Fathers

Called To Be A Father – What is a father?

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Dad Relaxing At Home

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.

A Father’s Counsel – Just Stay Focused!

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John Wallace Brown - Early YearsMy father, the late John Wallace Brown, was a hard-working man. It was not uncommon for him to work two or three jobs just to pay the bills, keep food on the table, and a roof over his little family’s head. Even in his later years he still went to work in a local hometown restaurant, and after he finished working at his regular job, he would go to work in his own lawn care business which he had for several years.

In addition to the lesson on the value of hard work, my father taught his four children another valuable life lesson –  “Just stay focused!” He used to say this all the time, and I must admit that my brother, sisters, and I probably did not give his counsel the consideration that it deserved. Hindsight is 20/20, and now almost 8 years since his passing, looking back, I think I am finally beginning to understand what he was trying to tell us.

Dad and Mom at Trap Pond State ParkFor example, at the time of my beloved mother’s passing in June 1997 at the young age of 59 years, my father could sense that his children were hurting over the loss of their mother, as he was also hurting. To help comfort his children he would often say, “Just stay focused!” I believe what he was saying to us was that even though our mother was no longer with us physically, she would always be near in our hearts. I believe that he wanted us to always remember the good times that we had together and never forget the things that she taught us. In his own way, he was saying to us that weeping may endure for a night, but joy does come in the morning. The love that we had for our mother would never fade, and the sweet memories of her would always be with us if we but stay the course and “Just stay focused!” which is exactly what our mother would want us to do.

“Just stay focused!” – only three little words – but those three small words of counsel have often come to mind even in recent days as I strive to stay on course in my life. There have been some moments since my mother’s and my father’s passing that I have felt like throwing up my hands and giving up, but in the back of my mind I can still hear my father say, “Just stay focused!”

My father was a living example of often being knocked down in life, but somehow he always found the strength and the courage to get back up and keep going. Through that example I have learned that life can seem unfair and unkind at times, and there will be times when it seems that it just isn’t worth the effort to press forward, but the choice is mine as to whether I will give up and give in, or “just stay focused!“ and run the race to the end with faith and endurance.

Thank you Dad for teaching me this valuable life lesson through your counsel and example which has helped to mold and shape me into the man who I am today. I only pray that I will always keep your words of counsel before me, and that I will always be the man who you hoped and prayed that I would become. I pray that I will never let you down. I love you and miss you very much.

The Father That Every Child Needs

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Father and sonI would like to be so bold as to send out a message to “fathers” everywhere. I would like to go on record as being one to set the record straight that just because a male is biologically able to play a part in the creation of a new life, that does not constitute him being a “father.” Not to be rude or crass, but animals in the wild can do as much.

Being a father is more than having the title of “father.” The title of “father” is not a God-given right, it is a title that is earned.

Being a father means more than seeing a new life come into the world, and then going happily on your way to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. The major part of being a father is BEING THERE. A father needs to be there to do his part in raising his children, and helping to guide the footsteps of those children on the path that they should go. A father sets the proper example to help his children to mature into well-behaved, respectable and responsible adults that will become viable contributions, versus menaces, to the society in which they live. He is wise enough to discern the difference between discipline and abuse, and disciplines his children in love when needed.

A father knows what he believes, and stands firm in those beliefs. He is a man of courage, a man of discipline, a man of principle, a man of moral fortitude. He is ALWAYS THERE – on the bright sun shiny days, and especially on the dark and cloudy days. He does not tuck tail and run when the storm winds are raging, but rather he stands firm and is a provider and a protector during those storms.

Blessed is the man who is a devoted husband to his wife and gives his children the best gift that he can give them – to love their mother – and whose children love him and call him “father.”

Father and son

Lessons I Learned From My Father

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Dad Short Order Cook

My father, the late John Wallace Brown, began working as a short-order cook during his High School years and continued working in that profession up until the time of his death on 20 November 2006, at 71 years of age.  He would be promoted during his career to Kitchen Manager.

Ezra Taft Benson, the 13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church by the media and others), taught,

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 (Ezra Taft Benson; “To the Fathers in Israel,” Ensign, November 1987, pp. 50-51).

I have often found it easier to write about and speak of my beloved mother than my father. It is not because I did not love and respect my father, for I did, but for several years ours was an estranged relationship. It is partly because of that relationship that in March 1981, at the young age of 23 years, I made the decision to leave home and join the military. It would not be until the twilight years of my father’s life that I would finally begin to have a more complete understanding of the man he really was.

The last time that I visited with my father was the weekend of my 48th birthday in October 2006. He looked aged, tired, worn out, and troubled about many things. What I saw before me was not the same person that I once knew. Seemingly gone from him was the vibrancy of living. The things that he had once found pleasure in doing had suddenly become passé to him. What I saw was a man who had run his course in life, and was now ready to just sit down and rest awhile.

The rest that he so desired came on Monday, 20 November 2006, at the age of 71 years. Though saddened that he was physically gone, there was also an air of relief that he was finally at peace and no longer had to deal with the mundane things of this world.

I shall forever be grateful for the life lessons that he taught me. It has been those valuable life lessons that have helped to mode and shape me into the man and the person that I am today.

One of those valuable lessons that my father taught me was how to be resourceful. As a boy growing up my family did not have a lot of money and so we often had to rely on the resources that we had available to sustain life. Instead of spending a lot of money at the grocery store for example, my father, for many years, planted his own garden and grew fresh vegetables and other things such as strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe to be used as sustenance for his family and himself. He also enjoyed planting beautiful flower gardens for my mother.

We did not have elaborate banquets to feast from, or gourmet meals to eat, but there was always enough to satisfy each hungry appetite with some left over for meals the next day. Very early in life I became acquainted with our good friend Quaker Oats, as oatmeal for breakfast was a staple. Meat such as venison and rabbit were often given to my father by friends who hunted and wanted to share their bounty. The chicken that we ate often came from those who raised and bred chickens. My mother was usually the one who had the honors of killing the “bird”, cleaning it, and preparing it for the family meal in addition to her delicious homemade dumplings.

My father was also resourceful in making fun things for his children to play with such as bows and arrows, and kites made from sticks and newspaper with a piece of cloth tied on the end for a tail. He even used scrap materials from old toy wagons and such to build us go-karts that my siblings and I spent hours of enjoyment playing with.

In addition to teaching me about how to be resourceful, my father also taught me how to be thrifty. He taught me that it doesn’t take a lot of money to be able to survive in this world; a person just needs to know how to manage the money that he has, and realize that he cannot put out more than he takes in. He also taught me that “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is not a sound way of managing finances. Sooner or later you still have to pay Peter what he is owed.

When my siblings and I were in school we never owned name brand sneakers, expensive sports jackets, or designer jeans. The only name brand that we were remotely familiar with was the wonderful brand called Fruit of the Loom. Most of the shopping for our school shoes and clothes was done at stores such as Sears, JC Penny, or McCroy’s. In our earlier school years, a lot of our clothing was purchased at Mr. Curley’s, a local discount clothing store. Our school supplies were purchased at Woolworth, the local dime store, or some similar place where supplies could be bought at reasonable prices. We did not have fancy, expensive, designer backpacks to carry our books in; we carried them in our arms. We did have lunch boxes with a thermos inside, but very often we took our lunch in a brown paper lunch bag. We were required to cover our textbooks to help protect and keep them for future use, and instead of buying fancy book covers, we used the brown shopping bags that were gotten from the grocery store and cut them to fit our textbooks.

My father was a frugal man who believed that spending money unnecessarily was utter foolishness. “A penny saved is a penny earned” was his philosophy. That is not to say that he was a penny-pinching miser or anything of the sort for he spent money on the necessities of life, but he also strongly believed and taught his four children well that there is a vast difference between what we think we want and what we really need. He would also spend extra money to take us to fun places like Ocean City in the summer or to the fair in Harrington Delaware. He also made sure that we got a gift on our birthday, and at Christmas there were lots of presents under the tree for everyone.

Dad Early Years

Perhaps one of the reasons that my father was so careful with his spending was because he came from a humble upbringing and always worked hard all of his life to have the things that he needed and to provide for his family. And so, another important life lesson that my father taught me was the value of hard work. “A little hard work never killed anyone” he would say. Throughout his life he often worked at least two jobs to make ends meet. In the latter years of his life he worked as a Preparatory Cook in a local restaurant during the day, and then would come home and go to work, often until dark, in the lawn care business which he established and became very successful in. He was definitely not a stranger to hard work. When he laid his head on his pillow at night to rest, he could do so knowing that he had put in an honest day of work.

Another life lesson that my father taught me was that we can all learn new things if we have an open mind and are willing to be taught. We often defeat ourselves in life because we refuse to be teachable and to venture out and try new things.

For example, my father was very good with his hands and loved to build things. One of the things that he built was a work shed where he could work on his projects. It started out as a small one room work shed, but as time went on, he decided to add an addition to house all of his tools such as shovels, rakes, hoses, lawn mowers, etc. Once his lawn care business started to grow, he decided that he needed to expand even more and built another addition to house his lawn equipment and supplies. I might add that all of this was done by building from the ground up – nothing was prefabricated. He also ran all the electric himself and installed all the lighting, light switches, and electrical outlets that were necessary. I might further add that the lawn care business that he maintained was completely established by him, and he worked diligently to get his customers and faithfully served them until the time of his death. He did not take any expensive courses in carpentry or electrical installation. He did not major in Business Administration at a major university. He simply used the knowledge that he had obtained by watching others and put that knowledge to practical use. He was able to carry out many of the things that he did because he was teachable and willing to venture out and used what he had learned to have the things that he needed.

The acronym that I use to help me remember the life lessons that my father taught me is “Remember The Home Team” (R.T.H.T.) That is, (1) Be resourceful – learn to use the things that you already have at your disposal, (2) Be thrifty – learn to separate your wants from your needs and be a wise steward over the funds that you have, (3) Be a hard worker – be able to lay your head on your pillow at night and rest knowing that you did not waste the day that the Lord had given you, but that you were a wise steward of time, and you seized the day and did an honest day of work, and (4) Be teachable – have an open mind and be willing to learn and try new things.

The valuable life lessons that my father taught me are not only lessons that I remember, but lessons that I will not soon forget. My father was a great teacher and mentor. I only pray that I was as good a student as I should have been to learn and apply the valuable lessons that he taught me.