A Father’s Wish as He ‘Builds’ a Son

Published April 2, 1987.  This past week I was pleased when we received a small package from our son Doug, who is serving an LDS mission in Guatemala.

I was the first one home that afternoon and, upon opening the package, found a tape recording. Doug recorded a few of his thoughts on audio-cassette and sent them to us.

While looking for a tape recorder/player I was anxious to hear what he would have to say. How was he feeling? Was he well? How was the work progressing? He had been gone from home 10 months now, and since he was our first to leave, it has been an adjustment for us as well as him.

I was pleased to hear that he is happy, and he has struggled, as do all others who have to learn a new language in a relatively short period of time. Adapting to another culture and climate has also required some adjustments for him.

While listening to the tape I wondered if he has changed much.  What will he be like in a little more than a year, when he returns? I recalled his birth in Bountiful. Then I remembered the years we lived in Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin and finally, once again, Utah. I well understand the sentiments of Tevye and Golde in “Fiddler on the Roof” when they sing the touching song, “Sunset, Sunrise” with the lyrics “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play?”

What is it a father and mother wish for their children as they leave home? Many options are before them. Work. School. Marriage. And for some, missions.

One parent recently remarked that taking a son or daughter to the Missionary Training Center in Provo is one of the most difficult things parents will ever do. But leaving them there is also one of the easiest.

During the early days of World War II, another father was concerned about his son in the Philippines. The man was General Douglas MacArthur, who wrote the following prayer in behalf of his son:

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to face himself when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

“Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee – and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

“Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; and let him learn compassion for those who fail.

“Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

“And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious yet never take himself too seriously.

“Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

"Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."

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