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FILLING TOMATO BOXES AS A BOY TAUGHT HIM LIFETIME WORK ETHIC

Tomato farmers around the home in Syracuse, Utah, where Elder Sheldon F. Child lived as a youth paid harvesters based on how many boxes they filled.

Grateful for what little extra income he could earn, young Sheldon arrived in the tomato fields as soon as it got light in the morning and didn't stop until it got dark at night. He worked hard to fill as many boxes as he could."I could pick tomatoes pretty quickly back then," he said during a recent Church News interview.

That and similar experiences in his youth instilled in Elder Child a work ethic which has resulted in success in business, valiant service in the Church and community and, ultimately, a call to serve as a General Authority. He was sustained as a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy in general conference April 6.

He has earned many rewards through honest labor, but places the credit elsewhere. "The Lord has blessed us so much and we know that `where much is given, much is required,' " he said. "We know that the more we give, the more he blesses us, we are always in his debt."

Elder Child, 57, grew up on a small farm and had plenty of chores assigned to him from an early age. There were cattle to care for, and corn and alfalfa to raise. More chores were added when hard times forced his father to go to work at another job off the farm.

Of those chores, Elder Child said: "It was good. Now, at that time I didn't think it was good because I had many more responsibilities than most of my classmates. But it was a great blessing to me because it taught me the value of work. . . . I would work hard and the sooner I got it done, the sooner I could do other things."

As a teenager, he worked at a factory near his home canning tomatoes. It became a steady summer job throughout his years as a student at Davis High School because his supervisor recognized that he knew how to work hard.

In the meantime, his older brother Bill took over operation of a Syracuse appliance store when Bill's father-in-law and founder of the business, R.C. Willey, passed away.

His brother's need for help opened up a new employment opportunity for Elder Child who began delivering appliances part time. Then he became a salesman for the store during the summer and evenings while he attended the University of Utah. As the business grew, he took on more responsibility. At the time of his call to be a General Authority he was president of R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, a major furniture and appliance chain in Utah, and had been with the company for 37 years.

Elder Child said he loves the furniture business and the people he works with. He said: "We've had many opportunities to associate with people throughout the country who are not members of the Church. Hopefully, we have been a good influence on them."

Many of those people didn't understand Elder Child's devotion to his Church, especially when he walked away from his business in 1991 to serve as president of the New York New York Mission for three years.

Even though he worked hard as a boy, Elder Child did have time to develop other interests. His hobby was bird watching along the shores of the Great Salt Lake near his home. He said that at one time he could identify almost all the birds in the area.

Another diversion came into his life in junior high school when he met Joan Haacke. She was born in Salt Lake City and was a 9-year-old living in Logan when her father died. Her mother then moved the family to Layton.

The young couple became high school sweethearts and were married in the Salt Lake Temple after Elder Child had finished a year at Utah State University.

Of her husband, Sister Child said: "I just felt like I had always known him. You know, it was just a natural thing."

Soon after his marriage he began his life of service as a Church leader. His service was divided into roughly decade-long packages. During the '60s he served in elders quorum presidencies, during the '70s in bishoprics and during the '80s in stake presidencies.

His callings have been more variable in the '90s: mission president, area authority in the Utah North Area and General Authority.

While his service has required much of his time, his family has been understanding.

Of his wife and six children, Elder Child said: "They were always very supportive when I would be away on Church work. For example, instead of saying, `Oh, dad's got to go to a meeting,' it was, `Dad's doing the Lord's work and he'll be home as soon as he can be.' "

Sister Child said: "The children grew up knowing that that is what you do and it doesn't have to detract from the family. It's all in the attitude."

She added that as important as it is to give children time, the most important thing is that they know they are loved.

Elder Child said there was always time made for the children, as a group and individually. "I guess they knew that we loved them, that they were the most important things in our lives. And they understood that we were committed to serving the Lord and that those two things are not incompatible."

Their children learned that lesson well. All four of the sons served missions, including their youngest who will soon return home. Five children have married choice campaions in the temple.

According to Elder Child: "Our greatest joy is to see our fifteen precious grandchildren being loved and taught the gospel in their homes. We love to be together as a family. We make time for family vacations and a monthly Family Home Evening all together."

Sister Child said her husband's hard work and organizational skills freed up time to spend with the family.

She said: "As the children were growing up, they saw a lot of their dad. He was always close by. We lived two houses from the store, so if one of the children had an accident or we needed him, he could be home in a minute. It wasn't like he was some place far, far away. He was always close enough that he was accessible and available."

Although Elder and Sister Child didn't live on a farm, they taught their children the value of work in other ways. There were chores around the house, yard work to be done and odd jobs at the furniture store.

The boys were involved in Scouting. Sister Child said: "That's a wonderful way to keep children focused and involved in worthwhile activities. All of our sons and our sons-in-law are Eagle Scouts and our grandchildren are following in that tradition."

What does it take to get boys to earn their Eagle Scout award? Elder Child quickly answered, "A good mom!"

He, too, has been actively involved in Scouting, serving as a leader on the district and council level and receiving the Silver Beaver award.

Elder Child is a man of absolute faith and obedience. He loves reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, and applies not only the teachings, but the spirit of that great book in every aspect of his life.

"We want to do what the Lord wants us to do," he said. "We've always loved the Lord. I can honestly say that I have never had a calling in the Church that I haven't loved."

A challenge he knows he will face in his new calling is bringing back less active members and fellowshipping new converts. His wife believes he will be successful. "He's very good with people," she pointed out. "He has a great love and compassion for everyone."

When asked if there is a secret to helping members who need fellowshipping, he said: "There isn't, except if we do nothing, it will never happen. We have to become involved, let them know that we care and are concerned about them."

Helping people build their testimonies and embrace the gospel will bring them the lasting joy that everyone wants, according to Elder Child. "The real joy comes in keeping the commandments and being obedient," he said. "Those other kinds of happiness are fleeting, but it is hard to convince people of that. Once they become involved in the Church and see the blessings that come as a result, then they catch the vision."

For Elder Child, the blessings have come through applying the work ethic he learned as a youth to his service to the Lord.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Elder Sheldon F. Child

Family: Born May 8, 1938, in Ogden, Utah, to Mark Fay and Viola Criddle Child. Married Joan Haacke in the Salt Lake Temple June 5, 1957. Parents of six children: Jeffrey Child, 37; Curtis Child, 34; Alison Hymas, 32; Amy Woodward, 28; Matthew Child, 26; Andrew Child, 21; 15 grandchildren.

Education: Studied at Utah State University and the University of Utah.

Employment: President of R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, a company he started working for in 1957.

Church Service: Area authority in the Utah North Area; mission president in the New York New York Mission (1991-1994), stake president and counselor and bishop.