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Prominent LDS men reflect on lessons they learned from their dads

By

Mormon Times

Published: Monday, June 13 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Editor's note: These are excerpts from "Life Lessons From Fathers of Faith: Inspiring True Stories About Latter-day Dads"

“A Force for Good” by Bronco Mendenhall, BYU head football coach

My father has been an amazing force for good in my life in serving as an unwavering example of gospel principles in action and remaining steadfast in his witness for the truth regardless of circumstance. I remember many times as a young boy traveling with my father to cutting-horse contests throughout the United States. He never missed an opportunity to teach life lessons and to understand my questions. Our goal at the contests was always to do our best and make the finals. The finals, however, were held on Sundays, and never once in my life did we stay to compete on the Sabbath day. My dad stayed to help all of the other contestants late into the night on Saturday, and then we quietly yet unapologetically loaded our horses and drove early into the morning to be home in time for church each Sunday.

My father always stressed obedience to the commandments, and uniquely shared with me how that was the only way I would ever find peace. Dad has watched almost every game and practice I have ever competed in, from Little League to our bowl victory against Oregon State. I always know he is there when I hear the distinctive whistle he learned while herding sheep and livestock as a boy in Stockton, Calif.

Hearing that whistle through the crowd always let me know I was loved, supported and believed in.

“File Opening” by Peter Breinholt, musician

Growing up in Salt Lake City, my dad built soap-box derby cars and raced them down Sunnyside Avenue. In college he taught himself how to play the banjo and then joined a folk trio. Later he earned an MBA on one side of the country and a Ph.D. on the other.

During my childhood in Pennsylvania, he was a business professor, but by the time I was a teenager in Utah, he had so many ideas for his own start-up companies that he had no time left to teach.

My dad is now 72. He rollerblades and skis to Johnny Cash on his iPod. He buys books he’ll probably never have time to read. He visits his grandchildren who are scattered around the country, and he looks after his own 97-year-old father who lives nearby. On my 34th birthday a few years back, he learned to surf in Hawaii. Yeah, he’s still interested.

My mom used to call his parenting style “file opening.” He exposed each of his children to lots of subjects — opened the files for them so to speak — and then watched to see which ones we gravitated to. The math file didn’t stay open for me, but the music one did. Now, years later, my dad is in the audience at nearly every one of my concerts. Even more impressive, he knows the words to all of my songs.

It’s the same for my four brothers and sisters — a federal prosecutor, a university professor, a Hollywood film editor and a marriage and family counselor. You can find my dad in the audience at almost every public presentation, film premiere or major lecture.

“A Perfect Example” by J. Willard “Bill” Marriott Jr., entrepreneur and businessman

Growing up poor had a profound impact on my father. He was given great responsibility at a young age and he developed not only an incredible work ethic, but an attention to detail that is legendary.

My father was a true believer in the scripture, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). My dad took special interest in teaching his children the importance of endeavoring for perfection in all we did.

When I was a child, one of my regular chores was to shine my father’s shoes on Saturday so they would be pristine for church on Sunday. I can still recall one long afternoon spent scrubbing furiously at some sort of gooey, black, sticky stuff that dad had picked up on his soles during his travels that week. It took me hours to clean it off, but I finally did it. I learned a lasting lesson that day about sticking with a job until it’s done right. That emphasis continued throughout my teen years and well beyond.

My father’s quest for perfection was a personal endeavor about doing his very best and never about making someone look bad or feel bad. I learned from him the importance of paying attention to details and making sure I am always accountable for my actions. Those lessons have served me well throughout my life.

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