Men Are That They Might Be Fathers

May 15, 2018

Tim Rarick

Home and Family Faculty

For the past 7 years, Tim Rarick has been a BYU-Idaho Home & Family faculty member. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah, and master’s and doctorate degrees from Kansas State University in Human Development & Family Studies.

Brother Rarick has worked with several organizations to promote and protect the family through public policy, social media, and research. Last fall he went on faculty development leave to work as a Research Fellow for the Marriage & Religion Research Institute in Washington, DC.

Brother Rarick was recently appointed by the governor of Idaho to serve on the board of the State Department of Health & Welfare. In addition to speaking in China and all over the U.S., he has presented 7 times on the topic of father-daughter relationships at the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women.

Brother Rarick served in the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh mission. He has also served as a primary teacher, young men president, elders quorum president, high councilor, and early morning seminary teacher. He is currently an ordinance worker in the Rexburg temple. 

He and his wife, Jodi, have been married for 18 years and have one son and three daughters.

Spiritual Preparation

Pre-devotional Discussion:

Please answer questions below on the devotional discussion board.

FOR MEN: What experiences have you had or are you having to prepare you for fatherhood? 

FOR WOMEN: What kinds of fatherhood attributes do/did you look for in the men you are dating?

Introduction
Most who know me will probably hear the topic of this talk and think, “Of course! Why wouldn't he speak on that? I mean, he studies and speaks on it all the time, so it's an obvious choice!” Well, let me tell you that it wasn't so obvious to me. I didn’t want to default into a topic. The purpose of the devotional speaker is to be the Lord’s instrument  to deliver the message He wants delivered. [i] 

Because I know that our Father knows and loves each of you perfectly, like the prophet Alma, I have studied and pondered and “fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself…” [ii] and to know what message the Lord would have me deliver to you. 

I tell you this because I know that every person who stands at this podium has done the very same thing as I have, and I hope today you’ll receive the personal epistle the Lord has for you. 

Disclaimer
And now a quick disclaimer: What I share today about the importance of fathers in no way minimizes or takes away from the vital and sacred role of mothers. There is too much in our world today that is trying “to stir up the hearts of men [and women] with anger, one against another.” [iii] This is certainly not the Lord's way! 

With that, I invite the Holy Ghost to be with each of us as we learn together today. 

Two Suffocating Experiences
When I was about six years old, I had two different experiences that, at the time, felt like near-death experiences. The first happened at school. We were outside at recess when the bell rang telling us it was time to head back to class. Unfortunately, a bunch of us reached the door at the same time and there became a terrible bottle neck. I happened to be in the front of this traffic jam that had tripped onto the floor. Then a huge doggy pile began as more and more children reached the door. It was getting harder and harder to breathe at the bottom of this pile. I remember looking up and seeing one girl joyfully pushing other children on top of the pile! I desperately looked for someone—anyone—to help pull me out. Other children in front of me just stared in both amusement and horror. (Useless little...) Well, I made it out, obviously, but that traumatic event left me a little more untrusting of my classmates. 

The second experience took place at a small water park about 15 minutes from my home. I remember riding down a water slide, plunging into the pool at the bottom, and then noticing that my feet couldn’t reach the bottom of the pool. The current from the water slides made it difficult to tread water for a child my size, who also lacked swimming experience. I struggled to stay afloat as I went under, came up, went under, and came up again. Just as before, it was getting more and more difficult to breathe, and I really felt that I wasn’t going to make it. Just as I was about to go under again, my Dad appeared. I don’t remember whether he reached into the water or jumped in altogether, but he saved me from what felt like certain death. 

Now, in both instances I was being suffocated by my surroundings and was desperately looking for someone to rescue me. And even though I made it out alive, only at the water park did I experience comfort and assurance because my father was both near and attentive, presiding over my welfare, providing life-sustaining breath, and protecting me from a strong current. 

The State of Boys, Men, and Fathers Today
Tragically, brothers and sisters, millions of children today are being suffocated by evil influences in this fallen world without a father near or attentive to protect them. Let me explain: 

Boys today are much more likely than girls to have discipline problems at school, to be misdiagnosed with ADHD, to dropout from high school and college, and to become addicted to video gaming, drugs, and pornography. Boys today are less likely than girls to graduate from college, earn a graduate degree, and own a home. Far fewer young men get married and stay married today than just a couple decades ago. [iv] Young adult men are more likely than young adult women to live with a parent than they are to live with a partner or spouse. [v] Men are also more likely than women to commit suicide, break the law, and be in prison. [vi] 

You can probably see how these trends are both a cause and an effect of fatherlessness. In the United States alone, over 40 percent of children are born to unwed mothers. [vii] And of the mothers that do marry, nearly half of those marriages will end in divorce, often resulting in a less involved or absent father. [viii] It is no wonder 24 million children in America, one out of three children, are growing up in biological father absent homes. [ix] If you think it has always been this way, think again! In 1960, 9 in 10 children resided with their two married parents. As I have reviewed the research on this, I have found that this absentee-dad epidemic is a social engine driving many of the serious problems in the world, including those previously mentioned regarding boys and young men. For example, there is evidence to suggest that fatherlessness is fueling poverty, abortion, child abuse, school dropouts, school shootings, obesity, cohabitation, divorce, and sexual exploitation, namely: pornography, sex trafficking, and prostitution (and I’m just getting started). 

To make matters worse, the media that many of us consume often depicts men and fathers to be downright useless. Elder D. Todd Christofferson described it in these words:  

In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect .... Some men and young men have taken the negative signals as an excuse to avoid responsibility and never really grow up. [x] 

Perhaps after hearing all this, you too are feeling suffocated and overwhelmed. You should. 

Brothers and sisters, I testify to you that Satan—the father of contention [xi] and the father of all lies [xii]—has been behind this war on fathers for a long time. You had better believe that he and his followers know full well that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of [God’s] children.” [xiii] 

All is Well in Zion
Now brethren, you may hear about the state of men and fathers today and think to yourself, “That's too bad for the rest of the world, but I don’t plan on fathering children out of wedlock and becoming incarcerated, and I am planning on graduating from college and avoiding my parents’ basement,” to which I would respond, “Good for you— but not good enough.” This kind of attitude can lead to complacency. The prophet Nephi warned us of this very thing: 

And others will [Satan] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell .... Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! [xiv] 

All is not well in Zion! We can’t believe that Latter-day Saints are immune to these problems. Not only is this belief false, it doesn't invite us to look inward and examine ourselves [xv] to see where we can improve and what we are lacking [xvi]. We can't have the attitude like many parents watching the television show Supernanny, who derive comfort from the thought, “Well, at least I'm not as bad as those parents!” No, we cannot look to the world’s standards and trends and derive comfort from not being as bad. As the Lord has said, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” [xvii] 

Let me address one more idea that can breed apathy and indifference: It is my observation that in the culture of the Church, some of the men have bought into the idea that their only hope for exaltation is to find a woman who will drag them to the celestial kingdom kicking and screaming. This attitude may stem from a belief that men and fathers are inferior to women and mothers. I know nothing in the words of ancient and modern prophets that teaches men are the lesser gender and that fathers are the inferior parent. 

No, brethren—it is by divine design that “mothers and fathers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” 13 Do not let our different roles and capacities allow us to misinterpret our worth or capability. Men, you are to compliment and complete women, not just the other way around. Remember the second half of the Apostle Paul’s declaration: “Neither is… the woman without the man, in the Lord.” [xviii] 

Yes, responsible men and fathers are vital for both children and society. But to Latter-day Saints, fathers are much more. Again from Elder Christofferson: 

Some see the good of fatherhood in social terms, as something that obligates men to their offspring, impelling them to be good citizens and to think about the needs of others, supplementing “maternal investment in children with paternal investment in children.” . . . While these considerations are certainly true and important, we know that fatherhood is much more than a social construct or the product of evolution. The role of father is of divine origin, beginning with a Father in Heaven and, in this mortal sphere, with Father Adam. The perfect, divine expression of fatherhood is our Heavenly Father. [xix]

You Were Designed to be a Father
Ironically, sometimes I think that we Latter-day Saints speak of wanting to become like our Heavenly Father by developing His knowledge and perfect attributes, without focusing on becoming what He is: a parent—more specifically, a father. Men, our inherent mental, physical, and spiritual capacities are not simply for us to grow from boys to men. 

In a manual produced by the Church titled A Parent’s Guide, we read this profound doctrinal statement: 

“Since a major purpose of our mortal existence is to become like our Heavenly Father…and since eternal life with our Father will be lived in family units, the ultimate goal of a man or boy is to become an effective husband and father....” [xx] 

That is how men reach the full measure of their creation. I realize that in this fallen world, fatherhood won't be a reality for all men for a variety of reasons. But that shouldn’t excuse us of working toward our eventual destiny whether in this life or the next. Brethren, if your goal is exaltation, your goal is fatherhood. As Elder Dyches taught us last week: 

“Never lose sight of your purpose on earth and your divine destiny.” [xxi]

Prepare for Fatherhood Now!
When I started teaching at BYU-Idaho about seven years ago, I would occasionally play basketball at the I-Center with students. And, looking like a student myself back then, I more than once had a conversation that went something like this in between games when students would discover that I was a faculty member:  

Student: “Whoa, I thought you were a student. What classes do you teach?”  

Me: “Parenting (and other classes). You should take the class.”  

Student: [awkward pause] “Yeah, maybe I’ll worry about that when I have kids.” 

Me: “So you’re saying that you are willing to spend thousands of dollars and at least four years of your life learning to become the best _____ (fill in the blank) you can be, but when it comes to the most important work you’ll ever do and the purpose of your creation, you're just going to wing it?”  

Student: “Well…that’s not totally what I meant.”  

Me: “Well, that’s what it totally sounds like, dude!”  

Brethren, the time to start preparing for fatherhood was yesterday. But since that is not an option, how about today? Why not begin by seeing most everything you do in your life now as fatherhood preparation? This focus will give more purpose into the important things you are already doing such as your educational, professional, romantic, and other pursuits. A fatherhood focus will also provide both the wisdom and the strength to eliminate those things in your life that are unnecessary, distracting, or self-centered. 

On the devotional discussion board, Lehi Estrada, a BYU-Idaho student from the Philippines put it this way: 

One thing I had been experiencing lately is trying to set my priorities in order. As a college student, you can shift more of your focus on what class you are failing, or [your] calling or just “ resting” for a while. In setting priorities, I always remember…Him. Christ is a great example of what is the most important thing we could do today or tomorrow…. Setting priorities makes me accountable and prepares me to do impossible things. 

To help with your preparation and priorities, I’d like to take you through a brief crash-course on fatherhood preparation. Did you know that the purpose of the Aaronic—or preparatory priesthood—was not simply to prepare you to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood? The oath and covenant and duties of the priesthood are to make us into righteous and capable fathers. 

If you weren’t aware of that as a young man (as I was not), we can turn to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” for a clear and concise description of what we should be preparing to be doing as fathers. 

“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.” 13 

Preside. Provide. Protect. I’m sure we’ve all heard these three “Ps” before, but it’s not enough to know about them. We need to: 

  1. Obtain a deeper understanding of each of these three principles
  2. Know what each principle looks like in fatherhood and how to prepare for it. Determine if our current thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are impeding or promoting fatherhood preparation 

Let’s briefly explore each of these items in each of the three Ps. Now I know that we men have a tendency to compartmentalize things in life, and that is appropriate at times; however, it’s important to understand that presiding, providing, and protecting are not three discrete and disconnected principles. In fact, they appropriately overlap, promote, and reinforce each other. I encourage you to look for this overlap and these connections as we move through each principle.

Preside
In a pamphlet produced by the church, it gives a terrific definition of what it means to preside: 

Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so. [xxii] 

President Ezra Taft Benson further explained:  

As the patriarch in your home, you…must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide. Your place is to give direction to all family life. You should take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline. 

Your homes should be havens of peace and joy for your family. Surely no child should fear his own father—especially a priesthood father. A father’s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarreling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example…is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children. [xxiii] 

For a real-life example of how difficult this can be, let’s watch my own family in action. I recorded this video of my children about five years ago, and it was after a long day at the pool. Think about how you might preside in a situation like this. 

“There is beauty all around….” Notice that there was bickering, quarreling, and contention. Also notice that every child stated they were not ready for scripture study, including my son, Carter, who walked out of the room. So what is the proper response? If you think punishment, lecturing, or you’d just let your wife handle it, think again. 

Brethren, learn to deal with chaos and know how to respond rather than react. Learn to influence rather than control others through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love. [xxiv]This can be practiced with those around you—especially with those whose opinions and personalities differ from your own. Unlike a video game, you won’t be able choose or manipulate your children’s personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, but you can choose how you see, respond to, and influence them. If you struggle with anger, taking the initiative, or learning from others, then perhaps picturing your future children will give you renewed purpose and strength to change.

Provide
That brings us to providing the necessities of life. But what are the necessities? Temporally it might include food, water, clothing, a modest home, and a good education. This is a good start, but let us not forget the most universal human need: love. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “In family relationships love is really spelled t-i- m-e, time.” [xxv]When children of varying ages are asked what they appreciate most about their fathers, the most common response is “He spends time with me.” [xxvi] Regarding preparing to provide, Elder Christofferson said this: 

To young men, recognizing the role you will have as provider and protector, we say, prepare now by being diligent in school and planning for postsecondary training. Education, whether in a university, technical school, apprenticeship, or similar program, is key to developing the skills and capabilities you will need. Take advantage of opportunities to associate with people of all ages, including children, and learn how to establish healthy and rewarding relationships. 19 

Even more important than this is providing for spiritual nourishment of your children. This includes leading your family in council, home evening, prayer, scripture study, and much more. If you struggle with offering your time and talents to better others or if you are not feeding your own spirit every day through scripture study and meaningful prayer, then perhaps picturing your future children will give you renewed purpose and strength to change.

Protect
Elder A. Theodore Tuttle of the Seventy observed this about protecting our families: 

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 [physical] 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 .... He need not break down the door. 

Fathers, you will have to live close to the Lord. Develop a sensitivity to the impressions of the Spirit. [xxvii] 

This was 1973, well before WiFi and mobile devices could allow for evil influences to flow freely into the home. Sadly, many men become desensitized to the immorality, violence, and foul language found in much of our media today long before they become fathers. When this happens, it can be quite difficult to both detect and eliminate virtual intruders in the home. 

There is another protective factor in fatherhood. Daughters who are raised in a home with an involved father are far less likely to be sexually active as teens, less likely to struggle with self-worth, and much more likely to develop healthy relationships with men throughout her life. [xxviii]What a sacred protective power a father naturally wields!

In the scriptures we read of men who literally use a sword to defend their freedom, peace, wives, and children. [xxix] However, your muscles—no matter how big they are—will not protect your child struggling with body image, drugs, depression, or testimony. Today we fathers are to wield the sword of truth to protect our peace, wives, and children, which requires the spiritual strength to do so. Brethren, if you struggle with protecting your own mind, body, and spirit from false, immoral, violent, and other evil influences then perhaps picturing your future children will give you renewed purpose and strength to change. 

If you would like to view a great example of the three Ps in action, I encourage you to watch the Mormon Message titled “Earthly Father, Heavenly Father.” [xxx] 

Brethren, just two more questions for your sincere pondering:

  1. If your son had the same thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors as you have, would you be proud?
  2. If other men thought about and interacted with your daughter the way you think about and interact with the women around you, would you be pleased? 

I truly hope this crash-course in fatherhood has inspired you to hasten your preparation to preside, provide, and protect. I encourage you to further your learning by taking advantage of learning from general conference talks, evidence-based books, parenting classes, the righteous fathers in your life, and our Heavenly Father’s parenting manual—the scriptures. [xxxi] 

I also encourage all single and married sisters to follow a similar pattern we have done here in regards to motherhood. You sisters can also use this talk as a guide to know what to look for and encourage in the men in your life.

Men Are That They Might Have Joy...in Fatherhood
My fellow priesthood brethren, I know that changing diapers or staying up all night with a sick child or being sassed by a teenager doesn’t sound like much fun, but fun is not the purpose of our existence. When speaking to his sons who were struggling to grow up, the prophet Lehi taught: “ men are, that they might have joy. [xxxii]In spite of all the difficulty and sacrifice fatherhood brings, a fullness of joy only comes to a man as he strives to fulfill the measure of his creation as a husband and father.

Personal Examples
If you’ll allow me, I’d like to close by giving you a small glimpse into the refinement and joy I have experienced as a father. 

This is my seven-year-old daughter Eleanor. Her sensitive and tender spirit is always inviting me to be more gentle and meek—in other words, more Christlike. 

Just the other day, my nine-year-old daughter Naomi said, “Dad, I want to marry a man just like you—except without the allergy to loud sounds.” Not only was it hilarious but it touched me deeply. 

After a lovely evening of going to dinner and a dance with my 11-year-old daughter Molly, she wrote me this note that I will always treasure: 

Dear Dad,

I LOVED going to the Daddy Daughter Dance with you!! I love you so much! I felt that when were there. I did NOT think it would be so much fun! That was the best night EVER! Also thanks for taking us to Pizza Pie Cafe. That night could not have got any better. I just love spending time with you. I cannot express how much I felt my love for you, my gratitude, and my happiness! Words can’t say it. I love you! P.S. No one can dance like you! 

When my 14-year-old son Carter was about 4 or 5 years old, he drew me a picture that still hangs in my office today. In this picture, he drew me leaving for school while he and Molly waited for me on the porch. Then he wrote these profound words: “Do not frgit,” which translated means: “Do not forget.” Carter still reminds me today to put my family first in my mind and in my heart.

Conclusion
I invite each of you to ponder on this significant doctrinal one-liner from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, He has asked us to address Him as Father.” 22 

My father physically rescued me from drowning many years ago. Yet more important than his physical strength, his character and example has protected me from the suffocating evil in this world. I will forever be grateful to a Heavenly Father who sent me an earthly father that pointed me back to Him. 

Some of you may have not had a good father in your life and perhaps think you are incapable of breaking that cycle. To you I say, your Heavenly Father has always been mindful of you. Because He sent His Son, hearts heal, cycles break, and God’s plan for His family can be a reality in your life. I testify this to be true. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[i] Alma 17:11; Doctrine and Covenants 100:5.

[ii] Alma 5:46.

[iii] 3 Nephi 11:30.

[iv] Leonard Sax, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. (Basic Books, 2009).

[v] Richard Fry, R. “Living with Mom and/or Dad: More Common for Sons than Daughters,” Pew Research Center, May 2016; pewsocialtrends.org.

[vi] “Injury Prevention & Control,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 2017; cdc.gov; “Statistics on Women in the Justice System,” Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, January 2014; csosa.gov.

[vii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2017; cdc.gov.

[viii] “Marriage and Divorce,” American Psychological Association; apa.org.

[ix] “The Majority of Children Live with Two Parents, Census Bureau Reports,” United States Census Bureau, Nov. 2016; census.gov.

[x] D. Todd Christofferson, “Brethren, We Have Work to Do,” Ensign, Nov. 2012; lds.org.

[xi] 3 Nephi 11:29.

[xii] Moses 4:4.

[xiii] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 2010; lds.org.

[xiv] 2 Nephi 28:21, 24.

[xv] 2 Corinthians 13:5.

[xvi] Matthew 19:20.

[xvii] Doctrine and Covenants 82:3.

[xviii] 1 Corinthians 11:11.

[xix] D. Todd Christofferson, “Fathers,” Ensign, Nov. 2010; lds.org.

[xx]A Parent’s Guide (manual, 1985); lds.org.

[xxi] Timothy J. Dyches, “Doubt Not, Fear Not” (Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, May 8, 2018); byui.edu.

[xxii]Gospel Classics: By the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (booklet; 1973); lds.org.

[xxiii] Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Fathers in Israel,” Ensign, Nov. 1987; lds.org.

[xxiv] Doctrine and Covenants 121:41.

[xxv] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Things That Matter Most,” Ensign, Nov. 2010; lds.org.

[xxvi] Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2006; childwelfare.gov.

[xxvii] A. Theodore Tuttle, “The Role of Fathers,” Ensign, Nov. 1973; lds.org.

[xxviii] Linda Nielsen, “Young Adult Daughters' Relationships with Their Fathers: Review of Recent Research,” Marriage & Family Review,50(4), 360-372.

[xxix] Alma 46:12.

[xxx] “Earthly Father, Heavenly Father,” Mormon Message; lds.org.

[xxxi] Lynn G. Robbins, “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?” Ensign, May 2011; lds.org.

[xxxii] 2 Nephi 2:25.

Men Are That They Might Be Fathers

Audio of Tim Rarick's BYU-Idaho devotional speech, Spring 2018


BYU-Idaho Radio Interview

Audio of Tim Rarick's interview with BYU-Idaho Radio about his devotional speech, Spring 2018