15 June 2008

Happy Fathers Day everyone!

My father is incredibly special to me. He has always been a father who I admire and respect. I was always trying to find ways to make him proud of me. But he's one of those fathers that no matter what you do, he will always love you and cherish you with every bone in his body.

My father gave a talk in the Orangewood Ward today for Fathers Day. It was his last talk serving in the high council. It is beautifully written and has an inspiring message. I've included it below:

One of the things I most look forward to on Father's Day is the phone call I get from each of my three sons and two daughters. They're all grown now, three are married and three live out of state. I look forward to their phone calls and I love hearing about everything that is going on in their busy, adult lives.

But, in memory I also like to go back to earlier Father’s Days, when they got up on the stand and sang: "I’m so glad when Daddy gets home." I loved the homemade cards and pictures they drew for me. I still have some of them. Those were precious times. For so many years, when I came home from work or church meetings, I looked forward to children running to greet me. And then, all of the sudden that part of our life was over and Cheryl and I were empty nesters.

But just recently, due to unforseen circumstances, we have become the guardians, at least for the time being, of five of our grandchildren, ages 10, 6, 4, 2, and 19 months.

As you can imagine, it is a bit of a shock instantly going overnight from a quiet household of two to a busy household of seven, but one lesson I hope I’ve learned from raising my own five children is that they grow up so incredibly fast. You think they will stay children forever, but in truth the childhood years are gone in a heartbeat. So I'm not wasting a minute of the precious time I have with these little ones. I love the hugs and kisses. I love the sound of their laughter. I love telling bedtime stories again. I love hearing their prayers. I love hearing "I love you, Gwapa". When I left home last night to play for a dance, I looked back and saw the faces of two of them in the window blowing kisses to me.

I also love the little glimpse I get from time to time into how they perceive the world. I remember an incident a few years back when Stephanie was three or four. I had taken her to our mountain cabin in the wintertime. We were leaving for home and it was cold and gloomy and it began to snow. I could see her in the rearview mirror, in her car seat, staring glumly out the car window. She asked me: "Grandpa, why does Jesus make it snow? I said "He makes it snow so we’ll have water to drink when the snow melts." She thought about that for awhile and then said: "I hope he works in a warm office."

These past few days of revisiting my years as a parent has cause me to reflect of the role of a father and the profound influence we have on our children. And in thinking about this subject, a certain scripture came to mind. It's a scripture that's most often quoted in talks on the subject of prayer. But it occurred to me that this scripture also clearly reveals to us the nature of God.

It’s found in the sermon on the mount--- and consists of just five simple verses:

7 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

You know this one, right? You’ve heard it before. But listen to the next three verses:

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

What does this scripture tell us about the nature of God? This scripture tells us that God is not some mysterious, intangible spirit or force of nature, He is our Father.

I love this scripture because it teaches me that although God is omnipotent, all knowing, all powerful, the creator of the heavens and the earth and every living thing therein—He is all of these things, and yet, above all these things, first and foremost, He is our Father.

And it also teaches me that He is a loving, caring Father, who wants to have a relationship with me. He wants to bless me. He wants to help me grow and mature and learn and become like him so that I can ultimately have all that He has to give me.

Although it’s hard to comprehend, when we realize we are just one little soul in the vast sea of his posterity, we had a personal relationship with him in the life before this earth life. He knows each and every one of us.

One of our recent prophets once commented that if the veil could be removed from our minds and we could regain a memory of those days before mortality, we could look in the face of our Heavenly Father and we would be amazed at how familiar it would be to us.

This divine plan of Salvation is truly a miracle. Here we are, imperfect humans. Yet we are given the opportunity to participate in something divine. We are allowed to be partners with deity, to share in the joy of parenthood–to feel in our own hearts towards our own children, a glimmer of that profound love our Heavenly Father feels for us. We are allowed, as imperfect humans, a small glimpse into the joy and glory of our Heavenly Father as we see our children succeed. And we also experience a small sense of what must be the profound pain our Heavenly Father feels when His children choose the wrong path.

Psychiatrists have long commented that how we perceive God is heavily influenced by the relationship we have with our own Father. There’s no doubt some truth in it. Our life experiences can’t help but shape our perceptions.

For those of us who were blessed with a loving, caring father, who cherished us, it’s not hard to accept and believe in a loving Heavenly Father.

For those who only knew a distant or absentee father, it may not be as easy to comprehend and yet, we can find in every walk of life, kind and nurturing men who provide that example of the divine.

In reading the scriptures, we can understand our loving Heavenly Father as we contemplate the life and example of his Son, Jesus Christ. As we strive to keep the commandments and receive the blessings from obedience to the Gospel, we cannot help but come to feel the great love He has for each of us.

Over the years, many of our beloved Church leaders have shared personal stories and paid tribute to the influence of their fathers in their lives.

In our recent Stake Conference, Elder Hafen, in the priesthood session, spoke of his grandfather and how much, as a boy, he loved spending time with his grandfather on his ranch. He remembered how his grandfather spent time with him and took time to share with his young grandson some of the insights he gained from the scriptures. He remembered the rough feel of his grandfather’s beard when he hugged him. Years later, when he was called to be a General Authority, President Spencer W. Kimball embraced him and for a moment he remembered the feel of his Grandfather’s face and he had a sudden realization of how much his grandfather had influenced him and built his testimony. I was particularly touched and inspired by that story and have resolved to increase my efforts to share my love of the Lord and my testimony with my own precious grandchildren.

President Gordon B. Hinckley recalled his Father’s influence at a very early age. He recalled:

"The earliest instance of which I have recollection of spiritual feelings was when I was about five years of age, a very small boy. I was crying from the pain of an earache. There were no wonder drugs at the time. That was 85 years ago. My mother prepared a bag of table salt and put it on the stove to warm. My father softly put his hands upon my head and gave me a blessing, rebuking the pain and the illness by authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ. He then took me tenderly in his arms and placed the bag of warm salt at my ear. The pain subsided and left. I fell asleep in my father’s secure embrace. As I was falling asleep, the words of his administration floated through my mind. That is the earliest remembrance I have of the exercise of the authority of the priesthood in the name of the Lord."

On Father’s Day we take the time to reflect on the contribution and influence of our fathers in our lives. It’s a time to acknowledge what our fathers have given to us. They have given us life itself and in the process they have given us a part of themselves: their hair or eye color or the shape of their nose or chin. They have provided for our needs, our food and clothing and the roof over our heads. They have played with us, held us on their laps, carried us piggyback, tucked us in, read us bedtime stories and heard our first prayers.

They have enabled us to gain an education to help us make it in an increasingly difficult and complex society, but the most important education we have received has been that which we have received within the walls of our childhood homes. It was there that our fathers taught us how to tie a shoe or a necktie, or to ride a bicycle or throw a football, but most importantly it was there that we learned the principles and lessons that have guided the development of our own system of values.

I’m grateful for the love and example of my own father. I’m grateful that he is still alive and well at age 85. I’ll talk to him later today by phone. Of everything he has taught me by word and example, there is one principle he has instilled in me I’d like to share with you.

My Dad made his living as an attorney and if you could track down every single person who knows my father or who has had any dealings with him, I would wager that you couldn’t find a single person who would question his integrity. When I was a little boy and the two of us would be standing at a stoplight waiting to cross the street, I would ask him why we couldn’t cross on the red light. There were no cars coming and no one was paying attention. He reply was always the same. He simply quoted from the Twelfth Article of Faith: "We believe in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law."

When I was little and asked him why he insisted on returning to a store and paying back the small amount a careless clerk had mistakenly overpaid him in change, he would reply that his honesty was worth more to him that 92 cents. Later, as I observed his consistent example of absolute honesty in his dealing with others, I know for a fact that no amount of money or material wealth was worth more to him than his honesty.

Years later, I followed in his footsteps and also became an attorney. Not long ago I was in court, meeting with an opposing attorney who was representing a worker on a hearing loss case. He asked me to tell him what the level of hearing loss was on his own medical report and what is was on my medical report and what it was worth in terms of dollars. When I told him he said "write it up" meaning he wanted me to prepare the settlement documents at the figure I had mentioned. Not once did he open his own file to look at it or check my figures. This really struck me, because this was not an attorney who was careless or lazy. He is one of the most competent men in this field.

What this meant was that he had complete faith in my honesty and integrity and I know this did not happen by accident. Who or what I may have become began with the simple lessons I learned in childhood from a father who loved me enough to teach me by example.

Lastly, I’m eternally grateful for my Heavenly Father for all He has done and does for me, and especially at this season of my life, when I face some new challenges in caring for these little ones, I have felt his watchful guidance and his comfort and help for which I bear testimony with gratitude in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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