The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve stated, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). This obligation includes the responsibility to teach the gospel.
An adult member of the Church spoke fondly of the gospel lessons she had received from her father. She recalled:
“My father established a family tradition of taking his children aside each week for about two months before we turned eight years old. When it was my turn, he had a brand-new journal for me, and we sat together, just the two of us, and talked. He asked me about my feelings for Jesus, and then he discussed with me the gospel principles he had prepared.
“Over the two-month period he taught me the simple, beautiful gospel. He had me draw a visual aid as we went along. It showed the premortal existence, this earth life, and the steps I needed to take to return to live with Heavenly Father: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring in faith to the end.
“I will never forget the love I felt from my dad as he spent that time with me. He bore his testimony about each step of the plan of salvation and was very patient with my questions. I think it was such a powerful experience because he spoke on my level and bore his testimony to me. I believe that this experience was a major reason I had a testimony of the gospel when I was baptized.”
Sometimes fathers become preoccupied with the temporal welfare of their families. Some fathers leave all the responsibility for gospel teaching to the mothers. This should never be. To all fathers, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“Yours is the basic and inescapable responsibility to stand as the 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, not only to one another but also to the God of heaven, who is our Eternal Father” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 78–79; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 60).
President Ezra Taft Benson suggested “ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:
Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.
Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom.”
President Benson concluded by saying, “Remember your sacred calling as a father in Israel—your most important calling in time and eternity—a calling from which you will never be released” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 62–63; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 50–51).
As a father, you should always remember the eternal importance of your role. Fatherhood is a divine responsibility. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “It should have great meaning that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that could be given him, God himself, he who is the highest of all, chose to be addressed simply as Father” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 139; or Ensign, July 1972, 113).