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This is the 145th post in the General Conference Odyssey. We’ve covering the priesthood session of the April 1981 General Conference.
I found an alternative understanding of the “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48) after reading President Benson’s talk Great Things Required of Their Fathers. We know that our children on Earth are also children of their Parents in Heaven. We have them on loan, as it were, and there is nothing that can be entrusted into a person’s care that is more precious than a child of God.
“By divine design,” reads the Family Proclamation, “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.” In his talk, President Benson stressed that the most important things that fathers can provide are love and regard for our children:
One great thing the Lord requires of each of us is to provide a home where a happy, positive influence for good exists. In future years the costliness of home furnishings or the number of bathrooms will not matter much, but what will matter significantly is whether our children felt love and acceptance in the home. It will greatly matter whether there was happiness and laughter, or bickering and contention.
I am convinced that before a child can be influenced for good by his or her parents, there must be a demonstration of respect and love.
A “demonstration of respect” is certainly not what our 21st century society would expect for a patriarchal society to demand of fathers for their children, but that’s exactly what President Benson called for, and he’s not alone. Citing President Joseph F. Smith:
Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, … if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys—however wayward they might be, … when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger; do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; get down and weep with them, if necessary, and get them to shed tears with you if possible. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly towards you. Use no lash and no violence, but … approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned. With this means, if you cannot gain your boys and your girls, … there will be no means left in the world by which you can win them to yourselves.
He quoted from President McKay as well, urging that “these words… should be framed by every father”:
When one puts businesses or pleasure, or the earning of additional income, above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life, and flunked in the final test of true manhood.
The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of far greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles, and will work miracles. Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of Heaven.
The second principle President Benson taught was that fathers must “teach your children to understand principles of truth,” culminating in his observation that:
With few exceptions, righteous sons and daughters who have attained eternal blessings are not just physically begotten by their fathers. They are spiritually regenerated by the examples and teachings of their fathers.
I’ve never heard it put that way, but it’s definitely an observation that resonated with me, and especially with how much I love, admire, and try to emulate my own father. I hope I can give to my son (or sons, if we have another!) the kind of example that my father has given and continues to give to me.
The sacred title of “father” is shared with the Almighty…Fatherhood is not a matter of station or wealth; it is a matter of desire, diligence, and determination to see one’s family exalted in the celestial kingdom. If that prize is lost, nothing else really matters.