When I was a young man, I spent many hours driving with my dad between our home in Castle Valley and the small town of Moab 25-miles-away, where I went to school. In the privacy of the cab of that old truck, I could bring up the heart-wrenching challenges of youth with my dad and get his advice, help, and wisdom. As I look back, I realize now how fortunate I was during these times.
We lived a fair distance from the small town where I went to school, and my dad drove the school bus. So we spent a lot of time on the road. Not only was the spectacular scenery breathtaking every day, but the counsel and advice I received from my father was equally magnificent. Perhaps I can share one example:
As many of the students and others around town used the Lord’s name in vain, he wanted to impress upon me and my siblings the importance of honoring the name of Deity. He emphasized that when we revere the name of the Lord and use it appropriately, He will respond to our beckon when we plea for his help and direction. When we disparage it by using this term inappropriately and regularly, we may not capture his attention at times we supplicate his help.
Then my dad related to me the following true story. He was gathering up some old appliances and garbage to discard at the local junk yard. He had secured a trailer to pull the refuse to the dump. As I remember, it included an old washer and dryer and perhaps a fridge, among other things. He loaded all this in the back of the trailer and was off.
As he drove down the freeway, he noticed the trailer was swaying some, and he tried to adjust his speed to reduce the friction. For whatever reason, suddenly the trailer began lurching right then left and pulling the vehicle out of its lane and throwing the trailer contents all over the highway. At this moment of surprise, he cried “God help me!”
Now if you know my dad, you know that he would use those words only in the most stringent circumstances. And at that very moment the oscillation ceased, and he was able to stop the car without further incident. But as he climbed out of the vehicle, he saw that the contents of the trailer were strewn across the lanes of the freeway.
As he was surveying the situation and wondering what he could do next, a platoon of army cadets came to his rescue. They had been marching just off the freeway in an open golf course and saw the whole incident take place. In a few minutes these men had gathered and reloaded the trailer with all the objects destined for the junk yard, and my dad was safe and back on his way. He attributed that to a Heavenly Father who was listening.
Fortunately, I took advantage of these occasions with my dad often, and though I waited to reveal my most private challenges until we were alone in the truck, I used my dad’s wisdom, insights, and blessings frequently. Sometimes it was working together or visiting in our home or going with one another to serve someone in the valley. I remember and cherish these events now, and they have become a priceless anchor for my life today with my own wife and children.
My father tells an anecdote about my grandma, his mother, that underscores the value of listening:
“On occasion, when an employee would get irritated with Mother about something, and tell her off, Mother would just listen, and when it was over she wouldn’t say anything. She didn’t retaliate or fire the employee. Others who were present and noticed her kindness were impressed and came to admire her for this.
After many years, when the business was going to close and the employees heard of it, most of them said they would stay to the last day. She had some very dedicated people working for her because she had earned their respect.”
I am grateful for good examples. There are many in our midst. They come from family members and others who are all around us and influence us for good by following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, they may be you standing for Christ in whatever circumstance you find yourself. And the example of Jesus Christ buoys us up as we face difficult situations and make good choices because of our love for him.
Elder Holland recounts an experience of home teacher extraordinaire John Manning. After a tragic accident, John took charge of the health and well-being of a struggling, tormented father:
I frankly don’t know on what schedule John and his junior companion made visits to the Russell home, or what message was given when they got there, or how they reported the experience. What I do know is that last spring Brother Manning reached down and picked Troy Russell up off the tragedy of that driveway just as if he were picking up little Austen himself.
Like the home teacher or watchman or brother in the gospel he was supposed to be, John simply took over the priesthood care and keeping of Troy Russell. He started by saying, “Troy, Austen wants you back on your feet—including on the basketball court—so I will be here every morning at 5:15 a.m. Be ready because I don’t want to have to come in to get you up—and I know Deedra doesn’t want me to do that either.”
“I didn’t want to go,” Troy told me later, “because I had always taken Austen with me on those mornings and I knew the memories would be too painful. But John insisted, so I went. From that first day back, we talked—or rather I talked and John listened. I talked the entire drive to the church and then the entire drive home.
Sometimes I talked while we parked in the driveway and watched the sun rising over Las Vegas. At first it was difficult, but over time I realized I had found my strength in the form of a very slow 6-foot-2-inch Church ball player, with an absolutely pathetic jump shot, but who loved me and listened to me until the sun finally rose again on my life.”
We are God’s emissaries to his children. We must be uplifting and courageous and vigilant amid our challenges. We must learn to listen, have empathy, and lift others whose arms hang down.
These are just a few of many examples where some have borne other’s burdens and set good examples that we should follow as priesthood brethren. The priesthood is not a medal, though it is an honor to bear.
It is not a reward, though those that faithfully honor it are promised all the Father hath. No, the priesthood is not a badge or an award for our faithfulness. It is a duty and a privilege and an honor because as we honor it and magnify its power, we honor the Son of God.
We stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ and do what he would do in similar circumstances by listening to his word, following his example, and keeping his commandments.
That’s what my dad taught me in the cab of a pickup truck.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.