Sunday is Father’s Day. What is true fatherhood?

It’s a gift, a gift from mankind’s Creator, the Supreme Judge of the world. It’s a choice gift that provides purpose and meaning for life, that comes with an abundance of joy and happiness, along with occasional bits of grief and sorrow, to the man who comprehends and accepts the role of fatherhood and dedicates his life to the family he fathers.

True fatherhood begins with the marriage of one man and one woman who both understand their divinely defined roles of man and woman, of husband and wife, of father and of mother.

On our kitchen wall is a framed proclamation that defines these roles. It’s title: “The Family, A Proclamation to the World.” It was published in 1996 in response to the growing challenges facing the family and traditional marriage worldwide. Its first paragraph states: “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

It continues by declaring: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are a heritage of the Lord.’ (Psalms 127:3) 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. Husband and wives — mothers and fathers — will be held responsible before God for the discharge of these obligations.”

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

Having been privileged to marry several grandchildren in recent years, I followed Moses advice outlined in Exodus 18:20 to “teach them the ordinances and laws” of marriage, and “wherein they must walk, and the work they must do” in their marriages. I created a special book for each grandchild that included the above-mentioned Proclamation, a copy of the Ten Commandments, Gordon B. Hinckley’s Ten Virtues, and a poster outlining Vaughn J. Featherstone’s 14 points of Fatherhood. It included an eight-generation family pedigree chart and a chart dating back to 1623. These family charts will help these newly created families better understand how they connect to their ancestors and how they fit in with something far greater than just themselves.

These books and charts were my effort to help my grandchildren build a solid foundation under their new marriages based on solid, tested principles. These books also respond to the problems being generated by our ever-growing secular society and helps instill a little sanity and common sense into a society where the God defined role of fatherhood is being redefined in the foundational fabric of American society. The cost of this redefining of marriage and family has escalated rapidly.

To the father who has bathed his child and changed their diapers, who has read to them and watched them begin school, graduate, marry, and bring home a grandchild, fatherhood is everlasting joy and happiness.

True fatherhood is hard work, but it is more rewarding than any other male calling on earth. When a father reaches my age, he knows his children and has experienced all the surprises fatherhood brings, including grief and sorrow, as when a child breaks his heart, or when he lays a child in a grave and his soul cries out “why me Lord.” At such moments nothing will soothe a father’s bitter grief but faith. I have felt that grief firsthand.

But fatherhood is also indescribable joy, joy that brings tears to a father’s eyes. And when such tears come, a father realizes his life was worth all the heartaches and sleepless nights that go with fathering.

True fatherhood is leading a righteous family; it is holding family councils; it is making time for each child; it is helping each child explore God’s creations and teaching them of God’s love for them, and how to love Him. It is teaching them, by example, how to communicate with Him in prayer.

The fatherhood journey is filled with challenges, awe, sorrows, joys, happiness and an abundance of love — but it’s a journey well worth taking. Fathers — enjoy your Day.

Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist who lives in Woodstock.

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