Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long stressed the importance of fathers in the family. This Father's Day, read a small collection of stories from church leaders about lessons they have learned from their fathers or their own adventures in fatherhood.
Learn to be compassionate
As a young boy, President Thomas S. Monson often accompanied his father to visit his uncle Elias. Elias was elderly and plagued with crippling arthritis, but he loved to take drives through the city. President Monson remembers seeing his father carry his frail uncle to the car for a weekly ride.
“The drive was brief and the conversation limited, but oh, what a legacy of love!” President Monson recalled. “Father never read to me from the Bible about the good Samaritan. Rather, he took me with him and uncle Elias in that old 1928 Oldsmobile and provided a living lesson I have always remembered.”
— President Thomas S. Monson, "President Thomas S. Monson: In the Footsteps of the Master"
Follow your passions
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency is the son of the renowned scientist, Henry Eyring. As a scientist, Henry Eyring encouraged his sons to study science, but after his eldest son asked for help on a complex math problem it became clear science was not his son's path.
“My father was at a blackboard we kept in the basement,” President Eyring recalled. “Suddenly he stopped. ‘Hal,’ he said, ‘we were working this same kind of problem a week ago. You don’t seem to understand it any better now than you did then. Haven’t you been working on it?’”
President Eyring admitted he did not.
“You don’t understand,” his father said. “When you walk down the street, when you’re in the shower, when you don’t have to be thinking about anything else, isn’t this what you think about?”
“When I told him no,” President Eyring continued, “my father paused. It was really a very tender and poignant moment, because I knew how much he loved me and how much he wanted me to be a scientist. Then he said, ‘Hal, I think you’d better get out of physics. You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don’t have to think about anything, that’s what you think about.’”
President Eyring went on to get a master's and Ph.D. in business from Harvard and taught at Stanford and Rick's College.
— President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, Ensign September 1995.
Persevere through times of trial
When President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was 11 years old, his family were refugees in West German.
"To this day, I am deeply impressed by the way my family worked after having lost everything following World War II! I remember my father — a civil servant by education and experience — taking on several difficult jobs, among which were coal miner, uranium miner, mechanic and truck driver. He left early in the morning and often returned late at night in order to support our family. ...
"It wasn’t easy, but the work kept us from dwelling too much on the difficulties of our circumstances. Although our situation didn’t change overnight, it did change. That’s the thing about work. If we simply keep at it — steady and constant — things certainly will improve."
— President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, "Two Principles for Any Economy"
Take time to play
After returning from a business trip, Elder Richard G. Scott had only a short time home before he had to return to work for a meeting. He wanted to work on fixing the washing machine. Instead, his wife told him to play with their young children.
"I had a marvelous time with our children. We chased each other around and rolled in the fall leaves. Later I went to my meeting. I probably would have forgotten that experience were it not for the lesson that (my wife) wanted me to learn.
"The next morning about 4 a.m., I was awakened as I felt two little arms around my neck, a kiss on the cheek, and these words whispered in my ear, which I will never forget: 'Dad, I love you. You are my best friend.'
"If you are having that kind of experience in your family, you are having one of the supernal joys of life."
— Richard G. Scott, Quorum of the Twelve, "The Eternal Blessings of Marriage"
Empathize with those less fortunate
"One winter evening when I was about five or six years old, my father took me for a walk downtown. This was during the depression, when jobs were few and many homeless, hungry people were on the streets. My father and I were looking at all the store windows as we walked, and soon we found ourselves standing in front of the window of a sporting goods store. It was full of bright things that would catch every boy’s fancy — things like fishing lures and pocketknives for whittling.
"A shabbily dressed boy was standing near us, looking longingly into the window. I didn’t pay much attention to him, but my father went over and spoke with him briefly, then put his hand on his shoulder and led him inside the store. I watched as he took the boy to a showcase of pocketknives, told him to pick one out, then paid the shopkeeper for the knife.
"I didn’t get a pocketknife that day, but I did get a lesson. At the time, I felt let down, as a little boy would feel when the gift he thinks is his goes to someone else. But as my father and I walked away from the store, he said, 'You have me. He doesn’t have anybody.' Later I realized how generous and how sensitive to the needs of others my father was."
— Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Quorum of the Twelve, Friend to Friend June 1997
Listen and be present
"For our interactions with youth to truly touch their hearts, we have to pay attention to them just as we would pay attention to a trusted adult colleague or close friend. Most important is asking them questions, letting them talk, and then being willing to listen — yes, listen and listen some more — even hearken with spiritual ears! Several years ago I was reading the newspaper when one of my young grandsons snuggled up to me. As I read, I was delighted to hear his sweet voice chattering on in the background. Imagine my surprise when, a few moments later, he pushed himself between me and the paper. Taking my face in his hands and pressing his nose up to mine, he asked, 'Grandpa! Are you in there?'
"Mother, Father, are you in there? Grandpa, Grandma, are you there? Being there means understanding the hearts of our youth and connecting with them. And connecting with them means not just conversing with them but doing things with them too."
— Elder Robert D. Hales, Quorum of the Twelve, "Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation"
Katie Harmer is a journalism graduate of Brigham Young University and writes for Mormon Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @harmerk