The best "handbook" for fathers is the Book of Mormon, according to Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Priesthood Department.
As Father's Day is observed June 17, much attention will be focused on the role of fathers in today's society. Elder Hanks maintains fathers have responsibilities not only as providers for their families, but also as nurturers and spiritual leaders. And, he said, many role models for fathers are found in the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon."Many of the most significant teachings in the Book of Mormon are from fathers to sons, and, surely, daughters also," said Elder Hanks. He referred to the book as "the most significant volume" that emphasizes so greatly the role and responsibilities of fathers and their relationships to their children and other descendants.
"Most Latter-day Saints know Nephi's statement: `I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, . . . ' However, not everyone knows the words that immediately follow: ` . . . therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; . . . '
"This conscious responsibility of a father to teach, nurture, nourish and to share is a trait of good fathers in all places and all times.
"There is no dearth of revealed counsel that fathers have a great and major role. In fact, what Lehi said to his sons in the course of his instructions might be helpful. In 2 Nephi 2, Lehi has been giving counsel, fundamentally about the Savior and about their agency, their right and responsibility to make personal choices and decisions.
"This is how he closes: `And I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it to be the everlasting welfare of your souls.' (2 Ne. 2:30.)"
Elder Hanks said this final wish of Lehi is the chief wish of good fathers everywhere. "This is why the major emphasis of Enos' story, which occurred while he was hunting beasts, is that words came to him that his father had taught about the Savior, and all that the Atonement means. (Enos 1:1-8.) That's why Alma's great testimony to his sons always relates to the Savior," said Elder Hanks.
"Alma, for example, takes his sons one by one and he teaches them, testifying to them about the Savior. Helaman's great statement is about building your life on the foundation of Jesus Christ. (Hel. 5:12.)"
He said Mormon "made as significant and strong a statement as any when he said to Moroni, `My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.' (Moroni 9:25.)"
Elder Hanks said the subject matter of scriptural teachings of fathers is broad, and that there are references not only to how fathers bless their children but also to how children suffer because of the traditions of their fathers. (D&C 93:38-39.)
"God doesn't hold children responsible for what their fathers do, but the children could be misled by the traditions of their fathers. So all of this gives strength, and corroboration, to the fact that fathers are responsible to take a major role in rearing their children, and nurturing and nourishing, not only in exemplifying but teaching, and in centering their teaching where it ought to be centered: on the foundation of Jesus Christ."
Elder Hanks said an example of a father counseling a son "who has not been perfect" is found in a story in the book of Alma. "Corianton, Alma's son, has been immoral, and then, presumably, defends his actions, in essence saying others have done the same thing. Alma then makes a very direct statement, telling him that what he has done is second only to `the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost' in the eyes of God, and expressing the wish he had not committed so grievous a sin. (Alma 39:3-7.)
"But with that said, and apparently with Corianton prepared to pay attention, he mentions no more of this. What he talks about through those beautiful chapters (Alma 39-42) is the atonement of Jesus Christ and the consequences of it. Alma says, `And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.' (Alma 42:29.) Alma then sends Corianton to teach the people. So, the instructions in the book are so basic and so consistent with what we know as the first principles of the gospel all the way through that it is clear what parents ought to be teaching their children."
Elder Hanks emphasized the necessity for fathers to keep a proper perspective on what is important and what the Lord expects of them. "The Book of Mormon promises if we keep the commandments of the Lord we will prosper, and if we don't we will be cut off from His presence," he said. (1 Ne. 2:20; 2 Ne. 4:4.)
"Prosperity, to many people, may be horses and barns, acres and automobiles. But that's not the way the Lord sees it. The opposite of prosperity is to live without the Spirit. The way we can prosper is to keep the commandments of the Lord. That's the best thing any man can do."