Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Good Man

Mom and Dad with my oldest sister Lisa.
I was asked to give a talk in church today. It's Father's Day and, obviously, I thought a lot about my own father as inspiration for my talk.  I began to think about the qualities he possesses that make him a good dad.  I came up with the following list:

Willingness to Sacrifice

Dallin H. Oaks said, "Perhaps the most familiar and most important examples of unselfish service and sacrifice are performed in our families. Mothers devote themselves to the bearing and nurturing of their children.  Husbands give themselves to supporting their wives and children."

My senior year in college, I bit off a little more than I could chew.  I was taking three 300-level history courses, two church history classes, and Women's Chorus.  I was working at my part-time custodial position on campus.  I was exhausted and overworked all semester long.  There was one particular week that was just absolutely awful.  I had two research papers due, a test to study for, and a Women's Chorus concert all within the space of three days.  Growing up, my dad had always been the one to proofread my papers and that tradition continued into college.  The night before the first paper was due, I called my dad and told him I needed some serious help.  So we worked out a deal where I would write a little bit and then email it to him, write a little bit and then email it to him; then he would make comments and send it back, make comments and send it back...We did this until 7:00 the next morning when I finally finished the paper an hour before my first class of the day was to start.  Then we did the same thing the next night so I could finish my second research paper.  I had pulled two all-nighters in a row but my Dad pulled them right along with me.  He sacrificed his own precious sleep and well-being so that I could be successful.

Puts Family First

President Uchtdorf said, "Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love.  Men in particular sang this universal lament: they 'deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the [daily] treadmill"  Many had lost out on choice memories that come from spending time with family and friends.  They missed developing a deep connection with those who meant the most to them.  Isn't it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.  Is it?  I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem.  I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.  I can't see it.  Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day.  When he interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved.  He knew the infinite value of the people He met.  He blessed them, ministered to them.  He lifted them up, healed them.  He gave them the precious gift of His time."

Since Dad had to work a lot during my childhood years, each of us kids had our own night of the week when we got to hang out with Dad one on one.  When it was my day, Dad and I usually chose to take walks around the neighborhood or walk down to Party Time to get some cute stickers.  But I remember one nightly stroll particularly well.  We were walking down the street next to ours when we spotted a large insect among the leaves of our neighbor's rose bush.  I had a slight fascination with bugs at the time (a fascination that did not continue for long) so Dad proceeded to tell me all he knew about this cool-looking insect (which turned out to be a praying mantis).  I think we spent a good ten minutes peering at that bug until my curiosity was satisfied.  It was a small thing but for some reason that's a memory I've always kept with me.  No matter how busy or tired he was, he always took the time to be My Dad.  Nothing was too small or beneath his notice.  If something was important to me, it was important to him.

Acts as a Teacher

L. Tom Perry said, "We have the example in Exodus of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, observing how he was governing the children of Israel: 'And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people?  Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God.  And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.  Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.'  Then Jethro taught Moses how to delegate this responsibility by calling able men who would fear God and letting them judge as rulers in Israel."

I can't pinpoint one specific time when my father acted as my teacher because he was always teaching me.  He taught me how to ride a bike, about the stars and the constellations, about the scriptures and the gospel.  He teaches by example.

Loves His Wife/Mother of His Children

Elaine S. Dalton said, "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."

I grew up in the Clayton Valley 1st Ward.  My mom played the organ for years in that ward and I remember on one particular occasion while she was playing prelude before Sacrament Meeting started that this older woman in the ward came up to my Dad and began talking about how talented Mom was and how grateful she was that Mom set the tone for the meeting with her music every Sunday.  I remember Dad looking up at Mom with a smile and saying, "Yep, she's a beautiful woman."  It made me happy to know that Dad recognized Mom's accomplishments and was proud of her for them.

Honors the Priestood

Bishop Burton said, "The priesthood isn't something we take off during the week and put on for Sunday.  It is a 24-7 privilege and blessing - that is, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...We can honor and respect the priesthood on a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day basis.  We can banish unwholesome or unclean activities from our lives.  We can provide our families with the priesthood leadership and spiritual direction they require.  We can do all this and much more if we will draw near to the Savior, honor the sacred priesthood we hold, and be faithful to the covenants we have made."

My Dad was called as the Bishop of our ward when I was 12.  I also started Girl's Camp that year and it is a tradition in the Walnut Creek Stake for the Bishops to come up to our camp on the Friday night of Girl's Camp week and teach a lesson to the girls of his ward.  So Dad came up to our camp at Treasure Mountain my First Year of Girl's Camp.  Before the meeting was going to start, I was sitting with my Dad and my sisters at a table.  My Dad needed something (I can't remember what it was) that a Girl's Camp leader was using.  He was waiting a long time.  Being twelve years of age, I didn't fully understand the priesthood.  I said something stupid like, "You should go tell that woman that you're a Bishop and that you need the [forgotten item] from her now."  My Dad looked at me rather sternly and said, "Celia, that's not what the priesthood is about."  I learned a valuable lesson that day that the priesthood is not for the benefit of the priesthood holder but for the benefit of those around him.  The blessings come from using the priesthood worthily to bless the lives of others.

Say what you will about the quality of the movie "Oz: The Great and Powerful," but I actually really liked the moral of the story, that it is better to be a good man than a great and powerful one.  That's probably the main thing that I have learned from my father.  My Dad is not at all perfect and he has weaknesses just like the rest of humanity.  In terms of worldly riches and earthly treasures, life has not gone exactly as planned for my Dad.  It has never been easy.  But through the struggle and the adversity, Dad has remained a good man.  He has stayed true to the gospel and has always been a willing disciple of Jesus Christ.  All of the qualities I have talked about today are qualities that the Savior possesses.  Whether we come from a gospel-centered background or not, we can choose now to center our lives around Christ's teachings, follow his example, and develop these qualities in our own lives.  I know that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us even more than our earthly fathers, who wants the best for us and wants us to succeed and return to live with Him again one day.

Happy Father's Day!

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