“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.”
(The Family: A Proclamation to the World)
As Father’s Day approaches, like many of you, my thoughts are turned to the fathers in my life. We buy them cards, gifts, plan a BBQ or a visit—at least a phone call. But do we take the time to truly consider the importance and influence of a good father? President Howard W. Hunter said of fathers: “Leadership of the family is [his] most important and sacred responsibility” and the “family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life” (1994, p. 50). Fathers have a role to help those in their influence become who our Heavenly Father intends us to become. How do fathers accept the charges to preside, provide, and protect?
Nephi begins his writings describing his relationship with his father. “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father…” (1 Nephi 1:1). Lehi was a father who presided. Enos later says, “knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…” (Enos 1:1). “Fathers are directed to take upon themselves the responsibility of spiritual leadership in family life as part of a loving Eternal Father’s plan for family functioning” (Hawkins, 2012, p. 141). I am thankful for a father who presided in my home growing up. He led the family in scripture study, prayer, and family discussions. He didn’t dominate my mother—they were a partnership. But he upheld his role of presiding. In Jewish culture, the father has the role of teaching and instructing. Abraham Heschel, (1975) a Jewish philosopher, “suggested that fathers are meant to be teachers and holy figures in the lives of their children” (Hawkins, 2012, p. 141). This is beautifully illustrated in the novel The Chosen by Chaim Potok. David Malter taught his son Reuven, “A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning. That I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here” (Potok, 1967, p. 205). Presiding includes teaching, guiding, counseling, mentoring, anything that helps children find meaning and purpose in life. As I have watched my husband preside in our home, I am so thankful for the way he patiently teaches and guides our children. And like David Malter says, it’s hard work! “Significant teaching is required to bring about positive outcomes” (Hawkins, 2012, p. 119). The foundation of effective presiding in a home is love. “Children will be most open to instruction when they feel loved and accepted by their parents” (Hawkins, 2012, p. 120). Just as the Proclamation states, “fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness….”
Providing for a family can be a daunting and overwhelming responsibility. In Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives, three key aspects of providing are defined: financial and resource capital, human capital, and social capital. Fathers have a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of their families including shelter, food, and clothing. Ensuring their children’s ability to learn skills and knowledge, as well as sharing his own skill and knowledge is another aspect of providing in the human capital sense. Social capital refers to relationships that will help his children grow and develop (see Hawkin, 2012, p.146). When considering providing in these three aspects, one can see that a father’s responsibility to provide includes more than just bringing home a paycheck. Dollahite, Hawkins, and Brotherson (1997, p. 28) wrote, “Stewardship work involves creative, dedicated efforts to provide resources for children and families and provide opportunities for children to develop and learn to care for their own and others’ physical and psychosocial needs.” The responsibility of providing is a necessary part of raising a secure, well-adjusted, self-reliant child who can move forward in life, sharing his or her own gifts with the world, and one day, their own families.
We live in a world where people all around us “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). More than any other time in history, we need fathers who can protect their families. Being a strong leader of religious practices in the home is one of the best ways fathers can protect their families. “Research from the past decade or so has linked religious beliefs with higher levels of fathers’ care for and commitment to children, as well as increased father involvement”(Hawkins, 2012, p. 191). In Alma 49 and 50, we read how Moroni fortifies the cities in the land to prepare against attacks from the Lamanites. The Lamanites “were astonished exceedingly, because of the wisdom of the Nephites in preparing their places of security” (Alma 49:6). How can fathers help prepare their homes for the attacks of the adversary? That is something each father needs to pray about and seek personal revelation for their family. Following the counsel of our leaders in implementing family prayer, family home evening, family scripture study, implementing the Come Follow Me lessons, family meals, and participating in wholesome recreational activities are all things that can strengthen and protect our families. Extra fortification may be needed in weak spots, just as the Nephites fortified weakness in the walls surrounding their cities. In our family, my husband and I had felt concern about the amount of time screens were occupying. We made a plan to reduce that this summer and have loved the results so far. As fathers and mothers go to the Lord with concerns and problems, I know they can receive answers for their families as we strive to protect our loved ones from the adversary.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught that a father’s calling “is an eternal calling from which [he] is never released” (1987, p.48). I am grateful for the fathers in my life as well as the fathers around the world who recognize their great responsibility and role in the Father’s plan. As fathers continue to implement the principles taught in the Proclamation, I know families will be stronger and love will grow in our relationships, helping our children grow and develop into who they need to be to fulfill their God-given missions in life.
Benson, E.T. (1984, May). Counsel to the Saints. Ensign, 14, 6-8.
Dollahite, D.C., Hawkins, A.J., & Brotherson, S.E. (1997). Fatherwork: A conceptual ethic of fathering as generative work. In A.J. Hawkins & D. C. Dollahite (Eds.) Generative fathering: Beyond deficit perspectives (pp. 17-35). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hawkins, A.J., Dollahite, D.C., Draper, T.W. (Eds). 2012. Successful Marriages and Families: Proclamation Principles and Research Perspectives. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University.
Heschel, A.J. (1975). The Wisdom of Heschel. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Hunter, H.W. (1994, November). Being a righteous husband and father. Ensign, 24, 49-51.
Potok, C. (1967). The Chosen. New York: Fawcett Crest.