Doctrine: We have a perfect Father in Heaven, whom we can honor on Father’s Day, even if our earthly father is difficult to honor.
Father’s Day… It’s a tough day for many and not a holiday at all. Why? Because despite the pictures painted by advertisements and even our imaginations, many people’s earthly fathers were not so great. Maybe they were absent during those important growing up years. Maybe they were semi-present but unkind, abusive, alcoholics, rag-aholics, neglectful, or even workaholics: in other words, something in their lives always came before fatherhood—or us. And, today, fatherhood is quickly becoming something that is unappreciated and even dismissed as unimportant and unnecessary by jaded men, women, and children.
So, is there any father we can celebrate on Father’s Day? Yes.
The father I’m referring to is Heavenly Father—God, the Father. If your earthly father fell/falls far short of perfection, you and I, all of us, have a father to honor on Father’s Day. He is the Father of us all and unlike the frail and faulty versions (of Him) we have on this earth, He is perfect.
Heavenly Father is the perfect father. And, He is the God of the whole universe. What does that make you? It makes you galactic royalty. Your spirit (that deep part of your soul that often gets bogged down under mortal life and sometimes knows there has to be more) knows Him. And, though mortal life makes your vision of the eternal and the memory of your pre-earth life nearly impossible to process or imagine, yet somehow you do feel Him. Not all the time. But, you have felt His love and His hand in your life and you know it was Him even if you try to deny He exists; even if you are mad at Him; even if you go years without remembering those moments. You can’t pretend away your connection to Him anymore than you can pretend that the sun doesn’t exist.
So, what makes God, the Father, so perfect?
He loves you perfectly (1 John 4:8, 16).
God’s love is so perfect that it hurts. But, it is perfect love because it is true love. His perfect love is evidenced by His plan for us to become like Him. As part of that plan, He willingly offered His Only Begotten Son to right all the wrongs we would ever suffer, to heal all mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical injury and infirmity, and to pay justice for all the wrongs we commit as we learn godliness (St. John 3:16). Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have the privilege of choosing whatever we wish. And, if we don’t choose to become like God, our Father; He loves us so much that He has provided kingdoms of glory equal to the laws of righteousness and perfection we are willing to adhere to (Doctrine and Covenants 88:22-40). There is no eternal loss by taking part in God’s eternal plan, unless we choose it.
God’s love is so perfect that He allows us to have completely moral agency, to act and not to be acted upon (or compelled in any way to choose right; 2 Nephi 3:26). We can be influenced by others—sure—but we cannot be forced to choose anything we do not wish to choose. Even our lives can be restored to us—if threatened—because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, though it is the primary power of mortality, even free will (or moral agency), that we have a paramount example of God’s love. He will not make us choose Him, His life, or His ways. We are free to choose His way for ourselves IF we want them. So, you could say He loved us enough that He was willing to let us choose to not be with Him forever. It’s sad, but it’s perfect love.
God is perfectly just (Alma 42:15).
If we do anything wrong, even a hint of something wrong, we incur a debt to justice. And God never waives the reality of our choice. Whatever impact our wrong choice (or thought) has on us or others becomes a debt that must be repaid to Justice. Thus, there are also prescribed consequences accompanying the reality of our choice. We, and others, suffer the consequences of our wrong choices. This part of justice is no fun. But, because of that justice we have the ability to learn from our wrong choices, and others have the ability to learn from suffering the consequences as well. Justice, is actually a gift from God making this life matter. If God let anything slip by, no matter how small, then He (our Father in Heaven) could not be trusted to be fair. Thus, He would become a partial God, a changeable God, and then would cease to be God (Alma 42:13).
But, because our ability to learn and grow is paramount to our eternal progression, God is perfectly just and He will never stop being perfectly just. Thus, we can trust Him—perfectly. He loves us enough to be and remain perfectly just.
God is perfectly merciful (Alma 42:15).
Because of the Atonement performed by Jesus Christ, God can be perfectly just and also perfectly merciful. However, mercy can only be offered to those who meet the conditions to receive it. For example, if we commit sin, we are doomed by eternal consequences (not just earthly ones). Mercy can remove those eternal consequences if we are willing to learn from the sin, have the desire to become better, and repent. When we repent, then, justice is paid by the Atonement and while we may suffer earthly consequences, the eternal consequences have been stemmed on our behalf. We can transcend our sins and be “saved.”
Grace and mercy are extended to each of us in varying degrees. And, the only thing that creates those degrees is the differing levels of our willingness to become like Christ. So, we have control over what we receive—God has put that control in our hands. The more Christlike we become, the more mercy and grace we receive until we are eventually changed, grace by grace, into a being that is perfect (Doctrine and Covenants 93:19-20).
God’s mercies are over all His children in differing amounts. And, He doesn’t love any child more than another. But, His mercy and grace are extended by these conditions (1 Nephi 17:35). He could give grace and mercy to those who don’t repent or try to become like Him, but if He did so, not only would they not care or appreciate it, it would render moral agency (or free will) null and void. And, God loves us too much to give us something we are incapable of understanding or being accountable for. To do so would not be just or fair. Thus, God is perfectly merciful by placing conditions on the receipt of grace and mercy.
God never gives up on us (Jacob 6:5; Revelation 3:19; Helaman 15:3).
This is something that if you think about it may surprise you. But, consider: God knows the beginning from the end. He knows if we are going to sin in two minutes or twenty years. He knows, ultimately, what eternal end we will all come to. And yet, He still exerts all His universal and galactic resources to persuade, encourage, plead, chasten/reprove, and ask us to follow Him, become like Him, and live so that we can return home to Him…whether we will eventually do so or not.
When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (our Mediator between us and God, the Father), we will stand in awe that God knew all the wrong we would do, and even if we would ultimately eternally spurn His offer of godhood. Yet, He used His resources to encourage us anyway, despite His knowledge of the future. What a show of perfect love!
To an earthly CEO or perhaps even an earthly father, such resources might have been withheld “if she/he is going to waste them and not use them to accomplish this or that.” But, when we stand before God we will know with certainty that He tried to give us everything that He has despite knowing we would waste the effort/resources. Because, to God, such an allotment of resources could never be wasted on showing His love and desire for us to choose Him and His godly life.
When I was younger, I admit to sneaking out one night. The moment my earthly father knew what I was up to He was upset. But, He didn’t write me off. He sought me out, drove me home, patiently reproved me, and encouraged me to be better.
This is what God does for us. Even if we choose wrong, He comes after us, invites us to “come home.” He reproves us, asks us to repent, and encourages us to be better. And, whether we like that constant barrage of “come unto Me,” or not, His perfect love requires that He offer it until the end.
God is perfectly sympathetic and empathetic (Alma 7:11-13).
Not only does God understand everything we will ever feel or think, He also knows it by experience. We know that Christ suffered both body and spirit (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19) and “according to the flesh” that He might know and understand all of human suffering and sin (Alma 7:11-13). But, God, the Father, understands all and knows all because He was once as we are.
Lorenzo Snow taught: As man now is, God once was, as God now is, man may be.
Though it is difficult to comprehend, there is nothing about our human experience that God, our Heavenly Father doesn’t understand, comprehend, feel, know, or that He hasn’t experienced. Thus, He truly weeps with us and for us (Moses 7:29-40), though ultimately He must (because of His perfect love) stay His hand for the majority of this life’s struggles.
God gives us eternal gifts (Doctrine and Covenants 46:11; Moroni 10:8; Mosiah 2:20-21).
Nothing that we have is truly our own except our agency, and that too is a gift from God. This earth, God’s plan, our bodies, you name it—it belongs to God. Yet, He gives it all freely to us that we may become as He is. He even goes above and beyond our lives and our breath and day-to-day strengths and gives us unique talents, spiritual abilities, and gifts.
Not one of God’s children is identical to the other. Each prophet has different talents and strengths than another. Each mother has different strengths in mothering than another, and so forth. Even if two of God’s children appear to have similar talents, when you sit them down and compare how they apply them based on their own personalities and personal inspiration, they come up completely different. And those differences impact the world in important and necessary ways.
So, our commandments may be the same, but that is not the same as God treating us all the same. He treats us all the same inasmuch as He treats us all as individuals. The commandments of God are all the same because despite our unique differences, the path to Godhood is certain and sure. Just as no two doctors are alike, so also no two of us who seek to become godly are alike. The gifts God has bestowed upon us make each of us unique both now and in eternity.
God has a perfect sense of humor (Alma 55:32; St. John 20:4) and likes to have a righteously good time (Doctrine and Covenants 136:28; 25:12).
God does not trifle (make light of) with sacred things and He condemns irreverence, loud laughter (or rude laughter), and evil speaking (i.e. dirty jokes, demeaning sarcasm, etc). But, He does know how to have a good time in a way that uplifts all (never at the expense of any of His creations).
I remember, as a young teenager, hearing a talk by my elder sister when she talked about discovering God has a sense of humor. I remember listening intently as she read St. John 20:4 where a disciple takes the time to point out that he ran faster than Peter to the sepulcher. There was no derogatory statement about Peter’s “being out of shape” or “the slow one.” Yet, there in the NT is the personality of the disciple taking a brief moment to point out (like a little boy) that “he won.”
Then, reading in the Book of Mormon, it’s so funny to hear in your head the words, “And they were thus cautious that no poison should be administered among them; for if their wine would poison a Lamanite it would also poison a Nehite…” (Alma 55:32). I mean, think about it: the Lord helped Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon. He could have easily told Joseph to bypass this statement, or translate it differently. Yet, it remains an innocent bit of humor—for us.
I haven’t known any great prophets or leaders of our church (both male and female) who haven’t had a great sense of humor. They present all sorts of mortal ironies and understand how to couch real mortal suffering in proper context. They do it in a way that hits home with us, often teaches an important doctrine, and yet still allows us to laugh. It seems clear to me that God appreciates a good clean joke, and often, when we are exhausted and stressed beyond measure, it is a laugh that comes to our lips (instead of tears or anger) when we come upon something else that burns up our last nerve. This is because for a moment we see the futility of our mortal predicament in an eternal sense and we are led (by the Spirit, in my opinion) to laugh.
God wants us to sing and dance and show gratitude—all forms of good music and body movement. He even goes so far as to say that He loves music, it is a “prayer unto Him” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12)
Well, I could go on and on with all of our Heavenly Father’s perfect traits. But, in conclusion I wish to pay a short tribute to my earthly father. I have been blessed beyond measure to have a father who though imperfect was still wonderful enough that he made it easy for me to trust in and follow my Heavenly Father. I know my Dad didn’t start out flawless. But he was the type to embrace truth the moment he became aware of it. He was the type who when he saw right, adopted it and pressed onward without looking back and without any thought of loss or sacrifice to himself. He has never seemed to have any particularly earthly selfish agenda. He is, like Nathan of old, without guile.
My Dad always lived according to what he believed was right, the opinion of others meant nothing. He never seemed to ultimately care what others thought, but only what God thought. And, to my blessing, such goodness just seems to be a natural part of him. He is full of light. If you stand in his presence or sit by his side for enough minutes (it doesn’t take long), you can simply feel the love rolling off him in waves.
My Dad blessed me, coached me, cried with me, held me; picked me up off the floor of our home, a basketball court, the airport, and has moved heaven and earth to pick me up off the side of roads and countless other broken parts of my life. My Dad has always made his most important “work and glory” our family. He loves nothing more than to be with us and all of his many talents and joys seem to derive from that center. Which…seems to be the same as God, the Father (Moses 1:39).
My Dad doesn’t overlook sins, but he invites us to choose the right and “go and sin no more” with a kindness I can only describe as Christlike. His disciplines were always tears of disappointment, which had a more powerful effect upon me than “the sword.” I never could bare to see my Dad cry.
My Dad has been a father to countless “children” both inside and outside our family. And, if you don’t have a father like him on earth, I assure you that you have a Father even greater than the one I described, “in heaven.”
I testify that Fatherhood is real. “Our Father by whose name, all Fatherhood is known…” is God, the Eternal Father of heaven and earth, and you and me. He alone proves that being a father, and fatherhood, is important, necessary, and worth honoring. And, if on this holiday you struggle to honor your earthly father, then you most certainly have a Father in Heaven who is worthy of a prayer of gratitude and love—a spiritual Father’s Day card—for His perfect love for you.