The Influence of Righteous Fathers
This morning, the Primary children sang a song about three fathers – Heavenly Father – the Father of us all, the Bishop – the father of our ward, and our own father – the father of our home.
President Thomas S. Monson, in a talk on gratitude, had this to say about fathers.
"Let us reflect gratitude for our fathers… Father . . . is ever willing to sacrifice his own comfort for that of his children. Daily he toils to provide the necessities of life, never complaining, ever concerned for the well-being of his family. This love for children, this desire to see them well and happy, is a constant in a time of change."
(Thomas S. Monson, "An Attitude of Gratitude," Ensign, Feb. 2000, 4)
A couple of weeks ago Br. Hughes asked if I would speak today on the influence of righteous fathers in our lives.
In the scriptures, church history, and our families, there are many stories of fathers who lead in righteousness.
President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of one such father from the Old Testament – Abraham -when he said,
“Abraham’s desire to do God’s will in all things led him to preside over his family in righteousness. Despite all his other responsibilities, he knew that if he failed to teach and exemplify the gospel to his children he would have failed to fulfill the most important stewardship he had received. Abraham’s instruction and example in his home led the Lord to say of him: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” (Gen. 18:19.)
President Kimball further stated,
“Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so: it always will be so. Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home. It is not a matter of whether you are most worthy or best qualified, but it is a matter of law and appointment. You preside at the meal table, at family prayer. You preside at family home evening; and as guided by the Spirit of the Lord, you see that your children are taught correct principles. It is your place to give direction relating to all of family life. You give father’s blessings. You take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline. As a leader in your home you plan and sacrifice to achieve the blessing of a unified and happy family. To do all of this requires that you live a family-centered life.”
In the New Testament we have the example of Joseph as a righteous father who taught our Savior by loving example the way he should go. Who can imagine the tremendous pressure Joseph must have felt knowing he was responsible for loving, nurturing, and teaching the Son of God? Yet he did not shrink from his duty to raise his family in righteousness.
President James E. Faust said,
“Brethren, noble fatherhood gives us a glimpse of the divine attributes of our Father in Heaven. A father should be many things. He should magnify his priesthood and be an example of righteousness. In companionship with his wife, he should be the source of stability and strength for the whole family. He should be the protector and the provider and the champion of the members of his family. Much of his love for his children should flow from his example of love, concern, and fidelity for their mother. By his uncompromising example he should instill character into his children.”
(James E. Faust, “Them That Honour Me I Will Honour,” Liahona, July 2001, 53–56)
The Book of Mormon also has many examples of fathers who led in righteousness, beginning with Lehi, who led his family from Jerusalem to a new world, leaving behind worldly treasures for spiritual ones. We also learn of Alma the Elder and King Mosiah who, like Lehi, despite their righteous guidance had children who rebelled against what they had been taught. Yet, none of these fathers gave up on their children. They prayed constantly for them to return to the path of righteousness. In the case of Alma and King Mosiah, their prayers and pleading led to their children throwing off their rebellious ways and becoming devoted to the gospel. As with Lehi, however, sometimes we may not see the fruition of prayerful pleading in this life, but we have been given the promise that when children are raised in righteousness and given the proper start in life they will eventually return. It is never too late.
In the early history of the church we have the example of two more Josephs who led their families in righteousness. Where would Joseph Smith, Jr. have been if not for the teaching, example, and understanding of his father, Joseph Smith, Sr.? His life of sacrifice and dedication helped to mold the young boy Joseph into the man who would restore the Gospel to the earth and who would ultimately give his life for the truth. Joseph Smith, Jr.’s own dedication to his wife and children was an example to those around him. Throughout the early history of the church there are many more examples of the effect that righteous fathers can have upon their families.
In my own life I have been blessed with a father who, along with my mother, led our family in righteousness. I remember family home evenings, morning and evening scripture study and prayers, personal interviews, and simple, spur of the moment conversations that let me know that each one of us were cared for immeasurably. My brothers are now fathers as well and I see within them many of the same attributes that my father has. My sisters also married worthy men who seek to follow the guidance of the Lord as they raise their families.
I have observed many fathers in our community and ward who also preside over their families with righteousness, kindness, and compassion. I honor all those fathers who continue to battle the adversary to keep their families safe both physically and spiritually.
Elder L. Tom Perry in an article in the May 2004 Ensign stated,
"Satan, in his carefully devised plan to destroy the family, seeks to diminish the role of fathers. Increased youth violence, youth crime, greater poverty and economic insecurity, and the failure of increasing numbers of children in our schools offer clear evidence of lack of a positive influence of fathers in the homes. … A family needs a father to anchor it.
"Surely we have learned by now, from the experience over centuries, that the basic family provides the most stable and secure foundation for society and is fundamental to the preparation of young people for their future responsibilities. We should have learned by now that alternate styles of family formations have not worked and never will work."
(L. Tom Perry, "Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling," Ensign, May 2004, 70)
Elder Russell M. Nelson adds to this by saying,
"As we go through life, even through very rough waters, a father's instinctive impulse to cling tightly to his wife or to his children may not be the best way to accomplish his objective. Instead, if he will lovingly cling to the Savior and the iron rod of the gospel, his family will want to cling to him and to the Savior. This lesson is surely not limited to fathers. Regardless of gender, marital status, or age, individuals can choose to link themselves directly to the Savior, hold fast to the rod of His truth, and lead by the light of that truth. By so doing, they become examples of righteousness to whom others will want to cling."
(Russell M. Nelson, "Set in Order Thy House," Ensign, Nov. 2001, 69)
Are any of the men that I have mentioned without fault in their lives? No. The only perfect father is our Heavenly Father after whom all fathers should try to pattern their lives. Each person in our family, ward, and community has the responsibility to encourage and support the fathers in their lives as they seek to lead their families along the strait and narrow path in an increasingly wicked world.
President Joseph F. Smith warned:
'Brethren, there is too little religious devotion, love, and fear of God, in the home; too much worldliness, selfishness, indifference, and lack of reverence in the family, or it never would exist so abundantly on the outside. Then, the home is what needs reforming. Try today, and tomorrow, to make a change in your home.' "
(L. Tom Perry, "Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling," Ensign, May 2004, 71)
This change can and will happen as we seek to put the Lord first in our lives and teach our children to do the same. Fathers, yours is the example they will look to as one who holds the Priesthood and presides in your families.
President James E. Faust gave this advice,
“In order to strengthen the father in the home, I make two simple suggestions: first, sustain and respect the father in his position; second, give him love, understanding, and some appreciation for his efforts. . . .
“In terms of giving fathers love and understanding, it should be remembered that fathers also have times of insecurity and doubt. Everyone knows fathers make mistakes—especially they themselves. Fathers need all the help they can get; mostly they need love, support, and understanding from their own.”
(James E. Faust, “The Father Who Cares,” Liahona, Sept. 2006, 4)
Up to this point, I have been speaking of fathers as we think of them more traditionally, those who have been blessed with children through birth or adoption. But there are others who can fill the role of a righteous father beyond this definition.
Several years ago Sister Sheri Dew gave a talk titled, “Are We Not All Mothers?” In this talk she spoke of the influence of all righteous women, including those who have not had the opportunity to be mothers in the traditional sense.
I think the same could be said of fathers. “Are You Not All Fathers?” Those of you who hold the Priesthood, whether married or single, old or young, have the responsibility to live your lives in such a way that those with whom you associate can say, “Now, there is a man I can honor and respect.”
Countless stories are told of righteous men who have been influences for good in the lives of others to whom they may have no literal family relationship, but who, through loving kindness and service, have been examples of righteous priesthood and fatherhood.
Think of Helaman and his Stripling Warriors. He was not the father of those 2,000 righteous young men, but he took upon himself the role of protector and example as he led them into battle.
There are battles that are being fought even today to win the hearts and souls of our families. Fathers, brothers, Priesthood holders, we need you to lead the way, to be examples of courage and honesty, of sacrifice and devotion.
I would like everyone to take a moment right now, or even later on when you have more time, to think of those who fill the important role of Father in your own lives.
Before closing, I’d like to share a poem.
We honor you upon this day
For actions small and great
For courage to stand up and fight
And lead on the path that’s straight.
We thank you for your sacrifice
Your gentle, constant love
Your example to your family
With guidance from above
May our Heavenly Father bless you
As you lead with love and care
May you rely upon him always
As you go to Him in prayer
- M. Durrant, June 17, 2012
I know that our Heavenly Father will help all of the Fathers in our lives as they seek to lead in righteousness. On this Father’s Day, may we honor all those who love, serve and sacrifice for our families every day. May we show them our love and support always. Thank you for your examples and your love.