There was a fair amount of contemplation and scripture study involved in preparing this talk. I felt the Spirit was helping me to select material and organize concepts to share. I hoped the talk would touch the father's and future fathers in the congregation, so that they felt a desire to focus on what really matters in life - their family!
Anyways, it doesn't need a lot of preamble. Here is the talk...
Father's Day - 2016.06.19
A friend sent me examples of some father’s day cards that he had found on the internet, amongst which was a real treasure. I suspect it was written by a young boy, perhaps 9 or 10 years old:
“Dad - without me, today is just another day. (You’re welcome).”
This humorous statement also has a serious message - without children, life would be empty and meaningless. It’s not just that we would miss celebrating one day of the year, but that there would be a huge void in our hearts and in our souls. This is true irrespective of the parentage of those children.
If that is how we feel about children, think how our Heavenly Father feels about us!
Today, I want to discuss three topics:
- Appreciating our Heavenly Father.
- What our Heavenly Father wants for His Children.
- How we can honour Him.
Let’s think about our Heavenly Father
What is he like?
- Every day, when you pray to Him, how do you visualize Him? Sometimes I see a face with very kind eyes; other times, it is more a feeling of warm familiarity. That’s when I know I am actually connecting.
- We know that God is a perfect being, that He is omniscient (that is, having complete and unlimited knowledge and understanding) and all powerful. But do we really know Him that well?
How does he see us?
- We are his children. He has told us that we were created in the “similitude of his Only Begotten” (Moses 1:13). Our prophets have told us that “All human beings - male and female - are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny”. (The Family - A Proclamation to the World).
How does he feel about us?
- God loves us deeply and perfectly.
- John 3:16 tells us “…For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I can’t imagine the depth of His feelings as Jesus was praying in Gethsemane or hanging on the cross. But if we try to understand, particularly if we have children of our own, then perhaps we can start to appreciate the depth and breadth of His love for us. Maybe it is worth thinking about that for a while, on Father’s Day.
For now, let’s just keep in our minds that we have a perfect Father who loves us perfectly.
What does our Heavenly Father want for His Children?
The book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price tells us of several discussions that Moses had with God. In one, Moses saw the entire earth and all of its inhabitants - the scriptures say that he saw, “…even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the Spirit of God…” (Moses 1:27). Moses asked God to tell him why and how he made the world. The Lord at first says “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me”, (Moses 1:31).
But God tells Moses that He made our world and many other worlds by the power of His Son. Finally, God speaks this transcendent truth to Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39).
What does this mean? In the last LDS general conference, President Uchtdorf said: “…we can…transcend mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory….". God’s plan is to build us into something far greater than we can ever imagine.
That means that God’s focus is on his children. His plan is for us to be happy. We achieve that by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
“In the pre-mortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life”. (The Family - A Proclamation to the World).
We can honour our Heavenly Father by doing His work
President Eyring’s talk from the last general conference talks about eternal families and some of the following quotes are taken from that talk.
As fathers, our greatest purpose is to help our families and others to progress towards and obtain eternal life. Quote: “Every priesthood effort and every priesthood ordinance is intended to help Heavenly Father’s children be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become members of perfected family units. It follows that ‘the great work of every man is to believe the gospel, to keep the commandments, and to create and perfect an eternal family unit’ (quoting Bruce R. McConkie)”.
We should put our families and the families of those around us at the centre of our concern. Every decision we make should be based on how it helps our family to qualify for life with Heavenly Father.
In the last conference, Elder Christofferson told us that “…fatherhood exposes us to our own weaknesses and our need to improve…” and appealed to “…all fathers to do better and to be better”. To me, this was encouragement to make the changes in my own life that are necessary for me to re-prioritize and focus on those things that will help my family - past, present and future - to obtain eternal life. Here are some ideas that have impressed me as I have thought about this:
- I need to treat my wife and my children the way Heavenly Father treats me. Fortunately, modern day scriptures provide direction:
- In regards to my wife - D&C 42:22 - “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else”. And in contemplating this scripture, I believe we can consider the additional insight that comes from replacing the words “none else” with “nothing else”.
- In regards to my children and grandchildren - D&C 121:41 - “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…”. I see this behaviour modelled daily as I watch my children and their spouses deal with the challenges of raising their children. Elder Christofferson said that “…the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father…”.
- Teach our children and others in our family the doctrines of the Plan of Salvation:
- The need to make choices, which means we must have both agency and opposition in our lives, keeping in mind that making right choices is what helps us to grow as our Father intended.
- The need for a Saviour to allow us to be cleansed from sin and progress towards our eternal destiny.
- The need for us to exercise faith in Jesus Christ.
- The need to experience the witness of the Holy Ghost (Elder Hales - “The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions…”).
- The need to be obedient that we may discover “…what we are truly made of…We come to see obedience…as a liberating path to our divine destiny…”. (Uchtdorf).
- The need to make eternal covenants with our Heavenly Father in his House, again keeping in mind that the primary blessings of the temple are the ordinances of exaltation. (President Monson - “Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God.”)
- The need for family history work to tie our families together in the eternities, knowing that the Lord organizes eternal families only in temples. The really cool thing is that all members of the family can be involved with family history and temple work, and there has been no other time when we have been so enabled.
The Lord expects a lot of fathers - they have an important role to play in His Plan of Happiness. However, He does not leave them alone. He gives them the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will always guide them in the important decisions of life. He entrusts them with the priesthood, which if used wisely will assist them to carry out their roles in life. And he blesses them with an eternal companion, who can be their best confidante, counsellor, encourager, and smoother of troubled waters.
I pray that today we will take some time to:
- Think about and appreciate our Heavenly Father, and perhaps gain a more intimate picture of who he is and what he wants for His children.
- Contemplate the ways that we can “do better and be better” as we teach and encourage our families in their journey to eternal life in a heavenly family and exaltation in God’s kingdom.