In April 1972, the first date that my future wife and I went on was to a Brigham Young University multi-stake fireside where the speakers were Elder Ezra Taft Benson and his wife Flora Smith Amussen Benson. Both were dynamic and insightful speakers. They counselled students on how to prepare to be righteous fathers and mothers. As we celebrate Fathers’ Day nearly 50 years later, we find it inspirational to look again at President Benson’s teachings about fatherhood.
President Benson emphatically taught: “The father must hunger and thirst and yearn to bless his family, go to the Lord, ponder the words of the Lord, and live by the Spirit to know the mind and will of the Lord and what he must do to lead his family … [Fathers,] you have a sacred responsibility to provide spiritual leadership in your family” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson , 194).
10 Suggestions for Fathers
With love in his heart for the fathers in Israel, President Benson recommended the following ways to be righteous fathers:
“Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
“Direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
“Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
“Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children.
“Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
“Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
“Teach your children to work and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal.
“Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
“As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
“Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 195).
President Benson clearly taught that the responsibilities of fathers are extremely important. They can do a great deal for the salvation and exaltation of their families.
Follow Christ’s Example
President Benson also explained that fathers not dictate or make demands upon their family: “The Apostle Paul points out that ‘the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church’ (Ephesians 5:23; italics added). That is the model we are to follow in our role of presiding in the home. We do not find the Savior leading the Church with a harsh or unkind hand. We do not find the Savior treating His Church with disrespect or neglect. We do not find the Savior using force or coercion to accomplish His purposes. Nowhere do we find the Savior doing anything but that which edifies, uplifts, comforts, and exalts the Church” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 196).
President Benson concluded: “Brethren, I say to you with all soberness, [Jesus Christ] is the model we must follow as we take the spiritual lead in our families. As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children. You must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 196).
Make Homes Havens of Peace and Joy
President Benson encouraged: “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 … The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of [their] children” (Teachings: Ezra Taft Benson, 196).
As we read President Benson’s suggestions, it reminded us of what he and Sister Benson exemplified and taught at a fireside in 1972. We believe that how they lived their lives and the gospel principles that they taught continue to be relevant for us to implement in our marriage and family relationships today.