I don’t about you, but I’m inspired by the strength, humility and righteousness of this man – I know I already mentioned it before, but hey, it bears repeating again. Here is more of his interview.
5. You served a mission in South Dakota, predominantly among the peoples of the Sioux Nation. Can you share some experiences of what that was like and how it helped you to grow?
When I left on my mission in February of ’82, I had played two seasons for BYU. As an 18-year-old freshman, I returned a punt 83 yards in the 1980 SMU Holiday Bowl that would be later dubbed, the “Miracle Bowl.” As a sophomore, I played extensively during Jim McMahon’s senior year and in my two seasons, was a part of BYU’s first and only wins in their Bowl history.
While there were many Indian reservations in my mission, sadly, I only served three months on a reservation and among the Sioux. I spent the majority of my time in Rapid City, although I also spent some time in places like Huron and Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Spencer, Iowa.
When I left for my mission, I had earned two beautiful, but humongous Holiday Bowl Championship rings. I kept the Miracle Bowl ring because the game was already an instant classic and I presented my dad with my sophomore ring, a Holiday Bowl win over Washington State.
The ring was an emblem of my athletic prowess and I proudly wore it for all to see. Missionaries in the MTC gathered to look at it and I enjoyed both the prestige and notoriety that came with it. Especially so in a setting where everyone dressed alike, looked alike and taught the same thing, my BYU ring set me apart as different from everyone else. In fact, I had already justified a reason for having it in the Dakotas. On bitter cold days, I’d use the ring to knock with, thus saving my fragile knuckles from banging on doors.
A few months into my mission, Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy visited our mission. I was thrilled to learn that Elder Dunn had played basketball at BYU and was a member of the 1951 team that won the NIT tournament. During lunch, I managed to place myself strategically across the table from him. On my finger rested the SMU Miracle Bowl ring that I was certain would impress him.
As lunch started, I figured I’d first engage him in talk of our shared BYU glory days. I opened by saying, “Elder Dunn, I understand you played basketball at BYU.”
He looked at me and matter-of-factly but I thought rudely replied, “In another life.”
Then he turned to answer the question of another Elder seated next to him.
He didn’t elaborate or even noticed that I was wearing my, by now fabled, Miracle Bowl ring. I continued eating but kept my fork up near my face, in the way that a newly engaged co-ed would try to show off her rock, hoping that Elder Dunn would acknowledge the ring.
He didn’t say a word. Just kept eating and chatting away with the missionaries.
Finally, unable to take the humiliation, I blurted out, “Elder Dunn, what do you think of my ring?”
He turned, slowly looked at my ring and in the same matter-of-fact tone with which he dismissed my first comment, said to me, “Elder Sikahema, you are a missionary now. You’re not at BYU anymore. Send your ring home.”
The table was silent.
I was mortified.
It lasted only seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Then, someone broke the silence with a comment about how delicious lunch was and instantly, the conversation and chatter picked up again.
I went home that night humiliated and deflated. After a while, I became bitter. “Why,” I thought, “was he so mean and cruel? Who is he to tell me what I should do with the very symbol of my athletic accomplishments? Maybe he’s jealous.” All kinds of thoughts raced through my head.
My companion had to coax me into kneeling with him in prayer that night. When he asked me to pray, I told him I wasn’t in the mood to. His retort was, “according to the Book of Mormon and Brigham Young, that’s when we should pray.”
In anger I said, “You can take your Book of Mormon and Brigham Young….”
Before I could finish the sentence, my companion Elder Lanny Logue, cut me off by simply saying, “I’ll pray.”
I don’t remember exactly what he said in his prayer, although I have a vague recollection that he mentioned my bitterness and said something about blessing me that I’d soften my heart and that I’d have the humility to follow a General Authority’s counsel.
I do remember that immediately, I had the sensation of sitting at that lunch table again, but seated at another chair where I was able to watch the entire exchange, just as it happened that day – from someone else’s vantage point. From this other chair, I was able to see myself in a different light. I saw how child-like I craved a leader’s attention and how much I enjoyed the false admiration of my peers.
Slowly, tears welled in my eyes as I began to recognize the pride in my heart. The recognition of my pride and anger was met simultaneously with a warmth and sense of comfort and peace, that was only familiar from my preparation to serve a mission, and also during the numerous interviews I had with priesthood leaders who helped determined my worthiness to serve and attend the temple.
It proved to be a pivotal moment in my mission and in my life.
Two days later, the ring was in a box, insured and headed home.
Subconsciously, with it went my identity as a college athlete, Holiday Bowl hero and anything else associated with my former life.
Though I had committed to serve a mission, it wasn’t until then that I was fully engaged and knew the meaning of serving with your “heart, might, mind and strength.”
6. As a father, what is the greatest measure of your success?
That my children are happy, content, well-adjusted and obedient. I recognize that even in good families, often times, some children are just inclined towards rebellion and disobedience, no matter what their parents do. I often think that in His wisdom, perhaps the Lord places some of those rebellious spirits in some of the best homes because he trusts that those parents will be patient, kind and love unconditionally.
I never take for granted that none of my four children have ever been rebellious. And I try not to be puffed up in pride over that either, because as I mentioned, I’m not 100% certain that my wife and I had everything to do with that. I believe that my children came to us with enormously obedient Spirits.
Without any sense of false modesty, I will acknowledge that Keala and I have worked hard at parenting and have made sacrifices on our children’s behalf. But so much of what we’ve done as parents was simply do the fundamentals that we’re taught by Church leaders – namely, we have regular Family Home Evening, we read the scriptures nightly with an exception here and there, as well as regular family prayer.
Recently, in my capacity as a priesthood leader in our area, I was interviewing a woman for her temple recommend. I asked about her children. She gave a sigh and explained that her oldest daughter initially attended early morning seminary, but now refuses to go. She asked, “How have you managed to get yours to go?”
My response was this: “It’s quite simple. But first, you’ll have to answer a question for me.”
So, I asked, “Do you have regular Family Home Evening?”
Her reply was short: “No.”
Then I said, “That’s our secret. Family Home Evening. It’s in FHE that my wife and I teach and reinforce the principles of the gospel and our children reciprocate by teaching us. In FHE, we share our testimonies of inspired programs like seminary and scouting and how it blessed our lives as teenagers.”
Of course, we still have to regularly remind our boys to get out of bed, jump in the shower, grab a breakfast bar and head out the door, but they go willingly and happily.
I admire in my children, as with all teenagers, their ability to maneuver mine fields that I never had to encounter. In my day, pornography was only available behind the counter at the local convenience store. Now they can access it in various forms from a litany of sources. Moreover, my children, as with many in the Church and society at large, are burdened with more affluence than their parents had. It is all rather daunting.
But time and again, I watch with a vested interest, as my children manage those pitfalls and potholes with deftness and dexterity. They exhibit leadership skills beyond their years, they have strong testimonies of the Savior and understand the Lord’s plan of salvation, the atonement and how it all relates to them.
That’s how I measure my success as their father.
(As a post-script: 20-year-old Landon has been out almost a year on his mission in Hawaii, after a year at BYU. 17-year-old Leland (LJ) graduates in June and headed to BYU in Sept. 16-year-old Leonard Trey is a sophomore in HS. 12-year-old Lana is in 6th grade and loves YW)
To Be Continued —