The Nurturing By My Son’s Many Fathers

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Dave K. has been ‘gathered to the Ohio’ for nearly fifteen years, where he lives with his wife and five children. A data privacy attorney by trade, his goal is to take the children to every MLB ballpark before they leave home; twenty-nine down and Seattle to go. 

My two oldest sons returned home unusually late Saturday evening. They were performing at a regional high-school band competition and rain delayed the start. One is a senior who plays trombone; the other a sophomore who plays trumpet. Meanwhile, my wife and two daughters also returned late from the General Women’s Session (we live in the Midwest and they drove an hour to watch the session with family).  It used to be the first Saturday evening in October was reserved for the General Priesthood Session. I understand the Church’s need to streamline things, but I miss the fellowship and brotherhood tradition of holding that session each conference.

This all resulted in an unusual evening of just me and son-number-three.  My third son is thirteen, so not yet in the high school band. I let him choose the special ‘guy’s night’ activity. No surprise there – he picked the latest Jurassic Park movie. I defended the choice by noting the rental was only $1.50 at Redbox.  Ten minutes into it I realized $1.50 was still grossly overpriced.

Bored with dinosaurs, I drifted to check in on what my daughters were learning at their session. I saw that President Nelson had echoed remarks made famous by Sheri Dew nearly 20 year ago:

When speaking of mothers, President Nelson said he is not only talking about women who have given birth or adopted children in this life, but to all adult women. “Every woman is a mother by virtue of her eternal divine destiny,” he said.

“Men can and often do communicate the love of Heavenly Father and the Savior to others. But women have a special gift for it — a divine endowment. You have the capacity to sense what someone needs — and when they need it. You can reach out, comfort, teach and strengthen someone in his or her very moment of need.”

I’ve quoted these thoughts many times in the course of my church service, usually to build up a sister whose desire to raise children of her own has not yet been fulfilled. But tonight, my thoughts drifted to my oldest son.  All too soon he will be leaving on a mission. Will he be ready? Have I done enough? Is he prepared to nurture?

Comfort came as I thought of the many fathers who have nurtured him over the years.  If “motherhood” is a role designed by God not solely for those who can conceive children, then “fatherhood” is too.  Mothers and fathers encompass all of God’s children who give of their time and talents to nurture another.

I felt gratitude for my eldest son’s high school band director.  He is one of my son’s fathers.  On Saturday evening, my son had a gay father watching over him and teaching him.  Men, gay and straight, are such wonderful nurturers.  It’s in our nature to reach out, comfort, teach and strengthen the rising generation.  Men’s divine role in loving and serving one another cannot be emphasized enough.

Because blog space is limited, I’ll just stick to a few prime examples of fathers who have helped mold my oldest son to the valiant missionary I hope he soon will be:

    • Father-In-Heaven. Obvious choice, I know, but really there’s nowhere else to start. My favorite explanation of His example is found in Jacob 5. Ours is a Father who works, sweats, suffers, and labors incessantly. His nurturing work are the foundation on which all other fathers operate.
    • Jesus Christ. Of all the many titles given to the Savior, my favorite is Father. His fatherhood is not premised on procreation, yet he is a master creator and nurturer. “How oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.” (3 Ne. 10:4)  A mother hen is not the prototypical example of fatherhood given by the world, but it is the example Christ sets. To be a father like Christ means to be a nurturing hen.
    • Grandfather. My own father’s example to his grandson has been a steady constant. Not so much an iron rod as a nourishing stream of flowing guidance and quiet peace during childhood struggles. While similar in many ways to my example, there are crucial ties between just grandpa and grandson. The trombone is one example. I quit the instrument after one year, but my son stuck with it, following his grandfather’s example. And there’s the week a few years ago when the two hiked 50 miles together on the Appalachian Trail. My son will always remember sleeping under the heavens, overlooking the Shenandoah, and judging for himself that creation is good. Two morning stars shouting for joy at the image of uncountable other stars.
    • Seminary Teacher. On the shore of a great lake sits a modest home where daily miracles are wrought. Each school morning my sons drive 20 minutes to this home, where a gentle former-bishop sits prepared to teach them and a half-dozen other sleepy youth as if they were his own children. Even at 6:00 am, he is dressed in a white shirt and tie, prepared from multiple hours of study the prior day. My children have been raised in a home where scriptures are read, but I’m confident the bulk of the scriptural-preparation my son will carry into the mission field will come from his time with this master-servant on the lake.
    • Band Director. Each summer we take a lengthy family vacation and return just in time for band camp. My sons are handed off to an exuberant band director who embodies both sides of Captain Von Trapp – strict drill sergeant and amiable father. As a senior, my oldest son has spent literally months under the tutelage of this good man. My son’s innate love of music and order have been nurtured, his wrestle with adolescence eased, and life-long friendships with other students formed, thanks to the loving work of this father.

Eighteen years have passed all too quickly. The young man my son has become is miraculous. His mother and I have played central roles, yes. But I know that the person he is derives from the parenthood of many other fathers and mothers. The Proclamation speaks to various roles for fathers – preside, provide, protect. Each of these roles have been performed by the fathers I discussed above. They are not mere “father-figures,” they are true and worthy fathers in a complete sense.

Saturday evening, as I sat waiting for my sons to return home, quietly contemplating the day’s Conference, my mind was drawn to this reality: LGBTQ parents are amazing. They preside, provide, protect, nurture, and direct children towards Christ. Fatherhood and Motherhood are not roles limited to some future time when we see through the glass less darkly; they exist and are real today. I will forever be grateful to my son’s gay father, who taught him through the powerful tool of music, and who returned him safely to his home Saturday night, and many nights before and since.

*Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Comments

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you.

  2. Thank you. I’ve frequently said the most nurturing people I’ve known and know have been and are men.

  3. Excellent. I think I too often fail to appreciate the nurturing role of others simply due to their job title, or lack thereof.

  4. This is an important point. The fact that the family proclamation says that mothers are primarily responsible for nurturing should not be taken to mean that we as men don’t have the duty to develop our own ability to nurture. A man who does not nurture is an incomplete, undeveloped man.

  5. Thank you! This was my thought during the Women’s Session. WHY can’t we teach men to be nurturers?