During the 1990’s the elephant population in one of the game preserves in Africa had reached a maximum capacity. Something had to be done to alleviate the problem. It was decided that the herd could be thinned out by airlifting a number of elephants and relocating them to another game preserve. The harness could only handle up to a certain weight, so it was decided females and teenage males would be taken. Larger adult bulls would be left behind.
Sometime later, trouble was reported in the new preserve. Endangered white rhinoceroses were being brutally killed. At first the cause was thought to be poachers. But when cameras were installed, they found a surprising culprit—marauding bands of teenaged male elephants. What had been missing from the new herd was the influence of the adult male bulls. In the natural world, adult male elephants provide a stabilizing influence for the juvenile males, giving order and civility to the herd. A solution was presented. The airlift helicopter was reinforced so as to carry in large adult bulls from the first game preserve. Within weeks the bizarre behavior of the juveniles had ceased. The adult males brought order back into the herd as their example was influential in teaching the younger ones how to behave.
A father’s presence matters
The natural world is God’s world too. We can learn so much about His ways if we open our eyes and see what nature teaches us. The story about the importance of the adult male elephants resonates deeply with me when I think of my own father and his presence in our home. I was one of the lucky ones—my parents stayed together for the length of their marriage. My father was a force of stability in the family. He provided for our physical and spiritual needs. He loved us and he loved my mother. His strength and example helped me and my brothers to be good citizens, cooperative partners with our spouses, and happy people. In contrast, I had friends whose parents were divorced. I could tell, even at a young age, there was a void of stability and protection in their home—one that only a father could fill.
Elder L. Tom Perry from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Satan, in his carefully devised plan to destroy the family, seeks to diminish the role of fathers. Increased youth violence, youth crime, greater poverty and economic insecurity, and the failure of increasing numbers of children in our schools offer clear evidence of lack of a positive influence of fathers in the homes.” (L. Tom Perry, “Fatherhood, an Eternal Calling, Ensign April 2004).
When a father spends less time at home with his family, whether by choice or if the situation is thrust upon him, the children suffer. It could be due to excessive work, or a divorce that rips a family apart. It may be the father puts his own personal desires above that of his family. The result is the same—children struggle to find stability and meaning elsewhere.
The lesson from the mighty elephant so poignantly transfers in meaning to human relationships as well. Fatherhood is essential to the stability of the home, the sanctity of the family and the survival of civilization. The role of a good father in the home is more important today than it ever was. Thankfully, a loving Heavenly Father is on the side of the family. Try as he might, Satan will not win the battle against fatherhood.
Fatherhood is an Eternal Investment
Most fathers I know work very hard to provide for their family. Most fathers have little time to share with their wife and children, due to the demands of work. But when a father spends quality time with his family, he is making an eternal investment in the happiness of his posterity. The amount of time is not nearly as important as the quality.
I will never forget the family vacation we took when I was eight years old. We drove from New Jersey to Land-O-Lakes Wisconsin. We had a tiny cabin on a lake and went fishing for five days. Then we drove home. We didn’t catch any fish. We didn’t take a detour to an amusement park. My father and I didn’t really have any daddy-daughter time. We just roughed it for a week—living close to nature, doing something we had never done before, and enjoying each other’s company while doing it. It was such an important vacation for me because of the quality time we spent together as a family. We never did anything like that since, but it didn’t matter. The effect of that two week period solidified my love for my family. I have my father to thank for making that trip possible.
Fatherhood is Divine
“The title father is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as Father.”
—Father, Consider Your Ways
When I imagine how fathers may feel less important today, be it from society’s definition or even perhaps from the effects of the demands of life, I want to wrap my arms around each of them and tell them, “You matter.” Fatherhood is divine. It is the pattern of the eternal order of heaven. It is something to aspire to in greatness, shared with our Heavenly Father who is the spirit father of us all. If we can remember the royal birthright we have been given, if we can remember the eternal glory that awaits us, we will remember to honor the title of father and the divine role of fatherhood, today and always.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.