Talk give on Father’s Day 6/19/2016 at church:
Happy Father’s Day! I am honored to speak today on such a special occasion honoring the amazing men in our lives.
As I think about the greatest gift my dad has blessed me with, it is his loving, humble Christ-like example. In fact, as I was lying awake one night and couldn’t sleep, I started making notes on my phone of things I’ve learned from my dad – soon I had over 50 of his favorite phrases, scriptures and memories and what I realized is my dad is so much a part of who I am – or at least who I want to be.
Elder Christofferson, in his Talk “Fathers,” said this of a father’s example: “Perhaps the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father. If by his example as well as his words a father can demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living, that father will have given his children the key to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”
From my faith, to my work ethic, to my perspective, I am my father’s daughter. And more importantly, he has taught me that I am my Heavenly Father’s daughter.
In paying tribute to my dad today, I pay tribute to all of you good men who through your small daily righteous choices, turn the hearts of your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to your Father in Heaven.
My Father has taught me to love with true Christ-like love and treat every person like the son and daughter of God that we all are, especially those Elder Kevin R. Duncan, calls “Saul-like individuals with Paul-like potential.” One of my dad’s favorite quotes by Truman G. Madsen says, “The cruelest thing you can do to a human being is to make him forget that he or she is the son or daughter of a king.” To this point, I have never heard my dad utter a negative word about anyone and he has lived true to David O. McKay’s counsel, “Let husband and wife never speak to one another in loud tones, unless the house is on fire.” My dad never raised his voice in our home. Not once.
My dad has always seen the potential in every single individual and was and is constantly serving and ministering to “the one.” From always making time (and I say making time because he has always been one of the busiest men I know) to drop off homemade bread or a Marie Calendar’s Pie to the downtrodden, to making his famous (or infamous) “goulash” for my mom and five kids to come home to after a long day of piano lessons, to when he was Stake President, he even took time (even though it took hours and hours) to interview every single child in the Poway Stake who had drawn a picture of the temple and written about how they could live worthy to go there someday. To starting his own Charity foundation that fixes club feet, funds orphanages, and hospitals and on and on.
As George Young said, “The greatness of a man can nearly always be measured by his willingness to be kind.” Which incidentally aligns with my dad’s favorite saying of President Monson’s formula for happiness: “First, fill your mind with truth; second, fill your life with service; and third, fill your heart with love.” (Be Thou an Example, 2001)
My father has also turned my heart to my Heavenly Father through his grateful heart.
In our culture today, it can be so easy to focus on what’s wrong or on what we don’t have, that we no longer appreciate what we do have and as a favorite quote of mine states, “we are only as happy as we are grateful.”
From a young age, my dad talked about those in need, those he had met in his travels – who didn’t know the luxury of running water or who suffered from leprosy or cleft palates. In every prayer my dad offered thanks for simple yet profound blessings such as food, water, shelter, eyesight, hearing, the ability to walk; and of course the profound peace and perspective of the restored gospel – all we take for granted. So although my two brothers and I were born with cystic fibrosis with a life expectancy of 19 at the time – we were taught to focus and be grateful for all the many many blessings in our lives.
As a favorite proverb of my dad’s (and President Hinckley’s) states, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” Even when it seems we have lost everything, we still have all that matters – we have the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ – we the reason to be grateful.
My dad is the quintessence of Elder Uchdorf’s counsel: “Don’t focus on the insignificant at the expense of the profound.” (Forget Me Not, 2011) To me that means focusing on family and faith above all else and not getting distracting by the things of this world.
As President N. Eldon Tanner cautioned us, “this craving for praise and popularity too often controls actions, and as people succumb they find themselves bending their character when they think they are only taking a bow.” (For They Loved the Praise of Men More Than the Praise of God, 1975)
Instead, my dad has always put family and his faith first while being one of the greatest yet humblest Christ-like leaders I know- never taking himself or his work too seriously (although a crazy hard worker), rolling through the office on heelies, starting rubber band fights during conference calls and hosting office Ding Dong roll competitions.
Growing up my dad would take turns taking us kids on business trips. I don’t know how many other high powered CEOs were used to children playing Barbies or Star Wars under their New York high rise conference tables during meetings, but my dad introduced them to it.
And upon every single hospitalization of mine through the years – over 20, my dad has always been right by my side with his scriptures, and a bulging briefcase of Reader’s Digests and Bits and Pieces to share. We have had so many meaningful talks about life with me looking at him from my hospital bed. Even when his business was struggling during my lung transplant, he was right by mynside. Because, Families are forever.
My dad has taught me to be diligent, in prayer, scripture study and work hard at your testimony. My dad is the wisest, most spiritual person I know, but he is always reading his scriptures. He pays the price to grow his testimony every day just as he did when he first wanted to find out if the church is true.
Above everything else, the most precious gift my Father has blessed me with is hope – hope in the future, hope because of the plan of the salvation and specifically hope through and because of the glorious atonement of Jesus Christ. No matter the situation, problem or trial, the atonement is bigger. The atonement is eternal.
My dad has always taught me to take the long view, frequently saying “don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff” and “so what?” and “if money can fix it, it’s not a problem (meaning it’s not of eternal consequence) and “we have everything to look forward to.”
In our long hospital talks, he has emphasized that this life is an opportunity to grow and to learn and the hard things in this life are merely part of our mortal test and the greatest thing about tests is that in the blink of an eye – they end!
Elder Orson F. Whitney reminds us, “No pain that we suffer, not trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility…it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”
Even with this knowledge, it can sometimes be hard to keep an eternal perspective when we are in the midst of heartache and challenges when there is no end in sight. After an especially trying time in my life, I asked my dad for a some of his favorite scriptures – their beautiful promises have comforted and strengthened me time and time again.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:3-4: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes; for the present time, the design of your god concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore, the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”
Revelations 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
And if it’s not happily ever after in the end – as in the case of my brother’s death – then it is not the end. The end is far beyond this temporarily life when we are all reunited in the hereafter with our kind and loving Father in Heaven, elder brother Jesus Christ and are families in perfect joy. Where our mortal test culminates with God rewarding the faithful in a perfect way. That is happily ever after.
Of speaking of life as a test, my dad said in one of his talks:
“Please excuse a personal reference. Just after the doctor gave Justin [(my older brother who passed away from cystic fibrosis)] what amounted to a death sentence [Justin] said,
“I feel bad for her [(meaning the doctor)] because it looks like that was hard for her to tell me”
“At that moment I thought, he does not belong here. He is ready to graduate, far more ready than I am. I learned a great lesson that day from a young man who knew who he was and where he belonged.
“It was hard for me but I have learned that sometimes we need to let go in order to hold on – the whisper I felt was he doesn’t belong here- he belongs with me…”
My brother Justin’s heart was turned to his Heavenly Father and indeed had peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. I know he was taught this by my father. As have I.
On this Father’s Day, I wish not only to thank my Father and all of you for you for your daily Christ like decisions – but to thank our Father in Heaven, who, by accepting the sacrifice of His firstborn, perfect Son, blessed all of His children.
As Elder Holland states, “I am a father, inadequate to be sure, but I cannot comprehend the burden it must have been for God in His heaven to witness the deep suffering and Crucifixion of His Beloved Son in such a manner. His every impulse and instinct must have been to stop it, to send angels to intervene—but He did not intervene. He endured what He saw because it was the only way that a saving, vicarious payment could be made for the sins of all His other children from Adam and Eve to the end of the world…”
“… When that unspeakable ordeal was finished, [Christ] uttered what must have been the most peaceful and deserved words of His mortal ministry. At the end of His agony, He whispered, “It is finished: … Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”8 Finally it was over. Finally, He could go home.” (The Hands of The Fathers, 1999)
Jesus Christ trusted his father and his will.
He knew the end was glorious,
And when it was finished, he could go home.
I am sure their reunion was glorious. Their embrace, powerful. loving.
I know that as we strive to follow our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness, we too will be able to feel his embrace.
As Elder Holland stated, “And, brethren, even when we are not “the best of men,” even in our limitations and inadequacy, we can keep making our way in the right direction because of the encouraging teachings set forth by a Divine Father and demonstrated by a Divine Son. With a Heavenly Father’s help we can leave more of a parental legacy than we suppose.”
Of this I pray and am most grateful for in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.