Last of 13 graduates BYU: family shares life lessons

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David Wright
The Wright family poses for a family picture. Members of the Wright family open up about what it was like growing up in such a large family. (David Wright)

Bill Wright, the third of 13 kids, said not only did his parents have 13 kids, but his grandfather and his great-grandfather had 13 kids too.

“As far as I know that’s how it goes,” Bill said.

Dani Jardine
David Wright is the 13th child in a family of 13 and the 10th to graduate from a BYU school. David graduated April 2018 with a degree in marketing. (Dani Jardine)

David Wright, the 13th of those 13 kids — and the 10th to graduate from a BYU school — donned his BYU cap and gown April 2018 like many of his siblings did before him.

With 11 other siblings — one daughter, Megan, was born with a muscle disorder and died at an early age — David said he has his own built-in network.

“I don’t need LinkedIn,” David said. “I just have my family and it’s awesome.”

Growing up in a large family

Thomas Wright, ninth in the family, said it was “a party” with 11 other siblings.

“We spent tons of time just playing with each other,” Thomas said. “Instead of trying to seek a best friend, you had your brother right there.”

Melissa Hatch, fourth in the family, said her family was big into camping, hunting, fishing and basically anything outdoors.

The second oldest, John Wright, said he remembers camping at Trial Lake in the Uintas. He said it had rained while they were setting up camp and then rained all night. He said he went through an entire box of matches trying to light a fire to keep warm. The tent had collapsed during the night because of the rain, and John said they packed up in the morning and left.

Although he said this was the “worst camping trip ever,” John said,  “If you don’t get out and do things, you won’t have memories.”

Some of these family memories included running races together. The family would do Ragnar races together, which Mary Davis, eleventh in the family, said were always fun because their entire team was just their family.

The Wrights weren’t only a team during the races; they continue to be a team in supporting one another.

“We come over. We sit down. We chat, we talk to them and say how can we help,” Sam Wright, sixth in the family, said. “Having that support group is pretty amazing.”

Melissa said looking back she realizes her family didn’t have much while she and her siblings were growing up, but they had each other. Both Melissa and her sister Mary said they learned much about what a good man should be from their 10 brothers.

Mary said her brothers remind her of the captains, prophets and holy men she reads about in the scriptures.

“I feel like my brothers are special,” Mary said. “And they honor their priesthood and I can call them at any moment and I know that they will be worthy and ready. There is just a powerful force associated with that.”

BYU experience

Bill Wright
From left: Bill Wright, his brother John Wright, and John’s son Jonny Wright shoot the cannon at a BYU game against Texas. (Bill Wright)

With such a large family, some were bound to attend BYU. Surprisingly, eight of the 13 went to BYU and two others graduated from BYU-Idaho.

“That is an interesting thing that we all ended up crossing paths at BYU for various reasons,” John said. “It goes back to why BYU is a special school.”

Joseph said BYU offers similar things as top-tier schools but with the important environment of good morals and values. With its professor-student mentoring, academic rigor and focus on the principles of Jesus Christ, Joseph said BYU is the best undergraduate experience there is.

“There’s a bigger picture to your education than your learning,” Thomas said. “Just having the gospel perspective in your learning was valuable.”

Sam Wright
From left: Marian Wright, Bill Wright (masters in ), Dennis Wright (MBA), Sam Wright (bachelor in economics) and Layne Wright. In April 2006, three of the Wright brothers crossed paths at BYU. (Sam Wright)

A few of the Wrights crossed paths at BYU, and Sam said it was fun to go to lunch or dinner with his siblings who were attending or working at BYU.

Staying connected

Now, for those who are still in Utah — or close by — Bill said their family’s house in Draper serves as a type of “Mecca” — a gathering spot for family reunions, holidays or other activities.

When gathering together doesn’t work for those living out of state, Mary said the best way she and her siblings keep in touch is through a family group text.

“We have a family group text and it’s hilarious and fun,” Mary said.

Some of that “fun” comes from how opinionated everyone is. According to Joseph Wright, twelfth in the family, “You could put a pole in front of us, and we would argue about it for sure.”

As the youngest, David said he looks up to his siblings a lot in helping shape him into the man he wants to be.

“Who (my siblings) became, I wanted that. I saw what they were able to achieve and I was like, ‘I want to become like them,'” David said. “So, I look at their life and understand what they did and tried to mirror that the best I could.”

 

The Wright siblings said they owe much to their parents for how they were raised and the lessons they learned.

Lessons from their parents

David Wright
Marian and Layne Wright are currently serving an LDS mission in New Zealand and will return home in December 2019. (David Wright)

Layne and Marian Wright met through the Mormon Youth Symphony, according to John. Each child learned piano and an additional instrument — creating their very own family orchestra.

Layne started the Draper Symphony and also conducted the “Messiah” in Draper for the past 40 years, something John has filled in for while Layne and Marian have been serving missions for the LDS Church in New Zealand.

According to John, the Draper “Messiah” is the longest-running “Messiah” in Utah.

Sam said his parents’ love of music made their kids “destined to be band nerds.”

Mary said she remembers her dad coming into her room at 5 a.m. each morning, turning on the light and — without saying anything — expecting her to be on the piano bench practicing with him.

“His love for the Savior, that came through music,” Joseph said of his dad.

Bill said everything his parents did was for their family. His mom could have been a concert violist, but instead, Bill said she found joy in helping her family and seeing them succeed.

“There’s no one more selfless than my mom,” Joseph said. “She would give anything to help another person. The Good Samaritan is the definition of Marian Wright.”

Thomas said his parents taught him the importance of integrity, being true and following the counsel of the prophets.

“They raised us, but they also knew that it wasn’t all on them,” Thomas said. “(They taught us) to have us have our own testimony and actually try to seek help a lot from Heavenly Father through prayer. I think that was a very valuable lesson.”

Sam, who has been reading his dad’s journals to help compile his history, said his dad started a plumbing business during a recession in the 80s. And what might have added more stress to others — having such a large family — wasn’t a sacrifice for his parents.

His dad’s plumbing business would take him from Vernal, Utah to Rock Springs, Wyoming to find work, yet Sam said he was always willing to sacrifice to provide for his family.

“He set a strong example, I think, from the beginning of hard work,” John said. “Plumbing is not an easy business. It’s hard, physical labor.”

Bill said he remembers when his dad did a plumbing job and got $200 for it, and Bill asked him what he was going to spend the money on. Without hesitating, his dad responded, “You guys.”

“When I think of my dad,” Joseph said. “I think of sitting in our family room hearing him bear his testimony about repentance and the atonement of Jesus Christ.”

David said he never sat with his dad in church.

“He was always in leadership positions. And I think that just affected me, just his devotion,” David said. “Imagine a mom with 10-plus kids on the pew and benches and just try and organize that. But they had the unity, and they knew what was important.”

John said his father instilled in him the importance of having faith and hope and his mother taught him kindness and optimism.

“Everyone who knows Marian Wright loves Marian Wright. Oh my gosh, she’s a certified saint, if that’s a thing,” David said. “She was always serving other people all the time.”

Growing up, Bill said he really felt like his parents really cared for him and loved him, and his mother is particularly sensitive to any disharmony in their family.

“She loves talking about her family. She loves all the support she gets from her family,” Bill said. “And it disturbs her deeply if there’s something wrong.”

Melissa also reflected on how her mom would “bear sweet, true doctrine” during Family Home Evening lessons and what a great impact that had on her.

Mary said a memory that sticks out in her mind of her mom is when she was at BYU-Idaho and her mom came up for a women’s conference. Mary said it was a “magical experience” where she and her mom were “sisters” in the gospel.

“My mom should have been translated,” Joseph said. “In fact, I’m convinced that God offered it to her and she was like, ‘Listen, I have 12 kids to raise. Let’s get through this and then we can talk about this later.'”

Even though they aren’t a perfect family, Thomas said, the way his parents lived and taught the gospel in their home gave him and his siblings a taste of heaven.

“How they lived their lives and how they raised their kids was just everything,” David said. “So just watching them and how they interact with people, how they carry themselves, their devotion to the gospel, striving to just be better all the time is everything. So I just watched that. And I saw that trickle down into every one of my siblings.”

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