This is a talk I gave in church on Sunday, thought I’d share it:
I’d like to speak today about the talk from Elaine S Dalton in October’s conference, entitled “Love Her Mother”. Her talk begins with a charge to fathers,
“The most important thing a father can do for his [daughter] is to love [her] mother. By the way you love her mother, you will teach your daughter about tenderness, loyalty, respect, compassion, and devotion. She will learn from your example what to expect from young men and what qualities to seek in a future spouse. You can show your daughter by the way you love and honor your wife that she should never settle for less. Your example will teach your daughter to value womanhood. You are showing her that she is a daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves her.” (Love her Mother, Oct 2011)
The marriages we are counseled to have are very different from the examples we (and our children) see today, especially on TV. Father and mothers are constantly scheming and lying to hide mistakes, manipulate their spouse, and avoid responsibilities. Just a couple weeks ago I saw, on two different sitcoms, the children of the manipulative parents mirroring their behavior –
in one case they were placing bets on a parent’s bad behavior, and in another they were creating an opportunity to steal from their relative’s pockets.
There’s no doubt we were supposed to see the connection between the parent’s relationship and the children, and laugh at it. But while I was studying and preparing this talk at the time it just hit me as kind of sad.
In the past thirty years, as homes and families have struggled to stay intact, sociological studies reveal that much of the crime and many of the behavioral disorders in the United States come from homes where the father has abandoned the children.
One authority states: “Studies show that fathers have a special role to play in building a child’s self-respect. They are important, too, in ways we really don’t understand, in developing internal limits and controls in children.” (Karl Zinsmeister, “Do Children Need Fathers?” Crisis, Oct. 1992.)
I’d like to share 2 short stories, the first from Robert W Paris on the importance of a father’s guiding light and example.
On one occasion, my daughter Jacque and I went to a Merry Miss Primary class daddy-daughter party held at the meetinghouse. Various activities were provided for the girls and their dads.
One of the games we played that night was a relay contest. The Primary leaders had placed four plastic bowling pins across the floor of the cultural hall in a staggered formation. Each father was to blindfold his daughter and, without touching her with his hands, “talk” her through and around the pins, across the cultural hall, and then back to the starting point, where the next pair would begin. We were divided into two teams.
When the race began there was much enthusiasm, both teams cheering for theirs to be the fastest. Most of the fathers would holler “go right!” or “go left!” or “stop!” or “go straight!” It seemed such a simple game when we were given the instructions, but it was actually quite difficult. The voice of the opposing team’s father might be confused with your own, and the two girls racing each other would get the instructions mixed up. Some of the father’s were hesitant in their directions and thus lost precious time. Many of the daughters did not follow the instructions quickly and accurately and then either went too fast or moved in the wrong direction, occasionally knocking down the pins.
But there was one father and daughter at the party who surprised us all. This father was afflicted with a serious disease that hampered his coordination. He was somewhat slow of speech and movement. An interesting thing happened when it was their turn to race. When the blindfold was in place, I heard the father say to his daughter, “Don’t worry about left or right or fast or slow. Just walk at a steady pace and listen to my voice. Just follow the sound of my voice. I’ll keep talking the whole time, and we’ll go right through.” At the signal they began, and he gently repeated over and over, “Just follow my voice” or “Don’t listen to the others, just my sounds.” I was amazed as they steadily walked with short steps right through the course, faster than any of the others, so fast in fact that theirs was the winning team.
What an interesting lesson for all fathers and daughters. So often there are many voices that call to our attention and tend to confuse us or get us off the right track. We are often yelling in our daily affairs for a daughter to go one way or another, to speed up or slow down, to do or not to do. What a blessing if every young woman could have a worthy father in this life who would say in words and actions, “Don’t worry about getting off the track. Just follow my voice and example, and let me lead you home.” And what a blessing if every daughter who has such a father would trust in him as he magnifies his priesthood and be willing to follow his direction and example.
I thought this was a wonderful story as it shows the influence of a Father in his daughters life, and how hard trying to yell her into conformance would be. But by loving example shown to her and her mother, fathers can make such a huge difference in keeping her on the path.
This second short story is from Robert D Hales,
He shared this memory from his childhood, “I learned respect for womanhood from my father’s tender caring for my mother, my sister, and his sisters. Father was the first to arise from dinner to clear the table. My sister and I would wash and dry the dishes each night at Father’s request. If we were not there, Father and Mother would clean the kitchen together.
In later years, after Mother had a stroke, Father faithfully cared for her every need. The last two years of her life required 24-hour care, he being called by Mother every few minutes, day or night. I shall never forget his example of loving care for his cherished companion. He told me it was small payment for over fifty years of my mother’s loving devotion to him.” (Robert D. Hales, How Will Our Children Remember Us, 1993)
Both of these stories hit close to home for me as I watched my own father take care of my mother when she was diagnosed with cancer. I was just 14, and very much in denial myself so I don’t really remember much from this period of my life, but I saw him take care of her and love her as they went through the hardest and most helpless times of her life. And when she passed I saw how much it hurt the man who was usually so reserved with his feelings. He was true to her throughout their life together, and compared every woman that my brother’s dated to her after she was gone. She was his ideal woman, even with all of her human faults, and he enjoyed telling us about how wonderful he knew she was.
After her passing my father was basically the sole authority in my life, the one who had sole responsibility for helping me to make it through this life correctly. And he did that through his example.
Children need to be constantly taught how they should act when they mature and have their own families. The best gift parents can give their children is to love each other, to enjoy each other, and even to hold hands and demonstrate their love by the manner in which they talk to each other.
One amazing father in the Book of Mormon was Abish’s dad.
When Abish was young her father shared with her a remarkable vision he had experienced. She was converted by his testimony. For many years thereafter, she kept her testimony in her heart and lived righteously in a very wicked society. Then, while working in the King’s house, the time came when she could no longer be still. Ammon arrived to teach the King and Queen the gospel and they were all struck down with the spirit as if they were dead. Upon seeing this, Abish knew what was going on and she ran from house to house to share her testimony and the miracles she had witnessed in the king’s court. The power of Abish’s conversion and testimony was instrumental in changing an entire Lamanite society.
The people who heard her testify became a people who “were converted unto the Lord, [and] never did fall away,” and their sons became the stripling warriors! (Love her Mother, Oct 2011)
All because of a loving father.
Russell M Nelson gave 3 suggestions on how husbands and wives can nurture their relationship and set an example for their children:
The first is “To appreciate —to say “I love you” and “thank you”—is not difficult. But these expressions of love and appreciation do more than acknowledge a kind thought or deed. They are signs of sweet civility. As grateful partners look for the good in each other and sincerely pay compliments to one another, wives and husbands will strive to become the persons described in those compliments.
I Love, Love, Love this counsel. Ever since I was a young woman I have admired the couples in my ward who were so obviously in love and constantly talking positively about each other. And when I was a little older, I also enjoyed listening to my brother in law talk about my sister the same way. He always acted and spoke as if he was the luckiest man on earth to have landed my sister. I know their 2 boys will know that their father loves and respects their mother, and they will learn how to respect and treat the women in their lives.
Nelson’s second suggestion—to communicate well with your spouse—is also important. Good communication includes taking time to plan together. Couples need private time to observe, to talk, and really listen to each other. They need to cooperate—helping each other as equal partners. Good communication is also enhanced by prayer. To pray with specific mention of a spouse’s good deed (or need) nurtures a marriage.. . “
When Jeff and I were meeting with our bishop and stake presidency we were counseled to pray for each other at night, to thank God for each other, and to ask for forgiveness for ways we may have offended each other. Thanking God for Jeff is easy, but begging forgiveness is hard for me. My pride doesn’t want to admit that I was wrong, especially in front of others. But I know that in order to stay close to my husband and set an example for our future children I need to do those things that are hard for me. And be willing to show my future children that I am trying every day to be a good wife to their father.
“[Nelson’s] third suggestion is to contemplate. If couples contemplate often—with each other in the temple—sacred covenants will be better remembered and kept. Frequent participation in temple service and regular family scripture study nourish a marriage and strengthen faith within a family. Contemplation allows one to anticipate and to resonate (or be in tune) with each other and with the Lord. Contemplation will nurture both a marriage and God’s kingdom.” (Russell M. Nelson, April 2006 General Conference)
Your children will see how important the temple is in your lives if you make a point to go together, and even if you have a testimony of temples. If you don’ attend regularly your actions will speak more than your words. In addition, Fathers should express to their daughters how important it is to find a man who can take her to the temple. They should have conversations often about the daughters life, her dreams, her goals, and to make sure the male friends she is seeking out are worthy of her efforts.
Every Father should look for teaching moments every day, like Pres. Hunter’s father. Find ways to show your children how to be a husband and a wife, how to communicate, and how to respect other people. He believed, “You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for [Your wife]. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
I searched my adult life to find a man who would love me in the way that the men in the stories I told loved their wives, through sickness and health, while staying close to the gospel. I am thankful for my father, who always encouraged us to reach for our potential, and to work outside, and to pay our tithes and offerings generously. Who let me know what I needed from a husband someday.
And I am so thankful to my father in law who raised his sons and daughters to respect womenhood. To not consider “women’s work” or “man’s work” around the house. To value education. To not have the unreal expectations for his wife. (thankfully!) And to express his appreciation often.
And I pray that his great example will influence the generations after him, as Abish’s dad influenced the Stripling Warriors.