Judeo-Christian Culture: Search for Truth, Plan of Salvation, Cautionary Advice Truth and the Plan By Dallin H. Oaks When we seek the truth about religion, we should use spiritual methods appropriate for that search. Modern revelation defines truth as a … Continue reading
Teaching at Home
Teaching in the Home—a Joyful and Sacred Responsibility
Parental teaching is like being an on-call physician. We always need to be ready to teach our children because we never know when the opportunity will present itself.
We are like the Savior, whose teaching often “did not happen in a synagogue but in informal, everyday settings—while eating a meal with His disciples, drawing water from a well, or walking past a fig tree.”10
D. Todd Christofferson counsels:
Above all, we must continue to encourage and help parents be better and more consistent teachers … especially by example.”
‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
“Take Advantage of Spontaneous Teaching Moments,” Teaching in the Savior’s Way (2016), 16. Teaching in the Savior’s Way includes a variety of tips and tools for teaching in the home.
Parents as Teachers:
Christian Moral Standards and Biblical Values for Children and Youth
Written, Not with Ink
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26 )
Jochebed, mother of Moses, gently laid her infant son in a carefully crafted little ark, then watched over the short river journey of her precious cargo until he was safely in the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. Even then, in the king’s court, she was there, nursing him and vigilant in his care.
Despite the opposition of those who would have killed him, Moses grew to manhood, delivered his people from bondage, and left to the world the priceless moral code known as the Ten Commandments. Moses went on to his reward, but opposition to his work continues.
In the New World, about 148 B.C., the prophet Abinadi was put to death by a king, for defending the plan of salvation and the Ten Commandments.
This revered code has been preserved, found today inscribed in stone or metal. The Ten Commandments have been ridiculed, forbidden, removed from public display. Yet within the calm eye of stormy hostility, this code remains serene, steadfast, and immovable.
After the children of Israel broke the Ten Commandments and other higher laws, Moses was instructed to create a complex structure of rules and regulations.
Today, many try to replace the Ten Commandments with gargantuan legal documents of government regulation.
Laws of men come and go. People have been killed or thrown in jail defending the Ten Commandments. But this moral code persists as a foundation for all civilized societies. Why? Because its Author is absolute— the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The Ten Commandments are moral absolutes.
Those whose behavior is consistent with moral absolutes are guided by what is called “internal government.” These individuals can successfully govern themselves, but are accountable to a just God.
When internal government breaks down, external government takes over, with rules, regulation, and bureaucracy. Persons under external government are accountable to men, who may not be just.
In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a timeless novel about justice and mercy, hero Jean Valjean served in prison for decades because he stole one loaf of bread. He learned about mercy when a compassionate priest bought his freedom with two valuable silver candle holders. Because of that gracious gift, Valjean lived out his life serving and bringing joy to others. But Javert, his jailer, refusing to accept the price paid for Jean’s deliverance, became obsessed with re-capturing him. Failing in his objective, Javert finally ended his own miserable life. Such is the state of man at the hands of human justice.
In a civilized society, however, justice must be served, or there would be nothing to deter evil and protect the innocent. But much as we may desire to be morally perfect, we all fall short. What is to be done?
Many today reject moral absolutes because, like Javert, they do not understand the plan of mercy. A loving Father in heaven knew that his children would fail to keep all the commandments that justice required. Only His perfect Son could meet the absolute demands of justice and pay the price for His children’s deliverance.
Parents need not be afraid of holding their children to high moral standards. The atonement of Christ is a safety net in the times of falling short, but it is fastened to repentance. Like Valjean, our children must forsake evil, or justice will have claims upon them.
If we as parents, like Jochebed, diligently train, nurture, and safeguard the internal government in our children, their souls will remain clean and whole when all around them are falling apart. Despite the fading ink of human doctrine, our children can remain true to eternal principles, written, not with ink, but in the fleshy tables of their hearts. (2Cor.3:3)
But remember, “It is easier to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
Children prepared with strong internal government will always make honor and virtue their choice; they will triumph over evil, and rejoice.
Dinner Topics for Tuesday
- Give examples in the world today of human injustice, in which the Ten Commandments have been perverted and the atonement of Christ is denied.
- If we do our very best to live high moral standards, but fall short, what must we do to receive the mercy of Christ?
Copyright © 2010 by Christine A. Davidson
True to the Faith
By Evan Stephens
Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
While we know the powers of darkness seek to thwart the work of God,
Shall the children of the promise cease to grasp the iron rod? No!
We will work out our salvation; we will cleave unto the truth;
We will watch and pray and labor with the fervent zeal of youth. Yes!
We will strive to be found worthy of the kingdom of our Lord,
With the faithful ones redeemed who have loved and kept his word. Yes!
True to the faith that our parents have cherished,
True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,
To God’s command, soul, heart, and hand,
Faithful and true we will ever stand.
Christian Standards for Children and Youth
I will follow Heavenly Father’s plan for me.
I will listen to the Holy Spirit.
I will choose the right. I know I can repent when I make a mistake.
I will be honest with Heavenly Father, others, and myself.
I will use the names of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ reverently. I will not swear or use crude words.
I will do those things on the Sabbath that will help me feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
I will honor my parents and do my part to strengthen my family.
I will keep my mind and body sacred and pure, and I will not partake of things that are harmful to me.
I will dress modestly to show respect for Heavenly Father and myself.
I will only read and watch things that are pleasing to Heavenly Father.
I will only listen to music that is pleasing to Heavenly Father.
I will seek good friends and treat others kindly.
I will do my part to strengthen my family.
Bible Scriptures Object Lesson
Hear the Sound of the Trumpet
This instrument can teach us about the role of prophets and how we should treat their words.
“If when [the watchman] seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
“Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
“… But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.”
Probably the oldest and most common instrument in ancient Israel (and certainly the one most frequently mentioned in the Bible) is a trumpet made of a ram’s horn, called a shofar in Hebrew. Sometimes it was heated to soften it so that it could be straightened or shaped. Its sound was unusual and easily recognizable. As an instrument, it was simple, producing only two or three notes.
- In ancient Israel, the shofar was blown to send an alarm or signal a gathering of the people. This was done in times of war (see Judges 3:27; 6:34; Nehemiah 4:18–20) as well as at times of celebration, such as a feast or the anointing of a king (see Leviticus 25:9; 1 Kings 1:34; 2 Kings 9:13; Psalm 81:3).
- The Lord asked that a trumpet (ram’s horn) be sounded to gather the people of Israel around Mount Sinai when He would appear to Moses there (see Exodus 19:5–13). But when the time came and the trumpet sounded, the people removed themselves rather than come to the mountain to be in the Lord’s presence (see Exodus 20:18–19).
- The shofar is still used in modern Jewish religious practice.
- A few Old Testament verses also mention a trumpet made of bronze or silver (khatsotrah). It was short and straight, with a four- or five-note range in a bright tone, and was played by the priests. Its purpose was to gather the congregation to the tabernacle or temple (see Numbers 10:2–10). It was among the sacred utensils of the temple (see 2 Kings 12:13–14).
What We Can Learn
Has a simple, unmistakable sound. Nephi said, “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth” (2 Nephi 33:6). Prophets teach the Lord’s word with clarity. As the Apostle Paul said, “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8).
Calls the Lord’s people to gather. We gather to seek refuge and strength. Our meetinghouses, temples, and homes can be places of gathering to hear God’s word so that we can combat evil and rally around the “ensign on the mountains” (Isaiah 18:3).
Warns of coming danger. The watchmen of Israel would raise the alarm by blowing the trumpet. Prophets give us clear warnings of spiritual perils in our time. And we should also remember that “it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81), “in mildness and in meekness” (D&C 38:41).
Calls to remembrance, celebration, and praise. Prophets also invite us to remember the Lord and His goodness. They call upon us to praise and thank Him and to “make a joyful noise” (Psalm 98:6) through our own prayer and testimony.
Symbolism of Eagle Wings
Wings of Eagles “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Wing type: Broad and long, with long, slotted feathers.
Wingspan: Between 6 feet (1.8 meters) and 9 feet (2.7 meters).
Eagles’ wings are built for soaring and gliding on updrafts of warm air (thermals). The long feathers are slotted and can separate to allow air to flow smoothly and to prevent the eagles from stalling when flying at slower speeds.
The outermost wing feathers display gradual narrowing (emarginations) or abrupt narrowing (notches) toward the tip of the feathers to create greater lift during flight.
Eagles and other soaring birds have been seen at heights of over 20,000 feet (6,100 meters).
Eagles’ bones, while strong, are hollow, making up less than 10 percent of their total body weight. This, of course, makes it easier for them to fly.
The slow gliding and soaring facilitated by eagles’ wings enable eagles to spot prey from afar with their keen eyes.
The generic Hebrew word for eagle used in the Old Testament (nesher) could refer to a number of different soaring birds, including the golden eagle, the imperial eagle, or the griffon vulture.
Anciently there was a popular (though erroneous) belief that eagles would molt and replace their feathers in old age, receiving renewed strength.
What We Can Learn
Having “wings as eagles” helps us:
Rise toward the heavens. When we “wait upon the Lord” by patiently trusting in Him and keeping our covenants, He blesses us with His divine help. In His strength we are lifted up so that we can receive “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).
Move away from the earth. When we turn to the Lord, obey His commandments, and keep our covenants with Him, we separate ourselves from the world. We are less weighed down or heavy laden and are able to obtain a higher and more advantageous perspective—an eternal perspective. God blesses us with the Holy Ghost, and we feel our spirits rise above the trifling concerns of worldly living.
Find nourishment. Just as eagles’ ability to soar on their wings can help them use their eyesight to receive their nourishment, we receive spiritual nourishment as we keep our covenants and stay alert to the things of the Spirit. We see this truth particularly in the ordinance of the sacrament as we partake of bread and water and renew the baptismal covenant.
“I know that in times of fear or fatigue, ‘they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’ [Isaiah 40:31].
“We receive the gift of such majestic might and sanctifying renewal through the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has overcome the world, and if we will take upon us His name and ‘walk in His paths’ [Isaiah 2:3] and keep our covenants with Him, we shall, ere long, have peace. Such a reward is not only possible; it is certain.”
Dinner Topics for Thursday
Biblical Parenting: Fatherhood Training
I think it is God-designed. Dad is the pace setter, the value giver, the protector. Kids, especially sons, look to their dads as their hero. ~Robert Lewis
“Every man needs to be assumed as inadequate for manhood,” Robert Lewis told AFA Journal. “And every dad needs to be assumed as inadequate for fatherhood.” Lewis is author of Raising a Modern- Day Knight and Real Family Values.
Lewis is passionate about training males to be men and dads to be fathers. His passion has led him to speak about marriage and parenting across several continents. He recently spoke with AFAJ about the breakdown of fatherhood and how the church can help men get back on track.
AFA Journal: Where does Dad’s hero status come from?
Robert Lewis: I think it is God-designed. Dad is the pace setter, the value giver, the protector. Kids, especially sons, look to their dads as their hero.
Imagine Dad receiving a bucket of hero coins at the start of parenting. He can waste those credits by living hypocritically, living in anger, or being absent. But he has a lot to spend before he loses that status.
However, if he recognizes his God-given gift, he will build on those credits and try to provide an environment where he never loses it. The result will be daughters growing up identifying their father as the ideal figure of manhood, knowing he is what they want in a husband. Sons will grow up saying he is the man they want to become. Unfortunately, most men don’t know how to invest those credits and most churches aren’t providing the necessary training for him to know how.
AFAJ: Why are fathers not getting that training in churches?
RL: Put simply, the church has made wrong assumptions, and fathers have come to wrong conclusions. Churches are assuming men are being produced by homes with dads, but they aren’t. Look at American culture; dads aren’t there. Over 40% of today’s men and women didn’t have a dad growing up. Probably another 30% [of fathers] were emotionally absent. There is a tragedy moving into the church with men.
Another wrong assumption churches have made is that dads possess the necessary skills to be successful fathers and husbands. But if they haven’t received those skills at church, where do we suppose they get them?
AFAJ: What assumptions can the church make?
RL: The church should assume every man is inadequate for manhood and every dad is inadequate for fatherhood. We need to put that on the church walls to drive men to understand they need wisdom because, according to Proverbs 24:3, a house is built by wisdom. That wisdom is not automatic. It is acquired.
There are churches with successful women’s ministry, children’s ministry, preaching ministry, but with a deficit in men’s ministries. I think the greatest error of the local church today is not giving a super priority to developing men, from the pastor down.
Gospel Teachings for Dads
Some churches are recognizing the problem and are starting to make changes.
AFAJ: How are those churches changing?
RL: They realize they must give men the call to intentionally love their wives and raise their children with wisdom. They know there is no institution on earth, no business school in the world that trains men how to be men. There is only one institution that can give that call, and it’s the church.
If I could speak to every church, I would say two things: Have a basic manhood class and a basic dad class taught by veteran dads every year.
Men need rigorous training by solid men with great curricula. But it mustn’t be a one-time shot. The training must go on for weeks. I wouldn’t have a dad class of less than six weeks. That is the minimum time required to really pound these fundamentals into their hearts.
Consider the training guys get if they want to be great hunters or fishermen. They don’t go to one seminar and consider themselves experts. They seek out disciplined training by proven veterans. In the realm of fatherhood, every church has those veterans. The church doesn’t need new ideas. It only needs a vision to develop men and fathers.
(NOTE on Resource for Fathers. One church, Members of the Mormon Church, enjoy tons of training for men and boys—not just a course study of a few weeks—but life-long, year in and year out, organized in every unit of the church body, from boy scout age to adult parenting and leadership, gospel teachings on developing Christlike attributes for godly men as a way of life.)
With all this, there must be structural changes in the church. It needs structural changes where the leadership decides to have more than just a children’s program and youth group. Churches that have training classes around marriage, parenting, manhood, womanhood, and the gospel are the ones recognizing this incredible need and having tremendous success.
AFAJ: Do individual men make the same assumptions about themselves that the church makes?
RL: Absolutely. But Scripture is constantly calling us not to assume we know anything. Peter, when talking to husbands, said, “Men, live with your wives according to knowledge” (1 Peter 3:7). The word he uses is ginosko, which has the connotation of information you acquire. It isn’t common sense. Peter is commanding men not to assume they have knowledge because they don’t. He seems to even say, “Don’t guess at what being a good husband and dad is because you’ll get it wrong.”
Men have to understand it’s okay not to know; the sin is in not going and getting the knowledge. You have to pursue and seek wisdom to get it. Every dad has to study what it means to be a parent.
I even go as far as saying a guy who assumes he knows how to be a father and husband is a fool. The guy who assumes he doesn’t is already wise because he will strive to collect wisdom and gather fathering skills. He will upgrade his parenting and those hero credits God gave him at his child’s birth. And when he begins to act on that acquired wisdom, he becomes the game-winning dad by the time his child leaves home.
Learn of Christ
AFAJ: How does a father pursue wisdom?
RL: There are two things a young man can do. First, he can encourage his pastor and church to start manhood and fatherhood classes.
When I work with dads, I try to give them some values that reconnect them to the heart issues of their families. But most men are clueless when it comes to that. We have been going through cultural shifts that have decimated family values and natural family interaction. We are left with a family where everyone is isolated from everyone else. They are strung together with programming at church or school, but not the real substance issues. So look for curriculum that will address those needs.
AFAJ: What should a church do when it finds a great resource?
RL:They should make that the resource of the church. We in the American church gobble up resources like we do movies. We use it once and can it. If you have a great resource, get some great leaders and make it the resource of the church. Keep using it until everyone has mastered it.
AFAJ: Aside from resources, in your book you heavily promote finding or being a mentor.
RL: Absolutely. I have found every young man wants to hear about the lives of older men. They want to learn from the success and failures of veteran fathers.
Sadly, older men are often afraid. But they can be activated into the mentoring process by the pleading of younger men.
I always tell men, every older man is good enough to be a mentor, and every younger man is good enough to ask for it.
AFAJ: Finding mentors and starting a class takes time. What practical wisdom can you offer parents in the meantime?
RL: The first thing Mom and Dad have to do is ask, “What are our values?” When I wrote Real Family Values I remember the resistance I got from young couples because they didn’t know how to articulate their values and write them down.
George Barna told me the homes and families with authentic, stable adult children happen when parents know the values they want their children to leave home with, can easily articulate them to each other and children, and parent with that end in mind. They constantly check their parenting against those values. They constantly call their children back to those values.
Once you get to the point you know and can articulate your principles, now you have two applications: Talk about them while living them out, and constantly reinforce them for your children.
Parents need the confidence that comes from writing something down. Act as though they are written in stone, unchangeable. Then emulate them and constantly call children back to them. In today’s fast-paced world, kids will better catch what you live than hear what you say. Otherwise, the world is going to lure both parents and children away from them.
The point of all the training, mentorship, assuming men don’t possess wisdom, and encouraging them to pursue it, is to restore the hearts of fathers to their children. It is different than rules. Shepherding kids in programs, sports, or academics is good, but if your child doesn’t have your heart, your child is at a deficit when he leaves home. But that is where we are today. And without a drastic change in the hearts of fathers and in the church, I believe children will be the tragedy of the 21st century.
For fathers pursuing wisdom
Resource for Fathers. Members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints enjoy tons of training for men and boys—not just a course of study of a few weeks— but life-long, year in and year out, organized in every unit of the church body, from boy scout age to adult parenting and leadership, gospel teachings on developing Christlike attributes for godly men as a way of life.
▶ What started as a book has become one of the most sought-after online resources on fatherhood. Raising a Modern-Day Knight has grown to include a series of videos, online tools, an app, and a year-by-year playbook for fathers to help them guide and disciple their sons. The book is available online and at bookstores. Learn more about all these resources at rmdk.com.
▶ When it comes to curriculum, few can beat Men’s Fraternity. The series contains three volumes, all of which guide men to authentic manhood. The lessons are timeless and applicable to every father, no matter what stage of parenting he is in. Learn more at mensfraternity.com.
▶ 33 The Series is a six-volume Bible study aimed at helping men seek wisdom and apply what they find. Each volume contains six sessions and builds on the timeless truths and applications that are foundational to Men’s Fraternity. Learn more at authenticmanhood.com.
Robert Lewis served as directional leader of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, for 21 years. He is the author and producer of a number of best- selling books and video resources.
OneMilliondads … lead or others will
Online communities can be a great resource for discussion, learning, and encouragement. Nowhere is this truer than at AFA’s father-centered blog, OneMilliondads.
OMD editor Jim Shempert said, “I became a father two years ago and quickly learned I was in over my head as it relates to being a Christian father. I began digesting every book, website, and blog I could find, and I wanted to help create a space specifically for dads like me. As Christian fathers, we learn one day at a time. Hopefully, OMD can help make each day’s learning a little easier.”
Dinner Topics for Wednesday
Gospel Teachings for Father and Son
“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words” (attributed to Francis of Assisi). Every day you are teaching your children what it means to be a father. You are laying a foundation for the next generation. Your sons will learn how to be husbands and fathers by observing the way you fulfill these roles. ~Larry M. Gibson
My father taught me a significant lesson when I was young. He sensed that I was becoming too enamored with temporal things. When I had money, I immediately spent it—almost always on myself.
One afternoon he took me to purchase some new shoes. On the second floor of the department store, he invited me to look out the window with him.
“What do you see?” he asked.
“Buildings, sky, people” was my response.
He then pulled this coin from his pocket. As he handed it to me, he asked, “What is this?”
I immediately knew: “A silver dollar!”
Drawing on his knowledge of chemistry, he said, “If you melt that silver dollar and mix it with the right ingredients, you would have silver nitrate. If we coated this window with silver nitrate, what would you see?”
I had no idea, so he escorted me to a full-length mirror and asked, “Now what do you see?”
“I see me.”
“No,” he replied, “what you see is silver reflecting you. If you focus on the silver, all you will see is yourself, and like a veil, it will keep you from seeing clearly the eternal destiny Heavenly Father has prepared just for you.”
“Larry,” he continued, “‘seek not the things of this world but seek … first … the kingdom of God, and to establish [His] righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38 [in Matthew 6:33, footnote a]).
He told me to keep the dollar and never lose it. Each time I looked at it, I was to think about the eternal destiny that Heavenly Father has for me.
I loved my father and how he taught. I wanted to be like him. He planted in my heart the desire to be a good father, and my deepest hope is that I am living up to his example.
Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, has often said that our decisions determine our destiny and have eternal consequences (see “Decisions Determine Destiny” [Church Educational System fireside, Nov. 6, 2005], 2; lds.org/broadcasts).
Should we not, then, develop a clear vision of our eternal destiny, particularly the one that Heavenly Father wants us to achieve—eternal fatherhood? Let our eternal destiny drive all of our decisions. Regardless of how difficult those decisions may be, Father will sustain us.
I learned about the power of such a vision when I joined my 12- and 13-year-old sons for a 50/20 competition. A 50/20 consists of walking 50 miles (80 km) in less than 20 hours. We started at 9:00 p.m. and walked all that night and most of the next day. It was an excruciating 19 hours, but we succeeded.
Upon returning home, we literally crawled into the house, where a wonderful wife and mother had prepared a lovely dinner, which we didn’t touch. My younger son collapsed, totally exhausted, on the couch, while my older son crawled downstairs to his bedroom.
After some painful rest of my own, I went to my younger son to make sure he was still alive.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“Dad, that was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I never want to do it again.”
I wasn’t about to tell him that I would never do it again either. Instead, I told him how proud I was that he had accomplished such a hard thing. I knew it would prepare him for other hard things he would face in his future. With that thought, I said, “Son, let me make you this promise. When you go on your mission, you will never have to walk 50 miles in one day.”
“Good, Dad! Then I’m going.”
Those simple words filled my soul with gratitude and joy.
I then went downstairs to my oldest son. I lay by him—then touched him. “Son, are you all right?”
“Dad, that was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, and I will never, ever do it again.” His eyes closed—then opened—and he said, “Unless my son wants me to.”
Tears came as I expressed how grateful I was for him. I told him I knew he was going to be a much better father than I was. My heart was full because at his young and tender age he already recognized that one of his most sacred priesthood duties was to be a father. He had no fear of that role and title—the very title that God Himself wants us to use when we speak to Him. I knew I had the responsibility to nurture the embers of fatherhood that were burning within my son.
These words of the Savior took on a much deeper meaning to me as a father:
“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for [whatsoever things He] doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).
“I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me” (John 8:28).
I love being a husband and father—married to a chosen daughter of heavenly parents. I love her. It is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life. My hope that night was that my five sons and their sister would always see in me the joy that comes from eternal marriage, fatherhood, and family.
Fathers, I am sure you have heard the saying “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words” (attributed to Francis of Assisi). Every day you are teaching your children what it means to be a father. You are laying a foundation for the next generation. Your sons will learn how to be husbands and fathers by observing the way you fulfill these roles. For example:
Do they know how much you love and cherish their mother and how much you love being their father?
They will learn how to treat their future wife and children as they watch you treat each one of them just as Heavenly Father would.
Through your example, they can learn how to respect, honor, and protect womanhood.
In your home, they can learn to preside over their family in love and righteousness. They can learn to provide the necessities of life and protection for their family—temporally and spiritually (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).
Brethren, with all the energy of my soul, I ask you to consider this question: Do your sons see you striving to do what Heavenly Father would have them do?
I pray the answer is yes. If the answer is no, it’s not too late to change, but you must begin today. And I testify that Heavenly Father will help you.
Now, you young men, whom I dearly love, you know you are preparing to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, receive sacred temple ordinances, fulfill your duty and obligation to serve a full-time mission, and then, without waiting too long, get married in the temple to a daughter of God and have a family. You are then to lead your family in spiritual things as guided by the Holy Ghost (see D&C 20:44; 46:2; 107:12).
I have asked many young men around the world, “Why are you here?”
So far, not one has responded, “To learn to be a father, that I might be prepared and qualified to receive all that Heavenly Father has.”
“Invite all [of your family] to come unto Christ” (verse 59).
“Watch over [them] always, and be with and strengthen them” (verse 53).
“Preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize” members of your family (verse 46).
“Exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (verse 47).
“See that there is no iniquity in [your family], neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking” (verse 54).
“See that [your family meets] together often” (verse 55).
Assist your father in his duties as patriarch. Support your mother with priesthood strength when a father is not present (see verses 52, 56).
When asked, “ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons” in your family (verse 48).
Doesn’t this sound like the work and role of a father ?
Fulfilling your Aaronic Priesthood duties is preparing you young men for fatherhood. The Duty to God resource can help you learn about and make specific plans to fulfill your duties. It can serve as a guide and assistance as you seek Heavenly Father’s will and set goals to accomplish it.
Father in Heaven has brought you here at this particular time for a special work and eternal purpose. He wants you to see clearly and understand what that purpose is. He is your Father, and you can always turn to Him for guidance.
I know that Heavenly Father is concerned about each of us individually and has a personal plan for us to achieve our eternal destiny. He has sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to help us overcome our imperfections through the Atonement. He has blessed us with the Holy Ghost to be a witness, companion, and guide to our eternal destination if we will rely on Him. May we each enjoy the fulness of Father’s blessings in this life and the fulfillment of His work and His glory by becoming fathers to our families for eternity.
Resource for Fathers. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints enjoy tons of training for men and boys—not just a course of study of a few weeks— but life-long, year in and year out, organized in every unit of the church body, from boy scout age to adult parenting and leadership, gospel teachings on developing Christ-like attributes for godly men as a way of life.
Why Fathers Mentoring Young Adults, Imparting Biblical Values, is Vital to their Future
Have you ever opened a box of parts, pulled out the assembly instructions, and thought, “This doesn’t make any sense at all”?
Sometimes, despite our best intentions and inner confidence, we pull out a part and ask, “What is that for?” or “How does that fit?”
Our frustration grows as we look at the box and notice a disclaimer that says, “Assembly required—ages 8 and up.” Because we still don’t have a clue, this does not boost our confidence or our self-esteem.
Sometimes we have a similar experience with the gospel. As we look at some part of it, we may scratch our heads and wonder what that part is for. Or as we examine another part, we may realize that even after trying hard to fully understand, we just can’t figure out why that part was included.
Our Heavenly Father Is Our Mentor
Fortunately, our Heavenly Father has given us wonderful instructions for structuring our lives and putting together our best selves. Those instructions work regardless of our age or circumstance. He has given us the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ. He has given us the plan of redemption, the plan of salvation, even the plan of happiness. He has not left us alone with all the uncertainties or challenges of life, saying, “Here you go. Good luck. Figure it out.”
If we will only be patient and look with a humble heart and an open mind, we will find that God has given us many tools to better understand His comprehensive instructions for our happiness in life:
- He has given us the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost, which has the potential to be our personal, heavenly tutor as we study the word of God and attempt to bring our thoughts and actions into alignment with His word.
- He has given us 24/7 access to Him through prayers of faith and supplications of real intent.
- He has given us modern-day apostles and prophets, who reveal the word of God in our day and have the authority to bind or seal on earth and in heaven.
- He has restored His Church—an organization of believers who work together to help one another as they work out their salvation with fear, trembling, and unparalleled joy.1
- He has given us the holy scriptures—His written word to us.
- He has given myriad tools of modern technology to help us in our walk of discipleship. Many of these marvelous instruments can be found at LDS.org.
In other words, Heavenly Father is our God, and God is a mentor to us.
Our Father in Heaven knows His children’s needs better than anyone else. It is His work and glory to help us at every turn, giving us marvelous temporal and spiritual resources to help us on our path to return to Him.
Every Father Is a Mentor
In some parts of the world, fathers are honored by families and society in the month of June. It is always good to honor and respect our parents. Fathers do many good things for their families and have many admirable attributes. Two of the most important roles fathers have in the lives of their children are those of being a good example and a mentor. Fathers do more than tell their children what is right or wrong; they do much more than toss a manual at them and expect them to figure out life for themselves.
Fathers mentor their precious children and show by their good example the way an honest life is lived. Fathers do not leave their children alone but rush to their aid, helping them to their feet whenever they stumble. And sometimes when wisdom suggests, fathers allow their children to struggle, realizing that this may be the best way for them to learn.
We Are All Mentors
While earthly fathers do this for their own children, the spirit of mentoring is something we need to offer all of God’s children, regardless of age, location, or circumstance. Remember, God’s children are our brothers and sisters; we are all of the same eternal family.
In this sense, let us all be mentors—eager to reach out and help one another to become our best selves. Because we are God’s offspring, we do have the potential to become like Him. Loving God and our fellowmen, keeping God’s commandments, and following Christ’s example are the straight, narrow, and joyful path back into the presence of our heavenly parents.
If the God of the universe cares so much about us that He is a mentor to us, perhaps we too can reach out to our fellowmen, regardless of their color, race, socioeconomic circumstances, language, or religion. Let us become inspired mentors and bless the lives of others—not only our own children but also all of God’s children throughout the world.
Role of Fathers in the Divine Plan, and Nuclear Family
I focus today on the good that men can do in the highest of masculine roles—husband and father.
I speak today of fathers. Fathers are fundamental in the divine plan of happiness, and I want to raise a voice of encouragement for those who are striving to fill well that calling. To praise and encourage fatherhood and fathers is not to shame or discount anyone. I simply focus today on the good that men can do in the highest of masculine roles—husband and father.
David Blankenhorn, the author of Fatherless America, has observed:
“Today, American society is fundamentally divided and ambivalent about the fatherhood idea. Some people do not even remember it. Others are offended by it. Others, including more than a few family scholars, neglect it or disdain it. Many others are not especially opposed to it, nor are they especially committed to it. Many people wish we could act on it, but believe that our society simply no longer can or will.”1
As a Church, we believe in fathers. We believe in “the ideal of the man who puts his family first.”2 We believe that “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.”3 We believe that in their complementary family duties, “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”4 We believe that far from being superfluous, fathers are unique and irreplaceable.
Some see the good of fatherhood in social terms, as something that obligates men to their offspring, impelling them to be good citizens and to think about the needs of others, supplementing “maternal investment in children with paternal investment in children. … In short, the key for men is to be fathers. The key for children is to have fathers. The key for society is to create fathers.”5 While these considerations are certainly true and important, we know that fatherhood is much more than a social construct or the product of evolution. The role of father is of divine origin, beginning with a Father in Heaven and, in this mortal sphere, with Father Adam.
The perfect, divine expression of fatherhood is our Heavenly Father. His character and attributes include abundant goodness and perfect love. His work and glory are the development, happiness, and eternal life of His children.6 Fathers in this fallen world can claim nothing comparable to the Majesty on High, but at their best, they are striving to emulate Him, and they indeed labor in His work. They are honored with a remarkable and sobering trust.
For men, fatherhood exposes us to our own weaknesses and our need to improve. Fatherhood requires sacrifice, but it is a source of incomparable satisfaction, even joy. Again, the ultimate model is our Heavenly Father, who so loved us, His spirit children, that He gave us His Only Begotten Son for our salvation and exaltation.7 Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”8 Fathers manifest that love as they lay down their lives day by day, laboring in the service and support of their families.
Perhaps the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father. If by his example as well as his words a father can demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living, that father will have given his children the key to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.9 A father who reads scripture to and with his children acquaints them with the voice of the Lord.10
Accountable to teach one’s children
We find in the scriptures a repeated emphasis on the parental obligation to teach one’s children:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. …
“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.”11
In 1833, the Lord reprimanded members of the First Presidency for inadequate attention to the duty of teaching their children. To one He said specifically, “You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.”12
Fathers are to teach God’s law and works anew to each generation. As the Psalmist declared:
“For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
“That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should [then] arise and declare them to their children:
“That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”13
Children want and need a model
Certainly teaching the gospel is a shared duty between fathers and mothers, but the Lord is clear that He expects fathers to lead out in making it a high priority. (And let’s remember that informal conversations, working and playing together, and listening are important elements of teaching.) The Lord expects fathers to help shape their children, and children want and need a model.
I myself was blessed with an exemplary father. I recall that when I was a boy of about 12, my father became a candidate for the city council in our rather small community. He did not mount an extensive election campaign—all I remember was that Dad had my brothers and me distribute copies of a flyer door to door, urging people to vote for Paul Christofferson. There were a number of adults that I handed a flyer to who remarked that Paul was a good and honest man and that they would have no problem voting for him. My young boy heart swelled with pride in my father. It gave me confidence and a desire to follow in his footsteps. He was not perfect—no one is—but he was upright and good and an aspirational example for a son.
Discipline and correction are part of teaching.
As Paul said, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.”14 But in discipline a father must exercise particular care, lest there be anything even approaching abuse, which is never justified. When a father provides correction, his motivation must be love and his guide the Holy Spirit:
“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;
“That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”15
Discipline in the divine pattern is not so much about punishing as it is about helping a loved one along the path of self-mastery.
The Lord has said that “all children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.”16 Breadwinning is a consecrated activity. Providing for one’s family, although it generally requires time away from the family, is not inconsistent with fatherhood—it is the essence of being a good father. “Work and family are overlapping domains.”17 This, of course, does not justify a man who neglects his family for his career or, at the other extreme, one who will not exert himself and is content to shift his responsibility to others. In the words of King Benjamin:
“Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another. …
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”18
We recognize the agony of men who are unable to find ways and means adequately to sustain their families. There is no shame for those who, at a given moment, despite their best efforts, cannot fulfill all the duties and functions of fathers. “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”19
Loving the mother of his children—and showing that love—are two of the best things a father can do for his children. This reaffirms and strengthens the marriage that is the foundation of their family life and security.
Some men are single fathers, foster fathers, or stepfathers. Many of them strive mightily and do their very best in an often difficult role. We honor those who do all that can be done in love, patience, and self-sacrifice to meet individual and family needs. It should be noted that God Himself entrusted His Only Begotten Son to a foster father. Surely some of the credit goes to Joseph for the fact that as Jesus grew, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”20
Regrettably, due to death, abandonment, or divorce, some children don’t have fathers living with them. Some may have fathers who are physically present but emotionally absent or in other ways inattentive or nonsupportive. We call on all fathers to do better and to be better. We call on media and entertainment outlets to portray devoted and capable fathers who truly love their wives and intelligently guide their children, instead of the bumblers and buffoons or “the guys who cause problems,” as fathers are all too frequently depicted.
To children whose family situation is troubled, we say, you yourself are no less for that. Challenges are at times an indication of the Lord’s trust in you. He can help you, directly and through others, to deal with what you face. You can become the generation, perhaps the first in your family, where the divine patterns that God has ordained for families truly take shape and bless all the generations after you.
To young men, recognizing the role you will have as provider and protector, we say, prepare now by being diligent in school and planning for postsecondary training. Education, whether in a university, technical school, apprenticeship, or similar program, is key to developing the skills and capabilities you will need. Take advantage of opportunities to associate with people of all ages, including children, and learn how to establish healthy and rewarding relationships. That typically means talking face to face with people and sometimes doing things together, not just perfecting your texting skills. Live your life so that as a man you will bring purity to your marriage and to your children.
To all the rising generation, we say, wherever you rank your own father on the scale of good-better-best (and I predict that ranking will go higher as you grow older and wiser), make up your mind to honor him and your mother by your own life. Remember the yearning hope of a father as expressed by John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”21 Your righteousness is the greatest honor any father can receive.
To my brethren, the fathers in this Church, I say, I know you wish you were a more perfect father. I know I wish I were. Even so, despite our limitations, let us press on. Let us lay aside the exaggerated notions of individualism and autonomy in today’s culture and think first of the happiness and well-being of others. Surely, despite our inadequacies, our Heavenly Father will magnify us and cause our simple efforts to bear fruit. I am encouraged by a story that appeared in the New Era some years ago. The author recounted the following:
“When I was young, our little family lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor. I slept on the couch in the living room. …
“My dad, a steelworker, left home very early for work each day. Every morning he would … tuck the covers around me and stop for a minute. I would be half-dreaming when I could sense my dad standing beside the couch, looking at me. As I slowly awoke, I became embarrassed to have him there. I tried to pretend I was still asleep. … I became aware that as he stood beside my bed he was praying with all his attention, energy, and focus—for me.
“Each morning my dad prayed for me. He prayed that I would have a good day, that I would be safe, that I would learn and prepare for the future. And since he could not be with me until evening, he prayed for the teachers and my friends that I would be with that day. …
“At first, I didn’t really understand what my dad was doing those mornings when he prayed for me. But as I got older, I came to sense his love and interest in me and everything I was doing. It is one of my favorite memories. It wasn’t until years later, after I was married, had children of my own, and would go into their rooms while they were asleep and pray for them that I understood completely how my father felt about me.”22
Alma testified to his son:
“Behold, I say unto you, that it is [Christ] that surely shall come … ; yea he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people.
“And now, my son, this was the ministry unto which ye were called, to declare these glad tidings unto this people, to prepare their minds; or rather … that they may prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming.”23
That is the ministry of fathers today. God bless and make them equal to it.