Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoughts on Fathers

           Happy Father’s day!  This has been the first father’s day (to my knowledge) I have ever celebrated. My dad is retired from the NAVY and when I was younger he was often off on deployments. I have one really vague memory of us standing in the kitchen in the home I grew up in. He would grab my hands and I would walk up the front of his body. I also have a hazy memory of a weekend spent with my older siblings and him in which I scored a nifty air brush toy. You would put a marker into this holder and then pump a pedal with your foot that blew air over the marker. Come to find out, that was the weekend he and my mom’s divorce was finalized so, besides random phone calls throughout the year, I grew up in a home essentially father-less.
            When I would tell this to my teachers or other kids they often replied “sorry” but I was never upset about it. Like I said, because my dad lived most of my life away from home, having my mom and him divorced was no different from when they were married. I never really felt I had missed out on anything until things like father/daughter dances were scheduled as church activities and days like father’s day. I would not feel necessarily sad about these things, but I thought of it as something others did that I abstained from. After living most of my life with the understanding that I did not have a father, one day in my teenage years, it dawned on me that I do have a Father. I have a Father who is perfect, who is everywhere, who knows everything, and who can achieve anything He sets His mind to doing. This began my understanding of what a father’s role is and why we need them.
            In further study, I have come to realize as children of Heavenly Father, we have many fathers. We refer to our progenitor as “Father Adam”. We learn about our “Father Abraham” who had many sons. In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that Joseph, Jacob and Isaac are also considered our Fathers. Because of all of these fathers we have great blessings promised to us. Because Abraham was obedient to God and agreed to receive the higher Priesthood (or the Melchezedek Priesthood as we refer to it today) and was sealed to his wife, God promised that all of Abraham’s children would be able to enter into the same covenant Abraham entered into. Because of Abraham, we have the ability to “come forth in the first resurrection”, “inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions” and these blessings have the potential to continue to our posterity forever and ever.
            Similarly to Abraham, Jacob blessed Joseph through Ephraim that his seed will be numerous that they will be “fruitful, and multiply” and that this numerous seed will be strong and will be made strong through the “hands of the mighty God”. Later, Moses blesses the tribe of Joseph and compares them to a bull exclaiming “his horns… shall push the people together to the ends of the earth”.  If this isn’t enough of a reason to celebrate Father’s Day, let me explain one more Father we all share.
            In an article published by the First Presidency and the Twelve, the doctrine was taught “the term Father as applied to Deity occurs in sacred writ with plainly different meanings”. There is the Father as our literal parent (or Heavenly Father- Father of our spirits), and Father as creator who would include both Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is further referred to as our Father since this is His Gospel which we, His followers abide in, and Jesus Christ is also a Father by divine investiture of authority. Divine investiture is a fancy way to say that Jesus Christ not only represents the Father but speaks on behalf of the Father. In John 14:7, Jesus is recorded as explaining “if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” so even though we sometimes may feel as though we do not know much about our Spiritual Father in Heaven, by Jesus Christ we can come to know Him. So let’s look at some of the blessings we have because of our Father. One of the things I really enjoy about Father’s day is hearing people’s stories about their fathers. In learning the stories of Jesus, we come to see what a father is and why it is important to have fathers. Jesus teaches us Fathers provide, teach, and love for their children.
            When Jesus found his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded, Jesus boarded a ship and went to a deserted place. His followers heard that he had gone away and decided to walk to find Him. Matthew tells us that when “Jesus went forth [He] saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick”. This went on all day! Jesus’ apostles finally came to him and said (in effect) “It’s getting dark and there is no food around. Tell everyone to go home so they can get themselves something to eat”. Jesus replied “They need not depart; give ye them to eat”. The apostles, possibly annoyed, possibly hangry, replied “we have here but five loaves and two fishes”. Jesus asked them to give the food over and, after blessing the food, fed over five thousand people. In this story, I can totally relate with the apostles. Jesus just had a major death in his family. He goes away to get some peace and quiet and over five thousand people come to him to have him help them in their need. Instead of sending them away to focus on himself and his loss, he works all day to serve the multitude. He does not tell the multitude he needs “me” time but forgets himself and goes to work. In this way Jesus not only provided for the temporal hunger of the multitude, but left them with a testimony to provide for the multitudes spiritual hunger as well.
            We find Jesus in the midst of the multitude again and again; sometimes friendly but more often not. There are many occasions when the Pharisees come to Jesus in an attempt to teach Him but end up themselves being taught. Some of these times Jesus was overt in his teaching, such as when He taught on the Mount or in the synagogues. To say Jesus was a great teacher would be an understatement and yet he had to repeat himself and still people did not understand. While He was out fulfilling prophecy from the books  which those that condemned him read, He found it necessary to explicitly state He was the Messiah. It was the custom for those known for their knowledge and religiousness to read the lessons in front of those gathered in the synagogue. On one such day, Jesus read the prophecy from Isiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”. Possibly letting the irony of the words sink in to those in the audience, Jesus closed the book and returned to His seat. Then to make sure everyone in attendance understood, He declared” this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”. Jesus not only fulfilled the prophecy by stating He would heal the sick and deliver those in captivity, but by spending His days preaching the gospel, healing those in need, and delivering the captives. Still, if He were to judge His effectiveness by 100% compliance, He might have thought of himself a failure.
            Sometimes we may feel that providing for our children and teaching them are enough proof of our love for them but Jesus sees it fit to prove His love to us by declaring his love to us with His blood. There are times in parenting when we must allow our children to face the consequences of their actions. There are other times when we must rescue them from themselves. Isn’t it ironic that the death of Christ embodies both of these techniques? Because Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a redemption from this fall was needed. We needed someone to save us from ourselves and Jesus has always been the willing Save-er. Heavenly Father however could not step in and save His son from the physical agony and death He would experience. Heavenly Father withdrew himself from Jesus when Jesus was trying to save the Father’s children. The only reason Jesus had to save the children in the first place was because of a choice one of the children made. Jesus tells us “greater love hath no man… that a man lay down his life for his friends” or in this case, His children.
            After such a study of my scriptural fathers, I can feel nothing but gratitude. My gratitude was further extended when I married and inherited a father-in-law. PJ tells of a time he arrived home from school and his entire house smelled of sulfur. When he found his dad sleeping, PJ awoke his dad and asked why the house smelled. PJ’s dad realized that he had tried to make himself a snack of a hard-boiled eggs and, in anticipation of the 30 or so minutes passing until he could eat it, fell asleep. Thus PJ learned that napping and cooking do not mix well. Ever industrious, PJ also tells of a time his dad helped him beat a level in a video game. The video game required the player to spin the joystick as fast as he could so the character in the game would roll quickly past obstacles. After many tries, PJ was unable to beat the level so PJ’s dad got a drill, stuck a foam ball onto the bit of the drill, and pressed it against the joystick. The level was beaten and PJ’s dad set PJ on a path of engineering solutions to life’s problems. As proof, PJ’s favorite saying is “I can fix this”.
            Now as I get to observe my daughter with her father, I find that even though our scriptural fathers provide eternal blessings, our earthly fathers provide and fulfill many of our temporal needs. There may be a special bond with mothers and their children, but I can testify to the bond that fathers have with their children, especially girls to their daddies. At a time in which women are making it known that they are able and are necessary, I would like to take this opportunity to announce fathers are needed too! We should not worry about divvying up the amount of necessity. Paul touches on this in one of his epistles to the Corinthians when he asks “if the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” Just because one element of the body is important, does not mean the other parts of the body are less important. While it is true that some are born without sight or hearing, it is also true that having both sight and hearing is advantageous and ideal. Similarly having both a mom and a dad is what God intends for us. And lest you fathers feel inadequate or that your words of caution fall on deaf ears or wonder if your children know you love them; just remember 80% of success is showing up.
            I am grateful for the fathers of the world who do their due diligence in providing, teaching, and loving their family. I am also grateful for my scriptural fathers, in particular my Heavenly Father. I know that He lives and while sometimes it is hard to feel His spiritual presence in this tangible world, if I listen closely enough I know He is there. He hears me, He loves me, as He loves each of you and desires nothing more than for us to follow His words and return to the safety of his fold.