Ralph Otis Bradley
Born February 24, 1920
Ralph Otis Bradley entered mortality in Moroni, Sanpete County, Utah, on 24 February 1920, the eldest of two children born to his mother, Nida Susannah Hales, and his father, William Otis Bradley.
Some time after Ralph was born, his father, William Otis, went to work for the new sugar beet plant in Moroni. But the plant closed a few years later, and, because money and work were scarce at that time, William was forced to go elsewhere in order to support his family. In fact, he moved them around several times in the first few years following his marriage to Nida. When Ralph was yet a small boy, they moved to Ely, Nevada, where his father started all over again in a different profession, having secured a position as a meat cutter in a grocery store there. But they were in Ely less than a year when the family moved again, this time to Sparks, Nevada, where William had found a better position as a meat cutter in a retail meat market in a Reno grocery store, and where he was ultimately promoted to the position of manager over the entire store.
Life was good for young Ralph in Sparks. It was there he began school, starting in the first, then the second grade. He had a cute little sister, Betsy; a German Shepherd dog; and several good friends. One time someone gave him a dime, which, even then, wasn’t a lot of money, but to Ralph, it was a big deal. One day he was playing with his dime on the front lawn and he lost it. After looking for it for some time he went inside the house to ask his mother to help him find his lost treasure and she told him there was a better way to find the dime: she instructed him to go into her bedroom and kneel down and pray and ask Heavenly Father to help him find his dime. He did as he was instructed and found it within a minute or two. He learned that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. He became a believer!
Sadly, Ralph’s mother and father’s marriage ended that summer. So with his mother and sister, Betsy, he returned to Moroni to live, where they got a little two-room house right next to his Grandfather Bradley’s home. Ralph remembers his Grandfather James Otis Bradley as being a kind, loving, and accepting man. Sometimes he would take Ralph with him as he worked at grading the roads. Every week he would give young Ralph an egg that he could take to the co-op and trade for a lollipop. Ralph remembers sleeping with Grandpa on his old straw tick mattress. That, he thought, was a memorable experience!
Ralph’s family spent only one Christmas in Moroni. Money was in very short supply, so all he received that year was a 50-cent flashlight. Some of his friends received coaster wagons or flexible flyer sleds. He told his mother he would have liked a Christmas present like that but she told him he was too old for those kinds of things, and he believed her.
William’s support payments to Nida were erratic and as a result she was forced to find a way to provide for her two children all by herself. She had a cousin, Pernella (Nellie) Morley, who lived in Salt Lake; her husband had passed away shortly before, leaving her seven children. She was struggling to make ends meet, so she and Nida decided to join forces.
Aunt Nellie lived in a two-bedroom house with an unfinished basement. Nida partitioned off a room and put two double beds in it—she, Betsy, and Ralph all slept in one bed and three of Aunt Nellie’s children slept in the other one. Always, after taking out her tithing, Nida gave her whole paycheck to her cousin so that the two families could afford to live. Nida found work at Auerbach’s Department Store, beginning there as a sales clerk and working her way up until she was a department manager and buyer in the drapery department, and she worked in that capacity until her retirement.
At about 12 years of age Ralph injured his left arm in the elbow area. It was a deep wound. He recalls his mother’s taking him to see their doctor in the Medical Arts Building downtown. He treated the wound and told Ralph to come back the next Saturday. As that was a busy day at work for Ralph’s mother, he traveled alone by streetcar to see the doctor. After two more treatments the arm was not healing the way that it should have. The doctor told Ralph that if there were not any improvement by the next visit he would have to cauterize the wound. When Ralph inquired what that would entail, the doctor said he would need to probe the wound with an electric needle. Ralph didn’t want to have that experience so the next day at church he asked his ward teacher, Brother Murrs, to give him a priesthood blessing. That afternoon he and his mother went to Brother Murrs’s home. His companion, Brother Middleton, was also there, and together they gave Ralph a blessing. The next week when Ralph returned to the doctor his wound was completely healed. Ralph testifies to this day that there is great power in the priesthood— power to heal and power to bless.
The family lived with Aunt Nellie for seven years. It was a lifesaving situation for both families. One Sunday morning, after returning from his paper route, Ralph sat down on Aunt Nellie’s new sofa and she told him she had rented out the downstairs room his family had been living in and he needed to go down there. So he went downstairs and told his mother he was packing his things and moving out immediately. But his mother, in her wisdom, talked Ralph into waiting to move with the rest of the family after the end of the school year.
Ralph’s mother, Nida, was a saint. Many of her priorities have become his priorities, including temple attendance. His mother attended the temple once a month after work. At times the session was very full and had to be divided. When this happened, the session wouldn’t get out until after the last streetcar had left for the day, which meant that his mother would have to walk two miles home and arrive very late. As Ralph was growing up they often attended the Sunday afternoon session of general conference at the Tabernacle.
When the family was living with Aunt Nellie the ward was divided, necessitating the building of a new chapel. Nida was given quite a large assessment to help pay for the new building. Aunt Nellie told her, “Girl, you will never be able to pay that much.” But Nida insisted that she could and would do whatever the Lord asked her to do. Even though she and her family moved before the assessment was completely paid, she continued to send payments to the old ward until it was paid in full.
Ralph’s mother never said an unkind thing about his father. She never destroyed Ralph’s love for him. Because of her attitude, Ralph was later able to reach out to his father—to show him love and acceptance. In fact, he was able to activate his father so that he was again worthy of a temple recommend. Ralph maintains to this day that we teach what we are, and that he was “taught by the best.”
Prior to his senior year of high school, the family moved to their own apartment. Betsy and Ralph attended West High School. Ralph’s senior year was excellent. He was a cheerleader (there were two young men and two young women) as well as the business manager of the West High School yearbook staff and advertising manager for the school newspaper. In addition, he was a school photographer.
Ralph had a wonderful home room teacher named Jennifer Thomas, who impacted his life as did no other teacher. She taught journalism and, in an effort to support the school paper, gave an assignment to the class to sell ads. Ralph sold several ads, which pleased her, so she kept using him. She took a very personal interest in him, and Ralph learned much from her wisdom. She showed great love, concern, and interest in me as a student and as a person. Her sincere belief in Ralph’s potential helped him later to succeed in every aspect of his life.
Ralph had a newspaper route throughout his junior high and high school years, which provided funds for such things as clothes and bikes. The summer before his senior year the Tribune and Telegram newspapers had a subscription contest with a terrific prize—a trip to Yellowstone Park for the qualifying carriers. Ralph sold 105 new subscriptions in 90 days and won first place, so his picture appeared in the paper with some of the other carriers. This was the first vacation he had ever had.
Every summer from the fourth grade to age 16, Ralph’s mother sent him and Betsy to her step-mother’s farm in Orem, where Ralph learned the value of hard work. There they would arise at 6 a.m to milk the cows and feed the pigs, and then have breakfast. After breakfast they worked in the fields until noon and then returned to the fields again after lunch. At the end of their work day they would then return home to milk the cows again, do more chores, and have supper. After dinner his uncle had a milk route. They would pick up 10-gallon cans of milk from nearby dairy farms and haul them to a Cloverleaf pickup station, where the milk would be cooled and then hauled in big tankers to Salt Lake for pasteurizing and bottling. This would take about two hours. When Ralph got home around 9 p.m he was so tired he would go directly to bed. The neighbor girls would have to wait for another day!
Ralph was very pleased when, in his junior year in high school, he got a job as a stock boy in Auerbach’s china department. One day they asked him to fill in as a sales clerk while a man in the sporting goods department was on vacation. He continued to work in that department both that summer and the following one. He thought it was a definite move up from the farm. Everything was better—the wages, the hours, and the air-conditioning!
After graduating from West High School, Ralph attended BYU. In his junior year at BYU he was appointed Business Manager of the Y News, a weekly school paper. It was a salaried position, which covered most of his college expenses. He learned more there about business than in many of his business classes.
One Sunday evening in October he went over to Amanda Knight Hall, the women’s dormitory, to see Lucy Cannon, a friend from Salt Lake. Using a buzzer system, the receptionist at the dorm would ring up whomever you wanted to see. On this one occasion she rang the wrong buzzer and Mildred Harris, instead of Lucy Cannon, came downstairs. Ralph was so impressed that he called Mildred the very next day for a date that weekend. Her boyfriend had called earlier to say he had to work then, so she was available. Everything went well that weekend and also those that followed. She soon sent a “Dear John” letter to her missionary. Mildred and Ralph were married 19 months later in the Salt Lake Temple.
In the book entitled The Vision, by Lundwall, a woman wrote to President John Taylor asking him to outline some of the requirements that were given to us before coming to this earth. His reply has always fascinated Ralph. He said, “Before you came here you were told to find your eternal companion, whom you also loved in the Spirit World. The two of you lined up the spirit children who would come through your marriage by mutual consent.” At that time Ralph and Mildred did not realize they had signed up for so many. They were blessed with fourteen children.
Mildred has been a great role model for their children. She is an organized, effective person. She washed and ironed every Monday, and her meals were well planned, nutritious, and on time. She also had the ability to motivate their children spiritually and academically. She is a devoted and fun mother, who expected her children to achieve. She took to heart President Harold B. Lee’s teaching that if we don’t expect performance, it won’t happen.
Mildred and Ralph raised their family on “the Avenues” in Salt Lake City, Utah. At first they lived at 79 “S” Street, but they could see this home was not going to be large enough, so they bought a seven-bedroom home at 1225 Second Avenue. Later we moved into 1175 Second Avenue, a home with nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms. After their last child, Lisa, was married, Ralph and Mildred sold their big house and moved on to enjoy condo life. But for many years they enjoyed a second home in Park City, which they called “the Barn”; it was located alongside the city golf course.
Ralph and Mildred have been richly blessed. Ralph’s patriarchal blessing states, “All your children will grow to maturity and be found serving the Lord in righteousness.” All fourteen of their children have been married in the temple and all are active in the Church. Ralph considers this a tribute to the quality of the children he and Mildred have been blessed with. They currently have 86 grandchildren and 78 great-grandchildren, but these numbers keep growing. They love their family and see vividly that there will be “no empty chairs” in heaven.
Life has been kind to him, Ralph is quick to observe. He has a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He readily acknowledges God loves for him, and expresses often and openly his love for his Father in Heaven.
When Ralph was 28, he went into business with a partner, Briant G. Badger. They called the firm Bradley-Badger. It was a furniture and appliance store located at 36 South Main Street, across from ZCMI. They were in business together for fourteen years. When the downtown building was condemned to make way for the Crossroads Mall, Ralph built a new building located at 5300 South on the West Frontage Road off I-15. It proved to be a super location, and he named the store Bradley’s Sleep Center. His sons and daughters, except Susan and Judy, all worked for him there during their school years. One reason Ralph went into owning his own business was to provide work for his children in a good environment.
Ralph and Mildred built a swimming pool for their own and twenty other families. There were twenty-one families in total. Bishop Higham and Ralph were over at the office one day talking about a swimming pool and how it would be nice to have one in the area like they did over at North Point, and they figured out how much it would cost to pursue it. Don Blakemore was really interested and said, “Well, why don’t you use our back yard?” The people who were a couple of doors away protested very vigorously so they knew that wouldn’t work. Then the piece of property next to the Highams, which was a duplex, came on the market and they knew if they could buy that the rent could carry the property, leaving the back property for the pool area. And that’s exactly what they did. Bishop Higham and Ralph put the package together, and then they brought the other families in.
They worked with a fellow named Cal Woolley, who had worked for a pool company and knew a lot about pools so kind of directed them. Bishop Higham and Ralph shopped, and then they went with Brother Christiansen, who was actually in the pool business and built pools; he ended up doing the construction also because they gave them a good bid. Actually, the total investment for each of the families was about $1250, which is very small for what each family got.
Jim McCrea designed the walls and bathhouses and other areas, as well as the pool equipment downstairs. It worked out very nicely. And they pulled T.J. Cloward in to supervise construction, for all of which good bids were obtained. Barb was a brand new baby when the pool first opened. It turned out to be a great thing for every family involved. It was certainly great for Ralph and his family.
Mildred would get the children to do their chores and then they would go to the pool every day except Sunday. (The pool was closed on Sundays.) This was a great incentive. They had great times down there. The families were all good families. But, usually each family was able to have the pool all alone. Maybe there would be two families at the most. It was just a delightful experience. Such it was for many years.
This, in combination with 1225 and the remodeling of the backyard, proved to be a very successful area. Lots of times parties were scheduled at the pool when it was the Bradleys’ time and they were thus able to bring the Young Women and Young Men. They wouldn’t abuse it but scheduled their own party times for these activities. But, then they could take them to their own backyard at 1225 and just have a good time. It was just well done; the designer there did it well; it was a big yard and it worked well. This was a marvelous investment.
The most important part of Ralph’s life—after his testimony of Jesus Christ—is his family. He hesitates to single out any of them in his praise of them, however, for fear that someone might think he has a favorite. He claims to have one favorite and only one, and that is Mildred. She is a true strength in his life, and all her accomplishments, he says, would not have happened had it not been for her support and influence. Ralph and Mildred have shared a great life together.
Nonetheless, Ralph has always avowed a great love for each of their 14 children. Each one has brought great joy to him and Mildred. There have been a few bumps in the road, they admit, and a few experiences that would have been nice not to go through, but from each of these they can look back and smile and know that they grew personally. They both sorrow when any of their children have gone through great pain or trial and they often wish those burdens could be lifted from them, but they know that in the eternal plan these experiences prepare them in a specific way for how the Lord would want them to be developed.
As a young man working on the farm out in the fields, Ralph often worked with Reed Hales, his mother’s half brother. The rows were long and sometimes it would take the two of them a half-hour to weed a row of corn or tomatoes. He was a good and righteous person. A lot of times Ralph had questions for him as he really never had a father image in his own life. One of the questions Ralph put to him was, “What do I look for in a wife?” Reed told Ralph what he needed to realize was that he was going to marry someone he dated, so he should date very carefully. He also told him he should look at the mother because the daughters in many respects turn out to be like the mother. He suggested he could learn a lot from a girl’s mother—is she organized, efficient, effective, kind, and righteous? Later on in high school as Ralph began to date he indeed dated carefully. He dated nice girls who had very impressive mothers.
Before Ralph married Mildred he knew there were certain things he wanted in a wife. He wanted someone who was attractive. He knew he would be living with his wife for a long time, looking across the breakfast table at her every morning, so he wanted to make sure she was attractive. Eternity would be a long time, he reckoned, and he wanted to definitely come out a winner in this area. Also, he wanted a wife who was intelligent. He wanted her to train his children so they would be achievers. He know every person who is intelligent does not have common sense, so he wanted her to have common sense. He wanted her to be righteous as he wanted his children to have testimonies, so a key criteria was a righteous woman. He wanted her to have good health and good genes so they would be passed down to the children. He knew pretty well what he wanted before he started serious dating.
Ralph was grateful for those who taught him, so he was careful, and, knowing he would marry someone he dated, he made a good choice from the outset. As their family came along, Mildred was indeed just like her mother—organized, effective, and efficient. Mother Harris would entertain the General Authorities when they came to speak at BYU assemblies. They often came to the Harrises’ for dinner afterward, so she was always responsible for these dinners and she had great skill in doing it well. Mildred was in the home and she’d help and she saw and learned. Mildred had great skill in this area also.
When Ralph was a bishop they could have any activity and Mildred could always handle it. Mildred always gave him excellent counsel when a ward banquet or any activity came along. When they redid 1225 and had that beautiful patio they had a lot of activities there for the youth, many adult parties, along with many weddings for others besides their own. She was able to orchestrate these activities very efficiently and effectively.
Ralph was always impressed with Mildred’s abilities. She was always there for the whole family in whatever capacity they needed her. Every Monday she would wash and iron. In those days the girls wore dresses and the young men didn’t wear T-shirts; they wore shirts that had to be ironed. She had an Iron-rite and she would wash and iron the same day. Ralph never knew Mildred to have to get up and iron something to be worn that day. The shirts were hung in their rooms. Several children wore several shirts in a day. Even when she was not feeling well (and luckily she didn’t have morning sickness), she would still get up and do what was needed to be done.
Ralph’s sweetheart always wanted the family to have what they needed. She sewed darling dresses for the girls and most sweaters worn were knit by her, too. She always put the needs of her family first. She did double duty while her mother lived with them for about five years before her death. Mildred would nurse her and not miss a beat with the family.
Mildred had great skill in p1anning meals. One of her minors in college was foods and so the family always enjoyed well-balanced meals. Mildred always served orange juice and fresh fruit to help keep everyone healthy. They ate well. Sometimes the boys would bring their friends home after school and go through several loaves of bread and several quarts of milk. Ralph and Mildred would rather have them in their home than anyplace else so they would know what was going on.
Mildred had great skill in many areas. She was Young Women president twice, and was Relief Society president twice, and she did a remarkable job wherever she served. When Ralph served as stake president they always had an open house at Christmas time and they had one of the women who had great skill come down and decorate the house. It was very attractive for the open house. Mildred and the girls fixed the food, served it, and then cleaned up. The family was very helpful She was a great hostess.
Ralph has always felt that he made a great choice in a wife. She has been faithful and constantly by his side. Ralph does not hesitate to label her as a woman of very high integrity who is indeed beautiful to behold.
In the summertime when Ralph was a regional representative they would have activities out on the brick driveway when they lived at 1175. They’d have the stake presidencies come up from Nephi, Payson, Spanish Fork, and those areas and they’d have parties for them. Mildred always made the guests feel welcome and everything was always attractive. People felt the love and warmth that she portrayed and the food was always excellent.
Mildred was very effective in the mission field as the mission mother. When the elders and sisters would come to their home, as they arrived in the mission field for the first time, she was always able to make them feel at home. She, being a great cook, served wonderful meals to them. As well, their going away dinners were excellent. She did that well, too, Ralph recalls. At zone conferences she was there and spoke, alongside Ralph. On interviews she always drove and Ralph did the paper work. She would visit with one elder while Ralph was interviewing his companion. She had a great impact and influence on these missionaries.
On Temple Square Mildred was very effective with the sister missionaries. They were in the Bradleys’ home often when there were activities for them. She has great skills and has been a positive influence on many people’s lives.
When Mildred was the matron of the Washington D.C. Temple she had her own office and her own staff and was responsible for a lot of different areas. She did it well. She was held in great esteem and respect by the people back there and those with whom she served.
Mildred is a great lady and a great mother and has made a great impression on her children, just like a woman should. Ralph thinks the Bradley children have all turned out to be efficient and effective because of their great role model.
Even though Ralph was away a lot—from the time that he served as a counselor and president of the elders quorum, then being called into the bishopric when he was just 35, with continuous, frequent service until the present time—Mildred has supported him in all of his callings. She always had a great attitude about church service. She never complained when Ralph had to go to meetings or to tend to other responsibilities. She was a positive role model for her daughters as they have married and found their husbands also serving in various callings.
Ralph counsels his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to remember that you will marry whom you date so not to date anyone they wouldn’t want to be married to, as they never know how things are going to work out. He admonishes them all to take great care with the process by which they fall in love.
Ralph notes that he has seen men who are not called to be a bishop or called to other positions because they have not married well. It takes two people to make those things happen. He observes that a lot of times they miss the opportunity for a foreordained calling because of their spouse.
One objective Ralph had was to have his children work with him. After he sold out to Badger and went to work for Westinghouse as a sales manager for six years, he realized that he didn’t have the opportunity to work with his children any more. He knew if he could work with his own children he would have the capacity to influence them. It was for this reason that he acquired the property on Main Street after Badger moved out, and the children all basically worked for their father. The sons would work on the truck at first and then they would work on the sales floor as they grew older. The girls would clean the store and advance to the office. Ralph knew there were a lot of skills in pleasing people and handling their concerns, and he wanted the children to learn these skills and develop their talents and abilities. Even though the children pursued other professions, he is convinced that they learned people skills that will be helpful throughout their lives. A nice reward in working with his children, Ralph says, was that if he sensed that something was amiss, he was always close enough to try to pull them back to the mainstream. He wanted to make sure there were “no empty chairs” in his family. It was enjoyable to have the children there, especially as Ralph was often not home in the evenings.
One of the reasons Bradleys acquired the pool at Water Haven was so they could spend time with their children. Mildred would get up each day and when the work was done they would go down to the pool and spend an hour or two. It was nice to be able to not just work together but to play together also. It was the routine during the summers, except for Sundays, of course. It was nice for Mildred to spend that time with the children, drawing close and impacting their lives.
Ralph and Mildred picked up the property in Park City so they would have a place to gather. Several children were married and there they could have family home evenings together with the entire family, plus a lot of other fun activities. That opportunity for them to be together made a positive impact on their lives.
The Bradleys held reunions in Sun Valley so they could stay close as a family. They were really growing fast in numbers of grandchildren, and they have always wanted the cousins to be close to each other. Since they weren’t going to school together, they thought this would be a good way to keep pulling them together. This is why they now go to San Diego, so they can spend time together, and try to maintain the bonds they have built, ensuring that they stay close to the family and not let the love they have for each other become tarnished in any way. That is also the reason Mildred and Ralph acquired the St. George property—so they could spend time with their children, which they find to be most enjoyable. They just want to show their love. This property is actually deeded to all 14 of their children.
Ralph knows that Heavenly Father wants good parents for His children. He has always sensed that and has always wanted to be a good father and have a good mother at his side so they might take the spirits that Father sent down to be able to teach and train and take them home to Him. This is why he has always wanted to be a good son as well. Ralph is only too aware that Heavenly Father has a lot of spirits up there that He wants to have come here. He believes strongly what President Taylor said about lining up the spirit children in heaven who would come to a marriage. When Ralph was President Ezra Taft Benson’s stake president, he always taught that if you sign up for six don’t come home with a half a loaf; bring them all home. President Benson talked of how sad it will be if you go home and find you don’t have all the children you signed up for.
Ralph is a firm believer that in the temple, when the couple is kneeling at the altar as they are being sealed, the spirit children with whom they covenanted in the spirit world are in the room at the time of that sealing, as are other loved ones. He says maybe a grandfather or great-grandfather brings them down and the grandmother takes them back. Ralph believes it’s an eternal relationship. As an example, in the Washington D.C. Temple one time Ralph was going upstairs on the elevator and a woman asked if she could share something with him. She said, “My friend just had her patriarchal blessing. It was very interesting. It said, ‘The woman who signed up to be your mother changed her mind and decided not to have any children. Your best friend in the spirit world learned of the problem and asked if she could be your mother; she just loved you.’ The blessing went on to say, ‘Your mother was your best friend in the spirit world. The woman who signed up to be your mother changed her mind.’”
Ralph believes there was common consent or agreement, that we consented to be mothers and fathers to children and that they also agreed to the relationship.
Ralph has always loved children. He knew that when he came home from work and they had the new little babies, it was exciting. Every child in their family loved the little babies as they came. There was no resentment from the children that Ralph and Mildred had a large family. They seemed instead to always love each other. Their girls were never into dolls. They gave them dolls for Christmas but they didn’t play with them; they played with the babies. The thing that made it easy for the Bradleys is that the older children took care of the younger ones. That is always the way it was. It didn’t appear to be a burden because the children loved each other.
When Ralph came home he’d take the baby out of the crib and lay it on his stomach and pat its little hind end and just love it. He just wanted to bond with that child. He did it often, although Mildred didn’t like him waking them up. He’d try to get the child back to sleep and put it back in the crib. One of the choice memories in his life was during the years when they had young children. Mildred would give the baby their morning bottle and after the bottle Ralph would take the baby in the bathtub with him, then dress the child, and take the baby downstairs. Mildred was busy getting breakfast and lunches ready so Ralph had that time with the baby. He loves to be with his children and loves to serve his children.
Ralph was always excited to come home. He loved to kiss, hug, and love his children. He feels that he was always accepted by his children. As some of them got older and wanted to wrestle with him, he wasn’t very successful there.
Ralph always cherished the time he had with his children. Often he would drop them off at school on his way to work and the last thing he said to them was, “Remember, I love you.” He enjoyed driving children to work with him downtown. It was a choice time in his life, he recalls, and he still treasures the opportunity to have worked with his children. What’s better than working with a child all day? he asks.
Ralph says they had effective children. They were great in the store. They have made great additions to their own families, he says, because they are so loving and kind. In the old days on the farm a father had a chance to work with his children, both girls and boys, and Ralph wanted that same relationship. He wanted to work with his children. That is the reason he left Westinghouse. They had some great times working together. It was a learning experience for all of them. It’s kind of hard to be a boss and a father, Ralph now admits. His hope is that his children have good memories of these times.
One good memory Ralph has is taking some of the children over to his mother’s house once a week when she would cook them a nice breakfast. She had the ability to reach out and touch the children through her love and kindness. Ralph treasured being with his mother and his my children. He remembers they always had morning prayer. Often it was three times a morning because the children went to three different schools—grade, junior, and high school. Ralph thought it essential to invite the Lord to help them. Many times they could say things in prayer they couldn’t teach in any other way. Sometimes they even had the children pray who would regularly come to pick up the Bradley children.
Ralph says it’s always been easy for him to tell his children that he loves them. He can remember going to work one day with one of his sons who said, “Dad, you’ve told me you love me three times from 13th East to Main Street.” Ralph has never had any hesitation about telling his sons or daughters that he loves them. It wasn’t until he was 60 years old that he ever heard his own father tell him that he loved him. He learned a great thing from President Kimball. He used to kiss everyone—men and women—and tell them he loved them. Ralph has tried to tell his children he loves them and show them that he loves them. He has tried to be a tender and caring father.
Ralph looks back with fond memories of being a father. He recalls many good times together. They would “tail gate” on their vacations because they couldn’t afford to eat out. Taking 10 or 12 children into a restaurant can be very expensive. They took coolers and picnicked in the park, but they thought it was great fun to be together. Ralph tried to keep up with his kids and learn their activities (e.g., skiing, mountain biking), but he didn’t feel he did that well much of the time. They were kind to him in putting up with their holiday projects—such as the attic, the garage, or the yard. To this day Ralph doesn’t feel it was right that he should have gotten the lump of coal for Christmas just because he was always teasing the children about getting the coal. After all, he figured, it was his place and my nature to tease.
One thing that passed down to Ralph’s children from previous generations was singing in the family. Ralph’s Grandfather Hales used to sing to Ralph’s mother, who in turn sang to him. And Ralph would sing to his children the selfsame songs that Grandpa Hales sang to Grandma. Ralph loved to rock and sing to his children and grandchildren. One grandson woke up in the middle of the night and his father got up with him and the son said, “Sing, Daddy, sing.” Ralph recalls singing “I saw the train go ‘round the bend; good bye, my lover, goodbye,” “Go to sleep, my little pickaninny,” “Come, let’s play we’re Indians way out in the West, I will be the chief because I’m braver than the rest.” He used to love to rock the children and sing to them. In the car when they went on trips they had a lot of fun singing. Those they recall as happy times— an enjoyable pattern when the children were all little.
The Bradleys always had happy times together as a family. They had to have a dining room table refinished once because they had so much fun playing “donkey.” “Fruit basket” and “Ring on the string” were always favorite family games. Holidays were always a great family day. Ralph loved Thanksgiving when they were all together. And Christmases were great times that they shared with the Sorbonnes. They had a great love for each other in the family.
Ralph is very cognizant of the eternal nature of family associations. When some of their children let go of the iron rod he can remember pleading in the temple to Heavenly Father, “This is your child; it is also my child; help me to know what to do?” When some of them were struggling, other children were also right there to help, it seemed.
Arlene Grover was a great support to the Bradley family. She was a great resource for the children. Few people, it seemed, were as bright as she was. Ralph always thought it was nice they could raise their children at the same time she and Uncle Roscoe were raising theirs.
Ralph remembers Sundays as being choice days. They were busy days with so much church service but they were special, good days. The meals they had together were special and there was always a special spirit there. They did try to keep the Sabbath day holy, knowing that you can’t teach what you can’t live. They tried to do it right, convinced that example is the great teacher overall.
Ralph knows that Heavenly Father is not just raising children; He is also raising parents. Children make mistakes and parents make mistakes. He and Mildred discovered that when they got down to their last child they were very different parents than they were with their first children because it was a learning experience. They learned to do things better. They learned patience and they learned what works and what doesn’t work. The later children had it easier than the first because Ralph and Mildred were more affluent. In the beginning it was difficult because they had a lot of children and were going into business and buying their home. Ralph remembers some of the children saying, “Mom, don’t we have the meat with the bones in it.” We had hamburger and they wanted steak, Ralph recalls.
“The thing I’ve learned,” Ralph now says, “is that every child is very, very different. You would think that being raised in the same home they would be similar, but they are very different. They have brought with them their experiences from the spirit world. They have made choices there. I believe they were born into a Mormon home because they made right choices. I believe we are born at this time and in this family because of choices we made in the pre-earth life. We are all blessed to be born in America, to be born in the covenant, and to be born in the Church. What a blessing it is.”
Ralph is resolute that his greatest wealth is his children. It is the only possession he is going to take with him. It’s interesting, Ralph notes, that our Father in Heaven could have chosen to be anything but He chose to be called “Father,” which Ralph reveres as a very sacred term. “If I had the opportunity again,” Ralph confesses, “I would still have 14 children. . . . There is not one of [them] I would send back. Boyd K Packer said in his comments of the ‘Precious Promise’ that through our faithfulness we would have ‘no empty chairs’ in our family. That is a great comfort to know that each of my children will receive exaltation. After I first learned about the ‘Precious Promise,’ I called Brother Loren Dunn and asked if the promise meant that an unfaithful child would be raised to the second or third area of the celestial kingdom. He said, ‘No, Ralph; that means that he will achieve exaltation.’ As I understand the ‘Precious Promise,’ I think that each of us needs to serve faithfully in order for this blessing to pass to each of our families.”
When Ralph was a young man he was always curious about the relationship a prophet had with Jesus Christ. He has come to know that the Savior is in the presence of the prophets often. Ralph testifies often to his children that he knows that Jesus is the Christ—not that he believes He is the Christ but that he knows it. He knows He is his Savior. He knows He is the only begotten Son. He knows that, he says again and again. He knows God lives. He knows where he is going to end up and always reminds his children that they too can have that same knowledge.
Ralph is very proud of each one of his 14 children, whose names are:
1. S. Robert
Ralph has always considered his family to be the most important aspect of his life, next to his love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, yet because of his unusual understanding of their place in his own eternal plan, his service to Them often had to come behind his service to his family. But the two went hand in hand—Ralph’s service in the Church helped him to be a better father and husband, and because he was such a good father and husband, his service in the Church was unprecedented.
The following summary of Ralph’s many years of Church service is in his own words:
“I have loved being a father and serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Throughout my life I have had the privilege of serving in a variety of priesthood callings, each of which has brought untold blessings to our family from our Father in Heaven.
“These are the major priesthood callings in which I have served since I married Mildred:
_ Counselor in elders quorum presidency (10 months)
_ Elders quorum president (2 years)
_ Counselor in the East 27th Ward bishopric (6 years)
_ Bishop of 27th East Ward (3 years)
_ Counselor in Emigration Stake presidency (10 years)
_ President of Salt Lake Emigration Stake (7 years)
_ Mission president in North Carolina Charlotte Mission (3 years)
_ High councilor (6 months)
_ Regional Representative of the Twelve (15 months)
_ Director of Temple Square (2 years)
_ Sealer in the Salt Lake Temple (18 months)
_ President of the Washington D.C. Temple (3 years)
_ Sealer in the Salt Lake Temple again (still serving as of June 2005)
“Following are brief summaries of each of the above mentioned callings, including dates, details, and other descriptive information that I wish to share with my family.”
When Bishop Zeniff Harrison was being released as bishop of the East 27th Ward, T. Robert Higham was chosen to be the bishop with James W. Bean as first counselor and me as his second counselor. We were sustained in sacrament meeting, and the following week we had a stake conference and were to be set apart by the conference visitor, who was Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This was a very interesting experience. T. Robert Higham was first set apart by Elder Stapley, then James W. Bean as first counselor. Finally, Elder Stapley ordained me a high priest and then set me apart as second counselor. The other two blessings were beautiful but short. Mine was a very lengthy blessing, probably four or five minutes. I knew after the blessing that the Lord had a great love for me and had further work for me to do.
In the blessing I was told I would have the gift of healing and many other beautiful things. I’m sorry I was foolish and didn’t write the things down because memories are fragile. It was a privilege to serve with T. R. Higham. He was an excellent bishop, very effective. I learned much from him. I’m sure I later succeeded as a bishop because of the training and things he had taught me. I served as Bishop Higham’s counselor for six years, and when he was released I was called to be the bishop.
One Sunday morning as we were holding a meeting at the church, Bishop Higham, who had then served as bishop for six years, informed us he would be released and a new bishop would be chosen. That next week I was in Chicago at a furniture market, and on Thursday I had a manifestation that I would be the next bishop. (Names for bishops are cleared by the First Presidency at their Thursday meetings.)
I remember Wilburn West and his counselor came to our home at 1225 Second Avenue in the middle of the week. We gathered the family around and he called me to be the bishop. As I was to be sustained the following Sunday he asked me to pray and counsel with the Lord that I might know who my counselors were to be.
I always used young counselors. I used Don Blakemore who wasn’t in the ward very long but was effective while he was there. Also I used Richard Cracroft, who was very effective. He was called on the high council eventually but made a great contribution while he was there. I had John Jarman, who eventually became bishop when he moved into the 27th ward, and I also used Darrell Vorwaller and Craig Jackson.
These were young people who were good with the youth, extremely effective, and had good wives. We had great youth programs and did much with the youth. We had trips for the fathers and sons in the Wind River, Wyoming, area. We were there for much of the week and they were very successful. Fishing was marvelous up in the Wind River country. The food was good. We had a guide up in Wyoming who would take us in. We had some horses, not a lot but some. It was just a fun, fun trip. We took our younger sons. I remember Richard was just eight or nine on one of those and it was very successful. I think it drew the fathers to the sons and there was a real bond in the ward.
As a bishop I learned very quickly. One day a young lady came to me and said, “I’ve been immoral. I’ve been dating in the fraternity groups at the university and they’ve just kind of passed me around. I’ve been immoral with many of them.” I counseled with her and gave her a talk to read entitled “Be Ye Clean” by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who at that time was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Two days later I received a phone call from Elder Kimball saying he had a member of my ward in his office, and could I please come right over so he could instruct the two of us together? When I arrived at his office this young lady that had come to me for counsel was there. Elder Kimball drew a picture of Niagara Falls and explained to her that if she got too close to the mainstream she would fall in and go over the falls. If she stayed far away from the falls she would not fall in.
He told her that if she were immoral one more time he would instruct Bishop Bradley to hold a bishop’s court and excommunicate her. She was to report to me every week on her conduct. I was then to call Elder Kimball and let him know the situation. I called him once a month until after six months he informed me that I didn’t need to call him but to still have the young lady report to me for several more months. This young lady was able to repent and change her ways.
I remember one of the first experiences, as a bishop was to remodel the building. I just like to make homes and chapels better. We acquired the property to the west of the chapel. It contained an old tennis court, which was seldom used. Also we acquired property west of the chapel, I think just one home. Then to the south of the chapel we also acquired some property so we could actually improve the parking area around the chapel.
James McCrea, who was a Church architect, worked with us in achieving the things we wanted to change. We wanted to add an addition to the west of the building so we could have a Relief Society room and kitchen and then below this area we added three additional classrooms. We remodeled the restrooms and other things that needed to be changed. Gayle Baddley was an interior decorator and had done some work in our home; I asked him to come to give his input. We actually asked him to pick the colors and give us some ideas. He did a super job. The cultural hall turned out so beautiful. Remember the chapel. We changed the foyer, there had been a cry room upstairs, which we moved, the pulpit area was all changed; I guess we had one of the first adjustable pulpits in the whole church. Jim McCrea had seen some that a man had brought down to the architectural department: pulpits that actually would go up and down! He told me about them and I said, “Let’s do that.” We refaced the entire front of the podium and had the pews taken out and refinished and restrained, made an area for the organ—it was very attractive. We remodeled many of the rooms downstairs to make them attractive.
I was called in the stake presidency before we had a chance to add the addition on, but the next bishop, Bishop Schultz, who followed me, completed the project and it turned out very beautiful.
I never wanted to miss a sacrament meeting. I think the three years I was a bishop I never missed a sacrament meeting.
It was always my practice to go over beforehand and pick up the ward bulletins that the other ward had left, and I had a carpet sweeper so I could make it clean for when the Saints would come. I would always stand with my counselors in the foyer and greet people. I would never schedule meetings or interviews before Sacrament Meeting as I always felt like it was important to be out there as people need to be loved, appreciated and greeted. I think this had an influence on my success. Another thing I did was I used to visit the members on their birthdays. I guess we were one of the first wards to have records like birth dates on computer. Actually Ron Simmons, the ward clerk, worked at IBM and he put everything in the computer—the home teaching list, all the Young Men and all the Young Women, and so on. This made everything perfect and efficient. If a person had a birthday, on my way home I would always try and stop by for about 3–4 minutes. I wouldn’t go in but just stayed outside the house and said I was on my way home from work and wanted to stop and wish them a happy birthday. Also, if any member was in the hospital I always dropped by on my way home. I think these extra visits were appreciated and I think this drew me close to people in the ward. I would do this every night on the way home and if for some reason I was not going to be able to go home I would phone and tell them I knew it was their birthday and wish them happy birthday and tell them we appreciated them and loved them. I think it was a very effective program.
We had similar activities for the Young Women up at Green Lake and elsewhere. Mildred and I would always go on these wonderful trips. We had great youth leaders and the ward led the stake in most activities. I remember our home teaching was always in the middle or low 90 percentile. It was never less than that.
One of our goals was to increase sacrament meeting attendance. People responded to these kind of challenges. I remember President Harold B. Lee said ‘The reason we have such mediocrity in the kingdom is that we don’t expect performance from those we preside over.” As a bishopric, we did expect performance. We did involve the people, and we kept them informed with progress reports. The result? We had great success.
I was a bishop for only three years, but they were three wonderful years. To this day I still remember some of the spiritual experiences I had.
One day a widow came who didn’t know what to do with her life and asked for a blessing. I remember that as I blessed her, every word, every phrase came from the Lord; it was like I was electrified. It was a marvelous experience I still remember to this day. I know that there is power in the priesthood. I know that if we are obedient we will have great power. I learned the formula. Obedience equals faith; faith equals power. When you are obedient the Lord gives you faith. When you have faith, you have power. The more obedient you are, the more power you have.
I think I also related to some of the older people in the ward. I think they felt my love and I had quite a few of them come who had transgressed morally or some other way in the early part of their life and they never had the courage to go and handle these problems. I think they felt comfortable with me; they would clean their life up and I would see a change. I know the Brethren say you can’t grow spiritually if you don’t have the Spirit. President Lee would say the greatest burden is the burden of sin. It denies us spiritual growth. I saw people lift the burden and grow spiritually. I saw what happened to their face and eyes as they had the Holy Ghost and they became radiant. When we confess, the Lord says He forgives and He also forgets.
We had remodeled our back yard at 1225. It was ideal for parties, for the youth as well as the adults. It handled the crowds very, very well. So between our patio and Water Haven, where we could take the young people for swimming activities, we could provide a lot of entertainment for the youth as well as for the ward. We served lots of ice cream from the soda fountain.
In the priests quorum I had so many boys that I had two advisors because I wanted the young men to have a strong relationship with their advisor. I divided the quorum, which made for better relationships. Most of the young men went on missions, we lost a few but most of them went. The young women—I think most of them married in the temple
We did have a strong ward.. We inherited a strong ward from leaders like the Highams and the Harrisons. It was an excellent ward.. I learned that the Lord loves His bishops and I learned that answers will come to problems; they would come frequently and powerfully. He wanted to bless the people. All I had to do was try to live so I could have the Holy Ghost and the Spirit counsel that way. If I had the Holy Ghost I could counsel people with the guidance of the Spirit.
I learned that people respond to love. I could love the members of the ward and the youth. They felt my love and they were responsive.
I used to attend the temple on Fridays; I normally went every Friday at 6:30 a.m. One week when I walked into the temple and went downstairs into the men’s locker room, the Spirit came to me so strong and so powerful. It was continuous and remained with me, almost overpowering me. I sensed that my life would change on Saturday afternoon, or sometime soon. After going through the endowment session, I went into the celestial room and talked to the Lord, and I came to know that I would be the new stake president. As I sat there and pondered, I talked to the Lord as to who my counselors should be, then made my choice, and left the temple. Ellis Ivory saw me in the temple and said, “I understand they are calling a new stake president tomorrow. Do you know who it is going to be?” My response was, “I’m sure it will be a good man.” I got my shoes shined, got my haircut, got my suit all squared away, and then went to work on Saturday.
I wasn’t in the “stake family” (the stake presidency, executive secretary, the high councilors, and the bishops) so I knew Elder Bruce R. McConkie and Elder Stephen R. Covey, who were the two men there to reorganize our stake, would not even interview me. But at about 4:00 that afternoon I got a call from the stake office saying that Elder McConkie would like to talk to me and “could I make [myself] available and be up [there] before too long?” I got in the car and went directly to the stake office. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said to me, “Tell me; have you had any unusual experiences lately?"
I said, “Well, I went to the temple yesterday. When I went in, the Spirit came over me. It was strong, it was powerful, it just wasn’t an instant thing, and it stayed with me throughout the whole endowment session. I went into the celestial room and talked to the Lord and sensed my life was going to change.” I also mentioned that “two weeks ago I had a tremendous experience when I was asked to speak to the singles ward. I prepared a talk, and while sitting on the stand I was prompted not to give that talk but to change my message. When I stood to speak every sentence came. That was a spiritual experience for me to have every word of a talk come from the Spirit.
Elder McConkie said to me then, “Would you excuse Elder Covey and me? We’ll be back in a few minutes.” They then left the room; when they came back they said, “The Savior would like to extend a call to you to be the stake president of the Salt Lake Emigration Stake.” They didn’t say, “We would like to extend to you . . . ”; they said, “The Savior would like you to be stake president.” Then they asked, “Do you have any thought of who your counselors might be?” I said, “ I’ve already selected them,” and I told them who they were.
Our stake presidency later set these goals for members of the Emigration Stake:
1. Kneeling prayer twice daily
2. Selfless service to others daily
3. Read scriptures for twenty minutes daily
4. Attend temple monthly
5. Go to bishop and confess any major transgression you haven’t previously confessed
6. Keep the Sabbath Day holy
7. Be totally honest in your financial affairs
8. Friendship someone to hear the gospel annually
9. Annually fellowship an inactive person or family
After I received a call from President Marion G. Romney to be a mission president, I called the Missionary Department and asked who the most successful mission presidents were of all the missions in the world. They gave me the name of six. I contacted the mission presidents and asked who their assistants to the presidents had been and where they now lived. Most of them were from the Salt Lake area so I eventually met with them and asked them some questions. I found out what programs they had used and what had made them successful.
One program I learned about was from President Bill Cowser. His mission had a fireside in the middle of the week, every week, to which the missionaries would bring their investigators, and it was a very successful program. We also initiated a weekly fireside, in Charlotte, where the missionaries could bring their investigators. The missionaries who were around the Charlotte area, within 30 miles, would bring their investigators on Wednesday evenings to a fireside at our home. This proved to be very successful for us. At the fireside we would show a good Church video, have a recent convert bear his or her testimony, have the missionaries give a presentation, and then have ice cream.
We also learned of a covenant program, which we initiated. The elders and sisters would actually “covenant” for the number of baptisms they wanted each month. Each missionary would set his or her own covenant. Basically, what you agreed to do was to keep the mission rules, and do certain things. You told the Lord what you were going to do, that if you kept your covenant you would like to have His help in keeping your covenant of three or four baptisms, or whatever number they had covenanted to achieve. This proved to be very successful. We found that the missionaries who “covenanted,” and kept their covenant, would have great success. The covenant taught them to have goals and work with great diligence. We found nothing happened unless people worked.
This experience is not my experience, but it shows two or three things. Two young women were out tracting and they were getting near the end of the street with two or three more houses. They knew it was about five o’clock and soon they would be going home for dinner. One sister suggested they get these two or three houses another time. Her companion said, “No, we may never get back here again; let’s do these last houses now.” They knocked on the three doors. At the last door the lady let them in. The lady began to sob uncontrollably. When she got her composure she said, “Let me tell you what happened. I knew the church I was attending was not the true church. So I began to pray and plead that I might find His church. One night an answer came from a very fervent prayer, through a dream. In the dream I saw two young women bringing me the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, you are the two young women I saw in the dream."
Obviously, they taught her. She joined the Church and became a very effective member. The interesting thing is that her dream occurred two years prior to their entering the mission field. The mission president got them together, to the right city, and the right area in the city so this could all happen. She saw these two sisters before they were even called on a mission.
Once in a group of missionaries who were staying in the mission home just prior to their being released to go home there was one who had made friends with a novice who was studying to become a Catholic priest. They had a great rapport and the Catholic novice came to see him after dinner, just before he was scheduled to leave on the plane to go home. I asked him if he wouldn’t join us in a prayer, and if he would offer the prayer and ask his Father in Heaven if the Book of Mormon wasn’t a second witness for Christ, if the things he had been taught weren’t true, and if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weren’t His church, the Savior’s church. He agreed to pray, so all the missionaries knelt down. I knelt down, and we instructed him how to pray to ask that he might receive an answer. He did not pray according to our instructions, so we waited, but we had no confirmation. We asked him to pray the second time. The second time he did ask his Father in Heaven, he did request those blessings, he did ask for a confirmation and to know if the Book of Mormon was true, if this was the Savior’s church. This time a marvelous thing happened. The young man, as well as the rest of us in the room, had a spiritual experience. He knew—and we knew that he knew—that this was the Savior’s church. He was very warm, very friendly, and very teachable.
I guess he went home and shared this experience with his superiors and before we could even teach him again he was sent to Canada. It shows the power of a missionary touching and changing a life if he or she teaches with the Spirit.
When missionaries came to the mission home we always had them stay with us so they could get acquainted, and then we fed them dinner. The next day, after we had had a meeting, we would have their companions come and take them to the field. In one group we had an Elder Thompson, and he told an interesting story before he left that morning. He had been in Mexico the last two summers studying Spanish because he knew he would someday go on a Spanish-speaking mission. When his mother called him the day his mission call arrived she asked if he would like her to read it to him. He said, “Yes.”
She responded with, “You are going to the North Carolina Charlotte Mission.”
He then asked, “Where in South America is that?”
The interesting thing is that he was assigned to an area where there were migrant workers from Mexico who needed to be taught in the Spanish language. I didn’t know the migrant workers were there. I didn’t know that he even spoke Spanish before he bore his testimony at our meeting. It is interesting how the Lord works. Here was a young man who could speak fluent Spanish, when no one else in our mission could, so he was assigned to the area where there were migrant workers who spoke only Spanish. He was able to teach and baptize some of those people. He was a very effective missionary and later became one of my assistants. The Lord is in charge of His work.
President Lee taught that the greatest burden is the burden of sin. It stops our spiritual growth. You cannot grow if you are not clean.
Section 66, verse 3, of the Doctrine and Covenants says, “You are clean, but not all; repent, therefore, of those things which are not pleasing in my sight, saith the Lord, for the Lord will show them unto you.” That is a key. I used to tell the missionaries that they needed to stay on their knees in the morning until they had the Holy Ghost. If you don’t have the spiritual experience you won’t have divine direction.
After I returned from the mission field I served as executive secretary to the North America Southeast Area President. I met with Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone once a week, together with his two counselors, Elder Ronald E. Poehlman and Elder Robert E. Wells. This was a great learning experience for me. After serving with them for six months I was called to be a Regional Representative. I had two regions—Payson and Spanish Fork. Payson included Nephi and little towns near there. Frequently I attended meetings, stake conferences, institutes of religion, and Boy Scout meetings, and I also met with stake presidencies often.
One experience I had at a stake conference with Elder Featherstone was when we were asked to reorganize a stake presidency in the Salem Stake. I met Elder Featherstone down there, and before we started, this is what he taught me: “Before we start, let me just share a few things with you. Today we are here to find the man the Lord has chosen to be the stake president. What we are going to do is interview the stake presidency, high council, and all the bishops, and normally the new stake president will be in that circle. As we interview, you’ll have a tremendous burning in your bosom. The Lord will tell you, ‘This is the man.” We will actually interview all of them, and when we are through we will kneel together and ask for confirmation. Then we will call the man in and extend the call to him.” He said, “Let me share an experience with you. I was doing this with Elder LeGrand Richards. I was driving and we were going down to reorganize a stake. He took from his briefcase a list of the stake family. As he was going down the list he said, “Oh, there is the next stake president.” He looked a little further down and said “There is the first counselor.” As he went down the list he commented, “There is the second counselor.” I asked him how he knew that, and he responded, “The Lord just told me.”
Elder Featherstone commented, “Our job is to find the man the Lord has chosen. An
interesting thing with LeGrand Richards was that it was the same person he had been shown on the way to the stake conference. We finished the interviews, called him in, and extended the call to him. Elder Richards told him to go across the hall to the Relief Society room, get down on his knees, and ask his Father m Heaven who his counselors were to be. He said, “When you have decided, come back and we will call them for you.” The new stake president went across the hall. He was there for about 20 minutes. He came back with the names of his first and second counselors, exactly the same way as Elder Richards had seen on the way down."
The Lord is totally involved. The assignment of the General Authority or regional representative is to find the man the Lord has selected. I had this experience three times—with Elder Featherstone in Salem, in Spanish Fork with Elder Ashton, and in Nephi with Elder Paul H. Dunn. Each time I knew whom the Lord had chosen.
Elder Ashton asked me, “Ralph Bradley, who is the stake president?" I said, ‘’It is Bishop Hansen?” To which he responded, “That is exactly right.”
I had the same experience when I was doing the work with Elder Dunn. The Lord does
manifest to you, you know who His choice is, and you can’t make a mistake. It is interesting to see how the Lord works in these foreordinations when a man is called to be a bishop or stake president or any other office in the Church. The stake president or bishop is foreordained and set apart. Your assignment is to get close enough so the Lord can reveal His mind and will to you.
TEMPLE SQUARE DIRECTOR
Regarding being director of Temple Square, it is a very sacred place and was one of the choicest assignments that Mildred and I have ever had. I served on Temple Square for 20 years as a visitors’ guide. It was a choice, choice experience. I used to go over there once a week and lead a tour. My business was close enough that if the visitors’ center ever got in trouble, such as when some guide didn’t show up or was sick, they could call me and I would come and substitute. Frequently, I would take more than one tour a week. When I was there as a guide, Richard L. Evans was the director. He was a choice person from whom I learned much. While he was director his first counselor was Marian D. Hanks and his second counselor was Robert McKay. They were effective too and I learned much from them also. Later Ted Jacobson became the director and he too was effective.
When I became director of Temple Square the Church was still using guides. Visitors had a choice of about five tours and when they came they were asked which tour they would like. Formerly, they had one basic tour, which had been very effective, so we changed back to one tour. We would have the groups meet at the flagpole and an assigned person would take them on the tour. I sensed there was a better way to do it than what we were doing. They were generating about 4,000 referrals a year. The guides were older, set in their ways, and not very teachable. I made a proposal to Brother Crump and Elder Backman to release all of the guides and to call young sister missionaries to work on Temple Square. They agreed to this and we pulled all the sister missionaries who were assigned to Salt Lake and put them on Temple Square. We had about 65–70 sister missionaries there and we called a couple of trainees to work with the sisters. I asked Elder Backman to come over and officially release all of the guides. It was a sad occasion for them but a great thing for Temple Square. We held the meeting in the Assembly Hall and the guides were all released. I felt I had been divinely prompted and that it was right. The result was that our referrals increased from 4,000 to 44,000 per year almost immediately. We knew that to be effective we had to meet the needs of many foreign languages so we requested that all sisters assigned to Temple Square be bilingual. Some sisters came with as many as three, four, and even five different languages. This worked out very well. The sisters became very effective as we tutored them to be sure they taught with the Holy Ghost. Also, we assigned two sisters, instead of just one, to go with each tour group.
One of the last stops on Temple Square was the Christus statue. There in the rotunda of the North Visitors’ Center building, the guide would push a button and give a selection of quotes from Jesus Christ. This had only been available in one language. We changed it so the presentation would be delivered in different combinations of languages, depending on which button the guide selected. People from different nationalities were able to have a spiritual experience as they heard the presentation in their own language. After the Christus presentation we would take them in the last room for the closing segment of the tour. I feel it was a great spiritual experience. The Lord prompted, directed, and guided us to make this change. When Wilford Woodruff dedicated the Salt Lake Temple, he dedicated the whole 10-acre block so that when people came there they would feel the Spirit. This really did happen. Many times on Temple Square people would go in the gate and go out and come back in again. They would say to the sister missionaries, “What is it that we feel in here that we don’t feel out there?” You really can feel the Spirit.
One day a man came in and said, “I’ve been in Boise, Idaho. While staying in the hotel I decided to have pizza one evening and as I opened top drawer of the night stand to look for a telephone directory, so I could order a pizza, there was a copy of the Book of Mormon. While I was waiting for the pizza I started thumbing through the book and decided to read it. I spent much of that night reading the Book of Mormon. The next morning I changed my itinerary and came down to Salt Lake to find out more about the Book of Mormon and the Mormons.”
The Lord would lead people to Temple Square. A man came there from Texas and said, “When I retired just a little while ago, they said they would be happy to buy my wife and me a trip to anywhere we would like to go. “We’ll send you to Europe, New Zealand, Hawaii, or anywhere you would like to go.” I told them, “I really just have a desire to go one place and that’s to Salt Lake City.” So here we are!
He came here to Temple Square, took the tour, and became so excited about what he was learning that he joined the Church. On Temple Square in the lower rooms of the North Visitors’ Center there are about six teaching stations. These are very nice settings for the sister missionaries to take people to, to teach them the gospel. We worked it out so the sisters could teach them the first discussion and then refer them to the elders. The elders would then complete the rest of the discussions. On the second discussion the sisters would be there and transfer them over so the elders could take it from there and finish teaching them. Many baptisms were generated through these choice sister missionaries.
The most successful time in gaining referrals was Thursday evening, when the Tabernacle Choir was rehearsing. After that experience, people would be in such a beautiful mood and so receptive and, having had such a spiritual experience, that we would gain many referrals. Sunday after the Tabernacle Choir broadcast was another time that was very successful in obtaining referrals. Those were the two peak times. Music just conditions people and they become teachable. After hearing the choir people would go out on the tour, and it was marvelous what would happen.
Elder L. Tom Perry told me later that the Brethren were so pleased with the success we were having on Temple Square that they were taking this same pattern to all the Visitors’ Centers in the Church.
Before receiving my temple call, I was in the temple one day doing an endowment session, after which I was sitting in the celestial room pondering, mediating, and praying. I had a marvelous experience. The Spirit overpowered me, and it became thrilling and exciting for me. When I came home I told Mildred and Lisa about the experience I had had, and they said, “Dad, that sounds exactly like a heart attack. You just better go and get checked out.”
They persuaded me to go to our doctor, Quinton Harris. He did the entire test and said he thought we should get a specialist and get me on the treadmill and see what was happening. I met the two doctors there and they injected dye into my blood stream and put me on the treadmill. They kept elevating and increasing the speed, then they took me off the treadmill and X-rayed my heart. I was in good shape and passed okay. Later they called me and said there was nothing wrong. I said I knew that it was a spiritual experience and not a heart attack. It was strong; it was powerful.
When President Monson set me apart as temple president he said, “Ralph Bradley, I wish you would teach every couple that you marry two things for me. The first, is a need to come to the temple frequently. The reason they come frequently is it is the best marriage insurance they will ever have. The other reason is that by their attendance they will be blessed, they will have divine guidance, they will have inspiration, and they will have revelation.” I think he knew if they would come frequently, they would stay out of trouble.
Temple presidents are trained in the Salt Lake Temple for a week. They are taught in the chapel there. It is a marvelous experience to be trained and taught about temples by the prophet
and his counselors. Many of the Quorum of the Twelve taught us. The Temple Department of the Church does the last part of the training. They take over and teach the mechanics of the temple and the things temple presidents need to know. This is a choice, wonderful week.
We were told when we had spiritual experiences to record these experiences and send them in with our annual report, so that they would be included with items for the temple archives. The first experience I had when being there two or three days was when one of the workers came and said, “President, you must come to the baptistry. We have a young girl there who has just had a wonderful experience. She needs to share it with you so we can get it recorded.” I went downstairs and she reported this: “As I came out of the water, there the person stood for whom I was baptized. She said to me, ‘I just love you. I just love you. I have been waiting so many years for this to happen. Thank you for doing it for me. I just love you.’”
On that occasion we asked the ward Young Women president who had brought her to sit down with her and help her record that experience. We then gave her a copy of what she wrote for her journal, and a copy went into the temple’s file to be sent in with our annual report.
The second experience I had occurred the second or third week and it too was a choice experience. A temple sealer came into my office and asked if he could close the door; he then shared with me this beautiful experience: Said he, “My wife is in the chapel; I was in there with her; the doors were closed. She was going to play for the prayer meeting so she was in there practicing the organ.” She was going to play the prelude as well as the hymn for the opening song, following which a member of the temple presidency would give a short talk to promote reverence and effective temple work, and then the workers would divide into two groups—brethren and sisters. “As my wife was playing the organ,” he said, “she was playing the hymn ‘As I Have Loved You, Love One Another’ and the Savior came and sang the hymn she was playing. It was a marvelous experience.” He said, “The Savior had a beautiful baritone voice.”
I performed the marriage of this good brother’s granddaughter in 1998. He was unable to perform the ceremony because he was physically incapacitated. I was asked to perform this ceremony because I had known them in Washington, D.C. As I met with the bride she said, “Wasn’t it a beautiful experience Grandpa and Grandma had in the Washington Temple chapel as the Savior came and sang the hymn Grandma was playing?” He was able to share that experience with his family, though many times people cannot share such sacred experiences because they are told not to.
One sealer shared this: “I was upstairs doing sealings. A group from Nova Scotia did 110 sealings. Every person from beyond the veil was there—all 110 people were there.” Marvelous things happen in the temples.
When I was called to be temple president, Elder Glen L. Rudd gave me a copy of a presentation made to the temple workers down in New Zealand. Elder ElRay L. Christiansen came down to talk to the temple ordinance workers, teaching them some basic things, things they needed to know. He said to them, “In my opinion, when we do ordinances in this temple, in almost every case the person will be here from the spirit world to actually witness the ordinance being done for them.”
My first counselor, Elder Alden Richards, was downstairs in the baptistry one day. He came to me very excited and said, “We have the Fayetteville Stake here with their young people. They are downstairs doing baptisms. On the spiral staircase there are men dressed in white from the spirit world actually observing and watching their baptisms. They watch and then move up. This is being repeated downstairs right now.”
Elder Melvin J. Ballard shares this experience, that occurred in the Logan Temple. Before he left the temple he went down to the baptistry and asked the baptistry director how many baptisms had been performed that day. He was told about 1,000. Then he sat down on the bench and prayed, “Heavenly Father, how many of these 1,000 people have been here?” A marvelous thing happened. The veil parted and he could actually see what had happened that day. He said at the east end of the baptistry he saw hundreds and hundreds of people. Every time one of those people was baptized the person would actually come up and witness the ordinance. All 1,000 people were there. There was not a single person who was not there.
When Richard was a sophomore in high school and playing football, he had a stroke. He was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, where it was determined that he was paralyzed, to the extent that he could not feed himself. The children organized themselves to go down and feed him breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. They spent a lot of time with him. I was able to give him a priesthood blessing and I’m grateful for the power of the priesthood. Richard recovered very quickly and was able to function properly without any impairment after his stroke.
While we had the store on Main Street, Salt Lake City decided to improve the street. They said the project would take six months, but it took a year. They put up barriers on First South so you couldn’t turn up Richards Street, which made it very difficult to get a customer into the store. We were losing probably $6,000 a month because we had too few customers. They then condemned the building, so we had to relocate because they were going to put the Crossroads Mall in our present location. I called one of my friends, Arthur Haycock, who was the secretary to the prophet. I knew Arthur; we had been boys together back on Hampton Avenue, living just a block from each other. I told Arthur I had a special problem I needed help with and wondered if one of the Brethren could give me a blessing. He called me back within a half-hour and said that if I would come over right now, Bishop Robert L. Simpson would give me a blessing. I went over and met with Bishop Simpson. He asked me what kind of problem I had that I needed a blessing. I told him I wasn’t able to get a bank loan because I was losing money every month and I wasn’t a good risk, and the SBA wasn’t encouraging at all. He gave me a priesthood blessing. He said in the blessing, “The Lord will send angels to handle this problem for you. The Lord will send angels.”
After the blessing Bishop Simpson said, “I know you are going to have a very unusual experience. Please call me and tell me how the Lord handles this problem for you.”
The next day was a Saturday and I was at the temple. I was a stake president and we had an assignment to have so many brethren at an early session. I was sitting in the celestial room, and into the room came Bishop Elmer Carr, who was a bishop in the 27th Ward.
He said to me, “Ralph, do you think it would be okay if we sat here and visited about your SBA application?"
I told him, “I don’t think the Lord will mind.” He told me that he was going to go back to the office instead of going home on his day off and he was going to process the loan papers for me. I asked him if I needed a co-signer.
“You do not need a co-signer,” he said.
He processed the papers that day. It was approved just a few weeks later and funded a few weeks after that. Regarding the speed he said, “That just doesn’t happen.” The Lord did send
angels. I had the blessing on Friday, and on Saturday the angels handled it!
I called Bishop Simpson the next week and told him what had happened. He said, “I knew the Lord would handle the situation for you.” The Lord did send angels and everything did work out. We did build and move out on Green Street, which was a marvelous move for us.
One day Craig and I were on the way to work and I had called Patriarch Timmins, who had been the previous bishop and was now the stake patriarch, and I asked him to give me a blessing. He told me to drop in and he would be happy to give me one. Craig and I went down and went in his back room, where he always gave his blessings as a patriarch. We had a beautiful experience. He said to me about six or seven things. At the conclusion of the blessing he said, “Now that blessing is from the Lord.”
Craig and I went out in the car and wrote down five or six items that he said would happen. That was a great spiritual experience. Basically everything he said has come to pass.
He said that the decision I made to change the business from a full-line furniture to a specialty bedding shop was the right decision. He said I was growing more in favor with the Lord each day, that the Lord loved me and would bless me financially. He said I would look back and be amazed at the growth. That is true. One thing I have learned is that when you serve the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, He does bless you. You children all know He did bless us. It was a marvelous thing that happened there. I still carry to this day in my wallet those five or six promises from the Lord given to me by Patriarch Mont Timmins.
Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone spent a lot of time in the South as the first Area President, and the Church was trying a new experiment. The Area Presidents would actually make the decisions affecting basically everything in that area—stake presidents, bishops, everything would be carried through the Area President. Instead of Salt Lake worrying about these things, the Area President would. Elder Featherstone spent quite a bit of time in our home. When he would come to Charlotte he would stay with us to save Church expenses, and this was a choice experience for us.
One evening I asked him to give me a blessing before he left the following morning. He said he would be happy to. The next morning he gave me a very interesting blessing. He told me in the blessing that I would be a temple president, that I was foreordained, and that would be my good fortune. This was while I was still a mission president back in North Carolina. That didn’t transpire until I returned home, became a regional representative, then became the director at Temple Square. Finally the call came to be a temple president back in Washington, D.C. There is power in the priesthood and revelation speaks to those who are in authority and those who are in tune and are worthy for divine guidance.
I know you can have a spiritual experience in prayer. Listen to me! Let me give you an example. A little boy four years of age was learning how to pray and for the first time he did it perfectly. He addressed his Father in Heaven, thanked Him for His blessings, and expressed his needs, closing in the name of Jesus Christ. His mother was so pleased that she said this: “That was so beautiful—the first time I didn’t have to help you; that was just a perfect prayer. I’ll tell daddy when he comes home. I’ll bet he’ll be as pleased as I am. I’ll bet your Heavenly Father heard that prayer, it was so beautiful.”
The boy then said, “Mommy, how old is Heavenly Father?”
She said, “I don’t know, sweetheart. Ask Him.”
She was downstairs, and the little boy came downstairs to her about five minutes later and said, “Mother how old is infinite?”
That was an answer to his prayer. Let me ask you when was the last time you had a spiritual experience with prayer? Think back—this morning, last night, a week, a month ago? Let me tell you how to have that experience: Say (in your prayer tonight), “Father in Heaven, what is there in my life that You would have me change?” Then listen and make the change. Make the changes He tells you to, and I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ that, like that little boy, you will have spiritual experiences in prayer. It’s true!
Another thing I’ve learned is that as you partake of the sacrament, go there with clean hands and a pure heart, and listen to the words as you sing the sacramental hymn, then listen to every word as the prayer is said over the bread and water. Ask your Father in Heaven to please apply the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to your life—to every improper thought, every improper deed, every improper act and unrighteous desire. I think that’s the key.