The Three P’s of Fatherhood

Good Morning Brothers and Sisters, today I have been asked to talk about the importance of Father’s as we celebrate those men in our lives who have exemplified this essential role in the plan of Salvation.  I will begin with a brief overview of some of the research that demonstrates the important roles that Father’s play in their children’s lives.  I will then outline what God has revealed concerning this vital role through the scriptures and his authorized servants. I will use our Heavenly Father as the perfect example of a Father that we can all learn from.

Honoring and obeying our parents is so important that it is one of the ten commandments. In Exodus 20: 12 the Lord declares: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”  On Father’s Day, we can reflect upon how well we have kept this commandment and whether setting goals to better honor our Father’s might be appropriate.  Proverbs 13: 1 teaches: “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”

The Research

The importance of Fatherhood has been confirmed through the work of social scientists over the past few decades.  Researchers tend to look at the effects of engaged father figures vs disengaged or absent Father figures.  Engaged Fathers tend to demonstrate the following three behaviors: They have direct contact with and share interactions with their children (engaged).  Second, they are present, accessible and available to the child.  And three, they take responsibility and connect the child with resources for their development.   (https://boba.com/blogs/boba-reads/the-importance-of-dads)

Play has been shown to be an especially important behavior that Father’s perform with their kids, just as nurturing is to mothers.  Play is stimulating and allows the child to experience and regulate a range of different emotions.  It also helps them learn healthy boundaries in a safe environment.

An actively engaged father is also associated with enhanced cognitive development in children.    In one study, infants as young as 5 months old scored higher on measures of cognitive development if they had an actively engaged father.  Toddlers have been shown to have better problem solving abilities and by the age of 3 children with engaged Fathers even show higher IQ than their peers.

Having an actively engaged Father also predicts greater social and emotional development as well.   The research shows that these children are better able to tolerate stress and have more control over their emotions and impulses. One particular study found that children with engaged Fathers displayed greater capacity for empathy than their peers.

One researcher describes the effects of engaged Father’s on young adults’ lives in this way: “As young adults, people who had nurturing and available fathers tend to be better adjusted, dependable, and friendly, and they report higher levels of self-acceptance. They’re more tolerant and understanding and have more supportive, long-term, close friendships.”

“Father-child relationships even affect a person’s future marriage. People who had involved fathers are more likely to have long-term, successful marriage and less divorce.  In fact, the quality of the father-child relationship is the single variable that is most consistently linked to positive life outcomes.”

Fatherhood.org outlines some of the following statistics:  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home. Father absence has been linked o nearly every social ill that exists in society today.

Researchers Alen and Daly describe some of the outcomes associated with not having an actively engaged Father: “Boys, on average, are more likely to be more unhappy, sad, depressed, dependent, and hyperactive. Girls … are more likely to become overly dependant and have internalizing problems such as anxiety and depression.”

For example, those who grow up without a Father in the home are four times more likely to live in poverty, 7x more likely to become pregnant as teens, more likely to face abuse and neglect, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, go to prison,  commit crime and drop out of school.

The Family Proclamation

In the Family: A Proclamation to the World, we learn of the roles that Father’s perform in the Plan of Salvation.  The Proclamation Reads:  “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.)

In other words, a Father’s duties can be summarized by the three P’s: Protecting, Presiding and Providing.  Each of these three duties will be examined in more detail but first I would like to emphasize the importance of the Family Proclamation.  President Dallin H. Oaks has suggested that our attitude towards the beliefs outlined in the proclamation are a sign of one’s standing before God.  The more out of alignment one is with the proclamation, the further one is from God.  President Oaks said:

“I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life…Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself.” I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.” (Dallin H. Oaks-The Plan and the Proclamation)

Thus, on this day, we especially honor those men who have chosen to magnify their divine callings to protect, provide and preside over their families.  This is not a day in which we celebrate men but is a day in which we celebrate Father’s as not all men create families and fulfill their roles of protecting, providing and presiding over those families.  Those who do fulfill this role are truly deserving of honor.  When considering the roles that Father’s fulfill, it is important to remember the words of Elder D. Todd Christofferson who taught: “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.” (Fathers – D. Todd Christofferson)

When considering the importance and power of Fathers, the best example that I can think of is the example given to us by our Heavenly Father who performs this role flawlessly in our lives.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught:

“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. 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.” (Fathers – D. Todd Christofferson)

The Psalmist declared that God is a “Father of the Fatherless.” Hosea said that “In thee…the fatherless findeth mercy.” (Hosea 14:3)   And James said that: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Now, let’s look at each of these three P’s in more detail, using our Heavenly Father’s as a perfect example to emulate.

 

Preside

First, a Father is responsible for presiding over his family.  Elder Theodore Tuttle has taught:  “In reality, each family is a dominion within itself. Father heads that government. In the beginning it was the only government on the earth and was passed down from Adam to his descendants. Properly organized in the Church, the father is the patriarch of an eternal family unit. Heaven, to us, will be simply an extension of an ideal home. As the presiding priesthood officer, the father fills an irreplaceable role.” (Theodore Tuttle-The Role of the Father)

The Family Proclamation teaches us that Father’s preside over their families in love and righteousness.  To preside means to give direction and guidance from a place of legitimate authority.  This legitimate authority to preside comes from God Himself as the Family Proclamation declares that the Father’s role has been given “by divine design.”

We are also taught in the proclamation that Father’s are to preside through love and righteousness.  The scriptures teach us that love is about sacrificing for the long-term well-being of another individual.  For example, in 1 John 4: 9 we learn that God’s love is manifested unto us through the sacrifice of His son.

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Father’s emulate God and manifest their love for their families when they sacrifice that which is most precious to them including their time, talents and resources to foster the ultimate well-being of their families.

To be righteous is to live in accordance with God’s law and to be obedient to Him.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie has taught “Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest. It consists in compliance with divine law, in conformity to the mind and will of Deity, in complete subjection to God and his commands” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 539).

Thus, Father’s are expected to Preside through sincere sacrifice for their family’s temporal and eternal well-being and through living in accordance with God’s law and His will as revealed through the Holy Spirit, scriptures and priesthood authorities.

There is also a certain spirit and style that the scriptures teach us that a Father should Preside in. In D&C 121: 41-44  we read:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.

In other words, Fathers will preside primarily by using persuasion rather than force.  By being long-suffering towards the sins and weaknesses of family members rather than being impatient and giving up on them.  Father’s will be gentle and meek rather than harsh and proud. They will also demonstrate a genuine love for family members as shown through kindness and sacrifice.  When appropriate, the Father will also correct his children quickly and clearly but then show forth an increase in love.

President Howard W. Hunter warns Father’s who do not preside righteously in the following way:

“By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50–51).

And D&C 121: 31-36 teaches us that once we exercise unrighteous dominion, we lose the power and authority God gave us and the Spirit of the Lord withdraws.

Another key element of presiding is providing teaching or guidance to our children. The scriptures exhort parents to teach their children the law of God.  In Psalms 78: 5-7 it is written: “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 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.” (Psalms 78:5-7)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4)  In the Book of Mormon, Alma tried to teach his son wisdom on his youth.  He said: “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” (Alma 37: 35)

This function of parenting is so crucial that the Lord has revealed that if parents fail to teach their children the gospel then the sins of the children we be upon the neglectful parents head.  D&C 68: 25 reads: “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.” (D&C 68:25)

The second major duty outlined in the scriptures is to train and discipline your children.  This is one of the major themes found in the book of Proverbs which teaches:  “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)  God is the perfect example of a Father, who chastens His children when they need to be chastened.  The author of Proverbs teaches: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:  For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” (Proverbs 3: 11-12)

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul reinforces this principle and suggests that we should accept chastening and correction from God who does so for our benefit because we are His children.  He says that discipline is never enjoyed in the moment but is necessary for long-term improvement. (Heb 12: 5-11)

Proverbs further teaches us to discipline our children, even though they may protest and even dislike you for it: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” (Proverbs 19:18)

If you discipline your children, you will save them from a literal and metaphorical hell:  “Withhold not correction from the child and thou shalt deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23: 13-14)

Disciplining children is far more effective than disciplining adults as the brain and body are more malleable at a younger age.  Proverbs 22: 6 declares: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Parents need to train children because they are naturally foolish and need guidance from adults.  Children do not just automatically know how to behave but need to be taught by their parents.  Proverbs 22: 15 teaches: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

The consequences of failing to discipline children are outlined in the story of Eli and his sons. God cursed Eli’s house partly because Eli was a permissive parent.  1 Sam 3: 13 records: “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Sam 3: 13)

 

Provide

Second, Father’s are responsible to provide for their families.  Our Heavenly Father provides for our needs through the abundant earth that He has created for us.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples that God would provide for them.  In Matt 6: 28-33 the Lord teaches:

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin summarized this duty to provide as follows:

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God…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.” (Mosiah 4:14-15)

In the D&C we also learn that women and children have claim upon their Fathers and husbands for support: D&C 83: 2-4 reads: “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken…All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.”

This duty is so serious that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that those that do not provide for their families have denied the faith.  Paul wrote: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim 5:8)

Protect

And third, Father’s are tasked with the divine role of protecting their families from all kinds of harm.  In Alma 43: 47 we learn about the lengths the Lord expects us to go to protect our family.  It is written “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore, for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.”  (Alma 43:47)

Once again, our Heavenly Father is an example of a Father who protects His children.  While God does not spare anyone from experiencing great trials and tribulations in this life, He does promise that He will not allow any external force to interfere with completing our essential mission on this earth.

Through the scriptures we learn that God protects us from evil and from those who seek to do harm to us.  He does allow us to experience suffering and hardship but promises to protect us from any lasting damage and to consecrate our afflictions for our gain.  He also promises to strengthen us to be able to deal with the hardships that come upon us and to accomplish the foreordained life missions each of us were given. Let’s look at each of these principles in more detail.

The scriptures contain many stories that show how God protects His saints from evil.  Paul promised the Thessalonians: “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” (2 Thess 3:3) He also told the Thessalonians that God would recompense to every man who persecuted the Saints. He said: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” (2 Thess 1:6)

One of the most dramatic examples of this principle is found in the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 6.  Elisha was surrounded by an entire army of Syrians who sought to destroy him when his servant began to tremble in fear.  Elisha said to this servant:  “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6: 16-17) God had literally sent the armies of heaven to protect Elisha from harm so that he could finish his work.

In the Book of Mormon in Jacob 3:1 we read:  “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.”  (Jacob 3:1)  Similarly, God describes the extent to which He will go to protect His saints in D&C 35:24 which reads:  “Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish.” (D&C 35:24)

God promised Joseph Smith that his enemies would not be able to end his life a day sooner than God had preordained.  He said: “Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” (D&C 122:8-9)

The next promise to consider is the idea that God will take our experiences of suffering in this life and use them for our eternal gain.  The prophet Lehi taught: “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:2)  Jesus has been compared to a master alchemist who turns base metals into gold.  However, the base metals that Jesus deals with are the experiences of suffering and affliction that we all have and He turns those experiences into the Gold of eternal life.  Speaking through Isaiah, the Lord used this metaphor when He said: “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)   Continuing with this metaphor, the prophet Isaiah promised that the Lord uses our experiences to burn away the dross of our souls and refine us into gold: “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isaiah 1:25).

God often hears our prayers and decrees they will be answered in His own due time and that our struggles in the meantime will be consecrated for our gain.  In D&C 98: 2-3 the Lord gives the Saints this counsel: “Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (D&C 98:2-3)

While God promises to ease our burdens, He does not always immediately change our external situations.  Speaking to Alma and his people who were in bondage to the Lamanites, the Lord said:  “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (Mosiah 24:14)

The scriptures promise that the Lord can heal us of any sorrow, disappointment or affliction that we do experience.  In Psalms 147:3 the Psalmist writes:  “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3)

This is because the Lord has personally experienced our hardships.  Alma testifies of the healing role of Jesus Christ when he says: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. “And he will take upon him death that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succour his people according to their infirmities.”  (Alma 7: 11‐12)

Ultimately, the Lord promises us eternal life with Him and complete victory over death and hell.  In 2 Nephi 9:10 Jacob proclaims: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.”   In D&C 59:23 the Lord declares the reward of the righteous: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

As Father’s we can seek to protect our families in the same way that God does by doing our best to protect them from evil and from those who would seek to harm them.  We can also participate in helping our children turn their afflictions into gains and invite them to come unto Christ to be healed of their afflictions by our words and our deeds.

Father’s Day is a holy day, it is a day set aside to reflect and consider the role our earthly fathers have had in our lives but also in their reflection of our Heavenly Father. It is a day to Honour Him in His sacred role in our lives and fulfill and obey the commandment to honour Him. It’s an opportunity and blessing to be as He is and consider as Father’s how we can more closely approximate His example, and that of the Savior who gave the most honour to God the Father by continually saying the Honour be Thine.

I leave you with my testimony that our Heavenly Father lives and that if you seek Him out and submit to His will then He will protect you from permanent harm, provide you with everything you need in this life and will guide you towards peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.  I testify that Jesus Christ lives and close in His sacred and Holy name. Amen.

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