Fatherhood is man's greatest responsibility.
This was affirmed by President Ezra Taft Benson when he said at the priesthood session of general conference in October l987:"Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released. Callings in the Church, as important as they are, by their very nature are only for a period of time, and then an appropriate release takes place. But a father's calling is eternal, and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity."
The late President Harold B. Lee taught similarly when he said: "The most important of the Lord's work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home. Home teaching, bishopric's work, and other Church duties are all important, but the most important work is within the walls of your home." (From Strengthening the Home pamphlet, published in l973.)
Given the importance of fatherhood, how then is a man to accomplish this vital work?
First, he can only do it with the help of his wife. The family is the basic unit of society and of the Church, and as such, it needs a leader. By law and appointment this duty falls to the father. However, he is blessed with a companion and a counselor, and together he and his wife must strive in a spirit of love and unity for success in their family circle.
A wise father understands the scriptural admonition to cleave to his wife and none else. He brings fidelity and integrity to the relationship with his wife. He understands the true meaning of the Lord's command that he should be of one flesh with his wife. His passions and emotions are to be controlled within the bounds that the Lord has set. He also realizes that any form of abuse, verbal or physical, is totally unacceptable.
A wise father also accepts willingly his share of household burdens and the care of the children, especially when they are young.
Secondly, a father must keep his own life in order so that he sets a proper example to his children. Children who see and understand the love their father has for their mother will emulate that love. Likewise, children who know their father loves the gospel and is striving to be Christ-like in his living will be motivated to do likewise.
The counsel of Paul to his associate Timothy is also very appropriate for fathers:
". . . be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Tim. 4:l2.)
To the Ephesians, Paul also said:
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4.)
Thirdly, a father must be a good provider of the necessities of life. The Lord made it very clear that this is a parental responsibility when He said: "All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age." (D & C 83:4.)
This in no way implies spoiling or indulging children to excesses. But it affirms that part of fatherhood is shouldering the responsibility to work hard. There is no better way to teach a child how to work than by example. If a child is to learn that there is no excellence without labor, he needs to see his father as a role model.
Fourthly, the father must nurture his children, as the scriptures suggest ". . . by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, . . . Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love. . . ." (See D & C l2l:4l-43.)
No worthy father ever abuses a child in any way, for it was the Master who said in no uncertain terms: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones. . . , it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matt. l8:6.)
Fatherhood is an awesome responsibility, but because it represents an opportunity with eternal promises, it is well worth paying the price of success.