" Guess what? We can do the same things with our children. We can make them do this or do that. We can be so very strict that they feel coerced into becoming what you want them to be. This is the opposite of the more organic approach of loving, teaching, lifting, blessing, nurturing and helping a child."
"Faith and devotion to the truth on the part of the mothers in Latter-day Israel in rearing their children in light and truth is one of the greatest incentives to righteousness that can be given."
-Elder Bruce R. McConkie
"Strong self-respect is baed on two main convictions: 1st- I am lovable. I matter and have value because I exist. and 2nd I am worthwhile. I can handle myself and my environment with competence."
-Mrs. Dorothy Corkville Briggs
Over the years I have heard the expression that men need to be a good provider for their families. This conjured up in my mind the need to not only have employment, but employment good enough to put food on the table, clothing on children’s backs, fuel in the tank and some for savings. And, I have always considered it the man’s job to be the “provider.”
Recently, I have adopted a different perspective to being a “good provider.” Parenthood is “providerhood.” That is a new word I have made up. I believe it is both parents that are responsible to provide for their children. “The Family, A Proclamation to the World,” declares, “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” Providing extends into all aspects of family life and it is the team of a father and a mother working together to get the job done.
Family Income - Ideally, fathers are the ones that earn the income to provide for the temporal needs of the family. His job is to secure good work. By learning his trade the best he can, continuing to improve his knowledge and skill base, he helps insure there is job security and a steady stream of income. Hard work and the ability to get along with co-workers can also go a long way to create success in the work place. Sometimes, situations arise when the wife, out of necessity, has to go to work to help ends meet. However, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”
Physical Activity - I have witnessed families that are involved in little to no consequential physical activity in their homes. It is important for us to exercise, be moving and use these bodies that the Lord has given us. Mom and I are happy when we see our children and grandchildren involved in sports that call upon them to exert their muscles and bodies. But, work is another important element of physical activity. Children should have jobs to do. They need to learn how to sweat and to “stick to a job until it sticks to you.” Too many people go on missions and later on in life into professions without knowing how to work and get things done.
Social Integration – Children can learn at home how to get along with others. They can learn to be unselfish and how to share. They can learn how to work as a team to achieve important goals and results. They learn how to defend themselves when needed and how to seek forgiveness when they have done something wrong. They learn how to express love, empathy, kindness and sensitivity. They learn how to become a friend and how to make memories. And, they learn so much of this as they watch and observe firsthand how their parents treat each other.
Intellectual Development – We have very smart children and grandchildren. Parents need to provide a learning environment for their children. They need to help them with homework. They need to encourage them to appreciate and yearn for learning. Help them to read. This will be a great value to them over the years. Teach them that when they can teach others what they are studying, then, they have truly started to learn. Knowledge is power. Their learning will help insure them success throughout their lives.
Emotional Health – Parents can do so much to help children develop a tremendous self-image of themselves. First, parents cannot be negative. When parents say, “Oh, what horrible bad luck. This always happens to me,”or, when they say, “Things never work out for me,” our children develop that same type of negative attitude in life. They need to be thinking, “Hey, that glass is half full and is quickly filling up. It’s going to overflow. Hurry, someone get a bucket.”
Secondly, we need to express our admiration and praise for our children many times each day. We should constantly be building them up and accentuating their good qualities. This is so important and can make such a tremendous difference in the lives of our little ones. They also need to be reminded and taught that they are literal spirit children of Heavenly Father. That alone is such a powerful concept for them to learn. When they know who they really are, it is much more difficult for them to start down the wrong paths.
Spiritual Health – It is in the home that our children learn how to pray, how to study the scriptures and how to serve others. Family prayer is paramount. Parents need to provide the instruction on how to pray and that prayer is personal. Children need to know that they can go to Heavenly Father any time. They need to know that as soon as they begin that prayer, they have the full attention of their Heavenly Father. Children need to hear the sincerity of their parent’s prayers. They learn that prayer is not some cultural thing Mormons do, but a tool to aid them in a troubled and turbulent world.
There is power in reading and studying the scriptures. How important for parents to provide the right spiritual environment to learn from the scriptures and how they apply to our day and age. Family study is vital. Personal study needs to be encouraged and parents need to create opportunities for their children to share what they are learning.
Great spiritual strength comes as families attend church together and then, partake of the sacrament. Parents can help provide great appreciation for the sacrament by teaching them regarding the atonement, covenants and sincere repentance as a pathway to personal purity and worthiness to have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.
“Children are an heritage of the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3) As parents, we have a solemn responsibility to provide for our children. Our providerhood pays tremendous dividends in this life and throughout eternity. Let’s be the best providers we can possibly be.
I was a little concerned about this talk becoming a “Mother’s Day” talk. In preparing for my remarks, I asked a lot of people this question, “What is the best thing your dad ever did?” Most everyone said, “He married my mother.” So, I think we should get something clear right up front. We fathers concede the point – mothers are definitely the best people in the entire world.
While preparing, I also thought about plenty of things I have done wrong as a father. Things you think about and say, “Now, why did I do that!”
On one occasion, our son Michael was in our bedroom when I arrived home late one night. Mavis was in bed and Michael was pleasantly visiting with her about the events of the day. As I was getting ready for bed, I removed my belt and had a brilliant idea. I put the belt around Michael’s neck and pretended like I was choking him from behind. I whispered in his ear to pretend he was blacking out. Mavis became very upset and instructed me to stop - immediately! Naturally, this only encouraged my misbehavior. Michael was doing a fantastic job of acting out his part. He even collapsed and fell into the closet. By this time Mavis was hysterical. I tried to calm her down by telling her we were just joking and her boy was just fine. Looking into the closet, I said, “Right, Michael? Michael?”
Unfortunately, I really chocked him out and it took a few seconds for him to come to. We don’t believe there was any brain damage. The kid grew up and became a doctor.
As holders of the priesthood, we have been given the priesthood assignment to preside over our families. Just like the President Monson is responsible for the overall care and welfare of the church, just like Bishop Maxwell is the shepherd of the Huntsville First Ward, so we are held responsible and accountable as fathers for the overall care of our families.
Additionally, I believe the advice we receive in the scriptures and especially in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121 can be directly applied to our responsibilities as fathers. We learn a lot about being good fathers as we study the scriptures and see how Heavenly Father has instructed His children. Obviously, He is the great role model. He is the perfect father.
So, let’s examine the words of the Lord as found in Section 121, starting with Verses 7&8. These were comforting words from the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning his persecutors
I could not help but think for a minute that these are also comforting words for us who have the privilege and blessing of raising teenagers.
Verse 33 is magnificent language in illustrating that there is nothing man can do to prevent the Lord from bestowing revelation and knowledge upon the heads and hearts of Latter-day Saint fathers.
33 How long can rolling waters remain impure? What apower shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to bhinderthe cAlmighty from pouring down dknowledgefrom heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.
What a tremendous and beautiful blessing for those of us that preside over our family units with precious sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
I can remember on one occasion learning of one of my children about to go on a date with a certain individual. I felt so uncomfortable about it and I believe was impressed by the Spirit to call and advise that child not to go on the date. Can you imagine, the day of the date making a phone call like that. Yet, the Lord can give fathers revelation as it pertains to their family. I am so grateful that child heeded the advice and cancelled the date. Someday we might know why that was important inspiration. But, for right now, all I know is that a member of my family benefited from revelation given from the Lord to one of his priesthood fathers.
In a day and age when evil is rampant, when Satan is waging his war like never before, revelation for our families is one of our greatest blessings.
Verses 34 – 36 conditionally guarantee us the blessings of the priesthood. Certain conditions exist.
34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
As fathers we cannot place the things of the world and the honors of men over the importance and duty to care for our families. When we misplace our priorities we begin to lose the rights that are normally associated with the priesthood.
President David O. McKay said it very succinctly:
“When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul-weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life and flunked in the final test of true manhood. No other success can compensate for failure in the home. The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles.”
I can well remember the day many years ago when our oldest children were just kids. One summer day, we splurged and took the whole family to a great amusement park. We rode the roller coasters, ate junk food, bought souvenirs and then topped off the day with dinner at a Japanese steak house. It was non-stop fun from morning till late at night.
That night I made the rounds to the beds of each of the children. It was always a good time to visit for a minute or two before they went to sleep. That night I asked each of the children what they liked most about our fun-filled, super activity. There were a number of answers that reflected the excitement of that day, but, there is one answer I will never forget. One of the kids said, “Laying down with you, dad.” It was a powerful lesson to me that nothing the world has to offer can take the place of the attention and love of a parent.
As fathers, we must live worthy to have needed revelation and the priesthood active in our lives. I often think about the request that most certainly comes from time to time, “Dad, I am not feeling well. Can you give me a priesthood blessing.”, or the telephone call, “Dad, I am having a difficult time with something in my life. Will you give me a father’s blessing.” As fathers we need to be ready, humble and worthy. The Lord has said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
Verse 37 is very clear on what we must avoid:
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acoverour bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdrawthemselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
We cannot afford to push aside our sins. We need to humbly recognize our shortcomings and deal with them. We need to set the example to our children of how to be repentant and demonstrate we can improve our lives. Part of our responsibilities as fathers is to set a proper example. Our words and actions become powerful models for our children.
We cannot afford to be dictatorial and dominating in our homes.
Our children need to see loving, understanding fathers. Our relationship and treatment of our wives will in large part influence our children in how they perceive womanhood and the proper role of the priesthood in the home. When we are loving and respectful of womanhood and motherhood our young men will also. Our young women will know what to look for in a prospective husband as they begin to court people of interest.
We have been called to a priesthood responsibility to be fathers. And, yes, many are called, but, how many of us are chosen? To be “chosen” we must not exercise any degree of unrighteous dominion, pride, compulsion, etc.
In the Book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul makes an analogy of Christ being the head of the church and how he sacrificed for the church with us as fathers needing to do likewise for our families. We must preside as the head of our families with the same love and devotion the Savior exercised over the early church members.
Section 121 goes on to tell us the qualities and virtues we must incorporate to be worthy of the Spirit in our lives:
Persuasion – We don’t compel. As fathers we need to reason with our children, using the scriptures, the words of the prophets, the revelation we are untitled to as the means to guide and instruct our children.
On one occasion, when I was just a child, the story is told that I refused to go to church. My dad and mom tried to reason with me – persuade me. I was determined not to go. Consequently, my mother stayed home with me. After a while my mother could not find me. She was frantic until the family returned from church with me in hand, muddy from head to toe. I had walked a long way to church after playing in the front yard mud. I went because I had been lovingly persuaded to be where I was supposed to be.
Long-suffering – We know of many instances in the scriptures and in our modern day life of how patience and prayer have made all the difference in the lives of our children.
There are many Book of Mormon Stories of long-suffering. Consider Father Lehi. He never gave up; even on his death bed he was counseling his rebellious sons, Laman and Lemuel.
We know the concerns and prayers of Alma were heard and miracles happened with his prodigal son that impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people.
I have a nephew that while growing up rebelled and turned from the teachings of his parents and the gospel. His parents were great examples of long-suffering. Even though their hearts were being broken, there was extraordinary patience displayed by his parents and many prayers said in his behalf. After a season of “riotous living”, he recognized the folly of his ways, repented and returned to the fold.
This may not always happen in this world. In those cases it is well to recall the words of Elder Orson F. Whitney:
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared-and he never taught more comforting doctrine-that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Conference Report, April 1929).
Gentleness – In a world that seems to reward hardness, the coarse and the irreverent, what a refreshing blessing it is to have a father that can display gentleness to his children. That gentleness encourages our children to feel comfortable with us – we are more approachable.
I recall one of our daughters trying out for volleyball in high school. I was visiting with her in her room one night. She was emotional as she explained how difficult it was and that maybe the coach was not giving her enough attention. Looking back on this situation, I am embarrassed with how I responded. I said, You need to toughen up and stop being a cry-baby. Think more positive and work harder.” Brothers and Sisters, that was not what she needed to hear.
Shortly after that incident I remember talking to another father in the ward. He mentioned how his son was struggling with football tryouts. He was not doing very well. He told me how he offered to give his son a father’s blessing. This seemed to make all the difference in the world and he made the team. How I wish I would have gently laid my hands on the head of my daughter and given her a father’s blessing!
Fathers, today more than ever, we need to be gentle and understanding with our children. That is exactly how the Savior would be. That model of gentleness needs to override the constant barrage of hardness the world preaches in unrelenting images.
Meekness – One definition of meekness is “enduring injury with patience and without resentment”. Some times we feel we have been offended. Sometimes we wonder, “Why me?” when a terminal disease descends on our body. Sometimes we wonder about adversity in our lives.
Meekness is not a weakness. One of the greatest lessons we can teach our children is dealing with and enduring the trials of this life without complaint. We need to demonstrate to our children that these trials are all part of life – all part of the refining fire to purge out our impurities and produce a person of strength and character. My dad use to always quote the famous line, “If life serves you a lemon, then, make lemonade out of it.”
Love unfeigned – When our love is genuine our children feel a confidence with us that opens the doors to a close relationship. When they know we love them, home is a place of refuge from life’s turbulent storms and the thunderous words and distractions of the world. “When the music is over, the lights are down and everyone has left the party” – in other words, when the world has failed them and they recognize there has only been shadow and no substance, our children must always know our unconditional love is continually there.
How wonderful and touching the Parable of the Prodigal Son:
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had a compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
What a beautiful parable. Note that the father was obviously looking for his son. And then, when he saw him coming, from a great distance, toward home, he “ran” and embraced him and “kissed” him. Does this tell us anything about how we are to treat our precious children who have strayed?
There is tremendous imagery in this parable for all of us as we are prodigal children of our Heavenly Father from time to time. He is looking for us to turn from the world and come home. When we do, he comes running, ready to embrace us with his tender love.
Kindness – Children learn behavior from their parents. Maybe some of you have heard the story of the father shopping in a store with two of his children. The children were arguing and creating a scene. The older child was beating up on the younger sibling. The father separated the two and then began to spank the older child while saying, “I’ll teach you to beat your little brother.”
I personally believe one of the conditions of the last days will be an unprecedented level of violence in our society. Fathers can do so much to be examples of kindness in a world that so desperately needs the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I can remember countless visits with my dad as he did his home teaching or visited people in our ward. He was a great example of kindness and unselfishness. As much as I disliked going, his example did a lot for me that I didn’t appreciate at the time, but, I am sure had a big influence on my life.
Pure Knowledge – How wonderful it is when fathers can expound on the doctrines of the gospel as one who has had a witness from the Holy Ghost. With this witness, our knowledge is of more importance and use to our children. We speak with a confidence that we otherwise would not have. I can remember my father sharing his testimony of the gospel to his children. He referred to a passage of scripture in Matthew. Just like the Chief Apostle Peter knew by revelation that Jesus was the Christ, so did my dad. My dad’s testimony did not come from “flesh and blood”, but from revelation from his Heavenly Father.
Reproving Betimes with Sharpness– While I was in 7th grade I made a series of trips down to the principal’s office. The first three visits are stern reprimands. On the fourth visit you received a good old fashioned spanking with a paddle. The next visit meant suspension from school.
Let me preface the following remarks by plainly stating I was a “victim”. A lot of what I was blamed for actually was done by my evil twin brother.
Anyway, I was suspended and my poor, sweet, angel mother had to come pick me up from school. Dad came home early from work. I knew I was in for some really big trouble. I don’t remember all of the details, but, I remember I got the message very forcibly of who I was and what was expected of me both as a Stevenson and as a son of our Heavenly Father. But, I also remember just as strongly the love shown to me after that message was delivered. I knew my dad loved me and wanted only the best for me.
Charity – We must love our children with the same love that the Savior possesses. It is unconditional love. It is a love that motivates “sacrifice of all” for the good of our children. It is a love that says, “I want nothing but the very best for my son or daughter.”
I remember the story told by my sister who went on a Daddy-Daughter date as a young girl. Dad had purchased her a beautiful new dress. She tells of how elated she was to be the only one with dad for lunch. I know that as a police officer raising seven children, dad did not have a lot of discretionary money. As they left the cafeteria holding Kathy’s hand, he said, “Oh how I wish I had some money to buy you a pair of new red shoes.”
That is a rather temporal example, but, the point is, Dad only wanted the best for his children. He was willing to make whatever sacrifice he needed to make, in behalf of his children. He loved like the Savior – unselfishly and unconditionally.
Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts– The Spirit of our Heavenly Father, the Holy Ghost, cannot dwell in unclean tabernacles. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” We live in a day and age where immorality, lewdness and pornography seemingly surround us in epidemic proportions.
The world is becoming more and more accepting of pornography which is ruining the lives and families of millions.
Fathers must set the example of avoiding immorality and pornography like the plague that it is. When we cultivate and nurture a relationship with the Spirit – when we are born again, we tremble at the thought of sin. As fathers, we must be at that level. We must instill in the minds of our children the detrimental effects of sin and especially pornography.
There is no compromise if we are to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost in our lives.
As fathers we must be the best examples of the 13th article of Faith that we can possibly be:
While the admonitions we receive in Section 121 are demanding, they are attainable. We should also remember that the great blessings promised in Section 121 also richly compensate us for our efforts to exercise our priesthood wisely.
· Thy confidence shall wax strong in the presence of God. What a great blessing to know we stand approved by our Heavenly Father. We know when His Spirit is with us and guiding us in our duties as a father. With that kind of confidence we can face any challenge, trial or tribulation.
· The doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul. I have learned from personal experience that just like water takes time to distil upon the plants around us throughout the night, that our knowledge of the doctrine of the priesthood gradually, but oh so surely, builds over time – especially as we implement the counsel given us in the scriptures.
· The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion. With all the challenges of raising a family, is there a greater gift than the companionship of the Holy Ghost? Elder Bruce R. McKonkie said, “The gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest of all the gifts of God, as pertaining to this life…”
· Unchanging scepter of righteousness. Because of our obedience and bringing our thoughts, words and actions in line with the will of the Lord, we will be seen by our families as “anchors” of the gospel amid a storm-tossed sea. There will be constancy amid a world in constant change.
· Thy dominion an everlasting dominion. Our posterity will extend far into eternity. The joy we will have with our loved ones in the Celestial Kingdom is indescribable. We are told in the Doctrine and Covenants:
In conclusion, I would like to share a fascinating story that also has a powerful message.
Joshua Bell is an internationally acclaimed violinist. He has received award after award for his gift of playing the violin to a level rarely seen and heard in our day. As part of an experiment in social behavior, researchers asked Joshua Bell to play his Stradivarius violin in a subway station in Washington D.C., acting as a homeless person performing for money. This is in the same city where he fills the Kennedy Center for tens of thousands of dollars.
It was interesting to note that over the course of 45 minutes, only a handful of people stop for at least a minute. Over 1,070 people completely ignored the performance and rushed off to their respective tasks. They were in such a hurry to get to their jobs or other activities that they did not recognize
one of the greatest musicians of our time
playing the great masterpiece music
from the greatest composers in history.
As fathers, we cannot pass by the beautiful masterpiece of our families. They are the most precious jewels we possess from this earthly experience. An eternal symphony awaits each of us as we take the time to listen, absorb and assimilate their lives with ours.
The greatest blessings available to mankind are ours as we learn
from the scriptures,
the Holy Ghost, and,
the prophets and apostles,
how to exercise our priesthood responsibilities as fathers.
It is my hope and prayer that we will be victorious in magnifying this important calling of “Father”.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I am presently involved in an eternal DIY project of laying paver stones in our front patio and walkways. After placing 8,000 paver stones in the ground and using a rubber mallet to position them correctly, you can do a lot of thinking and learning.
A couple of paver principles I have learned are:
1. Preparation of the underlayment ground and sand is vital to your success
2. When the ground is not leveled enough, you can pound and pound the stone until it sits right
3. Trust your tools
And, you can apply these same principles when it comes to raising children.
If you are a home builder, you know the importance of getting the foundation perfectly square and strengthened with reinforcement. If you are an auto body repair person, the perfect paint job comes after long hours of straightening dents, sanding, smoothing and applying primer. The perfect violin performance comes after hours and hours of tedious practice. Similarly, to get the perfect placement of a paver stone you have to make sure the road base underlayment is the required thickness and compacted. Then, you must insure that the layer of sand is an inch thick and precisely level. When that happens, you can gently lay down your paver stone and it will line up straight and even with the rest of the pavers. A couple of taps with the mallet is all you need.
So it is with raising children. There is so much that goes into preparing children for life. We have to make sure that we spend the time in teaching them correctly through word and deed. It comes with quality and quantity time. It comes with a gospel-centered home dedicated to feeling the Spirit verses simply going through the motions. When we have done our job, transition into the cold and often times cruel world is so much more successful. They are on a firm foundation.
When the preparation for a paver stone is not right, you can still get the stone to fit by pounding the heck out of it to make it go into place. Unfortunately, in doing so, you disturb the underlayment and it is not long before there are forces that naturally resist the strained placement of the stone. After a while it may buckle or sink. It might even crack.
Guess what? We can do the same things with our children. We can make them do this or do that. We can be so very strict that they feel coerced into becoming what you want them to be. This is the opposite of the more organic approach of loving, teaching, lifting, blessing, nurturing and helping a child. Pounding and forcing can result in rebellion, taking detours off the covenant path and resentment.
Sometimes you can survey your paver stone work and see that something does not look right. Maybe something looks uneven or out of line. That is when you run a string to check your line. Or, you get out your level to make sure everything is even. You might need a measuring tape to check the distance between points. With children, we have some of the greatest tools at our disposal. They are basic and may sound like the same old answers we always give, but, they are the tried and tested tools of child-raising success. In our homes:
· We read, discuss and ponder the scriptures together
· We have daily family prayer
· We attend church and worship together
· We spend time together in fun activities and service toward others
· We each have certain chores we do around the house
· We exude a positive attitude and uplifting atmosphere
· Parents walk the talk, set the example
· We listen to one another
· Each family member strives to do their best at whatever they do
When we apply the paver stone principles, we are looking out for the best interest and welfare of each family member. We keep the chain of “Loyal to the Royal” generations growing. We do not find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of the once faithful Lamanites who lost the blessings of the gospel for the rising generation – possibly because they did not have gospel-centered homes. (3 Nephi 1:29,30)
At least, these are some principles to consider on paving the way to eternal life for us and our posterity.