Brethren, have you considered the challenge it is to be a successful father? It takes hard work and planning to rear your children in righteousness and have unity with your wife, to build a constant feeling of love and harmony in the home. Why is being a successful, righteous father such a challenge for almost any man?
The Lord’s plan of salvation requires that you pass through trials in this mortal life. Those trials seem to be greatest when you reach fatherhood, but be assured—fatherhood, in a sense, is an apprenticeship to godhood. This presentation will help give you a broader perspective of what it means to be a father; to give you an understanding and a feeling of your worth to your Father in Heaven. Father, consider your ways!
Fatherhood and the Plan of Salvation
Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God created the heavens and the earth. At this time you lived with Him as His spirit child, and you shouted for joy when this earth was formed. You knew the necessity of coming to earth, of gaining a physical body, and of passing through the many trials of earth life. You knew that at times you would make mistakes. You also knew that through the atoning sacrifice of your Brother and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, you could repent of these mistakes and be found clean.
You also knew that Jesus Christ was to be your example and would show you the way to return back to your Father in Heaven. “So God created man in his own image … ; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). And He gave man dominion, or stewardship, over all things on the earth and made him accountable for them. His greatest stewardship and accountability would be for children.
Marriage, as ordained of God, is the lawful union of man and wife, not only for this earth life, but for all eternity. A paramount purpose of marriage is to clothe spirit children of our Father in Heaven with earthly bodies. When your first child is born, you become a father. The title father is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, He has asked us to address Him as Father.
A father is the presiding authority in his family. On this earth your initial experience of being a father of a family gives you opportunities to learn to govern with love and patience, and with your wife to teach each of your children correct principles, to prepare them to become proper fathers and mothers. When you do this according to the pattern given us by the Lord and you endure to the end, your family will be added upon eternally. A righteous family is an eternal unit. On this earth, priesthood quorums and all other organizations of the Church aid you, the father, and your wife and family in achieving these eternal goals.
Father, with your wife you have entrusted to you from God the power to be cocreators with Him, to multiply and replenish the earth. As cocreators, you have delegated to you the opportunity and responsibility to bring into mortality and teach in light and truth spirit children of our Father in Heaven.
A Father Is a Teacher
When you recognize the importance of teaching your children, you become humble, because at once you realize that this is accomplished by precept and example. You cannot be one thing and effectively teach another. You must live and study and pray for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. You must purify and organize your life so that your example and leadership reflect the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You must plan your day as guided by the Spirit of the Lord, earnestly seeking your own welfare and the welfare of your family before other cares blind you to these first responsibilities. As we have been taught by living prophets, “No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home” (David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 5) 1 and “The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home” (Harold B. Lee, Strengthening the Home , 7).
It must be emphasized that as a father, you are always teaching. For good or ill your family learns your ways, your beliefs, your heart, your ideas, your concerns. Your children may or may not choose to follow you, but the example you give is the greatest light you hold before your children, and you are accountable for that light.
At one time a young father acted somewhat unkindly to his wife. Three days later this same man saw his three-year-old daughter use his very words in acting unkindly to her mother. The man was sobered and came to ask himself this question, “Do I love my children and family enough to repent, to change my life for their welfare?”
The obligations, the burdens, the responsibility of being a proper father may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you are not required to preside and judge and act without counsel, without assistance. You have a wife—a companion, a counselor, a partner, a helpmeet, a friend.
Is she one with you? Do you thank the Lord daily for her? Do you keep the covenants you made with her and with the Lord in the temple? Do you always strive to keep your thoughts and words and actions pure? Do you realize that when you offend her in any way it is like offending yourself, since you are one?
Does she know of your love for her? Is your relationship one of continual courtship? Do you regularly spend time together—alone, where your expression and actions reassure her of your appreciation and reliance on her companionship? Do you exercise righteous leadership with her?
Do you always keep sight of your marriage goal, the creation of an eternal unit bound together by love and by the power and ordinances of the priesthood?
What Will Be Your Report?
Father, you are accountable to the Lord for what you have and what you are. In the future you will surely stand before Him. What will be your report concerning your family? Will you be able to report that your home was a place of love, a bit of heaven? That daily family prayer and secret prayer were fostered? That it was a house of fasting? That in family home evenings and at other times you and your wife taught your children the basic principles of the gospel?
Will you be able to report that you created an environment in your home to build faith in a living God, to encourage learning, to teach order, obedience, and sacrifice? That you often shared your testimony of the reality of your Father in Heaven, of the truthfulness of the restored gospel with your wife and children? Will you be able to report that you followed the living prophets? That your home was where your tender children could feel protected and safe, and where they felt the love and acceptance and warmth [from] you and their mother?
And what will be your report concerning the temporal welfare of your family? It is God’s plan that you work for what you get. Your occupation should be honorable and should provide sufficiently to meet the needs of your family. Are your duties and labors undertaken with a joyful and thankful spirit? Do your wife and children feel secure because you feel good about your occupation? Do you practice frugality and thrift and avoid debt by living within your income, your tithed income? Do your wife and children feel a sense of tradition and stability because the family home is not relocated on a whim, for unsound reasons?
Father, are you committed to the eternal welfare of each of your children? Do you labor and love and strive with them as long as they live?
A Father Is a Leader
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.
Prepare Your Family
Now, you are a son of God. You were sent to this earth to gain a physical body and to prove yourself in the trials and experiences of this earth life. It is the plan of your Father in Heaven that you have been or will be sealed for eternity to a companion. In marriage you and your wife are one in purpose as you strive to fulfill the purposes of the Lord. As a cocreator with God you bring forth children.
You prepare your family and each member in the family to serve their fellowman, to build the kingdom of God on earth. You conscientiously provide for their material well-being. In the family you learn to govern righteously. You teach your family generally and each child individually the doctrines of the kingdom.
The day will come when you will stand before the Lord and report your stewardship as a father on earth. Father, consider your ways. What will be your report?
Fathers and Mothers Work Together
Following are teachings for fathers by current Church leaders:
“We are trying to preserve the traditional family—father, mother, and children—working together in love toward a common goal. In large measure we are succeeding against great odds. We advocate a family home evening, for instance, one night a week reserved for family activity together. Lessons from the scriptures are taught. Family business is discussed. Vacations are planned. We sing together. We pray together. It works!” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 73–74).
“I repeat that plea to all fathers. Yours is the basic and inescapable responsibility to stand as head of the family. That does not carry with it any implication of dictatorship or unrighteous dominion. It carries with it a mandate that fathers provide for the needs of their families. Those needs are more than food, clothing, and shelter. Those needs include righteous direction and the teaching, by example as well as precept, of basic principles of honesty, integrity, service, respect for the rights of others, and an understanding that we are accountable for that which we do in this life” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Bring Up a Child in the Way He Should Go,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 60).
“In the home it is a partnership with husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together. While the husband, the father, has responsibility to provide worthy and inspired leadership, his wife is neither behind him nor ahead of him but at his side” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Relief Society,” Ensign, May 1998, 73).
“Is yours a culture where the husband exerts a domineering, authoritarian role, making all of the important decisions for the family? That pattern needs to be tempered so that both husband and wife act as equal partners, making decisions in unity for themselves and their family. No family can long endure under fear or force; that leads to contention and rebellion. Love is the foundation of a happy family” (Richard G. Scott, “Removing Barriers to Happiness,” Ensign, May 1998, 86).
Some Points of Emphasis
Your fatherhood is, in a sense, an apprenticeship to godhood.
Your earth life is a part of the plan of salvation that enables you to become like your Father in Heaven.
Jesus Christ is your example to show you the way to return to your Father in Heaven.
A righteous family is an eternal unit.
You are the presiding authority in the home.
The Church exists to assist you to return with your family to the presence of our Father in Heaven.
You and your wife are cocreators with God for the eternal welfare of His spirit children.
You teach most effectively by example.
The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.
You must seek the Spirit of the Lord in leading your family.
The mother sustains the father and is his helpmeet, his counselor.
You and your wife are one in purpose.
You have the responsibility for the physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being of your children.
You have the responsibility to lead your family by:
Governing, correcting, nurturing, and blessing them in meekness, tenderness, and love on the principles of righteousness (see D&C 121:34–45).
Creating an environment in the home conducive to order, prayer, worship, learning, fasting, happiness, and the Spirit of the Lord.
Teaching them the principles of faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end, and praying vocally and in secret.
Loving God and keeping His commandments.