Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Christmas lights are turned on for the first time this holiday season at Temple Square in Salt Lake City Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.

This is the third of seven winners in the Deseret News' annual Christmas writing contest, "Christmas I Remember Best."

It was December 1935. I was about 7 years old. It was Saturday. Mother went over to visit her sister and took baby Norman with her and left my 4-year-old sister, Florence, and me home in Father's care.

Father had chores to do outside, so Florence and I played inside. I had just started school and was eager to teach my little sister all the wondrous things I had been learning. She, a quick learner, was equally eager to know, and I loved being the teacher.

But after a time, we grew tired and opened the back door to see what Father was doing outside. He quickly barred our exit and said gruffly, "Get back in the house." We were puzzled. Our kind father didn't usually talk so brusquely, and the tone of his voice warned us to obey … now.

So, we went back to our play. But after a while curiosity got the best of us. We wanted to know what was happening, so we dashed out of the house.

The vision of that moment will stay with me forever. There was a patch of brilliant red in the snow. Hanging in the tree was something familiar, but different. It was my pet lamb! Freshly butchered, skinned, drawn and quartered. Dead.

This lamb had followed me everywhere that summer and fall. He was not like some of the others I had known who took every opportunity to chase me and knock me down if I didn't keep a wary eye. My dear pet would never again frolic in the sunshine.

My young heart burst with shock, then grief, then anger at what I thought was my father's betrayal. Christmas that year was sad for me. When lamb chops were served, I would go away from the table and the hurt would start all over again.

My child mind did not consider the fact that my father had a commitment to raising and butchering the donated lamb for one half of the meat. I didn't comprehend that Dad already had delayed the deed as long as he could because he dearly loved animals. I wasn't aware there was a Great Depression. I didn't think about work being scarce or nonexistent, and that my father had only a part-time job.

How could he be so cruel? How could he do such a thing?

With the passing of the years, I have come to understand that heart-rending experience of my childhood. I've learned to search for deeper meanings.

I have more understanding, deep respect and great love for my earthly father Bill, who had the self-reliance and fortitude to do what he needed to care for his family during an economic crisis, even though the task must have been more distasteful to him than it was to me.

Comment on this story

William Henry Golder emulated his God more than anyone I've ever known. He taught me many truths by example. Like the Savior, he sacrificed for me.

I still have love for the little lamb who was sacrificed for our family's physical welfare. He sacrificed for me.

My love for Jesus is great. He came to Earth and bore all things so his understanding of mortality would be complete. He tries to teach us the way of peace, the way of learning and truth, the way of true joy.

He sacrificed for all of us.

Thank you, dear fathers in heaven.