What General Authorities Say About Fatherhood

Monson family photo. Photo from LDS.org.

Thomas S. Monson

President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A funny story from young fatherhood, from "Peace, Be Still":

Brethren, there is one responsibility that no man can evade. That is the effect of personal influence.

Our influence is surely felt in our respective families. Sometimes we fathers forget that once we, too, were boys, and boys at times can be vexing to parents.

I recall how much, as a youngster, I liked dogs. One day I took my wagon and placed a wooden orange crate in it and went looking for dogs. At that time dogs were everywhere to be found: at school, walking along the sidewalks, or exploring vacant lots, of which there were many. As I would find a dog and capture it, I placed it in the crate, took it home, locked it in the coal shed, and turned the latch on the door. That day I think I brought home six dogs of varying sizes and made them my prisoners after this fashion. I had no idea what I would do with all those dogs, so I didn’t reveal my deed to anyone.

Dad came home from work and, as was his custom, took the coal bucket and went to the coal shed to fill it. Can you imagine his shock and utter consternation as he opened the door and immediately faced six dogs, all attempting to escape at once? As I recall, Dad flushed a little bit, and then he calmed down and quietly told me, “Tommy, coal sheds are for coal. Other people’s dogs rightfully belong to them.” By observing him, I learned a lesson in patience and calmness.

It is a good thing I did, for a similar event occurred in my life with our youngest son, Clark.

Clark has always liked animals, birds, reptiles—anything that is alive. Sometimes that resulted in a little chaos in our home. One day in his boyhood he came home from Provo Canyon with a water snake, which he named Herman.

Right off the bat Herman got lost. Sister Monson found him in the silverware drawer. Water snakes have a way of being where you least expect them. Well, Clark moved Herman to the bathtub, put a plug in the drain, put a little water in, and had a sign taped to the back of the tub which read, “Don’t use this tub. It belongs to Herman.” So we had to use the other bathroom while Herman occupied that sequestered place.

But then one day, to our amazement, Herman disappeared. His name should have been Houdini. He was gone! So the next day Sister Monson cleaned up the tub and prepared it for normal use. Several days went by.

One evening I decided it was time to take a leisurely bath; so I filled the tub with a lot of warm water, and then I peacefully lay down in the tub for a few moments of relaxation. I was lying there just pondering, when the soapy water reached the level of the overflow drain and began to flow through it. Can you imagine my surprise when, with my eyes focused on that drain, Herman came swimming out, right for my face? I yelled out to my wife, “Frances! Here comes Herman!”

Well, Herman was captured again, put in a foolproof box, and we made a little excursion to Vivian Park in Provo Canyon and there released Herman into the beautiful waters of the South Fork Creek. Herman was never again to be seen by us.

A touching story of the unexpected things children remember, from "Today Determines Tomorrow":

Years ago when our youngest son, Clark, was attending a religion class at Brigham Young University, the instructor, during a lecture, asked Clark, “What is an example of life with your father that you best remember?”

The instructor later wrote to me and told me of the reply which Clark had given to the class. Said Clark: “When I was a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood, my dad and I went pheasant hunting near Malad, Idaho. The day was Monday—the last day of the season. We walked through countless fields in search of pheasants but only saw a few, and these we missed. Dad then said to me, ‘Clark, let’s unload our guns, and we’ll place them in this ditch. Then we’ll kneel down to pray.’ I thought Dad would pray for more pheasants, but I was wrong. He explained to me that Elder Richard L. Evans was gravely ill and that at 12 noon on that particular Monday the members of the Quorum of the Twelve—wherever they may be at the time—were to kneel and, in a way, together unite in a fervent prayer of faith for Elder Evans. Removing our caps, we knelt, we prayed.”

I well remember the occasion, but I never dreamed a son was watching, was learning, was building his own testimony.

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