While of great ancestry, my father was an ordinary guy, worked as an insurance salesman most his career, had hobbies, served in the church and led a pretty quiet life. It wasn’t until a few years before his death that I knew many details about his upbringing. I had thought that he was another link in a chain of strong, righteous generations, but I came to find out that the reality was different – the chain had been broken.

When my father was 5 years old, my grandmother died from complications of childbirth. My grandfather did not handle it well, and instead of pulling closer to his children, he withdrew from them. He found himself a girlfriend and took off – checking in on the kids occasionally, but abdicating his role of father to the older kids in the family. They did their best to run the ranch they lived on. My dad told stories about cooking breakfast for 10 men, carrying bales of hay and riding his horse to get the mail when he was under the age of 10.

When my Dad turned 8 years old, his father was nowhere to be found. One November afternoon a member of the bishopric took my father to the warm springs where the kids liked to swim. They cleared the moss from the surface of the water, and waded into the pond. My father was baptized, then confirmed at water’s edge by a leader that figured it “needed to be done.” Thank goodness for wise and worthy Priesthood leaders.

As a sophomore in High School, my dad found his family spreading out in all directions. His older brothers went to Montana to work with their father, leaving my dad behind in Idaho – effectively homeless. That year he slept at night out on the front porch of a lady named Mrs. Fippin – and he recalled that those Idaho winter nights were pretty cold to be sleeping on the porch.

His junior year he moved to Sandy, Utah (he got there by hitching a ride inside the trunk of a car) and lived with his older brother in what he referred to as a “shack” on what is now 90th South and State street. They would work in the fields during the summer to get by during the school year, and grew tomatoes on their plot of land. Senior year, his brother joined the air force, and my dad lived by himself in the shack – He was proud to tell me that even though he lived alone, he got himself to school everyday, and to church every week.

My Dad was in the Class of 1942. On graduation day, he walked down to the post office after school, and there, waiting for him, was his draft notice. He joined the Navy and reported to boot camp 30 days later. During those 30 days he received the Melchezedek Priesthood, and his patriarchal blessing. His blessing was so short that he did not anticipate ever coming home from the war.

He never talked much about WWII, but did express what a rude awakening it was for a young Mormon farm boy – the coarseness, and vulgarity, the alcohol and promiscuity were all new to him. He was surrounded by it all the time, but chose not to let it become part of his life.

He was stationed as a radio/morse code operator in the South Pacific, at Guadal Canal. When word came down that the war was over he said “There was a lot of shouting and celebrating. Everybody got drunk – except for me.”

He told one story about finding other members of the church:

“I remember one morning I had a call from a navy nurse. She said that she had examined all of the personnel records and that there were only three Mormons out of the hundreds of men stationed on the Island. A hospital ship had come into the harbor and she was on it. She was Mormon, I was another and there was one other sailor. We agreed that the three of us would get together and have a sacrament meeting. We got a jeep and drove out to a hill and we climbed to the top and sat on the ground and had our own sacrament meeting. We had a prayer and then we discussed things about the sacrament. We broke bread and had water, just the three of us. We bore our testimonies to one another. That was the only time while I was overseas that I was able to do anything with others in the church. The nurse and sailor shipped out and I never saw them again.”

Eventually he was discharged and went back home, ending up in Salt Lake City. He worked his way through the University of Utah as a short-order cook at the local Walgreens, getting a degree in Communications. He then did something that wasn’t required, or even commonplace at the time. At age 26 he decided to serve a mission. He was sent to Uruguay in the early ‘50s.

He had previously been told by a high school Spanish teacher that he would never, ever learn Spanish, and that he should give it up. It turned out that the first six months of his mission proved the teacher right. No matter how hard he worked, my Dad could not get the ear for the language. Frustrated and wanting to go home, he counseled with his Mission President, who gave him a blessing of encouragement, and invoked the gift of tongues on my father’s behalf. He emerged from the President’s office fluent in Spanish, and thereafter served an effective mission. Part of the time he served with Richard G Scott as his companion.

After his three years were up, it was off to Provo for a Master’s degree, a wife, and a family. He led a very normal life – went to work, came home, served in the church, built pinewood derbies that never were fast. He loved my mom and cared for her through many health issues. Raised four children, and saw all four of us to the temple and all four of us onto missions. After the youngest was sealed to his wife, I remember my Dad turning to me in the temple and exhaling a sigh of relief that he had been carrying for 32 years. Though never rich to the things of this world, he led a rich, meaningful life. He passed away in 2003 at age 78, and I miss him.

My father had every excuse, reason, environment or circumstance possible to turn his back on the legacy of his ancestors and the gospel – His father had already broken the chain. But instead of clinging to his father’s bad example, my dad re-established the legacy that I enjoy today. He re-forged the chain that I and my children and grandchildren are now part of. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been, and I owe him greatly.

I know that eventually I will see him again, and I will need to answer to him as to how I have preserved that chain, and if my link in that chain is intact and strong. In addition, I have a Savior who will want to know what I have done with His name as well, and if I have passed a legacy of testimony on to my children.

I know that one day I will make this report to the two most important men in my life. My father and my Savior. I feel a tremendous sense of duty and urgency to do everything I can possibly do to get it right. But I struggle. There are many things I work on constantly, yet still cannot master. As I identify things in my life that could be more refined, or should be stronger, or counsel that I receive from our leaders, I tend to pass that information onto you, my brothers and sisters. (My personal challenges often wind up as blog fodder.)

I know there are some who consider me ultra-orthodox, or too exacting, but at the heart of it, the reason that I push, pull and prod, is that I know that all of us will one day stand before our Savior and tell him of the legacy we have left for our children. We will also answer to those who went before us, and one day we will answer to those generations who will follow behind.

Yes that is pressure. Believe me, I feel it, and I imagine you all do, too.

– And that is OK.

Richard Edgely said: When Alma queried, “Have ye received Christ’s image in your countenances? he was talking about the attributes of true manhood.

Yes, Satan has his man and God has His man, and Satan has his characteristics of manhood and God has His. Satan would present his characteristics as the true measurement of manhood and God’s criteria as weak and wimpy. But one must understand that Satan’s criteria will almost always be the easiest and the wimpiest. Satan’s way takes no courage, no character, no personal strength, and it proves no manhood at all.

A true man does not let Satan lead him down the easy path with his everlasting chains of destruction. A true man is strong enough to withstand the wiles of Satan and humble enough to submit himself to the redemptive powers of the Savior.” (link)

N Eldon Tanner said: Always remember that people are looking to you for leadership and you are influencing the lives of individuals either for good or for bad, which influence will be felt for generations to come.” (link)

Fathers: Every minute of every day we are building the legacy for our children. To do it right requires strength, a willingness to let go of our own desires, and a commitment to be in it for the long haul.

Remember – doing a good job is like shaving…no matter how good you do it today, you’ve still got to do it tomorrow.

Parents, we need to look to our children and commit to do everything we can possibly do to make sure they are sent out of our nests with the strength and testimony. We need to get over ourselves and focus on the Lords’ will for our families, instead of pursuing the decoys that Satan has set up for us in society.

Children, please look to your parents and do all that you possibly can to follow their lead, as they follow the Lord. If you are in a situation where your parents are not leading, I would suggest you to go to them, and with all the love in your heart, ask that they help you work through these difficult times by following the Lord’s counsel. They will respond, because they love you.

This Church is full of goodness. It is full of strength. We are surrounded by families who respond whole-heartedly and unconditionally to the call from the prophet and their leaders; members who serve diligently in their callings; saints who love and protect their families with the power of scripture study, FHE and family prayer. Many have temple recommends, and know how to use them…

Yet I know that there are some of you who do not see yourselves as one of those families, I testify to you that you can be. It is a question of agency and desire. You can be obedient, you can witness the miracles the Lord provides to those willing to seek them out and receive them. Start now. If there is something impeding your progress, seek counsel from your Bishop. The Lord wants you and needs you to be a part of his kingdom.

Elder Joseph B Wirthlin said: The Church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.” (link)

Brothers and Sisters, please use these brief stories of the life of my father to recognize that agency is ours. I am not my father. No matter how strong he was, it benefits me nothing if I choose not to be strong. Conversely, should my father leave a legacy of mediocrity, or weakness, or worldliness, again, I am not my father, and I can use my agency to choose to change the direction, and re-forge the chain. It is time to accept a simple truth: We all must let go of the excuses, justifications and rationalizations that keep us from attaining what the Lord wants us to attain. It is not our parents’ fault, our spouses’ fault, our upbringing, our health, our leaders, our ability, our income or our personalities that hold us back – it is our hearts.

In speaking about change, Elder Dallin Oaks said: The traditions or way of life of a people inevitably include some practices that must be changed by those who wish to qualify for God’s choicest blessings.” (link)

As a father, I desire the choicest blessings for my children, and am trying to give up those things that stand in the way.

As your friend, and fellow journeyman, I desire the choicest blessings for you and your families, that your descendents will not look back on a legacy of mediocrity, but a rich legacy of love, obedience, happiness, prosperity and blessings of the Lord.

Happy Father’s Day!

Other Father’s Day stuff from previous years”

2016: “Rhubarb and Fatherhood

2015: “High Priest Mints and Feeling Very Dad.”

2014: ‘Fathers and Lawnmowers.”

2013: “Keep Peddling.”

2012: “King of the Castle.”

Father’s Day Coupons For Teenagers

The Stripling Warriors’ Missing Fathers

 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I always enjoy your posts, but this one brought me to tears. I, too, come from pioneer ancestry on both sides of my family. But both sets of my grandparents became the weak links. Despite that, my father and mother were married in the temple – all alone, with no family there to support them. They went on to raise a family of 5 children and all of us were sealed in the temple. Thank you for reminding me of my legacy on this Father’s Day. My dad died at age 79 a few years ago, and I miss him. I so much appreciate his example of faith and his parenting. Happy Father’s Day to you MMM!

  2. Wonderful! Thank you for the wake-up call! I have much to repent of. Yes, it is my heart that’s in the way, not my parents, my spouse, my kids, my circumstances. I needed this. Thank you again.

  3. “We all must let go of the excuses, justifications and rationalizations that keep us from attaining what the Lord wants us to attain” hearing loud and clear. Thank you. Loved to hear about your father.

  4. One of your best posts! Thank you so much for sharing such a tender family story! I am a convert of 23 years and the gospel is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I struggle with a husband who is of pioneer ancestry (Anson Call and Joseph Lee Robinson) yet is lukewarm, ho hum, apathetic and disinterested in any FHE, family prayers, etc. I truly appreciate the encouragement your blog provides! Thank you brother and happy Father’s Day!

  5. Great post cousin. Who knew?
    I Will just leave it at: I am pondering a lot and thinking about the broken chains around me. Hopefully some day my brothers will realize what they have given up.

  6. I love this account of your dad’s life! It is huge to see how far he had come by being steadfast. I often wonder when lives like this are lived how hard it must have been day to day. We know they surely got discouraged and frustrated but they continued on in what they knew was right. He is a great man. And it is a super great legacy to live by, and pass on to your children and grandchildren.

  7. Thank you for this beautiful profile of fatherhood. I loved the examples/stories of your dad, partly because my dad was the same age and shared similar experiences as a Mormon farm boy in WWII. My dad passed in 2006, and I am so grateful for the legacy of faith, love, and dutifulness he left to me and my seven siblings.

  8. I’d like to tell another way that a father can “forge a new chain”. My father was physically abused as a child by a very sadistic father who had also been beaten as a child. From family stories, I believe this was something passed down in the family. But he was a sweet, gentle man and never laid a hand on us. Once someone asked a question (published in the Ensign) wondering whether or not it would be better for a child to be aborted than brought into an abusive situation. The answer pierced me to the core. It said that sometimes one person will come along and be a “savior to a whole lineage”. He did the most important thing a father can do and I will always love him for that.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)