No words describe the sacred occasion when a new father holds a baby daughter in his arms for the first time. This year three of our sons have become new fathers of baby girls. As I watched our rugged, strong, rugby-playing son, Jon, hold his first baby daughter in his arms, he looked at her with a reverent tenderness, and then he looked at me with an expression that seemed to say, “How do I raise a girl?”
This morning I would like to speak to our sons and to all fathers. How can a father raise a happy, well-adjusted daughter in today’s increasingly toxic world? The answer has been taught by the Lord’s prophets. It is a simple answer, and it is true—“The most important thing a father can do for his [daughter] is to love [her] mother.”1 By the way you love her mother, you will teach your daughter about tenderness, loyalty, respect, compassion, and devotion. She will learn from your example what to expect from young men and what qualities to seek in a future spouse. You can show your daughter by the way you love and honor your wife that she should never settle for less. Your example will teach your daughter to value womanhood. You are showing her that she is a daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves her.
Love her mother so much that your marriage is celestial. A temple marriage for time and all eternity is worthy of your greatest efforts and highest priority. It was only after Nephi had completed the temple in the wilderness that he stated, “And … we lived after the manner of happiness.”2 The “manner of happiness” is found in the temple. It is covenant keeping. Don’t let any influence come into your life or your home that would cause you to compromise your covenants or your commitment to your wife and family.
In Young Women we are helping your daughter understand her identity as a daughter of God and the importance of remaining virtuous and worthy to receive the blessings of the temple and of a temple marriage. We are teaching your daughter the importance of making and keeping sacred covenants. We are teaching her to commit now to live so that she can always be worthy to enter the temple and not to allow anything to delay, distract, or disqualify her from that goal. Your example, as her father, speaks louder than our important words. Young women worry about their fathers. Many express that their greatest desire is to be united eternally as a family. They want you to be there when they go to the temple or get married in the temple. Stay close to your daughter and help her prepare and remain worthy for the temple. When she turns 12, take her with you to the temple often to perform baptisms for your ancestors and others. She will cherish these memories forever.
Today’s popular culture tries to erode and demean your eternal role as a patriarch and father and minimize your most important responsibilities. These have been given to you “by divine design,” and as fathers you “are to preside over [your] families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for [your] families.”3
Fathers, you are the guardians of your homes, your wives, and your children. Today “it is not an easy thing to protect one’s family against intrusions of evil into [their] minds and spirits. … These influences can and do flow freely into the home. Satan [is very clever]. He need not break down the door.”4
You must be the guardians of virtue. “A priesthood holder is virtuous. Virtuous behavior implies that [you have] pure thoughts and clean actions. … Virtue is … an attribute of godliness.” It “is akin to holiness.”5 The Young Women values are Christlike attributes which include the value of virtue. We now call upon you to join with us in leading the world in a return to virtue. In order to do so, you “must practise virtue and holiness”6 by eliminating from your life anything that is evil and inconsistent with one who holds the holy priesthood of God. “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and … the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.”7 So be cautious about what you view in entertainment media or print. Your personal virtue will model for your daughters, and also your sons, what true strength and moral courage are. By being a guardian of virtue in your own life, in your home, and in the lives of your children, you are showing your wife and daughters what true love really is. Your personal purity will give you power.
You are your daughter’s guardian in more than the legal sense. Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends and, when the time comes, her boyfriends. Help her understand the importance of education. Help her understand that the principle of modesty is a protection. Help her choose music and media that invite the Spirit and are consistent with her divine identity. Be an active part of her life. And if in her teenage years she should not come home from a date on time, go get her. She will resist and tell you that you have ruined her social life, but she will inwardly know that you love her and that you care enough to be her guardian.
You are not ordinary men. Because of your valiance in the premortal realms, you qualified to be leaders and to possess priesthood power. There you exhibited “exceeding faith and good works,” and you are here now to do the same.8 Your priesthood sets you apart.
Within a few weeks our three sons will have given their baby daughters a name and a blessing. I hope this will be the first of many priesthood blessings they receive from their fathers, because in the world in which they will grow up, they will need those blessings. Your daughter will cherish the priesthood and determine in her heart that this is what she wants in her future home and family. Always remember “that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven” and can “be controlled … only upon the principles of righteousness.”9
Fathers, you are your daughter’s hero. My father was my hero. I used to wait on the steps of our home for him to arrive each night. He would pick me up and twirl me around and let me put my feet on top of his big shoes, and then he would dance me into the house. I loved the challenge of trying to follow his every footstep. I still do.
Did you know that your testimony has a powerful influence on your daughters? I knew my father had a testimony. I knew he loved the Lord. And because my father loved the Lord, I did too. I knew he cared about the widows because he took his vacation to paint the home of the widow who lived next door. I thought that was the greatest vacation our family ever had because he taught me how to paint! You will bless the life of your daughter for years to come if you will look for ways to spend time with her and to share your testimony with her.
In the Book of Mormon, Abish was converted by her father’s sharing with her his remarkable vision. For many years thereafter, she kept her testimony in her heart and lived righteously in a very wicked society. Then the time came when she could no longer be still, and she ran from house to house to share her testimony and the miracles she had witnessed in the king’s court. The power of Abish’s conversion and testimony was instrumental in changing an entire society. The people who heard her testify became a people who “were converted unto the Lord, [and] never did fall away,” and their sons became the stripling warriors!10
As the hymn says, “Rise up, O men of God!”11 This is a call to you, the men who bear the holy priesthood of God. May it be said of you as was said of Captain Moroni:
“[He] was a strong and a mighty man; … a man of a perfect understanding; … a man who was firm in the faith of Christ. …
“… If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; … the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”12
Brethren, fathers, young men, “Be loyal to the royal within you.”13
So how do you raise a girl? Love her mother. Lead your family to the temple, be guardians of virtue, and magnify your priesthood. Fathers, you have been entrusted with our Heavenly Father’s royal daughters. They are virtuous and elect. It is my prayer that you will watch over them, strengthen them, model virtuous behavior, and teach them to follow in the Savior’s every footstep—for He lives! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.