LDS church, and the way he taught the gospel in our home growing up. I loved having the opportunity to think about gospel learning in the home, and especially about my Dad.
There are a lot of people in this life that I admire and love, but none that I admire and love more than my Dad. He did not have an easy childhood. At the age of five, his father who was an alcoholic, abandoned his family, and my Dad never saw him again until he sought him out as an adult, right before his father died. My Dad said that his father leaving left a hole in his heart that he thought could never be filled.
There were times after this that his family lived in severe poverty-- where he didn't have any food to eat. When his Mom remarried, it was to a man who was also an alcoholic, and very violent. My Dad spent the rest of his childhood with daily verbal and physical abuse.
When my Dad left home as a young man after getting drafted into the army for the Vietnam war, he said that he didn't know what he wanted in life, but he knew that it was different than what he came from.
While he was in the army, my Dad who was a big reader, happened upon the book Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage. He didn't know anything about the Mormon Church, or even that James E. Talmage was a Mormon, but the words of this book really resonated with him. He agreed with the words that he read, and began to seek out more, and eventually was converted to the LDS church.
After leaving the army, my Dad made the decision to serve a mission for the church, even though he was older than the typical 19 year old male missionaries that he was serving with. He worked hard, and learned a lot from his missionary experience.
After that, he attended BYU, where he met my Mom, and got his bachelors and masters in accounting, and an MBA. He chose a career path, that would allow him to be home with his family, and that would offer him stability in his retirement.
He and my Mom had seven beautiful (if I do say so myself) children, and were amazing parents. They were loving, hard working, forgiving, and sacrificed everything to be the kind of parents that they wished they had had.
When I think of my Dad, I can't help but think of the ripple affect that his wise decisions have made for good in the world. All of my six brothers have served missions throughout the world, and have shared the happiness that the gospel can bring to countless others. His children have all married wonderful people, who have similar values, and who want to raise our children in love and happiness.
I still don't know how he did it. When I've asked him in the past, he says that he didn't know how to raise the kind of family he wanted, but he knew that if he was obedient, and followed the Church leaders, that they wouldn't lead him astray. He talks about how the gospel should be a natural and fluid thing--- how we can only take one step at a time, and be lead by a loving Heavenly Father. He talks about how he thought that the hurt that he felt from his own father leaving, over time has healed with the love of his family.
There are times when I think about my Dad as a young boy-- about the age of my little Vaughn now, and his father leaving, and all the horrible abuse he went through, and my heart aches for that young boy. I wish I could go to him, and put my arms around him, and tell him all about the wonderful family he will have-- how much we will all admire, respect, and love him. I wish I could comfort him with the songs that bring my own boys comfort, and make him laugh with the funny stories that he will experience with his own family. I wish for just a moment I could help him see his potential.
There is a quote that I've always loved by Ganhdi that says "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." I almost always think of my Dad when I read this quote. He was the change he wished to see in the world. He has made a difference in the world, through hard work, obedience, humility, and love.
And I am a better person because of it.
I love you Dad,