The Weight of Heritage

Several years ago my paternal grandfather published his life history for his children and grandchildren.  He entitled it My Life’s Journey in a Heritage of Faith.  This title was appropriate considering the many times throughout the volume that his thoughts turn not only to the legacy left by his ancestors, but also the responsibility he has felt his entire life to continue that legacy.

It is not unlike the words of Helaman to his sons Nephi and Lehi:


  6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
  7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them. (Helaman 5:6-7)


Such a cause has motivated my grandfather from his earliest years.  His two parents, his four grandparents, six of his eight great-grandparents, and even two of his great-great-grandparents (born in 1769 and 1776) joined themselves to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during their own lifetimes.  Among them were colonizers, missionaries, pioneers, civic leaders, a mission president, and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Since all eight of my grandmother’s great-grandparents were members of the Church, several of them prominent, my father inherited an even more impressive—and pressing—legacy.  When he married my mother, she added to my heritage a pile of faithful men and women, including one who served in the First Presidency with Joseph Smith.

My ancestors have stood as witnesses of God and His Christ in many places: New York, Kirtland, Missouri, England, Nauvoo, Deseret, California, Chile, Mexico, Colombia.  Less dramatic but more representative are the hours spent officiating in a temple, witnessing over a pulpit in sacrament meeting, teaching a lesson to Primary children, and above all, teaching the gospel to their children.  They lived as witnesses, and all that have died did so trusting completely in the Lord in whose service their lives were spent.

Grandfather has likewise consecrated all that the Lord has given him to the effort of building the Kingdom of God.  With the heritage left to him ever on his mind, he has received and fulfilled calls to serve as a bishop, a counselor in a stake presidency, a mission president, a Visitor’s Center worker, a temple worker, a sealer, an MTC president, and a stake patriarch.

Perhaps more importantly, he unfailingly loved his wife for over 50 years, and accompanied her to death’s door five years ago.  His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have received of his generous direction and love.  All but two are active in the Church that has given so much to—and asked so much of—their family. Even now, as the veil thins, Grandfather races to finish compiling Grandmother’s life history from her extensive journals.

Thus my grandfather has contributed to the legacy I inherit.  Now he stands on the brink.  As his body is slowly destroyed by cancer, he inches closer to joining his forebears.  But there is no despair.  Like Tolkien’s King Theoden, he can assuredly say, “My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed.”

Such is the weight of heritage.

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About Ben Pratt

I am married to a brilliant and lovely woman. Remarkably, our union has produced three brilliant and lovely daughters! We enjoy reading, going for walks and bike rides, and Friday night pizza picnics in the family room. Descended from Parley P. Pratt (founding editor of this blog's namesake), Charles Henry Wilcken, Zachariah Bruyn Decker, Jesse N. Smith, Frederick G. Williams, and a host of farmers, missionaries, colonizers, businessmen, and pilots, I was raised in Chandler, AZ. I have degrees in physics from both Brigham Young University (BS) and the University of Washington (MS). I earn my filthy lucre teaching physics, mathematics, and fine arts at a public charter school in Mesa, AZ.

16 thoughts on “The Weight of Heritage

  1. This instantly ranks among my top ten favorite ‘nacle posts, Ben. It’s beautifully written, and I’m cheered to know of a man who saw his heritage as a foundation to build on rather than as a burden to carry.

  2. “Perhaps more importantly, he unfailingly loved his wife for over 50 years”


    If I were in your grandfather’s shoes, reading my grandson’s recognition would bring me great joy. This post speaks highly of both you and him.

  3. Wow, Ben! Thanks for that touching tribute to your forebears. Your mother is an outstanding lady. I know her well.

    Marsha Ward

  4. Ben, this is amazing: important, true, and elegant. I’m grateful to have people like this to revere in my life, too, and all of us can only hope to reach this sublime height in life someday. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  5. Huston: I agree wholeheartedly! Having heroes like this makes all the difference.

    Joanna: The other day I emailed a link to this post to Grandpa. He didn’t reply, and last night my aunt who lives with him sent out an email indicating that Grandpa’s condition had worsened. This morning at 4:17 I emailed my aunt, asking her to read this post to him.

    At 6:45 I arrived at the bus stop. My emotions came suddenly to the surface as I thought of Grandpa and how much I would miss him.

    At 7:13 my aunt replied, saying that she would read my post to Grandpa.

    Around 9:00 my father called, because my aunt had called him.

    Grandpa passed away in his sleep around 7:00 this morning.

    Here is a beautiful symmetry in the Plan of Salvation. Even as I am filled with longing for my departed grandfather, joyful reunions satisfy the yearnings he has felt for those who died before.

    And even in their mighty company he is not ashamed!

  6. Ben, I am sorry for your loss. If your aunt did not get a chance to read it to him in the mortal life, surely by now, he has had a chance to read it with heavenly eyes. God bless you and your family.

  7. Ben that is so beautiful. Ah, sometimes I wonder what in the world I must have done to score having the Mom and Dad I do…. but I’m surprised I don’t wonder more often how I got to be so lucky to have *you* for my older brother!

    Mom sent me the link to this because she knew I would appreciate the Theoden quote. And it is so true of Grandpa. I hope I can grow to be like him. And like you.

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