From beginning to end, the Book of Mormon is an ode to the importance of fathers in the spiritual development of their children.
It begins "I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father". It ends very much on the same note. The second to last chapter is a tender epistle from a father to a son, painstakingly etched into metal plates for future generations by the son.
"My son, be faithful in Christ;" the father writes, "and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever. And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen."
That pattern is consistent throughout the entire book. Enos begins his account with a tribute to his father; Jarom writes according to the commandment of his father; even Omni, Amaron and Chemish emphasize the fathers in the scant sentences they write; and Mosiah begins with Benjamin's end-of-life teachings to his sons. Then there's the story of Father Alma and his namesake son. When the angel appears to put an end to Alma Jr.'s persecution of the Church, he explains that Father Alma "has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith." That's just Alma's Jr's wakeup call. His conversion happens three days later when, "racked with torment" and "harrowed up by the memory of [his] many sins" he remembers his father's prophecy of Jesus Christ and cries out to the Saviour for mercy (Alma 63: 17-18). Later, when the son takes up the role of high priest over the Church and calls the people of Zarahemla to repentance, he begins with the story of how the Lord delivered his father from captivity and then asks the multitude, "Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?" (Alma 5:6).
None of the fathers in the Book of Mormon were perfect. The Alma story is especially touching because of the very serious mistakes in the father's early life, because of the depth of alienation that later developed between father and son (with the son secretly trying to destroy the church his father led), and because the miracles that resulted from the father's persistent faith and prayers and love. They led both to the reclamation of his wayward son and to the launching of a dynasty of righteous priesthood leadership that never wavered while the surrounding society spun ever-more speedily through the pride cycle.
A father's testimony is powerful.
This Father's day, I'm grateful for the gift that arrived in the mail earlier this week from my Dad. It's the story of the birth and ripening of his faith and it concludes with his secure witness of the love and goodness of God, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
His witness acknowledges questions that remain unanswered, alongside answers that have penetrated to his very core.
I love especially this paragraph:
One of the most vivid spiritual experiences I had was as a new young branch president. As I stood for the first time before the branch members who had sustained me to lead them, I saw them individually as I felt God might see them. I felt an overwhelming sense of love for each of them such as I had never previously experienced for anyone, and that feeling has recurred many times since in my individual interactions with others while serving them."
This Father's Day, I thank God for my father who raised me immersed in active evidence of his faith in God's reality and His goodness. I am grateful that he raised me to be unafraid of questions and to recognize and embrace the answers that Heaven sends. And I am grateful that he taught me that the indelible proof of the reality of God is His love.
I am also grateful that, late as the hour is, he'll read this post as soon as the notification hits his inbox.
Thanks Dad! Happy Father's Day!