As we consider the impact of a righteous father on his children, perhaps we can find no better example than what is reflected in the opening verses of the Book of Enos. He wrote:
“Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man – for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – and blessed be the name of my God for it –
“And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins” (Enos 1:1-2).
Enos then proceeded to relate his spiritual experience while in the forest, an experience in which he heard the voice of the Lord.
He said that preparatory to this experience, “the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart” (verse 3).
Enos’ father, of course, was the prophet Jacob, brother of Nephi. In addition to Jacob’s own record in the Book of Mormon, we have something of a capsule biography of him in these words of blessing received from his own father, Enos’ grandfather, Lehi: “Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
“Nevertheless, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
“Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
“And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (2 Nephi 2:1-4).
If we were to distill from the experience and background of Lehi, Jacob and Enos a formula by which a father promotes faith and goodness in his children, we might identify the following points:
• Such a father sets a good example himself in personal righteousness, perseverance in the face of trial and tribulation and continual service to God and others.
• Such a father helps bring others to Christ and teaches them of eternal life and true joy, especially his own children, as he brings them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” That phrase “nurture and admonition of the Lord” from Enos 1:1 serves as an interesting link to another passage of scripture, this one from the New Testament, which suggests another element of fatherhood that promotes faith and righteousness in children:
“And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Here, the apostle Paul indicates that an essential part of bringing children up in such a manner is to be kind and merciful in one’s approach, or, in other words, to apply the principles of priesthood leadership enunciated by Joseph Smith:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by longsuffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile –
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-43).
The emphasis of anointed servants of God today on hastening the work of salvation gives an added dimension to the role of fathers in nurturing their children in light and truth.
For one thing, theirs is the privilege to help their sons to prepare to serve missions and, in some cases, their daughters as well, where the daughters desire to render this service.
“Fathers, do you understand your role in helping your son to become a missionary before he goes on a mission?” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked in his talk during the priesthood session of October 2005 general conference. “You and your wife are key in the process of his becoming a missionary. Prayerful pondering of the principle of becoming will invite inspiration tailored to the specific needs of your son or to the young men whom you serve.”
Of course, hastening the work also includes service to those who have passed beyond the veil, including one’s kindred dead. Fathers are key in instilling within their children love, gratitude and honor to their progenitors in the spirit of Elijah’s prophecy that the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers (see Malachi 4:6 and Joseph Smith – History 1:38-39).
Since the overwhelming majority of Heavenly Father’s children who accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will do so after they have left the mortal sphere, the work of family history and vicarious temple ordinances is at least as important as ministering to the living inhabitants of the earth. Fathers desiring to raise their children in righteousness will help them understand that.
Probably most fathers, in wistful moments, wish they could provide more for their children in terms of worldly possessions, temporal comforts, skills, educational or career advantages and other aspects of life. Such fathers who are endeavoring to be conscientious may, at some future point, come to realize better what good providers they really were in the things that matter most in an eternal sense.