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A Message for Fathers

Talk given by Steven Reed, May 20th 2012 before an LDS congregation in Nevada.

First of all, I’d like everyone, especially fathers, to have a pen and paper or phone or tablet or anything to take notes on for the end of this talk. You have until then to prepare…you’ve been warned.

Ezra Taft Benson said that “a father’s calling is eternal, and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity.”

The most important work we have as fathers is within the sphere of our homes and families. This small and many times chaotic unit is the beginning phase of an eternal kingdom meant to rule and reign forever. To obtain such blessings, we must not lose perspective and be distracted by passing fads and that which passes as “wisdom” from a world that is still searching for it.

I’ve often contemplated how the professional sphere has slowly encroached upon family ground. Work used to be a holy task, “sweat from our brow” used to provide for the survival of the family, but has this holy task of providence been transformed into a personal quest for self-aggrandizement? Do we lust after coveted worldly titles that can vanish in an instant, over the everlasting title of Father?

What title fills us with more value, CEO, COO, CTO, Vice President, Senior Communications Developer, National Creative Analyst, Corporate Infrastructure Administrator, Global Integration Consultant – or Father? Do we care more for the selfish praise that comes from those we make rich by our labors or the unconditional love from the hearts of those who run to the door with excitement when our presence is restored in the home?

Hard times will challenge our resolve and in order to provide, the father might be absent from his family for periods longer than usual. But be careful, brethren, that even in these trying times, we do not become so obsessed with temporal providence that we neglect the critically more important spiritual and emotional needs of our children and wives.

In his talk “Fathers in Israel” Ezra Taft Benson declared:

Early in the history of the restored Church, the Lord specifically charged men with the obligation to provide for their wives and family. In January of 1832 He said, “Verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown” (D&C 75:28). Three months later the Lord said again, “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken” (D&C 83:2). This is the divine right of a wife and mother. While she cares for and nourishes her children at home, her husband earns the living for the family, which makes this nourishing possible.

In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. Sometimes we hear of husbands who, because of economic conditions, have lost their jobs and expect the wives to go out of the home and work, even though the husband is still capable of providing for his family. In these cases, we urge the husband to do all in his power to allow his wife to remain in the home caring for the children while he continues to provide for his family the best he can, even though the job he is able to secure may not be ideal and family budgeting may have to be tighter.”

This may not be ‘politically correct’, but it is eternally correct. I understand that economic difficulties can make it very tempting to send the mother out into the workforce to provide for the family. Dallin H. Oaks noted that “In the U.S. version of the Church, whether mothers stay at home with their children is increasingly decided by economics, not prophetic proclamation.”

In some of our minds the phrase “yes, but that is hard” may come to mind as it likely did for Abraham when the Lord asked him to offer up his only son and when the pioneers looked upon an endless stretch of wilderness that had to be crossed or when the Savior said “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…”

Even though following the Lord’s counsel may seem hard or even impossible, it will be that much more satisfying when we can say as did the Savior: “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished…”

I can make you a promise brothers and sisters, if you are pure before the Lord, you can expect inspiration and even divine intervention to pattern your lives after the divine design that God has revealed to us.

Speaking of temporal providence, President Benson said:

Fathers, another vital aspect of providing for the material needs of your family is the provision you should be making for your family in case of an emergency. Family preparedness has been a long-established welfare principle. It is even more urgent today.

I ask you earnestly, have you provided for your family a year’s supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel? The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.

Also, are you living within your income and saving a little?

Are you honest with the Lord in the payment of your tithes? Living this divine law will bring both spiritual and material blessings.

We know that by divine design the Father is to preside in the home, but what does this mean? President Benson continues:

We sometimes hear accounts of men, even in the Church, who think that being head of the home somehow puts them in a superior role and allows them to dictate and make demands upon their family. The Apostle Paul points out that “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23; italics added). That is the model we are to follow in our role of presiding in the home. We do not find the Savior leading the Church with a harsh or unkind hand.

We do not find the Savior treating His Church with disrespect or neglect. We do not find the Savior using force or coercion to accomplish His purposes. Nowhere do we find the Savior doing anything but that which edifies, uplifts, comforts, and exalts the Church. Brethren, I say to you with all soberness, He is the model we must follow as we take the spiritual lead in our families. Particularly is this true in your relationship with your wife.”

I love the English Standard Version of the Bible’s translation of Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

It is “by divine design, [that] fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness”, but how can we do that if we are not there when we can and should be – physically, emotionally or spiritually?

The ways of the family are unique to the ways of the world, or should be, at least. We live in a world where man operates by force. Hammers force nails in to wood, ignition of explosive liquids drives machinery, power tools saw, tear, cut, bind and force the elements of nature into the forms that please us. But that is man’s and not God’s way. God speaks to things and they follow, he says “Let there be light” and there is, not because the light fears punishment should it not obey, but because God is good, he is love, he is righteousness and all things respect and honor him because of it.

In a pamphlet entitled “Persuasion vs. Force” by Mark and Jo Ann Skousen, they concluded: “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.” Applying this to the family, I would restate it by saying “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a holy family”.

Let us as fathers forego force for persuasion, fear for respect, slothfulness for service, excuses for solutions and absence for undivided, compassionate, Godly attention.

Now for the list. I hope that you have secured some kind of note-taking apparatus or have a photographic memory of some kind. This list is from President Benson. You might be doing all, some or none of these things. I invite you to allow the Spirit to prompt you in which of these things, or others that may come into your mind, that you should record and apply in your role as Father.

  1. Give father’s blessings to your children [did you know that you can record these and give them to your children so that they may keep and re-read them?]. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
  2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
  3. Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
  4. Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.
  5. Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
  6. Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
  7. Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
  8. Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
  9. As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
  10. Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom.

To get started, take a few of the principles mentioned in this talk and apply them – see what happens. Also, I would recommend a fairly recent Christian film called “Courageous” which is powerful, entertaining and teaches some wonderful principles of fatherhood.

Fathers, we can do this. We can rise up and be men, we can raise our homes to the highest standards of holiness no matter how chaotic or crazy they are at the present. It starts now and it starts with you.