Conversing with Elder Bradley D. Foster, one is apt to receive bits of wisdom, distilled from life’s experience into one-line capsules.
Elder Foster, 60, was sustained April 4 at general conference as a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
In an interview shortly after his call, he shared such gems as this:
“One of the things I wish I had known when I was young was that my parents weren’t going to live forever.”
He said he wishes now he had paid more attention to what they had to teach him, things about his grandparents and his family heritage.
Reared in Rigby, Idaho, the eldest of four children, Elder Foster had pursued pre-veterinary studies at Church-owned Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) prior to serving in the Texas South Mission. Shortly after his return, his father died from an illness.
“Because of the untimely death of my father, my plans changed, but it’s been OK,” he said.
“It has been a blessing in our lives,” added Sister Foster. “Things happen for a reason, and as hard as that was, it was part of the plan, and it was great for us to grow and learn.”
It fell to Bradley to curtail his college career to help his mother on the family farm, an enterprise that grew and flourished into what is today called Foster Agribusiness, a company that produces Idaho potatoes, beef cattle and fertilizer.
“We had a wonderful mother, and her influence is still felt in our family, but one of the things we all had to do at that point was realize Heavenly Father had a plan for us, that we had to trust in that plan, and that no matter what happened, it would be OK,” Elder Foster said.
From that experience comes another one-line gem, which Elder Foster once heard expressed in this way:
“It’s not what happens to us in this life, it’s how we handle what happens to us that makes all the difference.”
He characterizes his mother as “a hopeful lady, one who always looked forward.” Because of that, the family made it through the tough times and moved on.
“One of the statements she made that kept us hopeful was that ‘as long as trouble stays outside, we’ll make it,’ ” he said.
He had known Sharol Lyn Anderson when they attended Rigby High School. They dated as students at Ricks and were married after his mission.
“It was a girls’ world at our house,” Elder Foster said, referring to their four daughters. “Even our family cat was female.”
“And a returned missionary,” added Sister Foster, explaining that the cat went with the family when Elder Foster was called to preside over the California Arcadia Mission.
Elder Foster said that as a father, he has been to countless piano recitals and cheerleader tryouts, “but I’ve never been to a Pinewood Derby yet.”
As parents, the Fosters had few rules, but high expectations, he said.
“We tried to teach our daughters that self-esteem came from doing esteemable things every day, that if they would do that, their lives would be directed in good paths,” he explained, drawing an application from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment about teaching correct principles and then letting people govern themselves.
“We developed a trust with our girls,” Sister Foster said, “and they knew we expected good things from them. We had great support from extended family who lived close, and they just knew they had cartain things they needed to live up to.”
“Vision leadership, not rules: That was a philosophy that our whole family and extended family had; it was bred into our culture,” Elder Foster said.
It was carried into the mission field when Elder Foster was called to preside over the mission in 1992.
“I now had a whole bunch of sons as the mission president,” he said, “and we affectionately referred to our missionaries as our Foster children.”
President and Sister Foster taught the missionaries what they had taught the children, another life’s gem:
“Have a vision of where you’re going, what you want to be. Plan well, work hard, smile always, and you can make it happen.”
An agricultural background imbued the Fosters with an appreciation for the law of the harvest: Planting and nurturing bring an abundant yield.
With no brothers in the family, were the girls involved on the farm as well as in the house?
“Absolutely,” Sister Foster exclaimed.
“They had no choice,” Elder Foster said smiling. “Our girls grew up learning to be part of the farm operation, and they learned a good work ethic because of that.”
A Christmas morning tradition — because the hired help all had the day off — was for the daughters to go out with their father and help feed the cattle. Sister Foster laughs as she mentioned that the tradition was carried forward after the daughters were married. “The sons-in-law stayed inside helping me, because they all had hay fever, though they would rather have been outside.”
From his agrarian background Elder Foster has an appreciation for God’s creatures and how they “fulfill the measure of their creation” even with their limited instincts.
“How much more important it is for parents and families, who understand, to fulfill the measure of their creation.”
In teaching children, he has a tip: “Tell them lots of stories. The Savior called them parables; we call them stories. Tell them until they understand them.”
Elder Foster credits the family’s association with the Church for all the good things that have come to them.
Looking back over his family, Church and professional life, he offers yet another gem, which he heard someone express this way:
“All of us are going to experience both success and failure, but there’s a common denominator: Neither of those conditions are permanent.”
Through the ups and downs, he said, it is important to remember this: “If we are patient and faithful, if we will ‘go and do,’ our Heavenly Father will make sure His plan for us will be fulfilled. That’s what Sharol and I plan to do now with this new calling. We’ve committed to go and do whatever the Lord requires of us.”