In 2013, I was invited to speak at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York City. Usually those who are sponsoring the event assign you a specific topic you are to speak on, but in this rare case it was left up to me. I knew that the purpose of this UN Commission was and is to promote gender equality and women empowerment. I also knew that the reason why I was invited was because of my expertise in promoting the family “as the fundamental unit of society.”
I wrestled with several topics related to women, girls, and the family, but nothing seemed to stick out. I made it a matter of prayer and as the date approached that I was to submit the title and topic of my presentation it finally hit me “speak on the importance of the father-daughter relationship.” When I announced the topic to the NGO (Non-governmental Organization) that I was working with, one of their board members replied: “Wow, you’re brave.” Because this was my first time at the UN and knowing very little about CSW, I was quite naive to the fact this was a hotbed for radical agendas to reshape not only the family unit but society as well. This agenda also included ideas that amounted to demeaning and minimizing men to elevate or “empower” women.
I won’t share all the details of that first experience at the UN. But I will say that the speakers before me shared boldly and passionately research-based truths about the importance of children, family, and motherhood which really set the stage for my topic. I was the last speaker in a packed room of women (and a few men) from all over the world. The Holy Ghost was present throughout the event and by the time I stood I felt guided in the evidence and stories I should share. The response to our event was a standing ovation. Thus began many subsequent UN talks and with it, a crusade to promote the critical importance of dads in public policy and public discourse.
As a professor of marriage, family, and child development at BYU-Idaho, I did not set out to focus my invited presentations and public scholarship on fatherhood. You might say, because of that experience in 2013, that fatherhood found me. Which is somewhat ironic because I am a father of 1 son and 3 daughters. Since that time I have had the honor and privilege of speaking on the importance of fathers at Princeton University, in many other states here in the U.S., in Central America, Eastern Europe, and several times at the United Nations. In 2017, my family and I moved to Washington DC for one semester where I completed a sabbatical working as a research fellow for the Marriage & Religion Research Initiative at Catholic University of America. Here I wrote a synthesis paper regarding the research on fathers impact on his daughters sexual development, activity, and potential exploitation.
I am not sharing any of this to brag or boast, but only to offer the backdrop for the most important talk I have given on fatherhood. In May of 2018, I had the opportunity to be the devotional speaker at BYU-Idaho. When praying about the topic that the rising generation needed to hear, the impression came very clear: Fathers. This was a labor of love as I felt guided to speak very directly to young men of the church. (I figured if I spoke to the young women, the young men would tune out. But if I spoke to the young men, the young women perhaps be gently elbowing the young men they are interested in). Rather than giving a research-based presentation to a secular audience, I tried to focus on the doctrine and principles that are connected to fatherhood in the Plan of Happiness. I share with you this talk on this Father’s Day and pray that there might be something of value for you and/or your loved ones.