Some years ago I had a dream that changed my life. It also changed the way I treat my wife and children. In the dream, I was driving a car on a dark night. It was a two-lane road in a rather quiet countryside. I saw a car coming from the opposite direction at high speed; suddenly it swerved into my lane. I did my best to avoid the car, but the other driver increased his speed. I knew we were going to crash and found myself praying hard: “Heavenly Father, please help me. I cannot die yet. I have a sweet wife and [at that time] four lovely children. Please, please …” I felt the impact and was thrown out of the car.
When I hit the ground, I immediately woke up and found it was just a dream. “Oh, what a relief!” I thought. Then I asked myself, “Have I been a good husband and father? Can I say I have been the best husband I could be? What would I leave my children if I died?”
I could not go back to sleep that night. I recommitted myself to the Lord and decided to love my wife and children more. So that my family would have my testimony recorded, I wrote down 42 statements expressing my belief in doctrines and principles of the gospel, the things I would most want to leave my children if I were to die.
I gained a new perspective on what it means to preside righteously in the home after I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and found that this Church helped me have a happy family. I came to understand that there are some basic doctrines of the restored gospel that guide husbands and fathers in fulfilling their roles.
One of the great experiences I had before I got married was to live with several member families in the United States while I attended a university there. These parents held family home evening every week, studied the scriptures together, and had family prayer on a daily basis. Of course, they at times had challenges. But the way they solved the problems was consistent with gospel teachings.
In watching their examples and actually participating as a member of their families, I decided that someday I, too, would like to have a family similar to theirs. I observed that their families were blessed as these fathers followed the counsel now given in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”1
The family is the basic unit of the Church, so righteous behavior within the home is vital. Indeed it is central to our personal progress and the spiritual progress of our families. There are several things a husband and father can do to teach and support this righteous behavior, as well as to exemplify it.
Know the doctrines and principles. In order to preside righteously in the home, a husband and father must first come to know the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel. Without the gospel, some men refuse to accept the responsibility of being a husband or of becoming a father. They are more interested in other pursuits, selfishly focusing only on themselves, or they just do not have the courage and commitment necessary to fulfill these divine roles.
Studying hard and gaining a good education are necessary and worthy pursuits, but we should remember that these are means and not ends. President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) said, “The most important knowledge in the world is gospel knowledge.”2 Along with having individual study time, a husband and father can have a profoundly rewarding experience reading the scriptures with his family—for the benefit of all.
Work on improving himself first. The Lord taught, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). A husband and father must first learn to love and govern himself before he can do so with others. Once he learns to love Heavenly Father and himself, he tends to become more confident in loving others, especially his spouse and children.
He must learn why it is important to govern wisely. He must learn to control his emotions and appetites and never abuse anyone. Violence, cruel behavior, and sharp words wound others. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).
Acknowledge each other’s roles and work together. Men and women are equal in the sight of God. “In marriage neither the man nor the woman is more important than the other. They are equal partners and should work together to provide for the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the family. … The father is the patriarch of the family and has important responsibilities that are his alone. He is the priesthood holder and has the duties of priesthood leadership.”3
A worthy man is given the priesthood so he can preside in the home and bless his family. It is the father’s responsibility to gather the family together for family home evening and for family councils. When we join together, we develop greater love for each other as we share our testimonies and experiences. Fathers should also have prayerful, periodic interviews with each of their children. As the father listens with love, both father and child will be richly rewarded.
Exercise the priesthood righteously. The Lord explained how fathers should exercise the priesthood:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” (D&C 121:41–43).
If a husband and father truly learns how to love according to the example of the Savior, he becomes confident, has stronger faith, and is inspired. The influence of the Holy Ghost can help him make righteous decisions on how to treat others.
Teach children the important things. A father should teach his children from the scriptures and from his own example. He should teach that personal and family prayers are the most powerful communication tools for receiving revelation and for increasing spirituality. Through prayer, we can resolve many concerns and personal problems (see Philip. 4:6–7).
I remember some years ago, our family seemed to be limited to three children as my wife was not able to become pregnant again. She questioned why and started to blame herself. She prayed day after day. Our children noticed her sadness, and they felt sad too.
Finally I called our children together. In council, we decided to have a special prayer. I prayed; then each child prayed in turn. We had a wonderful feeling, and the Spirit of the Lord was there. Our children believed that their mother would have another baby. Approximately 10 months later, our fourth child was born. What joy we felt and what a testimony that was to my wife and me and our children.
We learn in the proclamation on the family that “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”4 Fathers are not in this alone. As husbands and wives strive to rear their families in righteousness, those around them will notice. Once when my wife went to a parent and teacher meeting, someone asked how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints raise their children so well. I am sure many members have had similar experiences. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “We can maintain the integrity of our families if we will follow the counsel of our leaders. As we do so, those about us will observe with respect and be led to inquire how it is done.”5
May we stop and think, pondering and reflecting on how we are doing in our own families. May peace come to each family member as husbands and fathers preside over their families in love—that same peace promised by the Savior: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).