To honor my Dad
I am sharing some excerpts from a
talk I gave last year on Father's Day:
"My Grandpa Christensen was a coal miner. During the hottest part of the summer they would close the mines, so he would take his family, including my Dad and his 4 brothers, to live in a tent on the shores of Fish Lake in central Utah. To earn money and provide for his family, he served as a fishing guide to well-heeled out-of-towners.
Fish Lake is well known for big Mackinaw, or Lake Trout, that can grow to as large as 40 lbs. Now, in order to catch these fish, which like to hang out on the bottom of the lake, old timers at Fish Lake followed what is known as the “Mack Run”. They would troll along a set course that allowed them to know the terrain of the bottom of the lake so that they could anticipate how deep they needed to let out their line and how to avoid underwater hazards such as rock piles and steep slopes.
The other key to catching these monsters was to attach the baited hook to a thing called a “Davis Spinner”. These spinners are a long series of shiny metal blades, designed to create a vibration that attracts fish as they spin through the water. This was in a time before the modern advances in graphite fishing poles, braided steel wire and sophisticated sonar equipped fishing boats. Instead, these fishermen used twisted copper wire wrapped around hand-cut wooden paddles. To let out line, they would hold the paddle in one hand and unwind the wire with the other. To “reel in” they would have to wrap the wire around the paddle, usually 90 to 100 times to retrieve their gear. This was a very time consuming and tiring exercise.
Grandpa taught my Dad how to stay on the Mack run by lining up specific trees on the shore with other trees higher up on the mountain as well as other various landmarks, including a heart shaped stand of Aspen trees above camp and the gap between it and another group of Aspen close by. He would use a point of rocks along the middle part of the west shore as a starting point and would turn around at Joe Bush at the north end of the lake.
Every summer they would catch many large Macs, some as much as 25 pounds, which my grandmother would bottle to use for meals for the long winter months in the little mining town of Kenilworth, Utah.
My Dad learned the Mack Run so well that he ended up being a fishing guide himself for a few summers before he met my mother at Fish Lake, married and started a family.
Years later, as the Christensen Family grew; we continued to spend summers at Fish Lake with my grandparents. My dad and my grandpa would take us grandchildren out as often as they could put up with us.
One night, my grandpa was out by himself on the Mack Run and his hook got caught on the porous volcanic rock bottom, breaking his line and losing his Davis Spinner. He came in cursing and complaining that he had lost one of his expensive spinners.
The next morning at 5:00 am my Dad went out fishing. As he followed the Mac run, his lure caught on something. He carefully maneuvered the boat, trying to unsnag his line without breaking it. After a few minutes of effort, he was able to free up his line and he began winding in his gear. As he did so, he was surprised to find that at the end of his line was a Davis spinner. When he looked closer, he found the notched top blade with which my grandpa would always mark his spinners. He showed it to grandpa and he confirmed that it was indeed the spinner he had lost the night before. In the 6 mile long, 1 mile wide, 100 foot deep lake, my Dad stayed so close to the path that he was taught by his father as a young man that he was able to find what was lost.
The opening lines of the Book of Mormon read: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.”
Teaching is done by precept and example, and by word and deed.
Lehi, Nephi’s father, lived an exemplary life. He had a vision in which he “beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” This tree represented the love of God. Lehi partook of its fruit, which “filled his soul with exceedingly great joy. After he had a personal testimony of its goodness, he took the next step of inviting his family to also partake.
Lehi first taught by example. He led out in righteousness—in conversion to Christ. Then he taught by word, saying, “Believe as I believe.”
In 1 Nephi 10:17 it states: Nephi, having heard all the words of his father concerning the things which he saw in vision, was desirous that he might “know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him.”
Nephi had listened to his father, had believed his father, but he wanted to know through the same source his father knew—revelation. So Nephi diligently sought the Lord and received a revelation which reaffirmed the revelation his father had given to the family.
Just as my grandpa taught my Dad the “Mack Run” to be a successful fisherman, Lehi taught Nephi and the rest of his family about his vision of the Tree of Life and the Iron Rod as the way to make it back to Heavenly Father. Nephi lived and taught these principles throughout the rest of his life, blessing his posterity and in turn all of us."
"While I didn’t become a great angler at Fish Lake like my Father, one brother and one sister have followed in his footsteps. They still fish at Fish Lake with the handmade wooden paddles with the copper line following the “Mac Run”. Once in a while they pull in a big monster trout, but mostly they go because of the memories of fishing with Dad. We go to Fish Lake almost every year and Rob tries his hand with the old fishing tools, but usually reverts to a fancy trolling poll.
I knew my father had a strong testimony of the gospel. He was a quiet man, his service in the church went mostly unnoticed, but he served others until the week he died. I am grateful for the knowledge I have that I will see him and my mother again. I know that they are busy where they are, and maybe he has found an even more beautiful fishing spot."
Father’s day can be difficult for those who have lost their Dads, those who have complicated relationships with their fathers, and for Dad’s who worry about children who seem lost. The Atonement of Jesus Christ will help: Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: “Healing blessings (from the atonement) come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.” All that will come may be “clasped in the arms of Jesus.” All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.” Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.
"To close I want to share one more fishing story:
In Matthew 4 18-20 it says:
“Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
“And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”
If we follow the example of our Savior, we too can become fishers of men, as we strive to set good examples to those around us and help them come unto Christ.
May we also follow the examples of the good Father’s in our lives, whether they be our own fathers, or those who have helped us make it through life. "