“The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walks of our own homes.
~President Harold B. Lee
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” teaches 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.”
But what does this mean exactly?
Fathers and husbands sometimes get a bad rap. There have been many fathers, through many, many generations, that have taken this counsel to the unrighteous extreme. Presiding does not mean that they are to rule their family with an iron fist, so to speak. Instead, the Proclamation specifies that they are to preside in love and righteousness. They are also not supposed to do it alone. They are supposed to do it with their spouse. However, this is only some of the fathers! There are so many good and great fathers out there! But, what does it mean exactly to be a good father?
When I was 12 years old, my class was going on an end of the year field trip to a small summer camp. I was not the most popular girl in my class, and I was so worried that people would make fun of me in my old, little girlish swimsuit. My family didn’t have much money at the time, so asking for a new one wasn’t really an option. However, the day before the trip, I came home from school, and there was a brand-new, rainbow striped one-piece laying on my bed. My sweet dad had gone out and bought it for me. I was so happy, very thankful, and it has been a gesture that I have never forgotten.
Now this story isn’t to illustrate that the best way to father is to buy your children’s love. Rather, it shows how a father can pay attention and influence their children’s lives for good. Family researcher John Snarey has said, “Good fathering, it seems, really does matter. It matters over a long time, over a lifetime, and even over generations” (Successful Marriage and Families, p. 141). My father’s continued example of generosity and love have influenced me, as well as my siblings, to be giving and generous whenever we can. We all take joy in doing things and serving others—which is a direct result of his good fathering.
In Successful Marriages and Families, Sean E. Brotherson teaches that, “Involved fathers bless children from the time of birth onward. For example, preschool children whose fathers are involved and interact positively with them display greater cognitive ability, more individual control, and more empathy than other children” (p. 142). My dad was also a great example of this. He loves to learn. From the time he was a small child, history and politics have fascinated him. From the royal family of Great Britain to the presidents of the United States and their time in the White House, my dad values learning. Because of this, he taught me to read by the time I was four. A father’s responsibility to preside can mean more than asking someone to say a prayer or leading a family meeting. It means to be involved and influencing their children for good. In fact, President Howard W. Hunter counseled fathers to give “time and presence in their social, educational, and spiritual activities and responsibilities” (Successful Marriages and Families, p. 143).
To me a good father also means to be present and provide your children with a sense of security. Brotherson said, “What is a child’s greatest need? Though there are many things a child needs, the greatest need of any child is security” (p. 144). It is important for a child to be able to rely on their father to protect and provide for them. While it is not possible for any parent to be with their children all of the time, it is possible for them to know that they can count on you for anything.
Finally, a good father provides for their children. While every family situation and circumstance is unique, a father is generally the financial provider for a family, and when they are not they often provide other services that benefit their family. But for this purpose, I am going to focus on providing for the temporal needs. Doctrine and Covenants 75:28 says, “Verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, et him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown.” Providing doesn’t mean being wealthy or giving your children every luxury or desire that fancies them. However, it does mean to meet their needs. In Successful Marriages and Families, authors Dollahite, Hawkins, and Brotherson write that, “Stewardship work involves creative, dedicated effort to provide resources for children and family and provide opportunities for children to develop and learn to care for their own and others’ physical and psychosocial needs” (p. 146).
So, a good father is one who loves their children, pays attention, is involved, teaches, protects and provides. While this may sound like quite the task, I promise you fathers, you are up to the job!
I am going to end with a quote from one of my favorite talks from an April 2016 session of General Conference called “Fathers” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. He said:
“As a Church, we believe in fathers. We believe in ‘the ideal of the man who puts his family first.’ 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.’ We believe that in their complementary family duties, ‘fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.’ We believe that far from being superfluous, fathers are unique and irreplaceable.”