When you were married, you pledged your fidelity and gave your commitment to do your best as your wife’s husband and as the father of her children. These are sacred trusts, responsibilities that cannot be fulfilled casually or without considerable effort on your part.
The Proclamation to the World on the family declares that “by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and the protection of their families” (Ensign, November 1995, 102). By virtue of priesthood assignment, you preside in a “patriarchal quorum.” This means that you are to provide leadership by ensuring that family rituals take place—family prayer, family home evening, scripture study, blessings for children, and others. Occasionally you need to step back and observe your family enterprise from an objective standpoint to consider its strengths and weaknesses. Then you should step forward and do your utmost to influence these special spirits, your wife and children, along the path to eternal life. With your wife as your counselor, you direct and assist the family “quorum” to become an eternal family unit.
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Leading as Christ Would
Strong and capable leadership is required to bring your family back to God. Leadership means doing what needs to be done for the welfare of your family. After all, the plan calls for you and your wife to someday preside over and govern more than those of your own mortal family (thus the need for future kings and queens, priests and priestesses).
The Lord gave this caution to men who bear the priesthood: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39). Never imagine that your priesthood ordination authorizes you to be a tyrant or a boss. Avoid using your position and authority to demand that family members comply with your wishes. Fathers are to be teachers. They are to be leaders, not drill sergeants. They are to bless and lift, not command or demand. It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ you hold, and the model He presented was one of being willing to give His life for His Father’s family. Hopefully, you feel the same way about your wife and children. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood,” said the Lord to Joseph Smith, “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul” (D&C 121:41–42). Speaking of the need to lead with love, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this counsel to husbands:
A woman would have no fears of being imposed upon nor of any dictatorial measures nor of any improper demands if the husband is self-sacrificing and worthy. Certainly no woman would hesitate to give submission to her own truly righteous husband in everything. We are sometimes shocked to see the wife take over the leadership, naming the one to pray, the place to be, the things to do. Husbands are commanded: “. . . love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
Christ loved the Church and its people so much that he voluntarily endured persecution for them, suffered humiliating indignities for them, stoically withstood pain and physical abuse for them, and finally gave his precious life for them.
When the husband is ready to treat his household in that manner, not only the wife, but also all the family will respond to his leadership.
Certainly, if fathers are to be respected, they must merit respect; if they are to be loved, they must be consistent, lovable, understanding, and kind, and must honor their priesthood (Improvement Era, June 1965, 514).
Your duty, then, is to serve your family in such a way that they cherish your loving leadership. Women and children are usually more than willing to follow a righteous husband and father, one who is kind and charitable. Men are often stereotyped as rough, tough, and insensitive creatures unaware of the needs and feelings of women and little children. You can destroy that stereotype. Your wife wants you to be tender and sensitive to her and the children’s needs.
Meeting the Spiritual Needs of Your Wife
Your wife needs your support in order to deal with the challenges of her great stewardship of motherhood: childbirth, care-giving, midnight feedings, colicky babies, cranky toddlers, limited funds, time demands, and challenging teenagers. When she feels loved by you, her resolve and ability to do all that is required increases. President Ezra Taft Benson gave this perspective:
“Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). To my knowledge there is only one other thing in all scripture that we are commanded to love with all our hearts, and that is God Himself. Think what that means!
This kind of love can be shown for your wives in so many ways. First and foremost, nothing except God Himself takes priority over your wife in your life—not work, not recreation, not hobbies. Your wife is your precious, eternal helpmate—your companion.
What does it mean to love someone with all your heart? It means to love with all your emotional feelings and with all your devotion. Surely when you love your wife with all your heart, you cannot demean her, criticize her, find fault with her, or abuse her by words, sullen behavior, or actions.
What does it mean to “cleave unto her”? It means to stay close to her, to be loyal and faithful to her, to communicate with her, and to express your love for her.
Love means being sensitive to her feelings and needs. You should be grateful that she is the mother of your children and the queen of your home, grateful that she has chosen . . . to bear, to nourish, to love, and to train your children—as the noblest calling of all. . . . (Ensign, November 1987, 49–50).
As your sweetheart’s husband, you are responsible to be the best companion and father you can be. You have the vital and even sacred duty to help meet your wife’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.
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Pray for success in your efforts. To succeed as the patriarch in your home you will be driven to your knees many times seeking divine guidance in behalf of your family. Never cease trying to influence your family members to be better. “In this life a father is never released from his responsibility,” said Elder H. Burke Peterson. “We call bishops, and they serve for a time and are released. Stake presidents likewise are called, serve, and are released. But a father’s calling is an eternal calling if he lives worthily” (Ensign, November 1977, 87).