Dinner Topics for Thursday
Parenting Value for November: Self-Discipline
Part 2: Methods for Teaching Self-Discipline
Physical, mental, and financial self-discipline. Moderation in speaking, in eating, in exercising. The controlling and bridling of one’s own appetites. Understanding the limits of body and mind. Avoiding the dangers of extreme, unbalanced viewpoints. The ability to balance self-discipline with spontaneity.
1. Maintain a family schedule. This can give children the security of certain things that are predictable and the discipline of being sure that they are there when expected. Have a set breakfast time and a dinnertime. Have different times for different days if necessary, but put them up on some sort of poster and see if everyone can discipline themselves to be there during this month.
2. Teach by example. Create a personal example regarding the value of discipline and moderation in all areas. Again, example is the number-one method. Make up your mind, especially during this “month,” to control your temper, to save a percentage of your income, to live within your means, to eat moderately, and so on.
3. Count to ten. Help children — and yourself — stay in tighter control of your tempers. There is no more obvious and noticeable illustration of discipline than in the control of temper. Teach your children the simple principle of counting to ten before saying or doing anything when they feel anger. Give some “bad examples” of people who hurt someone because they struck out (or spoke out) without stopping to think. Give some good examples of people who were about to say something angry or to hurt someone in some way and then thought better of it while counting to ten.
4. Use the words “discipline” and “moderation” frequently. This will help children understand them and “connect” them to everyday behavior. When you pass up a second helping of potatoes say, “I’m going to use moderation and not eat too much — it will help my waistline.” When you notice a child getting his homework done say, “There’s discipline for you.” Make the words the “theme” of your communications and your activities for the month.
5. Set up “deals.” Add motivation to your child’s efforts to discipline himself to accomplish goals. Having children set up certain objectives and attaching a reward to the accomplishment of those goals can give parents added opportunities for praise and can make children more conscious of consistently disciplining themselves to do things.
Sample Method for Preschoolers: The “Too Much” Game
This game will get small children thinking about the concept of moderation and about its benefits. Explain that too much can sometimes be worse than too little. Say, “Let’s play a game about too much. I’ll say, ‘too much ________,’ and you say something that you wouldn’t want to do too much of ________, then say what ‘bad thing’ might happen from too much.” For example:
Too much food. . . . You might get fat.
Too much exercise. . . . You might get too tired, or even injured.
Too much candy. . . . You’d get cavities, lose your appetite.
Too much television. . . . It keeps from playing, studying, and other good things.
Too much catsup. . . . You can’t taste the food.
Too much bathing. . . . You might wash your skin off.
As the last two illustrations, you can have some fun with the game. But the bottom line is helping small children to understand the value of moderation.
Sample Method for Elementary Age: The “Choose the M or the A” Game
This game teaches older elementary school children the fact that some things are okay in moderation but bad in excess — while other things are bad in any quantity or form. Make up, on three plain sheets of paper, a large M for “moderation,” a large A for “avoid” or “abstain,” and a large N.L. for “no limit” (describe and define the words). Then explain that you are going to go through a list of things and you want them to pick one of the three signs for each of the items you are going to mention. Then go through the following list, adding items of your own and stopping to discuss or ask questions about any on which the answer is not clear.
Taking Drugs (A)
Watching Television (M)
Caring for Others (NL)
Drinking Before Driving (A)
Playing at Friends’ Houses (M)
Sample Method for Adolescent Age: Agree on Policies of Discipline
Give your teenagers the limits that provide security, convince them of your concern, and give them opportunities for the exercise of discipline. Sit down with your adolescent and decide together on some guidelines and standards that will help him exercise discipline and moderation as he moves into and through his teenage years. Some suggestions:
- Decide on a curfew. There is really no need (or very seldom a need) for extremely late hours. An amazing percentage of problems occur after midnight.
- Limit the number of nights out. Limit television, limit things that need moderation. A mutually agreed-on limit will help a teenager to exercise discipline more easily.
- Date one person no more than twice in a row. Require a date with someone else before a third date occurs with the same person.
Parenting Tips for Faith in Action, Parents Teaching at Home
Laying the Foundation of a Great Work
(Parents teaching at home)
Lessons taught through the traditions we establish in our homes, though small and simple, are increasingly important in today’s world.
As parents in Zion, we have a sacred duty to awaken within our children passion and commitment to the joy, light, and truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While raising our children, we establish traditions within our home and we build patterns of communication and behavior within our family relationships. In doing so, the traditions we establish should ingrain strong, unwavering characteristics of goodness in our children that will infuse them with strength to confront the challenges of life.
This year our grandchildren wrote the topic of their message on stones and then, one by one, buried them next to one another, representing a sure foundation upon which a happy life is established. Woven among all six of their messages was the immutable, eternal truth that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of that foundation.
In the words of Isaiah, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.”1 Jesus Christ is that precious cornerstone in the foundation of Zion. It was He who revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”2
Lessons taught through the traditions we establish in our homes, though small and simple, are increasingly important in today’s world. What are the small and simple things that, when established, will perform a great work in the lives of our children?
Russell M. Nelson poignantly reminded parents of the sacred responsibility we have to teach our children. By these efforts, our beloved prophet urges us to make our homes “sanctuaries of faith.”4
Consistent, wholesome family traditions that include prayer, scripture reading, family home evening, and attendance at Church meetings, though seemingly small and simple, create a culture of love, respect, unity, and security. In the spirit that accompanies these efforts, our children become protected from the fiery darts of the adversary so embedded in the worldly culture of our day.
We are reminded of the wise counsel of Helaman to his sons: “Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”7
Years ago, while I was serving as a young bishop, an older gentleman asked to meet with me. He described his departure from the Church and the righteous traditions of his parents when he was in his youth. He described in detail the heartache he experienced during his life while vainly seeking lasting joy amidst the momentary happiness the world has to offer. Now, in his later years of life, he experienced the tender, sometimes nagging whispering sensations of the Spirit of God guiding him back to the lessons, practices, feelings, and spiritual safety of his youth. He expressed gratitude for the traditions of his parents, and in modern-day words, he echoed the proclamation of Enos: “Blessed be the name of my God for it.”
In those moments, we witness the wisdom of the writer of the proverb, who exhorts parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”8
Every parent faces moments of frustration and varying levels of determination and strength while raising children. However, when parents exercise faith by teaching children candidly, lovingly and doing all they can to help them along the way, they receive greater hope that the seeds being sown will take root within the hearts and minds of their children.
Moses well understood the fundamental need for constant teaching. He counseled,
“And thou shalt teach [these words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”9~Deuteronomy 6:7
We kneel beside our children during family prayer, we care for them through our efforts to hold meaningful family scripture reading, we patiently, lovingly care for them as together we participate in family home evening, and we anguish for them on our knees in the midst of our private prayers to heaven. Oh, how we yearn for the seeds we are sowing to take root within the hearts and minds of our children.
I believe that it is less a question of whether our children are “getting it” in the midst of our teaching, such as while striving to read the scriptures or to have family home evening or to attend Mutual and other Church meetings. It is less a question of whether in those moments they are understanding the importance of those activities and more a question of whether we, as parents, are exercising faith enough to follow the Lord’s counsel to diligently live, teach, exhort, and set forth expectations that are inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an effort driven by our faith—our belief that one day the seeds sown in their youth will take root and begin to sprout and grow.
The things we talk of, the things we preach and teach determine the things that will happen among us. As we establish wholesome traditions that teach the doctrine of Christ, the Holy Spirit bears witness of the truthfulness of our message and nourishes the seeds of the gospel that are planted deep in the hearts of our children by our efforts all along the way.
Dinner Topics for Thursday
Self-Reliance and Potential: General Methods
1. Praise. Reinforce your children’s self-image and individuality and build their confidence — that is required for self-reliance. Like flowers under rain and sunshine, children blossom and bloom under recognition and praise. “Catch them doing something good” and when you do, give effusive praise! When they make mistakes or fall short, help them accept responsibility for it and then praise that acceptance to the point that their pride in their self-reliance outshines their concern over the shortcoming.
2. Use yourself as the model and example. Show your children that you “value this value” and that you work for it. Take every opportunity to show your children how you are trying to improve. Talk about the things you think you’re good at and working to be better at.
Show pleasure in things you do well. Also, be obvious about taking the blame for mistakes you make. Say, “You know, that was my fault. Here’s what I could have done differently. . . .”
Let your children see that you can accept responsibility and blame and let them see that you take pride in who you are and that you are working to be better.
Sample Method for Preschoolers: Praise Creativity and Emphasize Individuality and Originality
Help your children to like their own unique selves. Just as small children need to hear the sound of letters over and over and over again before they learn to read, so also they need to hear their own unique abilities praised time after time before they actually believe in themselves and increase how much they like who they are. Simple as it sounds, the key “connection” of this chapter is that children who like themselves become capable of relying on themselves, of accepting responsibility, and of reaching for their full potential. Praise every effort you see them making — from drawing a picture to trying to tie their shoe. Look constantly for new things they learn to do or for any sort of aptitude at which they seem particularly good.
Help a child see that he is unique by making up an “I Am Special” book with a front cover tracing his silhouette, and with his height, weight, eye color, favorite food, funnest activity, best skills, and so on written inside. Help him understand that there is no one, anywhere, who is exactly like him.
Help children to learn to say, when they face something they can’t do, “I can’t do ___________, but I can do _____________.” This will help them later on to accept their weak points with their strengths.
Sample Method for Elementary Age: Consult Rather Than Manage
Put yourself in a role that maximizes your children’s development of self-reliance and self-knowledge. Try not to take initiative away from your child. Suggest rather than command wherever possible. Ask if he needs help rather than forcing it on him. Try to notice what he likes and where his natural gifts and abilities lie rather than trying to decide what he will do and what he should be good at.
When he asks you to do his homework, say no. But tell him you’ll check it after he’s done and tell him if it’s right and help him on the parts he’s tried to do but still doesn’t understand.
As children are old enough to understand the terms, tell them that you want to be their consultant and not their manager. Explain that they are the ones who have to decide what they will do and how well they will do it and that you want to help but not force. (Be sure they can separate this consulting help and guidance that relate to their choices from the laws and absolutes that govern their behavior.)
Sample Method for Adolescent Age: Avoid Over-protectiveness
Build your adolescent’s self-respect, self-confidence, and self-reliance. Have clear rules (curfew, etc.) but within these, trust your adolescents and make a point of telling them that you not only trust them but have confidence in their ability to handle themselves and the situations they find themselves in.
This principle applies to smaller children also. Too many well-meaning parents may prevent a skinned knee or even a broken arm by being overly protective physically, but in the process they may exert undue influence and diminish the feelings of self-reliance and self-control.
Dinner Topics for Tuesday
William McGuffey’s Great Educational Legacy
Parents and Homeschoolers: These wonderful books not only teach children to read, but provide classic character education as well.
“The Christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”[ “From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible I make no apology.” ~William McGuffey
William Holmes McGuffey (September 23, 1800 – May 4, 1873) was an American professor and college president who is best known for writing the McGuffey Readers, one of the nation’s first and most widely used series of textbooks. It is estimated that at least 122 million copies of McGuffey Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary.
He was born the son of Alexander and Anna (Holmes) McGuffey near Claysville in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which is 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. In 1802 the McGuffey family moved further out into the frontier at Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He attended country school, and after receiving special instruction at Youngstown, he attended Greersburg Academy in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he attended and graduated from Pennsylvania’s Washington College, where he became an instructor.
McGuffey left Washington College in 1826 to become a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A year later in 1827, he was married to Harriet Spinning of Dayton, Ohio, with whom he had five children. In 1829, he was ordained at Bethel Chapel as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. It was in Oxford that he created the most important contribution of his life: The McGuffey Readers. His books sold over 122 million copies. He was very fond of teaching and children as he geared the books toward a younger audience.
In 1836, he left Miami to become president of Cincinnati College, where he also served as a distinguished teacher and lecturer. He left Cincinnati in 1839 to become the 4th president of Ohio University, which he left in 1843 to become president of Woodward College (really a secondary school) in Cincinnati.
In 1845, McGuffey moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. A year after his first wife Harriet died in 1850, he married Miss Laura Howard, daughter of Dean Howard of the University of Virginia, in 1851. McGuffey is buried in the university burial ground, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The School of Education at Miami University is housed in McGuffey Hall which is named for him and his home in Oxford is a National Historic Landmark offering tours on weekdays.
McGuffey is credited with the following quotation:
“The Christian religion, is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.”
The McGuffey School District in Washington County, Pennsylvania is named for William Holmes McGuffey. The industrialist Henry Ford cited McGuffey Readers as one of his most important childhood influences. In 1934 he had the log cabin where McGuffey was born moved to Greenfield Village, Ford’s museum of Americana at Dearborn, Michigan.
Dinner Topics for Tuesday
“Calmness. Peacefulness. Serenity. The tendency to try to accommodate rather than argue. The understanding that differences are seldom resolved through conflict and that meanness in others is an indication of their problem or insecurity and thus of their need for your understanding. The ability to understand how others feel rather than simply reaction to them. Control of temper.”
Sample Method for Preschoolers: The Magazine Game
This game helps small children realize that it is all right to feel mad or sad, just as it is all right to feel happy or glad, but that it is not all right to hurt other people or their feelings because of how we feel. Flip through magazines with a child, stopping every time a person is pictured and asking, “How do you think he feels?” (Happy, jealous, worried, etc. — this is also a chance to teach children new words and the names of new emotions.) Then say, “It is okay to feel this way?” (Yes) Then say, “Is it okay to be mean to someone else if you feel mad or sad?” (No!)
Sample Method for Elementary Age: The Color Game
This is a good way to teach younger elementary-aged children the good consequences of peace and the bad consequences of anger and retaliation. Cut out two single figures in the human shape, one from red paper and one from pastel color. Tell the children that the red represents temper and impatience, the pastel is control and peace. Give them a situation and let them tell you what each figure might do in each of the following situations:
- Your alarm clock doesn’t go off, so you’re going to be late for school.
- You’re playing basketball and you get called for a foul you didn’t think you committed.
- Your friend forgets to meet you for lunch.
- Your little brother flips you with a rubber band.
- Your mom says you can’t have a sleep over because there’s school tomorrow.
- The new pen you just bought won’t work.
And so on. Think of your own, based on your own experiences.
Sample method for Adolescents: The “Analytical-of-Angry” Discussion
Help young teenagers conceptualize the benefits of trying to “understand” rather than trying to “win.” At dinner or some other natural conversation time make the statement that we have many situations in which there is a choice between two A words — arguing or analyzing. In other words, when someone does something to us or says something with which we disagree, we can either fight back and argue or we can try to analyze why he did or said it.
Point out the second choice is better because we learn something whenever we try to figure out why, and we keep our cool and keep our friends.
Dinner Topics for Thursday
What does a Chicken have to do with courage? See this post:
Methods for Teaching Courage
Richard and Linda Eyre
“Daring to attempt difficult things that are good. Strength not to follow the crowd, to say no and mean it and influence others to try it. Being true to convictions and following good impulses even when they are unpopular or inconvenient. Boldness to be outgoing and friendly.”
Method for Preschoolers: Teach Small Children to Look People in the Eye
This can help children learn a useful habit that takes courage and that gives you a good opportunity for praise. Establish a family tradition of looking people in the eye. Explain to small children that if you look right at people, they will like you and know that you like them. Practice looking in each other’s eyes as you say, “Hello,” “How are you?” “Thank you,” or as you ask questions: “Where do you live?” “What school do you go to?” And so on. Have little contests to see who can look into the person’s eyes the longest while having a “made-up” conversation. And have “staring contests” (who can look into the other person’s eyes the longest without blinking).
Explain that being brave means not having anything to hide — and when we look right at someone, it is like saying, “I trust you and you can trust me.” Learning to do this helps us not to be afraid to ask people questions or start conversations.
Method for Elementary Age: “Hard and Good” – The Relationship Between Them
This activity will help children begin to relish rather than resist hard challenges. For this game set up two sides with at least one child to a side. Say that you are going to mention certain actions and you want one side to write either “hard” or “easy” to define each action. The other side should write “good” or “bad” about each action. (Each side needs a paper numbered from one to ten and a pencil.)
1. Get up early and study for a test.
2. Say you’re sorry to someone even though it’s embarrassing.
3. Try smoking with your friends so they won’t call you chicken.
4. Make friends with the new kid at school, even though everyone else is ignoring him.
5. Sleep in on Saturday instead of getting up to do your household job.
6-10. Add your own (try to draw from real experiences).
When the game is over, match up the two team lists. Show how “hard” almost always matches up with “good.”
Method for Adolescents: Decisions in Advance
This can help adolescents make right — and courageous — decisions before they are in situations conducive to wrong choices. Explain to adolescents that many decisions are best made early — before we’re confronted with pressure to decide. Help them to make a list (preferably in the back of a journal or diary) of “decisions in advance.” For example, I will not smoke. I will not cheat. I will not be cruel or rude even if others around me are, and so forth.
With each “decision in advance” help the adolescent to imagine a future situation where it would be very difficult to keep the decision. Think it through together. Point out how much easier it is to do the right thing when the decision has been made in advance.
To illustrate the point tell them the story of Abraham Lincoln, who was riding in a coach with an important and influential man who was insistent that Lincoln smoke with him. He said he would be offended if Lincoln did not.
Abraham Lincoln said he had made a decision twenty years before not to smoke. He had committed himself to that decision and had even made the commitment to his mother. Because he had made the decision in advance, courage to keep it came easy for Lincoln, and his friend did not push him further.
Dinner Topics for Tuesday
Honesty and Integrity: Parenting Value for July
Integrity with other individuals, with institutions, with society, with self. The inner strength and confidence that is bred by exacting truthfulness and trustworthiness.
How can we teach our children to develop the inner strength and confidence that is bred by exacting truthfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity? How can we help our children avoid the common childhood tendencies to stretch the truth, to exaggerate, to rationalize, and to tell the little lies that often lead to bigger ones? Can small children develop the early integrity that will help them become honorable, dependable adults? Can elementary-age kids learn the direct, look-you-in-the-eye truthfulness that will win them respect and confidence? Can adolescents communicate candidly with parents?
Review the activities and stories that go along with this months value. Make sure everyone in your family understands the value so they can see how they can apply it in their own lives and situations.
Talk about the Monthly Value every morning and remind your family to look for opportunities to use the value throughout the day. They may also observe how others don’t understand the value. Get your children to share their experience with the value each day at the dinner table or before you go to bed. Be sure to share your experience each day as well. It will help your children know that you are thinking about the value too.
Methods for teaching honesty
Integrity with other individuals, with institutions, with society, with self. The inner strength and confidence that is bred by exacting truthfulness and trustworthiness.
Method for Preschoolers: The Honesty About Feelings Game
This will help small children realize that feelings are caused by what has happened — and that it is okay to feel things and okay to tell others honestly how we feel. Go through a magazine (one with lots of ads and colored pictures) and point at faces saying, “How do you think he feels?” Then say, “Why do you think he feels that way?” Then say, “Is it okay to feel that way?”
Help children to identify feelings and their probable causes and to know that it’s okay to feel those things and to tell other people how they feel.
Method for Elementary Age: The Honesty Under Pressure Award
This is a motivational way to get children to evaluate their personal honesty every week. On Sundays (or whatever day you most often get your whole family together for a meal) ask, “Who had a situation this past week where it was a challenge to be honest?” Have an “award” on hand to give to the person who remembers the best incident of being honest. A piece of construction paper or colored card with a neatly printed H.U.P. (Honesty Under Pressure) will do nicely as the award. Let the child (or adult) who wins put it on his bedroom door during the week until it is awarded again the next week.
After a couple of weeks of “getting used to,” you will find that children are thinking hard about their behavior of the past week in hopes of winning the award. And it is this kind of thinking and recognition that strongly reinforces honesty.
Method for Adolescents: Share Your Own Honesty Dilemmas
This can help demonstrate to older children that you are willing to be honest with them — even about your own struggles. Be brave enough to tell your children about times when you have had a hard time being honest. Tell them “positive” incidents when you were honest and negative ones when you weren’t — and tell them about any current situations where you are struggling to be completely honest.
This kind of sharing is quite a compliment to your older children because it expresses your confidence in their maturity. Nothing will inspire more trust from them or encourage them more to share their struggles with you.
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.
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.