Good Afternoon. My name is Joe Puente. I've been in the ward for several months now and I'm grateful for this opportunity to introduce myself to everyone. I've been laying kind of low since I got here. My last congregation was a branch with about 20 regular members so coming into a ward of this size has taken a little getting used to. I've never cared much for crowds but I do love an audience.
I'm an actor, by the way. I'm also a writer and filmmaker. I was born in Los Angeles and lived in central California for several years. My family joined the Church in 1983 after my brother Bob went and married a Mormon girl in Texas. Funny how the Gospel seems to spread virally sometimes. My family moved to central Utah when I was 15. When I was 19 I joined the U.S. Navy, in which I served for five years stationed in Illinois, Panama and the eastern U.S. When I was discharged, I came back to Utah and lived in Ogden for a few years. I subsequently escaped with my life, spent some time in Sanpete County again and a little over a year ago I made the decision to move to Salt Lake City to pursue more acting and filmmaking opportunities.
I've been making films since I was in high school including a number of short films including a series of documentary shorts for local television and, of course, the internet. Now that I'm in Salt Lake City, I'm writing and producing more narrative films and acting in other filmmakers' projects. Despite being a filmmaker, I don't go to the movies that often. I value the time I spend watching a well-produced film as I would time spent in an art gallery or a museum. My favorite films are intense dramas that leave you emotionally exhausted at the end and those are also the types of films that I want to make. I actually own a pretty eclectic library of films and I'd like to extend an open invitation to any of you to schedule a movie night. My policy is that you can watch whatever you want as long as you've never seen it before. I'm all about broadening horizons.
The Bishop asked me to speak a couple of months ago so I've had some time to contemplate today's topic of Fatherhood. I did have a Fathers Day talk in the archives but decided that it would probably be best not to recycle it. I didn't want to be accused of cheating.
I personally don't have any children--that I know of--so Fatherhood from the point of view of a dad is kind of an academic concept for me but then Laura Woods mentioned to me the idea of father FIGURES so I'm going to go ahead and run with that.
I've got a family that's pretty spread out, geographically and chronologically. My parents have a "hers, mine and ours" situation with their kids so I have a number of older half-siblings and then there's me and my sister Christine. What's kind of cool about this situation as it relates to Fatherhood is that in addition to my Dad, my older brothers have also been father figures in my life. In particular my brothers Bob, Mark and Mike.
Bob, who I mentioned earlier had introduced our family to the Church has always been someone that I can turn to when I needed to discuss spiritual matters. My brother Mark who has spent much of his adult life in the Army was always there to give me advice when I was in the military and offer me perspective when I was considering my career choices. My brother Mike, who I probably keep in touch with more than anyone else in the family, has always been someone that I have admired and looked up to because he is one of the most intelligent people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Mike and I are also the geeks in the family so we're often sharing links with each other about science and technology.
Ours seems to be a family of wanderers. At one point while my dad was living here in Utah he had children in southern California, Alaska, Georgia and Maine. As such, it seems that I have sought out father-figures where ever I have found myself. During my last few years in the Navy, I was in the unusual position of having a commanding officer who was also a member of the Church. I remember when he first came to our base I'd listen in on some of the scuttlebutt and hear things like, "Yeah, he's a Mormon. And he's a got a huge family. Four kids!" Thankfully I wasn't any sort of trouble maker while I was in the service so I rarely had to deal with my C.O. professionally which was nice because he was usually my ride to Church. Thankfully we also became pretty good friends and his family came to feel like my own extended family.
When I last lived in central Utah, I found myself pretty much on my own again but, thankfully, I also found another extended family. My friend Dave and his family have opened up their home to me on the holidays. There's been many a Christmas when I've been greeted with what I liked to call a bachelor's kit. Usually some food, a little light reading and, one Christmas, a copy of "The Four Ingredient Cookbook." Any guys here familiar with that one? This wonderful family also helped me through some rough patches in my life and I've been especially grateful to Dave for giving me a priesthood blessing when I sorely needed such guidance.
I'd like to conclude by speaking of the most important father-figure in my life, my dad. Dad and I have had an interesting journey over the years. He's quite a bit older than the parents of most of my generational cohorts. As such, there has been a wider generation gap between me and my dad. Add to that the fact that my father, who was born in southern California, spent the formative years of his youth in Spain. He grew up speaking Spanish and only learned English as a second language once he returned to the States after World War Two. Despite being an American by birth, culturally, he's very European. So, we had a very wide generation gap, a culture gap and a language barrier to overcome but over the years, Dad and I have been able to connect more. It's interesting how the conflicts between a parent and child can be let go of as we mature and I can also credit having the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives to help both me and my dad come to the understanding that even though in this life, we are father and son, in God's eyes we are also brothers and have even become friends. I'm very grateful for the guidance and assistance my dad has given me over the years. I think we reached a sort of turning point in our relationship a little over five years ago when my mom passed away. For the first time that I could remember, my dad asked me how I was feeling and that really meant a lot to me. I hope that on this Fathers Day we can all come to appreciate the roles in our lives that our fathers play and that it is a very precious relationship that needs to be nurtured throughout our lives.