Christian Evangelist Billy Graham is widely quoted as having said, "A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society."
With Americans celebrating this June 15 the annual day devoted to dads, we wonder if you agree with Graham's statement.
Q: What advice would you offer to men preparing for fatherhood?
I agree with Billy Graham's statement that good fathers are often underappreciated. Like good mothers they are too easily taken for granted by those of us who have had them. As God-appointed leaders in the family, fathers are primary targets of those whose hearts are rebellious. Yet God promises lifelong blessing to all who choose to honor them.
By way of advice I offer God's timeless and unfailing instruction from the Bible. If you want to be a good father commit to the woman who bears your children. Marry her and be faithful to her. Give yourself up for her and put her needs above your own. Teach your children to follow Jesus Christ with your words and with your personal example. Don't forget that your children will make mistakes just like you did, but they will learn and grow through them. Accept that each child is created by God for His own purpose and calling for them. The most important thing is that they are conformed to His image, not yours. As a father of two outstanding young people I'm right there with you. We'll never be perfect, but we'll always have God's help if we ask for it. And never forget that Jesus taught us to address God as "our Father who art in heaven." We are greatly honored that He would share that title with us.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Every Mother's Day, churches fill to capacity (much like on Christmas and Easter). Grown children will humor their mom's religious proclivities and attend her services, they'll make reservations for special brunches, and they'll shower her with thoughtful gifts.
For dads, eh. Father's Day church attendance is static, and gifts for dads are usually things they already possess (like after-shave) or unusable items (like novelty ties). There's not much excitement about Father's Day, as any outing will be at dad's own expense, and the whole enterprise would likely be forgotten if not for advertisers, because it just doesn't seem especially significant to anyone. Perceiving this, I generally absent myself from church responsibilities every Father's Day to fly solo at the annual Big Irish Fair & Music Festival (this year in Long Beach). It has the stuff dads like, and it even kicks off with two outdoor church services (surprisingly) and this year I get to be the guest preacher for the nondenominational one! Since it's also Trinity Sunday on the liturgical calendar, I'll take special pains to emphasize "Our 'Father' which art in Heaven" and how this designation illustrates the value our benevolent God places on the familial headship of human fathers. I expect many dads like myself attending, who'd like Father's Day to be special, will leave the compulsory family commendations till later that evening when we return home contented with the day's regalement.
New dads ought to know going in that we aren't moms, and how we're regarded is not the same, but our importance is like an anchor, like a rock, and like God. Our children call us "Father" and look to us for both blessings and rebukes, guidance and standards, encouragement and protection. That's every dad's ministry apart from whatever else may be said about us on our new Father's Day coffee mugs...
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
I agree with the Rev. Graham up to a point — that being the point at which numerous other valuable assets in our society who ought to be more sung, praised and noticed come to mind. His choice of words is certainly a bit of hyperbole from a public preacher whose mission requires him to be highly quotable.
I think it was a Doonesbury character, a new, shell-shocked father (or else it was my husband in the same boat, it's a bit of a blur now), who observed that he was doing twice as much parenting as his father ever did, but it was still so little that his wife was doing the bulk of the chores, leaving them both feeling underappreciated.
The truth is that all parenting in our society — mothering and fathering, both performed by either sex and frequently by someone other than a biological parent — needs to be more valued, and not just with Father's Day schlock but also in real ways by workplace practices and tax policies, for instance.
My advice on fatherhood comes from my personal experience as a mother living in close range through the parenting years with a father. Tip No. 1: Any notion of sexually determined parenting roles is hogwash. "Father" and "mother" skills come in both male and female and the roles can flow fluidly in a family — or not. Every family is different.
Another tip No. 1: If you are lucky enough to have a parenting partner, cling to each other, take care of yourselves and of each other. Maintaining your relationship is good for your kids. Parenting is a demanding job — right up there with being a teacher or a social worker or a low-paid fast food worker trying to support a family — face it together.
A Father has traditionally been the one who set the vision for the entire family. From the very beginning of Judeo-Christian history that part of the Godhead that led the chosen people through all experiences was referred to as "Father."
Traditionally, if one is a focused, opinionated leader, if one leads from a patriarchal point of view, there is not room for two visions. That might be known as something else. There was no room for the golden calf when Moses went up Mount Sinai to retrieve the God's commandments. There was no room for Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, as Jesus announced in John 9:4, that he must do the will of the one who sent me.
But today that unquestioned form of single male-dominated leadership is being more and more challenged. Women have proven time and again they are perfectly capable of leadership and strong guidance. Men have shown that they have great skill as nurturers and cultivators. Children grow up in homes where no father is present. In addition, children happily grow up in homes where two fathers or two mothers are doing the parenting.
I would say to any men preparing for fatherhood: Relax, pray, and truthfully locate yourself in the 21st century. What does fatherhood mean to you: simply a chance to extend the family line, or to create a small version of yourself? If those are your only reasons for being a dad, much frustration and sadness can lie ahead. The most important person in any parent's life is their newborn child, for the child's sake. The safety, nurture, and prosperity of the child in the society in which the child is being raised are the parent's most important responsibilities whether mother or father.
The Rev. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
I agree completely with the Rev. Graham's comment, with the exception of one point. I believe that good fathers are noticed. Their effort and influence are seen by friends, by relatives and, sooner or later, by the children they rear.
The Bible offers a lesson in fatherhood through the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We typically view this story through the eyes of the son who demanded his inheritance and then proceeded to squander it. However, it is the father's actions that give the story force. Perhaps we should call it the Parable of the Loving Father.
Biblical scholar Ken Bailey points out that the son's insistence on getting his share of the family wealth while the father was living was in itself an insult, tantamount in ancient culture to wishing his father was dead. The son's indulgence in "riotous living" suggests a lifestyle that violated the tenets of Judaism, another act that cast shame on the father. The son apparently rejected all that his father represented and taught.
Through it all, the father's concern was with his son's well-being. By rushing out to meet the humbled son, by giving him a robe and ring, the father not only set aside his own pride, but forestalled condemnation of the youth by others. His public embrace guaranteed the son's return not only to the family but to the larger community.
The father demonstrated the most essential qualities of fatherhood: love, compassion, courage and commitment.
The LDS position on the value of good fathers is clear. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" describes the role that, ideally, a father plays in guiding, protecting and providing for his children. We recognize that circumstances don't always allow for the ideal. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate it and the good men who do their best to live up to it.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints