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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Just Be There (Happy Fathers Day!)

Just Be There
James A. Robertson

Happy Father’s Day!

I have looked over what I am to say at least a dozen times; I do not believe there is a single Dad Joke in my talk. To all of the fathers out there: I am sorry… I have failed you. To everyone else in the congregation: I noticed the collective sigh of relief--you are welcome.

I am going to begin by telling you all something that most of the congregation may have trouble believing. As I began to prepare this talk, I was literally speechless--at a complete loss for words. The one person who seems to always have something to say… had NOTHING.

I sought inspiration through fasting, prayer, and temple worship. I sought inspiration by reading the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Of course, I sought inspiration by pondering the Articles of Faith--and could only come up with the first one: We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. That’s the only one that mentions fatherhood, right?

And then inspiration struck.

Where did I find inspiration for my Father’s Day talk, you might ask? From the most likely--and probably the most obvious--of sources: from fatherhood. Duh, right??? Let me explain:

For Mother’s Day, I… I mean, the BOYS… bought Ashley a two-day stay at a hotel in the Energy Corridor--a bit of a stay-cation if you will--where she could be away from all motherly responsibilities and able to concentrate on herself with no interruptions from anyone else. We went out to eat that Friday evening as a family, after checking her into the hotel, then we went back to the hotel to do family scripture reading and family prayer. After that, the boys and I said goodbye to Mommy for two nights and a day of unsupervised bro-dom running amok in the house!

That weekend had the brotential to be brollific--and we had a BLAST! We had huge bowls of fruit loops to start the day, went to the pool, played video games, made jokes about “no girls allowed in the house,” had guy time with guy hugs and just testoteroned it up all day Saturday. We were just three broskis in the brocess of being broductive!

Well… The next day, Sunday, I was getting the boys ready for church; we would pick up Mommy right before heading to the chapel. As I was helping them get dressed, I was telling them “we need to look super handsome for Mommy--and we need to be certain we tell Mommy how much we missed her, and how beautiful we think she is this morning!”

And then it hit me: I was totally Dadding them. I know what you’re thinking: what is dadding? It simply being a dad. It’s a word because I made it a word.

Well, it came out of nowhere, but I couldn’t help but look back at the past day or so: I was having fun with them, preparing them, teaching them, helping them, being there for them all weekend. I was totally Dadding.

You know, a popular adage says something to the effect that your greatest ability is your availability. When it comes to being a dad, win, lose, or draw, the most important thing you can do for your children boils down to three simple words:

Just Be There.

In The Beginning…

Parenthood is an eternal and divinely-appointed position; we learn from the Proclamation on the Family that “The First Commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.”1 And, indeed, the general authorities of the church continue to “declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”1 But further revelation indicates that the divine mission of parenthood didn’t necessarily start with mortal birth. As Elder John A. Widtsoe explained:

“According to the Great Plan, all who, in the Great Council, accepted the Christ [in the premortal life], will in time appear on earth, clothed with mortal bodies. All these spirits must be born as children into the world. A high purpose, if not the main one, of the earth work must continue the race by begetting children and properly caring for them until they reach maturity. Undoubtedly, [those] waiting spirits are hoping patiently for their turn to reach the earth--a glorious step in the progressive advancement of man, which the spirits have earned by their righteous lives.”2

Therefore, we all knew of the Plan and accepted it--knowing that could entail parenthood and the possibility of producing progeny. Elder Widtsoe goes on to explain that:

“This doctrine makes clear the meaning of the first great command, to multiply and replenish the earth, [noting that this commandment] is not only for the joy and satisfaction of humanity, with the possibility of begetting offspring, but as much for the fulfilment of the eternal Great Plan...This is the greatest and holiest and most necessary mission of man, with respect to the waiting spirits [those children of Heavenly Father who chose to accept Christ in premortal life and follow the Great Plan--and who have not yet been born]. Fatherhood and motherhood become glorified in the light of the eternal plan of salvation.”2

So ‘just be there’ started with us being there in the beginning--choosing the plan that could include parenthood. We were there when the Council occurred! We have already fulfilled that first commitment, as evidenced by our being here on this earth now. So how do we continue to ‘be there’?

How Do We Be There Now?

We live in a world that moves at light speed. Information is available at a pace that cannot comfortably be fathomed by the human intellect. The news cycle has decreased from 24 hours to 24 seconds, and with ever-increasing computing and communication speeds, the cycle becomes faster and faster.

With so much information at our fingertips, with so much to do and so little time in which to accomplish it, with all of the extracurricular activities available to our children, it can become so tough to slow down long enough to parent our children because… we are so busy “parenting” our children. And for working fathers, the responsibility of winning the bread removes us from the home during the prime hours of the day that our families could spend together. These are not necessarily BAD THINGS… In fact, they are part of our roles as parents.

Sometimes a refresher in what my divinely-appointed duties consist is much appreciated amid the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. I refer back to the Proclamation:

“Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live… Mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”1

We cannot discharge the sacred duties of our posts as fathers if we are not PRESENT with our children--in other words, when we ARE home with our families, ‘just be there.’ What does that mean?

That means putting away your phone for more than five minutes to spend time with your kids--trust me, Facebook, Instagram, and The Art of Manliness will be there when you come back. That means stopping to answer a question--even a seemingly innocuous one--because if your child does not feel like you are answering them, they will stop asking you (that does NOT mean they will stop asking questions--only that they will stop asking YOU). That means being cognizant of the energy, the aura, the spirit in your home, and being in tune with how the Lord wants you to preside as the Patriarch. JUST BE THERE!

So how do we know how to ‘be there’? With slight variation, the Proclamation states that “successful [fatherhood] is established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”1

Similar wording can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants when the Lord tells Joseph Smith about righteous wielding of the Priesthood:

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood [FATHERHOOD???], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;3

As fathers, we lead in our homes and utilize the Lord’s power on earth, the Priesthood, to do so in righteousness. We bless our families! Our children are not the enemy; I think we all know that as a matter of fact. The enemy is the Adversary; and boy, would he love to win over our children! It is our charge as fathers to ensure that the Adversary fails in his devious plans.

You gotta ‘be there’ to fight for your family.

Fighting the Good Fight

It is Us versus The World and the battle rages on!

“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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”1

That’s it. There is nothing more in the Proclamation--the roles have been set, we know our duties, so let’s go get to work, right? Oh, wait, there’s more here… Should have finished reading the quote first:

“In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”1

Equal partners… That is not ALWAYS the case...

I grew up in this ward; therefore, many of you already know of the circumstances surrounding my entry into this mortal realm. As the product of promiscuity, I was raised by a single mother. There was no equal partner for her because there was no partner. Thus, I have no idea what it is like to grow up with a righteous priesthood holder leading as father and patriarch. So by necessity, Momma had to take on the role of mother and father; and she could only do so much--she battled the Adversary to the best of her ability.

For me, Father’s Day has always been about celebrating “father figures.”

My grandfather had a very active hand in raising me--and as a youth, I always looked up to him as my primary father figure; much of my attitudes and opinions during my early life were directly inspired by him. I have a special place in heart for my [step] Dad--the man to whom I am sealed. He did not come into my life until halfway through my youth, and his influence has been felt mostly as an adult; this is due to reasons that I will not expound upon here. Just know that I love him and I am thankful for him--his stature among those whom I consider father figures is held with the highest regard.

Both of these men, too, fought for me against the adversary with limited success.

And I understand that nobody is TECHNICALLY truly fatherless;  I can look back now and understand that Heavenly Father has always been there for me; but in the past...  in the moment, I found it impossible to see an eternal perspective. I have spent my adult life trying to determine how to be a Man, a Priesthood Holder, a Husband, and most recently a Father with only secondary--sometimes blatantly unrighteous--examples from which to draw experience.

But in my battle for my family against the Adversary, I have something Momma didn’t always have: an equal partner.

I am truly grateful that I can read the Proclamation and know that the blessings of an eternal family are available to me and mine. Contingent on our faith and staying true to the covenants we have made, our family can be a forever family. My boys can have an example of righteous priesthood leadership in the home (something I lacked), and that is a fact about which I am constantly cognizant, constantly thinking of, constantly reminding myself.

Why? Because it is up to me.

In this battle for my children against the Adversary, I am fighting the good fight--I am the protector and defender of my family.

Regardless of whether I had a father or just father figures growing up, I AM NOW A FATHER. I have a divine role to play. I must lead and teach and nurture and discipline and ordain and preside and provide an example of what a Man, a Priesthood Holder, a Husband, and a Father should be.

All of this is directly dependent on my greatest, most important ability: my availability.

I need to ‘just be there.’

Brothers and sisters, I testify that fatherhood--and parenthood in general--is not only a divinely-appointed role, but it is a divinely-supported role.

Start with faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Ghost, He will support and guide you. None of us can do it on our own--we are not even meant to do so. Trust not in the arm of flesh, for the flesh is weak. Trust in the Lord, for through him all things are possible.

Humble yourself. There is nobody better equipped to expose your weaknesses than your children--and they WILL expose them. But remember that Christ will turn your weaknesses into strengths if you humble yourself before Him.

HAVE PATIENCE! Don’t worry if you are an impatient person--your kids will test that patience like nothing you have ever experienced. Your patience will be tried seven times seven in the fire--and your love for them and theirs for you will be galvanized for your efforts!

I have a firm testimony in the power of presence. When you are TRULY present in the home, you are able to steady the ship; you are able to provide a calming force through the power of the priesthood; you are able to bless your family with the type of influence that only a righteous patriarch can provide. You’re able to be a Dad.

And it all starts by ‘just being there.’

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1.   The Family - A Proclamation to the World
2.   A Rational Theology - John A. Widtsoe
3.   Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121

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