Brent Yergensen is an associate Communications professor. He has six children and is seen as a father figure to students on campus.
What are some general characteristics of a good father?
“A characteristic that makes someone a good father is patience. A father is very patient with teenagers who are frustrated with their lives, with small children who jump on you. You also have to be okay with your space not being your own. I wake up every morning with, if not one, two or three kids in my bed. You have to be okay with being exhausted. You have to be okay with not necessarily having your own hobbies. This extends to motherhood as well. Being a parent is the most unselfish thing someone can do. I really believe that.”
What in your life prepared you to become a father?
“My parents were parents of eight. I’m seven of eight. I grew up in a big family. I was used to this same thing of lots of kids being around. I’ve always been used to this large family setting. My older siblings were married and having kids, so I was used to having little kids around the house. That prepared me more than anything, growing up in a big family.
“I got my patriarchal blessing when I was 16 years old. We don’t quote our patriarchal blessing, but it hinted to me the significance of having a family. So, from the time I was 16 years old, the day I became a priest in the Aaronic priesthood, I wanted to have kids. From that time, to the time I went on my mission, and after when I was looking for any girl who would be willing to date me, I knew I wanted to have kids.”
How can men find a balance between work, church callings, and having a family?
“It’s hard to say anything other than the Lord makes up the difference...This is a hard piece of advice, but don’t be married to your hobbies. This is my opinion: Your hobbies were for when you were younger, before you got married and before you had kids. In these formidable years with your children, your hobbies don’t matter … I’m not saying don’t do hobbies. The marriage to them, the excessive competitiveness, or the gym rat are big mistakes.
“Your family is the highest priority in your life. If you put your family first, worthiness follows. From there you will be worthy to serve. If you're worthy, everything that happens within your family, church life and professionally will work out.
“Your time should be in your house with your wife and children. If you’re going to leave, take your wife and children with you. If you have a hobby, take your wife and children with you ... Seek to spend every minute with your wife and children.”
How can men be a father figure to those around them?
“The key quality to good fatherhood is patience. People lose trust in someone who is verbally aggressive or a yeller. We’ve all been around someone who has the shortest temper you can imagine. We know they’re going to explode. Something I’ve learned as well to be an example is a very strong performance and sense of patience, even in frustration. My father is maybe the most patient person I know. I think any success I have as a father is from watching my dad. I don’t remember my father ever yelling.
“It really wraps around that. I think meekness and Christlike qualities are embedded within that. Another capacity is a sense of humor with people around us. Young people have a strong appreciation for humor. As a bishop and as a Young Men’s president, I realized the importance of being humorous.”
How does life change once you become a dad?
Life changes in a lot of ways. So often, the answer is a loss of sleep and a loss of time. You feel a closer connection to your wife that you didn’t before. You got married, and you love each other, and you spend time together and all of those things. When you have a baby together and the baby is born, you need to be in the hospital. Your wife has been through so much. The connection you begin to feel with your wife takes on a new reality as soon as you have a baby.
“This also connects to anyone who adopts. It is the same situation. When that baby, young child, or older child comes in and becomes a part of your home, the reality of how you feel with your spouse becomes much deeper. When you become a father, you are drawn into this sense of responsibility. This responsibility is sacred … I want to emphasize, of all things, when you become a father there is a closeness to your wife you should feel.
“You also realize things such as you learn to love someone more than you love yourself. You already love your spouse more than yourself, but you really learn what it means to love someone more than yourself. Let me give you an example. Five years ago, as a family, we decided to go on a cruise … My 4-year-old, Ammon, had a tendency to wander off. I was so worried in the four or five days we were on the boat he was going to get away and start climbing the railing and plunge [off the boat].
“I didn’t even want to go near the edge. I didn’t want my kids to go near the edge. I remember I made a decision. I’m so scared of heights I wouldn’t even go near it. The whole cruise I was terrified Ammon was going to fall. I remember laying in bed and thinking I need to resolve within myself, if he falls, I needed to be ready to jump. He would drown. We wouldn’t be able to get to him.
“There was something more internal in my mind and heart. I thought, ‘I wouldn’t even think about it. I won’t ponder the height. I won’t ponder the injury to me from 80 feet. I will just go.’ I felt inside of me, as I thought about this so deeply, I would jump. I had decided right then, if my 4-year-old boy with his adventurous spirit falls, I’m going to jump … My biggest fear, heights, I overcame because of the fear of loss and worry about my little boy.”
How does having priesthood power affect fatherhood?
The priesthood effects fatherhood as it encourages gentleness and charity toward children. This is manifest in how a father will counsel his family. Most important, it gives a father discernment in how to help his children. In a notable way, this is manifest in the specifics that can be declared in priesthood blessings for children.