Below are my notes from a talk I gave in my ward today, about fatherhood and priesthood. I had to cut a few things out for time, most notably a story about President Monson’s father’s example of priesthood service with his son, and a paragraph about honoring my own dad. The notes are choppy, but I think you could get the gist of it.
Thomas S. Monson quote:
My own father, a printer, gave me a copy of a piece he had printed. It was titled “A Letter from a Father” and concluded with this thought: “Perhaps my greatest hope as a parent is to have such a relationship with you that when the day comes and you look down into the face of your first child, you will feel deep within you the desire to be to your child the kind of parent your dad has tried to be to you. What greater compliment could any man ask? Love, Dad.” (“Treasured Gifts,” 12/06)
My version: tucking son in bed, feeling sentimental, tell him that someday he’ll grow up and we’ll be best friends. He laughs and says, “Don’t be silly, you’ll be dead.”
Speaking on assignment from bishop about fatherhood and priesthood.
Glad to have audience that understands essential role of fathers, children need them, fathers must be different from mothers, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” Part of difference for fathers is priesthood. Lord’s plan is for men to be fathers and priesthood bearers, thus they’re related—one can be one without the other, but the plan is most effective when those aspects of manhood—fatherhood and priesthood—work together.
See this in Book of Mormon fathers:
Lehi shows us how to successfully be a husband (to Sariah) and raise different kinds of children, the Lamans, the Nephis, and the Sams.
Laman: teachable moments of motivation: 1 Ne 2:8-10 / emotionally involved ministering: 1 Ne. 8:36-38 / honesty, testimony: 2 Ne. 1. Lehi wanted sons to be active, but never compromised doctrine. Like Alma the Elder (Mosiah 27:14), Lehi never shrinks from hard work of helping struggling children, even though it costs him: 1 Ne. 18:17-18.
Nephi: academic and practical skills: 1 Ne 1:1—Nephi knew language, doctrine, building, hunting, and more. They were very close after Nephi’s childhood, like President Monson’s father wanted them to be, and I want my children and I to be (if I weren’t dead!), like most fathers want to be with their sons and daughters. Lehi must never have taken Nephi’s goodness for granted and gone on “autopilot”—they were fiercely loyal to each other until the end. Think also of how close Mormon and Moroni were—letters of doctrine and comfort, striving together with people in church ministry and in physical warfare, side by side.
What about Sam, Jacob, Joseph, and daughters? Nephi doesn’t say much about those relationships, but in final blessings in 2 Ne. 2-4, Lehi has clearly been close to all. And in all instances, he has made sure to set a consistent and visible example of personal righteousness, and to involve them in the physical and spiritual work of the family. Nephi often seems moved and inspired by this. He defends his father as someone only can who has seen, time and again, his father being seriously dedicated to the Lord.
Lehi could have done a lot of these things without worthily holding the priesthood, or a man could do these things for young people without being their father, but clearly ideal is to have both fatherhood and priesthood present.
Principle—priesthood must be USED to mean anything at all—give blessings, join in service and brotherhood. Holding it, even holding it worthily, just isn’t enough, surely not to empower family relationships. Fathers in Book of Mormon counsel, teach from scripture, perform ordinances, bear testimony, give blessings, magnify callings, go out and minister to others, and that’s all tied into and strengthened by their priesthood.
Fathers openly teach and set an example, serve with children at the children’s level but expect them to come up to father’s level.
Add that all of these things we’ve learned about fatherhood also apply to the ultimate father, our Father in Heaven. What are His defining characteristics? Infinite patience with us and eternal reaching out to us, but clearly teaching truth and limits, and of course, making whatever sacrifice is necessary for our good. Appropriate to look to Him as a role model for our families.
A word about fatherhood and women: we’ve all heard that the best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother—not much to add there, but a lot of us have had children with women to whom we’re not currently married, and it’s been my experience that it still makes a huge difference to those children, as well as to current wife and children, if we still support her. We have duty to teach all children to respect and honor their mothers, even when it’s inconvenient to us—remember the Book of Mormon fathers who would always reach out tenderly, but would never water down the rules set by the Lord.
We also often talk about priesthood leadership in the home, the duty that we have as priesthood bearers to lead and preside in the home, and to support our wives. All I’ll say about that today is this: have any of us ever heard of a woman who wanted her husband, or her children’s father, to be less involved in raising children, to do fewer spiritual things in the home, to stop taking initiative to lead family and support her? Me neither.
A different and more universal angle for rest of talk: all of us are children of a father. What does that mean for us?
Consider Christ’s submission to His father—children should seek to obey in all things, become like father—John 5:19-20 / fathers must be worthy and give directions/expectations, so children may develop discipline and obedience. Someday, children could represent us, as Christ does the father.
Fathers must BE involved and exemplary, and children must live up to it.
Fathers are crucial, and fatherhood is wonderful, every bit as wonderful for men as motherhood is for women. Yes, media makes fun of fatherhood, but much of world has voluntarily reduced it to little more than being a part time buddy, a landlord. Truth is—fathers will make lives different, for better or worse, no matter what—no middle ground there; fathers make families exactly as much as mothers do, fathers change the world and fathers can save the world, starting with those wives and children we get to be blessed with.