Greetings, fellow fathers. Can you think of anything more magnificent than being a father? As far back as I can remember, I’ve longed to become a father. I dreamed of finding a beautiful wife, establishing a home together and filling it with children. One reason my desire for fatherhood may have been so strong was that, as the youngest of nine children, I didn’t have the joy of having younger brothers and sisters.
I had a friend named Herbie Pawloski, the middle child of a family of 11. Whenever I visited Herbie and his family, I'd see all the little children and become a bit jealous of him. At Christmastime, my envy would be most intense. Both Herbie and I had become too old to get toys for Christmas. But because of his little brothers and sisters, on Christmas morning his house was still filled with toys--and mine was not. I could hardly bear such inequality.
Perhaps this was one reason I had such an intense desire to grow up and beocme the father to a whole flock of small children. I could envision no greater thrill than playing with them and their Christmas toys (the ones I'd always wanted), and to hear them call me, "Daddy."
To accomplish this dream, I had to wait several long years until I was fully ready for this, the greatest of all responsibilities. As time passed, my desire to become a husband and father became even stronger.
When two rewarding years of missionary life ended, I felt ready, with the Lord’s help, to make my dreams come true. The exciting search for my future wife intensified.
I found a girl who loved me as I loved her. I asked her to marry me and she accepted. In the temple, we became eternal partners.
A few months after our wedding, I came home from work to help my wife prepare our evening meal. As I peeled the potatoes with a paring knife, she was nearby, opening a can of peas. I’ll never forget the words she spoke on that great moment in history. It was my single most fulfilling moment. She said, “I went to the doctor today. We’re going to have a baby.”
Her words put me in a state of shock. I had to quit peeling the potatoes—my hands trembled with such excitement the task became too dangerous to continue. My heart pounded within me. I jumped up and down with glee. I hugged my wife. My dream was coming true. I was going to become a father! I wanted to shout the news to the entire world.
As the time neared for the baby’s arrival, I was drafted into the army and stationed in Arkansas. I had to live on the base while Marilyn lived in town, 12 miles away.
The army doctor told us that, when Marilyn came to the base hospital to have the child, I’d be notified so I could be there. But on the night of the birth, I wasn’t notified. The next day I stood outside the army mess hall waiting for the noon meal. Someone came to me and said, “Durrant, you’re to call the hospital.” I crossed the road to a phone booth and made the call.
The nurse announced the long-awaited, magnificent message, “Private Durrant, you’re the father of a fine baby son.”
Tears of joy filled my eyes. I bounded from the phone booth with the agility of a professional athlete. I half-ran, half-jumped along as I shouted to friends who had known the even was near, “I’ve got a son! I’ve got a son! I’m a father! I’m a father!” My buddies cheered as I ran the few blocks to the post hospital. I recall thinking as I neared the hospital, “I’d like to light a new star in the sky to announce the arrival of my son.” Nothing short of that seemed adequate to express my happiness.
Dashing down the hospital hall, I saw the windows of the newborn baby room. I stopped and looked in. There, among three or four other infants, was a baby whose crib bore the name, “Durrant.” My entire soul tingled with a spiritual thrill. This was my son! I was his father!
I went to Marilyn’s room. She seemed more beautiful than ever. As we talked of the wonders of what had just happened, I said, “That little boy—he looks just like me.” She squeezed my hand and said, “I know, but let’s keep him anyway.”
Thus, our firstborn was delivered to us in an army hospital. The cost was just eight dollars. He's been worth every cent of that, and a million more.
I know that you, as a father, could tell your own exciting story about the arrival of your first child. I'm sure you'll agree when a husband and wife say, with joy, "Unto us a child is born."
Our second son was our third child. At the time, I was teaching seminary in Brigham City, Utah. It was my birthday. I was called to the phone.
Marilyn, who was nearing the time of delivery said, “I believe I have a special birthday present for you. Come home, and we’ll go to the hospital to get the gift.”
Excited, I told my students, “Teach yourselves,” and away I went. Soon we were at the hospital. She was taken away to be prepared for birth and I went to the father’s waiting room.
A half-hour or so later, I was reading a magazine when the doctor interrupted to ask, “Would you like to come into the delivery room?”
Shocked, I replied, “Well, I would—but as you can see, I’m reading this Sports Illustrated magazine.”
“Maybe you could read that later,” he kindly suggested. I stammered and said, “I’m afraid I might get a little woozy in there. I’m not too good at such things.”
Gently, he said, “Come on in. Marilyn wants you here, and I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
Out of excuses, I followed along, praying silently that all would be well. What followed was the most unforgettable experience of my life. The doctor explained all that was happening. My heart filled with the warmth of the Spirit of the Lord. I watched in awe as the baby was born.
The doctor held him by his ankles. For a few seconds there was silence, and then the baby cried. Seeing that baby and hearing his first cries caused a sensation in my soul that was more than my emotions could bear without tears. I cried, too. I’ve never witnessed such a miracle. Birth is indeed the most glorious and wonderful of all events.
With these two births—and six others that were equally thrilling—we have been blessed to receive from heaven eight choice spirits who have become part of our family. To be co-creators with our beloved wives is an honor beyond all others, and a responsibility that dwarfs all other responsibilities. Being trusted by our Heavenly Father to receive one of his own spirit children is a most divine opportunity. To prepare that child to someday return to his or her heavenly home is a responsibility beyond description.
As I think of the honor of fatherhood, I recall that at work I was once asked to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions was, “What honors have you received?” As I read, I though, “I’ll leave this question until later.”
After filling out all the other blanks, I returned to the words, “What honors have you received?” I could think of none. I’d never been all-state in anything, nor had I been elected to any office. Feeling slightly diminished, I left the item blank. Before sealing the envelope, I paused and then picked up my pen.
In response to the question, I wrote these glorious words, “The Melchizedek Priesthood.” My soul stirred as I considered once again the honor and thrill of being an Elder. But having written that, I knew I must write more so I added the word “husband” to the blank.
It’s an indescribable joy to be a husband, and to strive to be worthy of the honor of having a woman love and respect you. Having listed these two supreme honors, I reverently wrote the sacred word, “father.”
When seen with eyes that really see, such honors make other honors men may earn shrink and hide in the wings.
It’s a humbling experience to address all of you who share with me the sacred title of father. As someone has said, there is no word that describes a higher title, for it is by the name, “Father,” that even God has chosen to be known.
I, as you do, tremble a bit as I consider the awesome task of filling the role of father. I take comfort in two things: (1)we have to take things only one step at a time, and (2)God, our Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Father of our children, will help make us equal to the responsibility.
And so, my fellow fathers, I know that we can do it. We can receive a newborn child, and we can fulfill the responsibility of being the kind of father that child deserves. As we meet with fiath and love this mightiest of all responsibilities, we can become great. For there is none so great as he whose deepest desire is to be a good and worthy father.
Problems will arise, as they did for the great prophet and father, Lehi. Sometimes we will suffer heartache, as did he. But through it all, if we continue in our righteous desires, our children will say of us, as Lehi's did of him, "Having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught in all the learning of my father."