First of all, I'd like to thank the bishop and bishopric for the invitation to speak on this special day for fathers.
For those who know me, know that I like to tell jokes, and today is no different. Here's a joke especially for fathers. If that's not specific enough, it's a sports joke. And if that is still not specific enough, it's a football joke. Yes it's definitely and especially for fathers.
It's a two-part joke. The first part is not original, meaning that you may have heard or read it before, maybe on the Internet. The second part is original and so I'm applying for a copyright.There was an American guy and his British girlfriend. He invited her to spend some time with him here in America. While she was here the boyfriend took her to a football (American) game. After the game, the following conversation ensued.
Girlfriend (in her British accent): You Americans are very weird sports fanatics
Girlfriend: Well, you seem to center everything on money, and it was kind of stupid to play for a mere coin.
Boyfriend: What do you mean?
Girlfriend: Well, at the beginning of the game, the two teams flipped a coin and then awarded it to the other team
And so the American boyfriend, not wanting to be outsmarted by his girlfriend, let alone a British, had an immediate comebackGirlfriend: And all throughout the game the fans kept screaming: "Get the quarter back! Get the quarter back!"[Laughter]
Boyfriend: Well, for your information, it was not a quarter, it was a dollar - a silver dollar
Girlfriend: No, it was a quarter
Boyfriend: It was a dollar
Girlfriend: Well, can you prove that it was a dollar?
Boyfriend (condescendingly): Yes Madam. You see, there was the first quarter, then the second quarter, the third quarter and the fourth quarter - four quarters, that's a dollar!... Duh!
E mua'i faamalie atu i le tatou uarota, o le a faa-British (Peretania) la'u lauga. Leai, e le ose fia nanu, poo se tau su'e lanu ae o le manumanu.... ina ne'i togi i le pa ae le tau i le ‘ave le savali, ona o le to'atele o le tatou uarota e le malamalama i le gagana Samoa. Ae o le faa-Samoa ia a le failauga, ia e sa'o ai le ‘agaga (upu) masani - E le ma'i a le fa'a-Samoa a si kama, ae seki a.
Let me wish all you fathers a "Happy Father's Day!"
And I mean that in the broad and inclusive sense and context of the term "fathers" - which include single fathers, step fathers, foster fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers, and so on.
But I am also considerate, as Bishop advised when he invited me to speak, of those families without fathers - due to one reason or another - or as the apostle James calls "the fatherless and widows" (James 1:27). To such, if I may offer as consolation, reassure you that in the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ, there are those priesthood holders who, by the very nature of their callings and ministry, serve as father figures for you and your families. For example, the bishop, who is the "father of the ward" and ministers (formerly hometeachers). As these servants serve, minister and visit you and your families, you, in turn, become the essence and demonstration of what the apostle James calls "pure religion and [purity] before God." (James 1:27).
In fact, moreover, according to the apostle Paul, although we all have earthly fathers, we also all have, in common, and literally, the father of our spirits, who is God, our Heavenly Father and to whom - according to the apostle - we should rather be in subjection (Hebrews 12:9).
In a 2016 General Conference talk, titled "Fathers", Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that "Our Heavenly Father is the perfect [and] divine expression of fatherhood."
In the same talk, Elder Christofferson said:
"... fatherhood is much more than a social construct or product of evolution. The role of father is of divine origin, beginning with a Father in Heaven, and in this mortal sphere, with Father Adam."
Today, we fathers are being honored and celebrated. And because of that focus and attention from our families, loved ones and others, we tend to become passive recipients of their many expressions of gratitude, love, praise, Facebook posts and tributes, and of course a big to'ana'i (or feast) given in our honor.
I do, however, feel that in addition to being feted and honored, today is one of the best times we, as fathers, perform a self evaluation of our divine role and responsibility. At the very least, we need a quiet meaningful inventory of some of the things we need to improve on so we can be better husbands and fathers.
Let me suggest three things that I would consider in my own inventory. They are found in three of my favorite words, namely GROWTH, BALANCE and CHANGE. All these words are central to explaining, examining and understanding the gospel in our lives, and therefore useful in our efforts in becoming better fathers.
And all three are also complementary to other usual and - by now - familiar counsels for fathers by our leaders in the past but reminded to us by Elder Christofferson, as follows:
- a father represents the ideal of the man who puts his family first
- by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness
- fathers are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
- loving the mother of his children - and showing that love - are two of the best things a father can do for his children.
These and many others.
But for my assignment and purpose today, again, let me suggest:
Growth is a virtue, often synonymous and used in the familiar gospel concept of "Progression", as in "mortal progression", "spiritual progression" and of course "eternal progression".
One of the main emphases of the gospel, is personal growth - especially spiritual growth. We need to grow out of our natural and fallen nature. President Hinckley reminded us that the gospel is to "make bad men good, and good men better." It wouldn't be much different if we re-phrase that and replacing "man" with "fathers" - the gospel is to make bad fathers good and good fathers better. In other words, as we live the gospel, growth becomes the natural outcome and result. In the words of King Benjamin we need to "... [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint." (Mosiah 3:19)
In the need for growth, Elder Christofferson said that "... fatherhood exposes us to our own weaknesses and our need to improve." Put simply, we need to grow.
To be effective and competent fathers, we need to seek and do those things that bring us the most positive growth. Things that would grow and increase our wisdom, knowledge, character, experience, testimony and faith. We need to be like the Savior who grew and increased in wisdom and stature and, therefore, in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). At this time of Jesus' life, Elder Christofferson reminds us that even the Savior had a foster father in Joseph, and therefore even Christ, as our exemplar, had to grow from grace upon grace. Likewise, we too, learn and grow from line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little (Isaiah 28:10).
Let us use growth as the criteria and measure of success in the pursuits and challenges of our daily lives as fathers. In such quest, of becoming a better husband and father, it would be helpful if we ask the question:"Does a particular undertaking contribute to my personal growth as a husband and father?" Using a simple plant as an example, we add water, nutrients and sunlight for it to grow. We don't use hot water or other things that will kill the plant. Similarly, we should determine and seek after those things that would contribute and help in our own growth as fathers, and not those things that undermine our role, or even destroy us.
As we strive for meaningful growth as fathers, let us also try to find BALANCE in our lives and in our divine calling. The role and responsibility of being a father can be overwhelming, demanding and stressful at times. Work and family often overlap. And finding balance can help us become effective, inspired and satisfied fathers. Finding balance can mean using wisdom and order as King Benjamin said:
"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent,... that all things must be done in order."
Finding balance also means that, as fathers, we should acquire at least basic and working knowledge and skills in other useful fields, disciplines and talents. With today's age of information at our fingertips (literally), Youtube and other online tutorials can help in this regard. These can be quite rewarding as we often find ourselves helping our children during some project or in their school work and other assignments. We do not need to become Renaissance men, but the principle of balance in our lives, is worthy of consideration and emulation. Socrates once offered a caveat against the "unexamined life", which is one that's not worth living. Though it seems dramatic in tone, the essence of the maxim is in line with our Heavenly Father's plan for our mortal existence - that we are here to live, learn, experience, grow and progress.
Another application of balance in our lives is avoiding extremes. In this context, moderation is recommended.
A father who spends all, if not most of his time, resources, energy in going to extremes to make sure that his sons will be the best football players and athletes, and ultimately making sports as his top priority and obsession, is a father who needs balance.
On the other end of the pendulum is a father who insists and sometimes forces his children to live the lives of spiritual hermits, at the expense of social, educational, recreational and other activities, is in danger of creating gospel hobbies and extremes. Such a father desperately needs balance.
On extremity, Elder Quentin Cook reminds us that "Almost any virtue taken to excess can become a vice," and such extreme approaches can cause us to become guilty of "looking beyond the mark" (Jacob 4:14).
And so during our quiet meaningful inventories on this Father's Day, if you're like me, you will definitely find things you/we need to improve on or change - maybe minor, maybe major. One of the key objectives and functions of the gospel is changing lives - for the better. And we all can be witnesses of that.
Motivational speakers often say, if you're not getting the results you want, change what you're doing. If we have a hard time living up to the kind of fathers we want to be, maybe consider changing what we're doing. With the guidance and help of the Spirit, we can know what and how to effect needed and important change in our lives.
And by the way, change in the gospel context is often expressed and implemented in the process of repentance. According to King Benjamin, real, sincere and mighty change starts in our hearts, where the disposition to do good continually is wrought (Mosiah 5:2). Our behavior and character should then be continually shaped and molded by the good word of God.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said:
"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve [and change] behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. …"
The one interesting and true thing about being a father is we don't go to school to learn how to be a good one. There are no scholastic honors or degrees on fatherhood as a discipline or field of study. There may be, today, some professional training in parenthood, but our most effective and important training as parents and as fathers is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, through application of its truths, eternal principles and doctrines.
After the Savior miraculously fed the five thousand, in the evening, he instructed his disciples to board a boat and sail across to the other side of the sea (of Galilee) where he will meet them later. During the night, a strong wind blew and the ship was tossed with waves. The disciples prayed and were afraid for much of the night. "And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." (Matthew 14:25). The fourth watch is often used as a metaphor for faith in Jesus Christ.
Figuratively speaking, fathers, we are quarterbacks on our teams (or families), and we are winners, not quitters, meaning that we play all four quarters - we need to be there during the fourth watch, or fourth quarter, when victory is declared, and when all our "Hail Mary's" are answered, and have overcome the adversary's attempts and calls to "Get the quarterback!" As quarterbacks too, let our audibles* today be "Growth!....Balance! ....Change!"
We need to strive and continue to be good, loving, patient, worthy and faithful fathers. Elder Christofferson said:
"I know you wish you were a more perfect father. I know I wish I were. Even so, despite our limitations, let us press on."
And to that I add the Savior's words to his storm-tossed disciples: "Be of good cheer,...be not afraid," (Matthew 14:27) is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.--------------------------------------------
* In American football, it's a change in the offensive play called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage