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Whether that baby becomes his princess, pal or angel, a dad’s heart is forever changed by the opportunity to love a child. Being a dad is the ultimate opportunity to become a better man.

Recently, two world religious leaders made simple but stirring statements about fatherhood. Pope Francis and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints each made unique connections to fathers in heaven and on earth and the kind of love found in the heart of every dad.

Pope Francis met with young children in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. The children were allowed to ask the pope questions. One boy, Emanuele, when offered the chance to ask a question, broke into tears. The pope beckoned the boy to him where he hugged him, praised him for his tears and urged him to ask his question. Emanuele was worried about his father, who had died as a nonbeliever. He asked the pope if his dad would be in heaven.

Pope Francis responded with great compassion and asked a question of his own, “What kind of heart does God have?” Then he answered himself, saying, “A father's heart. God has a dad's heart.”

President Nelson, whose professional experience as a world-renowned surgeon gives him unique understanding of the heart, recently captured the essence of why understanding a dad’s heart matters. He called on the people of the earth to pursue the kind of unity and love that "inspires us with passionate desire to build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation."

President Nelson then got to the heart of the matter, the dad’s heart of the matter, as to how such unity love could be developed and such bridges built, saying, “only the comprehension of the true Fatherhood of God can bring full appreciation of the true brotherhood of men and the true sisterhood of women.” Understanding the love of a father’s heart, heavenly or earthly, helps us become better sons, daughters, neighbors and friends.

My dad was famous for taking “power naps” on the floor of our family room. I remember occasionally joining him and using him as my pillow. I was never actually interested in napping, but I loved to lay there and feel his “dad’s heart” beating while he rested. It wasn’t that I could hear his heart — I could feel it — and it was so much more than a blood-pumping organ. His heart was the essence of who he was. That golden heart of his lifted, encouraged, inspired, instructed, corrected and blessed everyone he met.

Last year, my dad’s heart failed, and he passed away. The thing that hit me hardest immediately at his death was the absence of his presence. That absence was real and real tough. But I soon found that he had infused himself into so many portions and places of my life and heart that I found him more present than ever in my day-to-day world. I learned that a father’s heart may stop pumping, but a dad’s heart beats forever in the lives of his children.

The heart of a man melts and is then forged into something special, a dad’s heart, the moment a newborn baby wraps a tiny hand around his finger. He discovers that his soul is instantly wrapped around the baby’s world. Whether that baby becomes his princess, pal or angel, a dad’s heart is forever changed by the opportunity to love a child. Being a dad is the ultimate opportunity to become a better man.

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Not all fathers live up to the noble title. A dad’s heart can run cold when it yields to declining moral values and becomes obsessed with the materialistic narcissism of today. Society is reeling from the retreat of men from the home, neighborhood and society. Yet there is a veritable army of fathers, brothers, uncles and grandfathers who regularly — without fanfare and far from the spotlight — choose to make a difference. High-impact fathering happens in the low-lying events of day-to-day life — and needs not be tied to a biological father.

A dad’s heart can transform a ride to school, a trip to the store, a walk around the neighborhood, a handwritten note or an encouraging word into sacred ground. The heart of a dad can forever inspire and shape the hearts of those around them.

On Father's Day, we should all be grateful for brothers, uncles, friends, teachers, bosses, colleagues and heavenly friends who daily demonstrate what it means to have a dad’s heart.