Speaking Fathers

I’ve just been asked to speak on Father’s Day for my ward’s sacrament service. As I consider the possible topics, it occurs to me to ask for input and advice, particularly from mothers. (I’m reminded of the joke whose details I can’t recall but which relies on the punchline: “I thought every day was Father’s Day.” What say ye?

And for those of you who don’t follow inside jokes (or read comments), Lars Glenson is a made-up personality, and Mark’s diatribe against this made-up character is part of the same inside joke. No one at BCC is being that mean.


  1. Discuss lessons on being a dad from Hank Hill. He’s probably the television’s best portrayal of a husband/father. Hardworking, loyal friend, devoted husband, and he takes his family to church to boot. You won’t see that any where else on TV.

    Also, I noticed you had a raptor riding Jesus in your side blog. Check this one out: http://r.ompo.us/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/raptor-jesusthumbnail.jpg

  2. Mark Brown says:


    First, thanks for covering for me. I just got back from church and read some of the comments. I thought the post was so over the top that it would be impossible to take it seriously, but I was mistaken. There was certainly no malicious intent.

    To your question – It is my experience and also my observation that many of us are unsure of ourselves as men and fathers. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to being the butt of jokes, not only on network TV but in general conference as well. I have found that being a father is damned hard, and I appreciate the help I get and the examples I see. My suggestion is to express appreciation for what the fathers in your ward do, even when they do it very imperfectly.

    If you don’t like Hank Hill, you can always go with Homer Simpson.

    “I’m not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to Hell?”

    Unfortunately, that is how I see much of our instruction on fatherhood.

  3. Swisster says:

    Just don’t belittle men or patronize women (good advice any day!). Don’t dwell on priesthood or church service. If you tell a story about a good father (I’m sure you have some great church history tales up your sleeve!), try not to deify him. That just depresses the rest of us. Ask yourself: how did your ward handle Mother’s Day a few weeks ago? I think that if you DON’T praise fathers as much as you praise mothers, you risk sending the message that mothers actually ARE the more important parent.

  4. matt w. says:

    wow, you already have talks assigned for fathers day? That’s early.

    The only memorable fathers day talk I can recall was one about lehi losing faith and his son rescuing him by building a wooden boy.

  5. Don’t tell that “every day is Father’s Day” joke. Even if you can remember how it goes.

  6. ditto madhousewife

  7. Sam,

    I would try to keep the message spiritually relevant. For example, I would try to show analogies between the role of Fathers and God. Some areas: Decisions for the good of a child which seem counterintuitive. Decisions which involve trade-offs between society and individuals. Decisions which cannot be explained since those explanations would undermine the lesson.

    Really, the list goes on and on. Another of my favorite areas is in the role of emotion in judgment. (Typically, there isn’t much room for emotion. So, for example, “love” is not sufficient reason to undermine important lessons.)

    In other words, use this as an opportunity to help clear up some of the confusion about “if God really Loved me…” or “why doesn’t God…” type questions. Further, this talk could help illuminate how to grow closer to God by becoming someone capable of hearing messages which disagree with an individual’s or society’s value system.

  8. sister blah 2 says:

    For example, I would try to show analogies between the role of Fathers and God.

    Not a bad idea, just don’t say something to the effect of being a dad being the closest thing we have to godhood. It may be true, but it was super annoying to me when I couldn’t get pregnant there for a while. /personal pet peeve

  9. My dad was a great man, but he also was a human with obvious faults and weaknesses. Whenever I give a Father’s Day talk, I try to highlight that the latter doesn’t preclude the former.

    2 Nephi 4 is a wonderful way, imo, to make this point – that parenting is an emotional roller coaster, and the only way to keep from getting killed is to hang on for dear life. (I see that as a positive, btw.)

  10. A year before we moved to Cali, my son was asked to speak on Mother’s Day. The year after we moved, he was asked to speak on Mother’s Day again (new ward this time). I wondered if the trend would continue and breathed a huge sigh of relief when he wasn’t asked to speak on Mother’s Day this year.

    He just got asked to speak on Father’s Day.

    My advice to you: Just don’t be boring, please.

  11. #5/6, why not with the joke? seems like a nice way to recognize that fatherhood can’t exist without motherhood and we all have a tendency to exploit motherhood. i’m genuinely curious.

    Fascinating thing about God as a Father is that he drowned a huge number of his kids, set fire to some of them, had others eaten by bears. Stuff that would set all sorts of alarms for Department of Social Services types. I don’t really want to get into a theodicy of the OT YHWH vengeance motifs, but it does frame things interestingly.

  12. Is there any pressure to not offend the men who are not fathers?

  13. Mark Brown says:


    No. I can not recall an instance, ever, where anybody cared whether men were offended, fathers or not.

    Sam, we get harangued on the other 51 Sundays of the year about how we don’t do enough, are lousy fathers, don’t keep up with the women, etc. That’s why I think the joke is a bad idea.

  14. Cheesy as it is to use hymns in relations to talks, a good candidate if you’re thinking along those lines is Our Father, In Whose Name (#296):

    Our Father, in whose name all fatherhood is known/ Who dost in love proclaim each family his own/ Bless thou all parents guarding well, with constant love as sentinel/ The homes in which thy people dwell.

    It seems to me that Father’s Day is also an ideal time to explore Christ’s injunction in Matt. 23:9.

  15. Our choir sang that hymn (#296) last Father’s Day. It’s really lovely.

    If motherhood is the female equivalent gift to priesthood, what is fatherhood the male equivalent gift of?

    No dissing men. And if you could leave any of the P words (priesthood, patriarch, preside, provide) out of the talk, that might be good.

  16. I think that a good Father’s Day talk is a lot like a good Mother’s Day talk. Gospel centered. Not boring. Doesn’t deny the realities of parenthood. Recognizes that we, our parents and our children all grow through acceptance, love and forgiveness. Appreciative without saccharine distortion.

    Do any of your wards give dads and potential dads goodies? I think yummies are a nice touch.

  17. Yeah, don’t mention penises either. That makes some people feel really uncomfortable. ( :) 15)

  18. Ann, #15 I am kind of curious why you advise against mentioning the P words (priesthood, patriarch, preside, provide)? I think I get why we don’t want to mention the other p word in #17, but not sure of your reasoning. Please enlighten.

  19. Priesthood – a man need not have the priesthood to be an excellent, exemplary father. My own father is an example of this. Equating the two opens up a can of worms (just like equating priesthood with motherhood opens a can of worms.) If you MUST mention priesthood, keep it as a tool that blesses families, not a quality a good father must have.

    Patriarch – a term that has very strong negative connotations outside the church. Practically guaranteed to get an eyeroll out of females under the age of 50.

    Preside – Yeah, I know it’s in the proc. Do you really want to spend even one minute in a talk about fathers explaining how “preside” means “equal partnership”? I didn’t think so.

    Provide – this is a tough one. It’s also in the proc, and I’m not really opposed to it in any way – parents of both sexes should see that their children’s needs are provided for. However, some perfectly good fathers are not able to provide for their families, for health reasons or economic reasons (unemployment), and I hate to see something as important as fatherhood relegated to worker bee. I guess I see this one as the mother’s day equivalent of childbearing.

  20. cj douglass says:

    I would try to show analogies between the role of Fathers and God.

    No, I don’t think this is a good idea.

    Like some have already mentioned, if you’re going to use anecdotes, make sure you paint the fathers in your life as human beings – capable of greatness and error. This goes back to why I hate the earthly father/Heavenly Father analogies.

    And while you’re at it, why not use some time to talk about the virtues of manhood? After all – for every Hitler there’s a Ghandi. (well maybe not that exact ratio but you get the idea)

  21. One more thing:

    Fatherhood needs to be honored regardless of church affiliation or activity. One of the Father’s Day talks I have ever heard is the one that mentioned that we need to honor the fathers of our YM and YW (particularly) who are NOT members – or active members. We need to involve them, to whatever extent they will allow, in the discussions we have about how to help their children. I can’t count how many times I’ve made that point in council meetings when someone says, “How can we help Johnny?” My response is almost always, “What did his father and mother say?”

    By extension, we also should honor our own fathers in the same say – even if they were lousy fathers in most ways, and even if we are positive we will end up discarding their advice. We still should honor them as our fathers who have the right at least to provide input.

  22. CS Eric says:

    If you wanted to go with pop culture, you could mention how Ben on Lost was so overcome with feeling when he encounted the man who murdered his father that he didn’t care that his vengeance also meant the death of all those people on the boat.

    Or maybe not.

  23. #22 – That would be one way to guarantee that you’d never have to speak on Father’s Day (or even any other Sunday) ever again.

    It also might get you immortalized on MMW’s Adventures in Arizona post.

    You might not mind the former; the latter . . .

  24. Donuts and OJ for everyone.

    Set it up 30 minutes before church in the foyer.


  25. Bravo Ray (#21),

    There are two many part-member families with supportive non-member fathers who, while not having the priesthood, go the extra mile in fulfilling their responsibilities as parent and partner. The very thought of their exclusion makes me tear.

  26. Sam,

    I spoke in my ward last fathers day. I spoke about Joseph
    Smiths Father and Grandfather and their influence on Joseph. Related that to how we can be a positive influence on our kids.

    But since we are in the same ward maybe wouldn’t be a good idea to repeat.

    Ah who am I kidding…

  27. Sam,

    I would suggest you not water down LDS ideas, principles, doctrines in your talk.

    Sharing personal exp always works best in my opinion

  28. There is not just “one way” to be a good father. Encourage fathers to contribute to their families in their own unique way. Each father will show his love in a different way. Each father has different talents to share, different lessons to teach. Encourage fathers to be excited about finding ways to be a better father, and to ask the Lord to help them with personal revelation on what they can do to help their children.
    Encourage people to view their own fathers in this way.

  29. I really don’t see a Father’s Day talk as being about fathers — It is a segue into spiritual topics. There are plenty of venues outside of Church to discuss worldly father issues. We have no shortage of funny movies, funny jokes, and discussions outside of Church to entertain. This raises the question — What is really worth discussing in Church?

  30. Sam,

    I was good to meet you at MSH a couple of weeks ago.

    I too have the opportunity to speak on Fathers Day and I am reading carefully the responses and look forward to your own insights.

    A couple of my own tentative thoughts. I am considering reciting some or all of the lyrics of Skip Ewing’s country song, It Wasn’t His Child, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hONKCion6Eo , which centers on the loving relationship of a step father for his nonbiological child born shortly after his marriage. I am thinking of focusing particularly on the words, “and like a father he was strong and kind and good.”

    I am also considering reciting some or all of the lyrics to Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlHdjjHNEC8 . I was moved by the song as a teenager, but viewing it from my perspective as a son. I am still moved when I hear it, but from the perspective of a father whose children are now grown.

    I have thought about noting that the Book of Mormon contains lots of information about father-son relationships–some healthy, some nonhealthy, some completely disfunctional, and that the Old Testament does too.

    To me it is interesting that the prophecy of Malachi focuses on turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and vice versa. Why are the hearts of the mothers not mentioned? Is it merely sexism? Is it because the hearts of the mothers have since the beginning of time been turned toward their children, and for men, we have more work to do. Or is it because the hearts of the children are more naturally turned to their mothers, but it takes more effort, in many cases, to turn our hearts to our fathers? Is that why Mothers Day is the busiest day for long distance calls, Fathers Day is the busiest for collect calls? http://www.snopes.com/holidays/fathersday/collect.asp

    Significantly more fathers are in prison than mothers, and in most religions, men (and fathers) attend at significantly lower rates than women (and mothers). Is it easier to “honor” and “turn our hearts” to the parent who is more religious and has engaged in less delinquent behavior than the other? How do we “honor” or “turn our hearts” to a parent who, in some cases, may be a “poster child” for what not to do? How can we call upon God for healing of relationships that may have been broken or harmed by bad choices of a parent or of ourselves?

    I am personally a bit of a defender of Laman and Lemuel. While they did a lot that was wrong, they did a lot that was right. For one thing, while they complained a lot, they eventually followed. And while, like most males, they resisted authority, and they eventually “broke” with the leadership God put in place, apparently they taught their children and through them their children’s children, the importance of loving family relationships. Jacob 3: 7

    I have male ancestors who became disaffected from the Church, and yet their progeny stayed, by and large. As I have learned more about them, and looked for the good, overlooking their errors, I have discovered that they were, in Skip Ewing, generally “strong and kind and good.” In doing so, I believe my own heart is being turned toward them.

  31. Troy, I enjoyed your blessing of your son this Sunday. That’s one of my favorite parts of fatherhood.

    The question of Joseph Sr is an intriguing one, as the kids were often worried about their dad, who had a variety of struggles throughout his life but really flowered once Joseph Jr made him the Patriarch of the Church. Sort of a way that we can honor parenthood by blessing our parents.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    So Sam, after all this advice how are you leaning? Or better yet, just post your talk here once you’ve written it.

  33. #14- Steve- can you expound upon your statement about the use of hymns in talks? My understanding is that our church leaders are encouraging more active use of hymns in talks/lessons,etc.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    nita, nothing really to expound, except to say that when used improperly, referring to hymns in our talks can be as cliche as referring to the dictionary.

  35. SamMB-

    About the joke–it comes off as patronizing and if you have to make a joke about mothers being exploited it could sound like you are just trying to say, “See–I’m cool, I see women and mothers as equals.” If you really need to point that out, then maybe you are insecure in that position.

  36. Bill Cosby, Stu Smiley et al….I’ll bet you could get through the entire 20 minutes w/o once cracking open those scriptures. :)

  37. #15

    good woman = good man + priesthood

    which about sums it up

    Time will come when we are all priests and priestesses in the celestial kingdom where we will all have he priesthood. right now men are not prepared for the shock.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Good math, BobW. alternatively:

    good woman – priesthood = good man

    good man – good woman = -priesthood


    Actually that math makes no sense at all whatsoever.

  39. sister blah 2 says:

    Step aside, Steve. Let someone with a graduate degree in engineering show you how it’s done:

    good woman + good man + priesthood = 0

  40. sister blah 2 says:

    (I’ll add the disclaimer that I meant to convey absolutely no meaning with my above equation, so don’t bother trying to derive any. Just playing around with the numbers. Carry on…)

  41. Perhaps you meant
    good(man + woman)+ priesthood = lemniscate.

  42. (I only used “lemniscate” because I couldn’t figure out how to make the symbol with the keyboard.)

  43. For anyone unfamiliar with the word “lemniscate”, here is the clearest definition available:

    “a plane curve generated by the locus of the point at which a variable tangent to a rectangular hyperbola intersects a perpendicular from the center to the tangent.”

    You’re welcome.

  44. No dude. The clearest definition is “the mathematical symbol for infinity.”

  45. You know the one that looks like an eight on its side.

  46. Thanks a lot, Jami. :)

  47. Mistyped. Was supposed to be the tongue-sticking-out symbol.

  48. Duly noted. :-P