Sunday, June 21, 2009

In honor of fathers

FATHER'S DAY
talk given by Rebecca Jones, June 21, 2009

The Lord has provided us with wonderful examples of fathers in the scriptures. I have chosen to highlight but a few.

ABRAHAM: You can find Abraham’s story in the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price (or in Genesis of the Old Testament).

Abraham is like many in this world who did not grow up with the ideal father. In fact, his father was evil. That must have been hard. Abraham desired to have many children and to find more peace and happiness in this life. He wanted the Priesthood and he received it.

His father and some of his relatives worshipped idols and offered human sacrifices. Abraham tried to get them to repent, but as you can imagine, that didn’t go too well. In fact, one of the wicked priests had had enough and tied Abraham to the altar as a human sacrifice. Abraham prayed to Heavenly Father and the Lord answered his prayer. An angel of the Lord stood beside him and untied him from the altar.

The Lord said, “Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of” (Abr. 1:16).

As you know, Abraham grew in righteousness and eventually had a son, Isaac, who was his pride and joy. He became the “father of many nations.” Abraham was a loving a devoted father.

To me, Abraham’s story illustrates that even though you may not have had righteous parents, you can still grow up to BE a righteous parent. Heavenly Father has a plan for each of his children. He has a plan for you.

ALMA THE ELDER: You can find Alma’s story in the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon.

The first Alma mentioned in the Book of Mormon was a priest of wicked King Noah who later became a prophet and leader of the church in Zarahemla after hearing the words of Abinadi. Many people believed his words and were baptized. But the four sons of King Mosiah and the son of the prophet Alma, who was also called Alma, were unbelievers; they persecuted those who believed in Christ and tried to destroy the church through false teachings.

This must have caused the father grief beyond comprehension.

Eventually an angel of the Lord came to young Alma and his cohorts. The angel told Alma why he had come: “Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith” (Mosiah 27:16).

A huge change came over Alma and his bretheren. They suffered for their sins but spent the rest of their lives teaching the principle of repentance and proclaiming the word of God.

I like the account of Alma the Elder because it shows that even righteous parents can have wayward children, At times the situation must have seem hopeless to Alma the Elder--but he never stopped praying for his son. He never gave up on him. To me this shows the power of prayer and the importance of loving your children through even the very worst of times.

JOSEPH, THE EARTHLY FATHER OF JESUS: You can read Joseph’s story in the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible.

God chose Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus. The Bible tells us in the Book of Matthew, that Joseph was a righteous man. His actions toward Mary, his fiance, revealed he was a kind and sensitive man. When Mary told Joseph she was with child, he had every right to feel disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary's apparent unfaithfulness carried a grave social stigma. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, under Jewish law she could be put to death by stoning. Although Joseph's initial reaction was to break the engagement (the appropriate thing for a righteous man to do) he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly.

But God sent an angel to Joseph to verify Mary's story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God's will. Joseph willingly obeyed God, in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Perhaps this noble quality made him God's choice for the Messiah's earthly father. The Bible does not reveal much detail about Joseph's role as father to Jesus, but we know from Matthew, chapter one, that he was an excellent earthly example of integrity and righteousness. Joseph is last mentioned in Scripture when Jesus was 12 years old. We know that he passed on the carpentry trade to his son and raised him in the Jewish traditions and spiritual observances.

Joseph has a special place in my heart because he loved and raised a child who was not of his own flesh. To me, any adoptive father, foster father, or step father can look to Joseph as an example of righteous parenting.

Of course, I think of my own wonderful husband, who is helping me raise four wonderful children not born to us, but “ours” for this life, and our greatest blessings here on earth.

MY EXPERIENCE

I was fortunate to be raised by a wonderful father, Jim Cook. I am the older of two children. Growing up, I wanted my dad to be proud of me. I worked hard in school because I wanted to, but also because I knew my dad valued education. Even when I was disappointed in myself, I knew my dad loved me no matter what.





When I was a teenager my dad started inviting me on long walks with him. At first I thought I was doing him a favor--I didn’t want him to be lonely, so I would take time out of my busy schedule to keep him company. We talked about school and friends, goals and ideals, testimonies and trials. I grew to love spending time with him like this, getting to know him as a real person who knew me and loved me for who I was, and for who I was becoming. Later I realized that he wasn’t looking for a walking partner--he was taking an opportunity to connect with he teenaged daughter. He mirrored back to me who he thought I was: smart, funny, interesting, and important. Around him, that’s exactly who I was. I am so thankful for that.

I am so proud of my dad for who he was when he raised me, and for who he has become. Now that I’m an adult, he and my mom are my greatest supporters and cheerleaders. If I’m ever down I can call them up and I guarantee I’ll feel like the most amazing person in the world. They adore their grandchildren. I love to see my dad play with my kids and see how much he loves them. I am grateful for a wonderful dad.

One of the reasons I married my husband was because I saw the potential in him to be a wonderful father, and he is. I like this quote from President Ezra Taft Benson:





Remember your sacred calling as a father in Israel—your most important calling in time and eternity—a calling from which you will never be released. May you always provide for the material needs of your family and, with your eternal companion at your side, may you fulfill your sacred responsibility to provide the spiritual leadership in your home.

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER

There is One Father we all share, who is perfect and loves us perfectly. In Him is reflected our divine natures. He is the perfect mirror to our gifts and attributes, because we are His children. Marion G. Romney said:

We mortals are in very deed the literal offspring of God. If men understood, believed, and accepted this truth and lived by it, our sick and dying society would be reformed and redeemed, and men would have peace here and now and eternal joy in the hereafter.

Who knows us better than our Heavenly Father, who created us? We lived with him before we came to earth. We lived with Him before we were born. He counseled us, He taught us, He loved us. We chose to follow His Plan, presented by His beloved Son, and so we came to earth. He sent us here, knowing what trials we would need to face, what tests we had to endure, what paths we would have to navigate to return home to Him. Our holy elder brother, Jesus Christ, offered Himself as a sacrifice to overcome sin and death. Only through His atonement can we return home to be live with our heavenly parents, and attain eternal life.

It is my testimony that the father’s sacred role is as important today as it was anciently. May we take time today to honor those men who helped shape us, and give thanks to the Father of us all--our Heavenly Father--for them.

2 comments:

Ashley said...

Oh that is SUCH a great post!

Mopsie said...

Beautifully written. I wish we could have heard you deliver it. You are awesome!