I would like to take just a few minutes to address the sacred topic of fatherhood and the divine role of fathers in the Plan of Salvation. By virtue of the Priesthood of God and by the power of the Holy Ghost, fathers can and should be the greatest influence for good in the lives of their wives and children. Every father should rise to new levels of leadership and service in his home. Every young man that is not yet a father should prepare himself for this calling in this life and in the eternities.
President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “A father’s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarreling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children. . .Remember your sacred calling as a father in Israel—your most important calling in time and eternity—a calling from which you will never be released. (“To the Fathers in Israel,” Ensign, November 1987, pp. 50-51.)
Concerning this matter of fatherhood, President Howard W. Hunter once stated, “We encourage you brethren, to remember that priesthood is a righteous authority only. Earn the respect and confidence of your children through your loving relationship with them. A righteous father protects his children with his time and presence in their social, educational, and spiritual activities and responsibilities. Tender expressions of love and affection toward children are as much the responsibility of the father as the mother. Tell your children that you love them.” (Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” General Conference, October 1994; see Ensign, November 1994, p.51.)
In latter-day revelation, when the Lord spoke of the great doctrine pertaining to the redemption of little children through the atonement, He declared: “But behold, I say unto you that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten; Wherefore they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me; For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure, that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers. (Doctrine and Covenants 29:46-48). From this we can clearly see that fatherhood carries with it the responsibility of ensuring that their posterity—the future generation, is prepared for the age of accountability.
The most important way that fathers can ensure that their children are prepared for the age of accountability is by bringing “them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Fathers, working with their wives as equal partners, are to train up their children in the way that they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from those things that they have been taught (see Proverbs 22:6). This very valuable lesson was taught to the children of Israel as found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 6:20-23. Here in these verses the Lord tells the parents that they could not safely presume that the instructions that He had given them as well as all of the stories of the amazing miracles that He did for them were going to make it from one generation to another. He tells them that they must be very deliberate. He instructs them to tell their children the stories of how He moved among them. They were to talk with their children about the instructions and commands that the Lord had given them and why He gave them to them. This was not to be a one-time event or a ‘whenever you get around to it’ thing. This was to be a daily part of their responsibilities as parents.
In the same manner, fathers have the responsibility to daily shepherd their families through the principles and ordinances of the gospel, qualifying them for the salvation that is in Christ. Salvation is a family affair and fathers are called to lead the way by: (1) teaching the doctrines of salvation in their homes (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-28), (2) providing for the temporal and spiritual needs of their families (Mosiah 4:14-15) and (3) lovingly presiding in righteousness in their homes consistent with the principles of righteous priesthood service. President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “God established that fathers are to preside in the home. Fathers are to provide, love, teach, and direct.” (“Counsel to the Saints,” Ensign, May 1984, p.6.) President Benson also stated, “Fatherhood is not a matter of station or wealth; it is a matter of desire, diligence, and determination to see one’s family exalted in the celestial kingdom. If that prize is lost, nothing else really matters.” (“Great Things Required of Their Fathers,” Ensign, May 1981, p.36.) President Lorenzo Snow taught that “If you ever secure a union in any family in Zion, . . . you have got to bind that family together in one, and there has got to be the Spirit of the Lord in the head of that family, and he should possess that light and that intelligence which , if carried out in daily life and conduct of these individuals, will prove the salvation of that family, for he holds their salvation in his hands.” (HC, 4:309.)
In teaching the principles and ordinances of the gospel in the home, a father must be careful not to create any misconceptions about Heavenly Father. He must always teach by the Spirit. “For when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Nephi 33:1.)
The following parable of three fathers illustrates how a father could create such misconceptions and how he can easily avoid them.
A parable is told about 3 fathers who each felt the soft hand of his child in his own and realized the responsibility of teaching his child about God.
One felt the awesome responsibility that was his, so he taught the child about the power and might of God. As they walked down the pathway of life and came to the tall trees in the forest, he pointed up to them and said, “God made them and God can cause them to come crashing down anytime He wants to.” As they walked in the hot sun he said, “This is God’s sun. He made it and He can cause it to be so hot and so intense that the plants in the field will wither and die.” Again and again he hammered home the power of God and how the child must be obedient to God. Then one day they came face to face with God, and the child hid behind his father, afraid even to look, refusing to put his hand into the hand of God.
The second father also realized his responsibility to teach his child about God. Hurriedly, he tried to teach all the important lessons that he knew. As they looked at the trees they only stopped for a moment to gaze at them. As they looked at the flowers of the field they hurried on by. He told stories, but they were hurried and crammed together. He filled the child full of facts, but he never taught him how to live or love God. Finally, one day, at twilight they came face to face with God, but the child only gave God a casual glance and turned away.
The third father felt the touch of a tender hand in his and adjusted his steps to the tiny steps of the child. They walked along, stopping to look at all of God’s beauty and grandeur. They walked in the fields and picked the flowers. They felt the delicate petals and smelled their fragrance. They watched a bird in flight, and another building her nest and laying her eggs and sitting on them until they hatched. They watched all of the beauties of nature while the father told the child stories about God over and over again. Finally, one day in the twilight they saw the face of God, and without hesitation, the child placed his hand trustingly into the hand of his Heavenly Father.
One of the best examples of fatherhood, of course is our Father in Heaven. One of the best illustrations of this is found in the story of the Prodigal Son. I want us to notice a few characteristics about the father of this Prodigal Son. First, he was the provider of his family and stood answerable to God for the well being of his family. In the same way, fathers need to realize that they are to be the providers of their family and they stand accountable before God. In 1Timothy 5:8 we read these words, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
Second, he provided an inheritance for his children. In Proverbs 13:22 we read, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children. . .” A good father wants to leave an inheritance for his children – both physically and spiritually.
Third, he recognized his son’s right to choose his own path. Perhaps one of the hardest things for a parent to do is to let their children make their own decisions. Our Heavenly Father allows us to choose our own path and if we choose the wrong path we must pay the price. The prodigal son went as far into sin as a person can go. He had wasted his inheritance and now found himself sitting in a pigpen eating the scraps. He finally realizes that there is a way out of the mess that he had gotten himself into. He arose and started for home. There he found his father waiting for him with open arms. Wayward children always need to know they can come home.
Fourth, this father was the priest of the family. He pointed the family in the right direction. He led the family in worship. When the prodigal son came to himself he remembered his father and most of all knew that his father still loved him. Today fathers need to be the priest of the home, giving spiritual guidance and love.
Fifth, he prayed for his family. Fathers need to pray for their family. When the prodigal son came home his father was watching for him. He had been interceding in prayer for his son to return home.
Sixth, he did not condemn or judge his son. He had compassion on his son. He was thankful that his son had come home and honored his return with a celebration. He restored him back to the family as a son rather than as one of the hired servants.
And seventh, this father loved his children equally. He did not show favoritism between his two sons. He loved his older son who had chosen to stay with him. Even though the younger son had wasted his life, his father still loved him and did not hesitate to welcome him home. Regardless of whether a child chooses right or wrong, he or she still needs to know that dad loves them. Our Heavenly Father loves us even when we do wrong and when we repent His arms are open wide to receive us and to restore us without grudge or hesitation.
I would like to close my comments with the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley on the subject of Fatherhood:
I repeat that plea to all fathers. Yours is the basic and inescapable responsibility to stand as head of the family. That does not carry with it any implication of dictatorship or unrighteous dominion. It carries with it a mandate that fathers provide for the needs of their families. Those needs are more than food, clothing, and shelter. Those needs include righteous direction and the teaching, by example as well as precept, of basic principles of honesty, integrity, service, respect for the rights of others, and an understanding that we are accountable for that which we do in this life, not only to one another but also to God in heaven, who is our Eternal Father. . . .
. . . .With the obligation to beget goes the responsibility to nurture, to protect, to teach, to guide in righteousness and truth. Yours is the power and responsibility to reside in a home where there is peace and security, love and harmony.
(“Bring Up a Child in the Way He Should Go,” Ensign, November 1993, p.60.)
I am truly grateful for my earthly father and for all of the time, love and patience that he gave me through the years to help mold me into the person that I am today. I was blessed to have a dad who prayed for me. I am thankful that even in times when I may have totally blown it, my dad was always there for me. I knew that I always had a home to go home to. I guess that you could say that in some ways my dad was my hero. I am also eternally grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that guides my footsteps along life’s pathways. He is the very reason for my existence and I love Him dearly. That I may one day through the righteous example of my earthly father and with the help and guidance of my Heavenly Father become a righteous husband and father is my humble prayer in the Sacred name of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.