I have spent many hours over the past few weeks pondering what I should write for Father’s Day. I do not yet have any concrete ideas about what I want to share, but I will start typing and see what happens. The thought that keeps coming to me is the fact that God, with all His power and knowledge, could have chosen any name for us to call Him, but He chose to be called Father.
I marvel often about this fact, and I truly appreciate the video entitled “Earthly Father, Heavenly Father.” because it illustrates so well the connection between our Father in Heaven and our earthly fathers. An annotation accompanying this video states: “Men on Earth have the opportunity to become fathers and experience some of the same joys that our Heavenly Father feels for us. Fatherhood is a divine responsibility to be cherished.”
Being in the younger half of a family of twelve children, I did not know my father as a young man. He was thirty-eight years old when I was born and in his mid-forties before I was old enough to know much about him. Then I knew him as the disciplinarian of the family and thought he was gruff. In fact, I thought he was downright mean when I was a child, but as I matured I realized the difficulties of life in general as well as parenthood. My father worked long and hard hours as a farmer, and then he also worked the graveyard shift at a Sinclair service station in town. I now understand that he was probably exhausted most of the time and simply worn out with all his many responsibilities; then I was so self-centered that I thought my mother should get a divorce so we could move away from him. Then I grew up.
About 1977-1978 I wrote the following poem as a gift to my father and a similar one for my mother. They were probably gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but I do not remember. Both of my parents were pleased with my efforts and shared their poems with people who came to visit them. My poem illustrates my growing appreciation for my father and the man he became.
I used to think he was old and mean,
But as I grew up, I became more keen.
Hard work and lectures and spankings too
Were what I needed to be good and true.
He set the example, working hard all day.
He always told us, “Work before play.”
This is a lesson I’m glad I learned.
Now I can teach it in return.
He tilled the soil and planted the seed,
“If we don’t sow, we cannot reap.”
Life on the farm was hard and long,
But twelve little children grew up strong.
Although he was busy, he worked for the Lord.
He held many positions in our ward.
Genealogy and weekly temple work
Are some of the duties he does not shirk.
He sets good examples for our family.
And he always counsels, “Be better than me.”
With a father like mine, it’s easy to see
Just how much my Heavenly Father loves me.
I had a spiritul experience that taught me so much about how my earthly father was a mortal example of my Heavenly Father. My mother died suddenly of a heart attack at age 70, and my father thought he would soon follow her. He decided to distribute Mom’s earthly belongings and as much of their joint property as he could, particularly the family heirlooms. He kept only his personal belongings and the furniture he needed to be comfortable. He told us – his twelve children – to each make a list of the things we wanted. We spent the afternoon going through the house and making our lists. That evening Dad gathered us all together and divided his goods. We received whatever was on our lists unless someone else wanted a particular item. In such a case – such as with the family heirlooms - Dad decided who received the item, and we each accepted his decision.
I spent a couple of weeks with my family in Utah before returning to my home in Alaska. My first Sunday back home, I went to sacrament meeting and sat down near the back of the room. I was doing okay until we sang the closing hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” (Words attributed to William W. Walford with music by William B. Bradbury). I started to sing this hymn, but I lost my composure near the beginning of it. The words of this hymn reminded me too much of my recent experience with my earthly father.
Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
I became so emotional at this point that I could no longer sing! In my mind I saw myself kneeling at Heavenly Father’s throne to make my requests – just as I had recently sat near my earthly father and waited for his decision. I knew in that moment that Heavenly Father listens to me when I come to him with my wants and needs just as my dad had done. The video “Earthly Father, Heavenly Father” shows how earthly fathers act in similar ways to our Heavenly Father, and my experience with divinity taught me how much my Heavenly Father loves me.
We honor our earthly fathers at least once each year on Father’s Day. Heavenly Father commands us to remember Him always and has designated the Sabbath Day as the day we give honor to Him. Every Sunday is Heavenly Father’s Day!
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