By J. Kenneth Doty
(This talk was originally given on June 15, 1986. It was Father’s Day, and it just so happened that my High Council assignment fell on this day. I decided to pay tribute to my father. He died thirty-five years ago on the Saturday before Father’s Day 1961. I never had much of a chance prior to that time to pay him the honor he deserved. So I took the liberty of paying tribute to him with the thought that others might not wait, as I did, until it was too late. My father was not quite sixty-five when he died, so there were only a few of his grandchildren that got to know him. I include this talk as a means for all of his posterity to know more about him.)
As I was preparing these remarks to be delivered on Father’s Day, I was drawn to a couple of scriptures from the Book of Mormon that deal with the influence of fathers. The first is the well known introductory verse of that book which I quote: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Nephi 1:1). And this one from the first Book of Enos: “Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father to be a just man – for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” These two references to a father’s teaching led me to reflect upon my own father. I can say just as Nephi and Enos had: I, Joseph Kenneth Doty, was born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father!
What did my father teach me? What did I learn from him? I wish, today, to reflect upon some of these things.
My father’s name is Joseph William Doty. His father died when he was only fourteen. Therefore, I never knew my grandfather Doty. Also, my dad did not have a lot of time to learn from his father. So what I learned from my dad was largely the result of his personal learning and experiences.
My dad taught me to love learning.
Because his father had died so early, dad never had much formal schooling. He and his two brothers, one older and one younger, were pressed into the service of supporting the family. But that did not stop him from study and learning. He learned much by observation of the people around him. Quickly understanding what worked and what didn’t work in the business of building a life. He would read voraciously with whatever free time he would have. He enrolled himself in correspondence courses of study. And when I began high school he would require that I bring my daily studies home so that he could learn with me. Finally, he encouraged his children to advance in their knowledge. Therefore, it was only natural that I grew to embrace all the knowledge that I could.
My father taught me to work.
He never believed in idleness and he never left a job undone. He had a variety of skills. He was a cement finisher, the man who troweled the drying cement into a smooth level finish. In the decade of the thirties, when little mechanized equipment was available or even yet invented, it was his requirement to work the cement regardless of the hour.So, many nights, I helped him by holding the lamps to give the light he needed to finish his job.
He was a pretty good carpenter. He built a house for his family that became our home and in which my mother, now 99 years of age, still lives. In that process I was taught to use the hammer, the saw, the level, and the square. Tools that I regret not using as much as I could and should. As a boy, I learned how to plant and cultivate a vegetable garden; to care for and milk four cows daily; and to feed and care for other animals, chickens, and pigs when we had them.
Living in a farming community, I was encouraged to work on local farms during the summer months to earn the means to cover much of my school expenses. I was expected to give effort worthy of the pay I was given.
Much of what I learned about working was in watching my father; how hard he worked and how he would take any job available no matter how menial it might be. During those depression years of the thirties, there were often periods of unemployment. Ups and downs in the oil fields, where he worked frequently, left him to seek other work. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps for a time and took employment in California in an early war defense plant away from his family for a time. I even saw him try to get out of a sick bed when a job offer came unexpectedly one day.
Pride in a job well done was always evident. He loved to point out work that he had done that still showed his workmanship, always hoping to leave something that would be a credit to his posterity.
I was taught to be obedient, respectful to my employers, and to have the courage to stand for what is right.
I learned to love my country because my dad was patriotic and I was always proud that he had served overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. One of his greatest lessons was demonstrated by the way he lived his life. He was a convert to the Church and while he had a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, he had periods of inactivity as he struggled with the Word of Wisdom and tithing. Yet he never spoke in a derogatory manner of the Church and we knew he believed as he participated in family prayer whenever he was home.
Gradually he was cultivated into more and more activity in the Church. The last five years of his life were spent as the bishop of our old home ward. While serving in that capacity he was instrumental in getting a new chapel built and did much of the work as his skills permitted. His cement work and a lot of his carpentry skills were woven into that chapel.
My dad and I had an unusual closeness.
I was his firstborn and arrived on his 29th birthday, so we shared birthday parties and birthday cards. I knew he was proud of me and I was proud of him. As I followed him into military service during World War II, he was most proud to send me my first membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he had served commander of the local post.
Yes, I have tried in many ways to follow him. It was interesting that on the day he was released as Bishop I was called as Branch President.
I mentioned his building of the new chapel. When it was to be dedicated he invited all of his children to come home for that occasion. He was one of the featured speakers in that service and spoke of the financial sacrifices that many had made to get the chapel built. In those days, half of the funds needed to build a new building were raised by the local members, and I knew that he had done more than his fair share.
After the dedication services his family returned to the home he had built so many years before. We enjoyed a great reunion and complimented our dad on his accomplishments. We truly tried to let him know we were proud of him.
Then he asked us to allow him to speak to us on a personal matter. He sounded serious, and he was. He wanted to bear his testimony. He knew that we knew of his failings in his early days as a father, and he wanted us to know of his convictions of the principles of the Gospel. Most importantly, he wanted us to know that the law of tithing was true and that it worked. “God blesses us when we pay our tithing,” he told us that night, concluding with the statement: “You can’t afford to NOT pay your tithing.”
I firmly believe that was his greatest lesson. That was in April of 1961. On June 15, 1961 he died. My last association with him was my greatest lesson from him.
Today I am still trying to follow him and apply his many lessons. There are still occasions when I think of him and find myself speaking to him in my heart asking, as I did as a boy, “How am I doing, dad?”