I waited more than four decades to become a father, and today was my first Father’s Day as a parent. It was definitely the most meaningful holiday of my life. During today’s sacrament meeting – the main LDS worship service – I had four new fathers give short talks on what being a father meant to them. I concluded the meeting by adding a few thoughts of my own on fatherhood, which I am still trying to get used to after eight months of living with our adorable, lively daughter. I made sure that the congregants were aware of the meeting’s program in advance in case anyone would feel uncomfortable hearing from new fathers (e.g., couples struggling with infertility), and to the best of my knowledge only one couple left early.
Following Mormon custom, my wife and I were married (“sealed”) for eternity in the Los Angeles Temple more than two years ago. We were promised that any children we had would be born into the Abrahamic covenant and be ours forever, not just until death do us part. While I am under no illusion that “sealed” Mormon couples are perfect parents, I do think that our belief in the eternal nature of families gives, or should give, devout LDS couples a different perspective on parenting than most of their childbearing peers.
For me the two holiest spots on earth are the room in the LA Temple where Florina and I were sealed and the delivery room at the hospital where our little angel arrived from heaven last year. Long before we wed, my wife and I decided to make our relationship a Trinity of sorts: God, Florina and I. We have already noticed that inspiration seems to come much more quickly when we are praying for guidance on raising our daughter than when we solicit divine aid for adults.
Both when I was married and when I held my baby for the first time, I had the unmistakable impression that I was under an absolute obligation to succeed at being a husband and father. Whatever else I may fail at in life, I cannot fail to treat my wife and children in a godly manner. Mormons believe that our responsibilities as spouses and parents are eternal ones, and we also believe that the first two questions that God will ask everyone in the next life will concern their relationships with their spouse (if they were married) and each of their children. My goal is to ace the first two questions and try to get a passing grade on the rest.
The LDS Church has a lay clergy, which means that almost all members serve as volunteers in various “callings” or positions. For example, I carry out my many duties as a bishop in addition to holding down a full-time job. When I was called to be a bishop last year, our regional leader told me that family and work obligations take precedence over my episcopal ones. I took this counsel to heart, and rarely attend church meetings outside of the standard three-hour meeting block on Sundays. I have known religious leaders who in my opinion have neglected their families in order to carry out their church or synagogue duties, and I am determined not to let this happen to me and my family. At the end of my life, while I may regret not having spent more time with family members (both immediate and extended), I doubt very much that I will kick myself for not having attended more administrative meetings at church.
Fatherhood is a great blessing in my life, and Father’s Day will now be my favorite holiday every year. Some mornings when I pick up my daughter and smother her with kisses, it still seems like a dream to me. I pray daily not to ever take her or her mother for granted, and I also pray to live to be worthy of their eternal companionship. A Happy Father’s Day to all of my readers who are fathers or father figures for kids who need them.