Monday, June 22, 2009

the great and abominable talk

At the request of Hayley who gave a fantastic Old Testament-oriented talk for mother's day, I am posting my Old Testament-oriented (I consider the Pearl of Great Price as a sweet revision of the Old Testament) talk for father's day! It's pretty long, so no pressure to read it or anything, but here is basically what I said...

In thinking on the topic of father’s day, one particular scriptural father, although somewhat obscure and not actually the greatest example of fatherhood, kept coming to my mind. When I kept thinking about him again and again, I decided to look into it and see what there was to learn from his story. I was thinking about Terah, whom the Old Testament identifies as the father of Abram who was later called Abraham, known in the church for, among other things, the Abrahamic Covenant. I found it particularly interesting that the great prophet that we often refer to as “Father Abraham” actually had a pretty rocky relationship with his earthly father.

This is obvious from the first facsimile in the book of Abraham, which depicts Abraham himself lying on an altar, about to be sacrificed by the priests of his father, Terah’s, religion. Verse 27 in the first chapter of Abraham states that Terah was led away by an idolatrous religion that sought to imitate the gospel and falsely claimed to have the priesthood through the lineage of Ham, the son of Noah. The followers of this sect in the land of Chaldea, where Abraham and Terah lived at that time, sacrificed heathens and because Abraham didn’t follow the idolatry of his father, he was chosen to be sacrificed. (Abraham 1: 7, 27) This adds humor to the first verse of the Book of Abraham, which says, “I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to find a new place of residence.” With your dad’s church buddies trying to sacrifice you, that’s quite an understatement!

Through all of his challenges like these, Abraham had a clear vision of what path he wished to pursue as a father. He wanted to claim the blessings of being a righteous and worthy priesthood bearer with the true authority of the Lord. I really like what he says about the joy and gift of the priesthood in Abraham chapter one, verses 2-4, “And finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same…I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me. I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.” Meaning he saw that there was great joy and many blessings available to himself and his posterity through the priesthood authority that came through the generations of his righteous forefathers like Adam and Enoch.

Thankfully, Abraham’s diligence in seeking after righteousness made him instrumental in becoming, as the Bible Dictionary describes him, “the founder of the covenant race” and “the father of the faithful”.

Through him came the Abrahamic Covenant from the Lord which we all can take part of. He is a symbolic father to all members of the church.

The True to the Faith Gospel Reference Manual published by the Church says that, “As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are a child of the covenant. You have received the everlasting gospel and inherited the same promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You have the right to the blessings of the priesthood and to eternal life, according to your faithfulness in receiving the ordinances of salvation and keeping the associated covenants. Nations of the earth will be blessed by your efforts and by the labors of your posterity.” (True To The Faith, “Abrahamic Covenant”)

The importance of families is central to the covenant made by Abraham. It relates to eternal marriage, eternal increase and progression. We are blessed to have the gospel so that we can know the eternal importance and significance of families and, armed with that knowledge, safeguard our families and begin working now to have a Celestial Family, which includes a righteous father.

In a great conference talk by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles called, “Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling”, Elder Perry boldly states, “It appears to me that the crosshairs of Satan’s scope are centered on husbands and fathers. Today’s media, for example, have been relentless in their attacks- ridiculing and demeaning husbands and fathers in their God-given roles…Satan, in his carefully devised plan to destroy the family, seeks to diminish the role of fathers.”

In contrast to what the world would have us believe, the gospel brings us eternal truth. The Family, a Proclamation to the World lets us know that, “by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide for the necessities of life and protection for their families.”

Something that I am indebted to my father for is that he always worthily held the priesthood in my home; I was very blessed to have that. However, at school, when I was some 800 miles from my earthly father, I was still able to enjoy the blessings of the priesthood through righteous home teachers and church leaders. My first semester away from home I ran into a stressful and challenging time. I asked my home teachers, two very new Melchizedek Priesthood holders, to give me a blessing. It was obvious that they were nervous- they had never given a blessing before. Likewise, I had never received a blessing from anyone other than my father beforeSo we all had the opportunity to exercise our faith. It was a wonderful blessing; the Spirit was very strong, and there are things from that blessing four years ago that I still remember and that still give me comfort today. I am grateful for righteous Priesthood holders who bless the lives of all within their stewardship, whether they are biologically related or not.

Similar to this was the experience of the 2000 stripling warriors. We often think of this story in reference to the diligence of their mothers, but I also like to look at the leadership of Helaman who acted as their father, even referring to them on several occasions as his “sons”. (Alma 56) This makes me think of the righteous leadership the young men of our ward have not only from their fathers, but also from bishopric members, seminary teachers, and young men’s and scout leaders. I have seen them influence our young men for good and shape their character throughout my life. They have blessed the lives of many, including my own brothers, for which I am so grateful.

My earthly father has worked my whole life to set an example for me of righteous church service and has taught me the gospel on many levels. It seems to me that he has been working so hard for me so that I may have the best chance to be able to live in an eternal family, and that I may have success in this life and exaltation in the world to come. This mission of earthly fathers to help their children find joy in this life as well as in the eternities is the same as that of our Heavenly Father, who’s work and glory is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) Like our mortal fathers, our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to return to Him and experience joy. No matter what family circumstances we may have in this life, as President Howard W. Hunter put it, “We have a divine pedigree; every person is a spiritual child of God” and we have the ability to obtain all the blessings of the gospel for both ourselves and our posterity. (October Ensign, 1991)

I am so grateful for how the gospel light illuminates the true role of fathers and for the righteous men of this church who fulfill that role with all diligence, blessing the lives of all of God’s children.


Rachel Jones said...

PS I saw I had a comment on my profesh blog and I got SUPER EXCITED. it was like the only excitement I had all day.

And unfortunately that big name publisher turned out to be you ;)

Hayley said...

Linds - Fabulous job. When I was done reading, I thought, "Where's the rest?" because I hadn't realized how much I'd read because it flows so well. I wish I could have seen the delivery. You rock.

MAM said...

Great talk,Lindsey -- looking forward to being with all of you on July 12! Hugs, Aunt Margaret

Collene said...

Thanks for putting it online so I could read it, just wish I had been there for the captivating presentation.