Sunday, June 21, 2009

“It was my Father”

It was my father, holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, who holding me as just a small babe, gave me a name and a blessing. He would give me many more blessings in my life. When I was sick, before my first day of school, and the night before I got married…

I grew up in South Africa, my dad had several names at that time in my life, he was daddy to 5 children, 4 boys and one little princess. He was Master, to the gardener who would come every Thursday, who he would (unlike a lot of others in the country) treat like he would a family friend. He played several major roles when we were children, some of which he still fills now…

He was a Friend

The priesthood manual a few years ago quoted a story written in 1955 by Bryant S. Hinckley. It is as follows:

‘Three hundred twenty-six school children of a district near Indianapolis were asked to write anonymously just what each thought of his father.

‘The teacher hoped that the reading of the essays might attract the fathers to attend at least one meeting of the Parent-Teacher’s Association.

‘It did.

‘They came in $400 cars and $4,000 cars. Bank president, laborer, professional man, clerk, Salesman, meter reader, farmer, utility magnate, merchant, baker, tailor, manufacturer, and contractor, every man with a definite estimate of himself in terms of money, skill, and righteousness. …

‘The president picked at random from another stack of papers. “I like my daddy,” she read from each. The reasons were many: He built my doll house, took me coasting, taught me to shoot, helps me with my schoolwork, takes me to the park, gave me a pig to fatten and sell. Scores of essays could be reduced to “I like my daddy. He plays with me.” ’

“Not one child mentioned his family house, car, neighborhood, food or clothing.

“The fathers went into the meeting from many walks of life. They came out in two classes: companions to their children or strangers to their children.

“No man is too rich or too poor to play with his children.” (The Savior the Priesthood and You, Melchizedek Priesthood Manual, 1973–74, p. 226.)

As children, we went from playing “this is the way the cowboy rides’ on his knee to being hoisted off his shoulders in the pool. At one point I thought he had complete control over the windshield wipers just by raising and lowering his hands – my dad was magic – He would keep the atmosphere cheery by making up silly songs in the car using the street signs we past as inspiration. He was fun.

My dad knew when to have fun, but he also took his role as father seriously. Walking through the busy and dangerous streets of Johannesburg he would always hold my hand and keep me close to him. He was at many times in that country, the Physical Protector.

Well, one night my dad’s role became much more serious…it was a night I will never forget. Someone broke into our house with a loud crash of breaking glass, my dad ran down the hall way to scare off the intruder and protect his family. He had not been asleep, knowing something was wrong. He could have very easily been shot that night. After that he would walk around the house with a huge flashlight before bedtime, making sure everything was okay.

As a major step to further protect us physically, my dad gave up his lifetime of savings and almost everything he had to move my family to New Zealand. At this time in his life he carried several different names, he was at one time, Bishop, at another time Stake President, but he had other roles that he played as the head of our family…

He was Leader of the home -

The Family Proclamation says:

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.

Through all his busyness in his Church Callings in which he served well, he made a point of turning on the answering machine when he got home from work on Monday night and gathering us in for Family Home Evening. He presided in our home but was never over bearing or abusive of that responsibility. He was our Priesthood leader, giving blessings before the school year and making sure we were doing the important things such as seminary, and going to Church, but also taking an interest in the other things we chose to do. Because of the increasing immorality in New Zealand, he became very much …

Our Spiritual Protector

President A. Theodore Tuttle
Of the First Council of the Seventy said

“The father is the protector of the home. He guards it against the intrusion of evil from without. Formerly he protected his home with weapons and shuttered windows. Today the task is more complex. Barred doors and windows protect only against the intrusion of a corporeal creature. It is not an easy thing to protect one’s family against intrusions of evil into the minds and spirits of family members. These influences can and do flow freely into the home. Satan can subtly beguile the children of men in ways we have already mentioned in this conference. He need not break down the door.”

He dropped me off at a party that I shouldn’t have gone to, and let me know that if I needed to be picked up, he would be there as soon as he could. He came right when I called him and as we drove home he resisted the temptation to lecture me or remind me why I shouldn’t have gone in the first place, I just knew he was pleased that I had left, and we had a good talk, just like a dad and a daughter would, like we always did.

New Zealand is a beautiful place, but its society is very permissive, and for the most part, the youth are not strong in the Gospel. We struggled to find friends who shared our values, and so to give us more choice for temple marriage and a spiritually safer society, my dad moved our family to the United States. He again gave up so much to offer us more.

Since moving here, my father’s dreams for his family have come true. Father-in-law and grandpa are among his names now. It has been during these last few years that I have truly seen some of these other roles shine in him. I have been able to talk and relate to him on an adult level, and see my dad not as an impervious hero, but as a human being just like me with faults and weaknesses, but nonetheless a character that I still look up to in so many ways.

He is a Teacher –

“Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. …

“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:25, 28).

He always took opportunities to teach us things that were spiritual, but also just about how things worked, whether at Family Home Evening, during a trip in the car, he taught me how to change a tire, change the oil, we loved working on things together, he taught me a lot about computers especially as he helped me edit my school papers on MS Word.

He is an Example -

Elder Robert D. Hales said in a talk entitled, “How will our Children Remember us” how important it is that we set a good example to our children. We all know that a good example will speak louder than a good lecture. He talked about the example his father set for him of a loving husband to his mother, a worthy and active Priesthood holder, and a man of good character and morals.

As I was preparing for this talk, I remembered a journal entry I made a few years previous that recorded the great example my dad is to me,

Almost 2 months ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. When the nurse first told him, he said “okay, well, that’s not a big deal, we can deal with that.” She was so taken back, she though he wasn’t taking the news seriously.

But my dad is like that, he’s so practical, realistic, and firm and consistent with what his beliefs are. Last week he had surgery to remove the cancer and so far it looks good, but there’s still some tests they need to run to make sure he’s in the clear.

Tonight my dad said he thought about dying, and he’d come to terms with the fact that if it was his time to go that was fine and he wasn’t worried about it because he had a clear conscious, and if it wasn’t his time to go then, he didn’t have to worry anyway.

He talked to me about faith and that his experience of having this cancer really proved to himself that he did have faith. He felt it, and knew it. It sounded like he was glad, because he had truly learnt something. What a strength and example he is of faith to me. He bore his testimony through the pain of recovery and I found a new love for my dad. He sounded humbled but strong, firmly grounded in his testimony of faith, the Atonement and the plan of happiness. I love my dad, I’m so glad everything’s going to be okay, either way.

I feel like knowing my father, has taught me and helped me to know my Heavenly Father more.

Elder Robert D. Hales said:

“The calling of father or mother is sacred and carries with it great significance. One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us is that of being a parent—helping to bring to earth a child of God and having the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father. In many ways earthly parents represent their Heavenly Father in the process of nurturing, loving, caring, and teaching children. Children naturally look to their parents to learn of the characteristics of their Heavenly Father. After they come to love, respect, and have confidence in their earthly parents, they often unknowingly develop the same feelings towards their Heavenly Father.”

Although my name has changed recently to now bear the name of my husband, I still have first two names my father gave me when he blessed me so long ago.

At times in my life, my dad has had many different names, in the Church, in the work place, and in the community. But he has always just had one name to me, and that name carries with it memories of singing silly songs in the car, of holding my hand so I didn’t get lost, of hugging me as I entered the Celestial room for the first time and telling me that I’d made it. It is a name that to me means honesty, hard work and persistence, and a loving husband and father. He has been my priesthood leader, my physical and spiritual protector, and still is my teacher, my friend and a good example to me in so many ways.

I know a name a glorious name,

Dearer than any other…

Listen I’ll wisper that name to you,

It is the name of Father…

Father so noble and brave and true

I love you, I love you,

Father so noble and brave and true,

I love you.

There’s no doubt in my mind that as one of my father’s children, no matter what, we always knew we were important to him.

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