I Have a Question

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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

    Who should give father’s blessings to children with no qualified father in the home?

    Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, First Quorum of the Seventy Before we consider this question we should ask, are father’s blessings essential? I have never had a father’s blessing; my wife has never had a father’s blessing, although her father was an active member of the Church. Father’s blessings are highly desirable, and a worthy father has a patriarchal right to give such blessings. However, there are many homes that do not have a worthy father in the home, due to the reason of divorce, death, family abandonment, or some other situation. Our family was not complete after my mother and father were divorced. Therefore, I did not seek a father’s blessing. It was not essential to my activity in the Church.

    There are other means of obtaining priesthood blessings and administrations. Every active member of the Church can be administered to by worthy elders. The same order that governs welfare needs and counseling in the Church also operates for priesthood blessings. Worthy priesthood holders within the immediate or extended family should be called to bless or administer to sick family members. If no one in the immediate or extended family can give the blessing, the home teacher should be invited to perform this sacred ordinance. This order of the Church provides for every member.

    We would do well to realize that every worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder can give blessings. We sometimes consider calling upon the bishop or stake president, stake patriarch or other prominent priesthood leader to give blessings because we feel they are more faithful or have greater faith. This need not be the case—indeed is often not the case. Worthy and faithful home teachers are able through their faith and prayers to receive the same inspiration that might come through priesthood leaders.

    It seems proper to me that no one except a worthy father has the right to give a father’s blessing. Although this thought may hurt a little and cause some longing, the Lord did not leave those in such conditions without blessings. Every member of this church can receive a special blessing or a comfort blessing from a righteous priesthood holder. The person giving the blessing will be entitled to revelation and inspiration for the person he is blessing.

    Often, when members are ordained into the priesthood or set apart to various callings, the bishop, stake president, or other presiding priesthood leader has an opportunity to give such blessings as the Spirit dictates. We have been instructed that such blessings and administrations are not to be taken down in shorthand or tape recorded. But the person receiving the blessing may desire to write in his journal the special directions and instructions that were pronounced.

    I have given my children father’s blessings before their missions, prior to temple marriage, and at other sacred and needed times. It is a privilege that those with worthy priesthood fathers in the home may request. To the rest of us who do not live under such conditions, the same blessings are available through family members, home teachers, or other servants of the Lord. Even though they may not be from earthly fathers, they will give equal comfort because they come from another father, our Heavenly Father.

    I like to read but have only limited time and am uncertain of what is really worth reading. Can you suggest ways to select good reading material?

    Stephen L. Tanner, associate professor of English, Brigham Young University Selecting reading material can be a puzzling task, since so much is being published nowadays. It’s tempting to choose on the basis of an inviting cover or a publisher’s “blurbs.” Before you buy, though, remember that we do have some criteria to help. The Lord has counseled us through his prophets to learn all good things, but reading the scriptures should be one’s first priority. Even a good Church book is no substitute for scripture study. We shouldn’t neglect the word of God for the word of man.

    In addition to the scriptures, which give us both specific examples and general counsel, many other materials can enrich and delight us. But we must be discriminating in our choices. This is true for light reading as well as for serious reading. The distinguished poet-critic T. S. Eliot rightly concluded that “It is just the literature that we read for ‘amusement,’ or ‘purely for pleasure’ that may have the greatest and least suspected influence upon us. It is the literature which we read with the least effort that can have the easiest and most insidious influence upon us.” Eliot realized that such reading “affects us as entire human beings; it affects our moral and religious existence.” (Selected Essays, New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950, p. 350.)

    We should choose the books we read as carefully as we choose the company we keep. They need not be widely recognized classics any more than our friends need be famous people. Good books can be as humble and unpretentious as a good neighbor. It is character rather than fame that counts.

    The effort required to be a discriminating reader need not be great. Selections made by book clubs can help if you discount the elements of advertising and sales promotion. Best-seller lists can give guidance, but they reflect only sales in major cities. Moreover, popularity is a questionable test of quality, since your interests, tastes, and values may not correspond with those of the book-buying public.

    Therefore, choose books that suit you, rather than those that conform to public taste. Many fine books never reach best-seller lists. Become acquainted with your local library. Your librarian may be willing to recommend less books.

    Many newspapers and magazines have book reviews that may help you find appropriate reading material. The periodical section of a library puts hundreds of reviews at your fingertips.

    At the same time you satisfy your present interests, cultivate new ones. Discovery is one of reading’s greatest pleasures. Do you like animals? Try a book on animal behavior. Have you wondered what causes rain? Try a book on meteorology or a popular treatment of science. Have you ever read a travel book? A how-to book? A biography of a famous person? A “whodunit” mystery? A history of the Civil War? Reviews can introduce you to new authors and subjects, guide you in your choices, and whet your appetite.

    Books about books can be stimulating, particularly if you are choosing classics. Books like Clifton Fadiman’s The Lifetime Reading Plan or Will Durant’s Great Men of Literature contain lists, descriptions, and commentaries on classics. Two of my favorite books on books are Gilbert Highet’s People, Places, and Books and A Clerk of Oxenford. These contain brief essays on books ranging from history to science fiction. For poetry lovers, I recommend Highet’s The Powers of Poetry.

    Some general authorities have written similar essays on books. Elder Adam S. Bennion, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve who died in 1958, discusses reading in The Candle of the Lord and offers a list of one hundred worthwhile books. In The Majesty of Books, Elder Sterling W. Sill of the First Quorum of the Seventy discusses his favorites among the world’s great literature.

    A little time spent reading about reading will generate dividends of pleasure and knowledge during that precious time you devote to books. As you search and study, remember that the Spirit of the Lord can help us know how and what to study:

    “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

    “Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowldege also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:78–79.)

    We are not confident that our children are as fully prepared for baptism as they should be. What can we do?

    Neal S. Southwick, instructor in religion, Ricks College, and librarian, Upper Snake River Branch Genealogical Library About four and a half years ago our oldest child, nearly seven months before her eighth birthday, came to me and asked, “Daddy, I don’t think I am ready to be baptized yet. Will you help me get ready?” Of course I was pleased at this maturity displayed by a seven-year-old girl. However, I was also taken aback with the realization that as parents we hadn’t done as much as I thought we had been doing. We had not left this responsibility to the Junior Sunday School and Primary; and yet, from her point of view at least, we were not doing all that could be done at home.

    My wife, Marilyn, and I discussed the situation. After reviewing D&C 68:25–28, which explains the great responsibility the Lord places on parents to prepare their children for baptism, we approached Angela with a program designed to meet her request. The plan called for a short monthly seminar between parents and daughter, wherein we would discuss the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. At the conclusion of each discussion, Angela’s goal would be to apply that particular principle for the next month. We also decided she could choose anything else to discuss that she felt would help her. Angela chose to memorize the Articles of Faith and to read as far as she could in the Book of Mormon.

    We planned five seminars. The subjects were faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament. The format of the seminar went something like this: After an opening prayer, Mom or Dad would start the discussion by asking Angela questions to determine her knowledge and feelings on our subject. For example, in the seminar on faith, our questions went somewhat like this: Tell me your feelings about Jesus. Who is Jesus? What does faith mean to you?

    Then, based on the answers, we began to discuss what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. We kept the discussions informal, inviting her freely to share her feelings and ask any questions she desired. Each seminar was limited to thirty minutes.

    We closed with another prayer. It was important that the child offer one of the prayers.

    Our seminars usually took place after the younger children were in bed and we could talk without interruption. (And we taped the discussions, primarily for my use later.)

    Angela loved the seminars. She couldn’t wait for the next one and occasionally asked for another when only a day or two had passed. However, we felt that for our discussions to be most effective, a month should elapse between seminars, allowing for further discussion, follow-up on the goal, and preparation for the next seminar. We also felt it important for both parents to be involved, whether it be together in each seminar, taking turns in different seminars, or in the follow-up of each discussion. This would help display unity between parents and give the child an opportunity to feel both Mom and Dad’s testimony.

    Helping Angela to understand the basic principles of the gospel also dispelled some fears and hesitations she had about being immersed in the water at baptism, sinning and repenting, and the Holy Ghost.

    When the anticipated baptism date arrived, she was happy and excited about this great event. She not only had learned a great deal through our seminars, but she also had read several chapters in the Book of Mormon and had memorized all of the Articles of Faith.

    My wife and I felt successful. Because of the seminars, this young, teachable child of God understood better what she was doing at baptism, why she was doing it, and what was expected of her because of it.

    But Angela soon let us know that she didn’t want our seminars to end now that she was baptized. She was anxious to continue this kind of learning.

    The enthusiasm spread to the other children. Our oldest son, Spencer, only eighteen months younger than Angela, began to ask when we could start his seminars and get him ready for baptism. We began the discussions about six months before his eighth birthday. My wife and I felt a little more confident this second time. However, we learned in our first discussion with him that because he was a different personality, adjustments had to be made to allow for his own personal inquisitiveness.

    Again we felt good when it came time for his baptism. We felt that as parents we were experiencing more than just the normal kind of interaction between parent and child. If done right, each seminar could be a beautiful, spiritual experience for both.

    This past March we baptized our second son, Boyd, using the same program. It is exciting to plan these discussions for each different child. We wouldn’t think of leaving any of our children out of this experience.

    Our seminars would not have been successful if they had been part of family home evening with all the other children present. They required the privacy and closeness of a personal interview, with our entire attentions devoted to the one child. This made each child feel important and made it possible for us to meet the special needs of each.

    Because of our success with the seminars on baptism, the children have been asking for seminars on other topics. In addition to the ones they request, we are planning to discuss preparing for the priesthood, for a mission, for marriage, for homemaking, for an occupation, etc. We are excited about this opportunity, because our children, though not exceptional learners and no more spiritually adept than other children their age, respond so well to this kind of positive attention.