Editor's note: In honor of Father’s Day, the Deseret News talked to several noteworthy members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about their fathers.
Before he was an Air Force pilot, best-selling author and congressman, U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, was one of 10 children being raised on a small dairy farm in Weston, Idaho.
It was during those early years, growing up on that Cache Valley farm, that the future politician learned a valuable life lesson from his father, Boyd Stewart. It's a lesson that goes beyond hard work and responsibility. It's a lesson about justice and mercy.
"My dad was an Air Force pilot, farmer, teacher and father of 10 kids. To me he was a man’s man," Stewart said. "But he had the softest heart. The greatest lesson I probably learned from him was how to have compassion and empathy for others."
During Stewart's early years, Weston's rural agricultural community consisted of about 300 people, and it was a challenge for most families to carve out a living.
"We were a large family with not a lot of money," Stewart said. "It didn't occur to me that we were poor, but looking back, we weren't rich at all."
Another large family that was poor lived near the Stewarts. On more than one occasion, the Stewarts caught children from this family stealing milk. But instead of getting angry or contacting the police, Boyd Stewart did something else.
"He knew these guys weren't stealing milk to sell it or be mean," Stewart said. "They were stealing because they didn't have any. He realized this family needed help. My dad took this kid, about my age, who was stealing the milk, and said, 'Why don't you come stay with us.'"
Stewart said the boy lived with his family for about a year. They also reached out to help the neighbor family in other ways. What his father did left a strong impression on young Chris.
"He (the boy) lived with us, helped on the farm, ate with us and was treated like family," Stewart said. "My dad was kind of this crusty old guy, but he had the softest heart."
Boyd Stewart, who later served as mayor of North Logan, died in 2005.
Throughout his adult life, Stewart has tried to emulate his father's example, which isn't easy in business and politics.
"Honestly, it's a lousy lesson in politics because I want to trust people. Some people aren’t honest and so many times I've been disappointed," Stewart said. "But I still stand by my dad’s lesson. If there is a question between judgment and mercy, I still default to mercy. It was one of the most important things my dad taught me."
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