- A recent study conducted by the Church has forcefully confirmed statistically what we have been told again and again. That is, if loving, inspired instruction and example are not provided at home, then our related efforts for success in and around Church programs are severely limited. It is increasingly clear that we must teach the gospel to our families personally, live those teachings in our homes, or run the risk of discovering too late that a Primary teacher or priesthood adviser or seminary instructor could not do for our children what we would not do for them.
Elder Holland tells of a time when he lost his temper with his son and a dream he had that very evening. He dreamed that he had expected his son to accept more responsibility than he could for his age. He dreamed that he was scolded by a loving older gentleman who simply said, "You should not have left him alone to do this difficult thing. It would not have been asked of you." He said he woke from his sleep, rushed to his son's bed and said this of what he did:
- There on my knees and through my tears I cradled him in my arms and spoke to him while he slept. I told him that every dad makes mistakes but that they don’t mean to. I told him it wasn’t his fault I had had a bad day. I told him that when boys are five or fifteen, dads sometimes forget and think they are fifty. I told him that I wanted him to be a small boy for a long, long time, because all too soon he would grow up and be a man and wouldn’t be playing on the floor with his toys when I came home. I told him that I loved him and his mother and his sister more than anything in the world and that whatever challenges we had in life we would face them together. I told him that never again would I withhold my affection or my forgiveness from him, and never, I prayed, would he withhold them from me. I told him I was honored to be his father and that I would try with all my heart to be worthy of such a great responsibility.
He shares this great advice from President Joseph F. Smith:
- “Brethren, … If you will keep your [children] close to your heart, within the clasp of your arms; if you will make them … feel that you love them … and keep them near to you, they will not go very far from you, and they will not commit any very great sin. But it is when you turn them out of the home, turn them out of your affection … that [is what] drives them from you. …
- “Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove … that you do love them by your every word and act to[ward] them.”
He concludes with this advice.
- We all know fatherhood is not an easy assignment, but it ranks among the most imperative ever given, in time or eternity. We must not pull away from our children. We must keep trying, keep reaching, keep praying, keep listening. We must keep them “within the clasp of our arms.” That is what friends are for.
I have made several mistakes in my life while raising my children. I have lost my temper as Elder Holland has described and poured out the frustration of my life on those that I care about the most. I have too asked for forgiveness only to be told that it is fine and be hugged and told that they knew it wasn't about them that I was having a hard time with. I am dealing with a child in my life today that I have thought might need some "tough love" to figure out her path in life. I think from this talk, I should change that course and try the "love of a father" instead. It isn't easy but it will help her recognize how much I love her and support who she is as a child of God. I try to consider how Heavenly Father treats me and treat my kids with the same love and understanding. I have a long way to go but with Elder Holland's example, I think I can make it a little further towards the type of father I need to become.