President Russell M. Nelson
President Nelson's family. Photo from Insights From a Prophet's Life: Russell M. Nelson.
President Russell M. Nelson had an intensely busy life as a surgeon whose expertise was in demand around the world. He also served in demanding leadership roles in the Church—stake president, general auxiliary president, and regional representative, to name a few. And yet somehow his large family did not feel deprived of his attention. In fact, they felt they were his first priority. Much of the credit goes to Dantzel. President M. Russell Ballard, who was five years behind Russell Nelson through high school and college, later reflected: “How he was able to do everything he did with the heavy schedule he carried in his surgical and medical practice is a miracle. He is a miracle man when it comes to getting things done” (Church News/KSL Interview, January 9, 2018). Years later, when she was a mother, fifth daughter Sylvia would explain: “I think my father’s secret was that when he’s at work, he’s 100 percent at work. When he’s home, he’s 100 percent at home. When he’s at church, he’s 100 percent there. I think that’s how he balanced things. I don’t know—he seemed to do it effortlessly” (Church News/KSL Interview, January 10, 2018). President Nelson taught his nine daughters and his son to ski and also water-ski, balancing them between his legs on those first runs down the mountain or on the lake. He read to them when they were young, and he taught them to ride bicycles and drive a car. During the more than 20 years there were only daughters in the family, he showed his girls how to mow the lawn and shovel snow from the sidewalks. . . . It was a team effort. For twenty years, Dantzel sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which meant she was gone from home every Sunday morning. “Daddy would take over and try to curl our hair and get everybody dressed,” said Sylvia. “He’s very prompt, though. He is never, ever late. He’d be out in the car waiting for us to go to church. If we weren’t there when he had to go, we’d have to walk. We only needed to learn that lesson one time. He kept the home fires burning when Mother was gone. That’s the kind of relationship they had. It was very sweet and very giving to each other.
Adapted from Insights From a Prophet's Life: Russell M. Nelson.
President Dallin H. Oaks
President Oaks with his wife and grandchildren. Photo from Twitter.
Now I will speak of priesthood in the family. I begin with keys. The principle that priesthood authority can be exercised only under the direction of the one who holds the keys for that function is fundamental in the Church but does not apply to the exercise of priesthood authority in the family. A father who holds the priesthood presides in his family by the authority of the priesthood he holds. He has no need to have the direction or approval of priesthood keys in order to counsel the members of his family, hold family meetings, give priesthood blessings to his wife and children, or give healing blessings to family members or others. If fathers would magnify their priesthood in their own family, it would further the mission of the Church as much as anything else they might do. Fathers who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood should keep the commandments so they will have the power of the priesthood to give blessings to their family members. Fathers should also cultivate loving family relationships so that family members will want to ask their fathers for blessings. And parents should encourage more priesthood blessings in the family.
Quoted from President Oaks's April 2018 general conference address "The Powers of the Priesthood"
President Henry B. Eyring
Image from Facebook.
Henry knew from experience that success had a price, and he taught his boys to work hard. When his second son was a college student majoring in physics, Henry warned, “Hal, you’ll never amount to anything unless you learn to work until your ears ring.” But Henry taught the importance of work and other character traits more by example than by exhortation. He was forgiving and inclined to encourage through praise, as his own parents had been. His motto in giving feedback was, “Life will knock them down; I try to build them up.” Consistent with this motto, Henry took his sons’ academic and athletic successes as validation of the boys’ greatness, while largely overlooking their failures. When teenaged Ted and Hal used a home painting kit to improve the appearance of the family’s old ’37 Ford, Henry made no complaint about the swirls and streaks their mitts made in the blue paint they had chosen. He drove the car until it stopped running years later, unconcerned for its appearance and without any sign of chagrin for his sons’ failed beautification efforts. . . . Hal felt that empathy many times, including once after a sacrament meeting he had struggled to enjoy. In 1988, at a fireside at Brigham Young University, he told the story of that tedious meeting and his father’s understanding response: Years ago I was sitting in a sacrament meeting with my father. He seemed to be enjoying what I thought was a terrible talk. I watched my father, and to my amazement, his face was beaming as the speaker droned on. I kept stealing looks back at him, and sure enough, through the whole thing he had this beatific smile. Our home was near enough to the ward that we walked home. I remember walking with my father on the shoulder of the road that wasn’t paved. I kicked a stone ahead of me as I plotted what I would do next. I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting. He said it was wonderful. Now I really had a problem. My father had a wonderful sense of humor, but you didn’t want to push it too far. I was puzzled. I was trying to summon up enough courage to ask him how I could have such a different opinion of that meeting and that speaker. Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind, because he started to laugh. He said: “Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.” He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along. Then, with that special self-deprecating chuckle of his, he said, “Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting.”
Excerpted from I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring.
Elder M. Russell Ballard
With his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, by his side, Elder M. Russell Ballard tells a story to his family members during a council meeting. Photo by Nick Wagner, Deseret News.
You see, we’re all on a journey. Dads are a little further down the road, but none of us has yet arrived at our final destination. We are all in the process of becoming who we will one day be. Fathers and sons can play a critical role in helping each other become the best that they can be. . . . Fathers, you are the primary model of manhood for your sons. You are their most meaningful mentor, and believe it or not, you are their hero in countless ways. Your words and your example are a great influence on them. . . . Let’s talk about some things you can do to enhance your relationship with your sons. You will notice that there is some linkage between the three suggestions I am going to give you and the suggestions I just gave your sons. That isn’t coincidental. First, fathers, listen to your sons—really listen to them. Ask the right kind of questions, and listen to what your sons have to say each time you have a few minutes together. You need to know—not to guess but to know—what is going on in your son’s life. Don’t assume that you know how he feels just because you were young once. Your sons live in a very different world from the one in which you grew up. As they share with you what’s going on, you will have to listen very carefully and without being judgmental in order to understand what they are thinking and experiencing. Find your own best way to connect. Some fathers like to take their sons fishing or to a sporting event. Others like to go on a quiet drive or work side by side in the yard. Some find their sons enjoy conversations at night just before going to bed. Do whatever works best for you. A one-on-one relationship should be a routine part of your stewardship with your sons. Every father needs at least one focused, quality conversation with his sons every month during which they talk about specific things such as school, friends, feelings, video games, text messaging, worthiness, faith, and testimony. Where or when this happens isn’t nearly as important as the fact that it happens. And oh, how fathers need to listen. Remember, conversation where you do 90 percent of the talking is not a conversation. Use the word “feel” as often as you comfortably can in your discussions with your sons. Ask: “How do you feel about what you’re learning in that class?” “How do you feel about what your friend said?” “How do you feel about your priesthood and the Church?” Don’t think you have to try to fix everything or solve everything during these visits. Most of the time, the best thing you can do is just listen. Fathers who listen more than they talk find that their sons share more about what is really going on in their lives. Dads, listen to your sons. Second, pray with and for your sons. Give them priesthood blessings. A son who is worried about a big exam or a special event will surely benefit from a father’s priesthood blessing. Occasions like the start of a new school year, a birthday, or as he begins to date may be opportune times to call upon the Lord to bless your son. One-on-one prayer and the sharing of testimonies can draw you closer to each other as well as closer to the Lord. I am mindful that many of you fathers suffer heartache over sons who have strayed and are being captured by the world, just as Alma and Mosiah worried about their sons. Continue to do all you can to maintain strong family relationships. Never give up, even when fervent prayer in their behalf is all you can do. These precious sons of yours are your sons forever! Fathers, pray with and bless your sons. Third, dare to have the “big talks” with your sons. You know what I mean: talks about drugs and drinking, about the dangers of today’s media—the Internet, cyber technologies, and pornography—and about priesthood worthiness, respect for girls, and moral cleanliness. While these should not be the only subjects you talk about with your sons, please don’t shy away from them. Your boys need your counsel, guidance, and input on these subjects. As you talk about these very important matters, you will find that the trust between you will flourish. . . . I’m grateful for my sons and my sons-in-law, who have taught me so much, and I pray now that our Heavenly Father will bless all of us as fathers and sons that we will honor our priesthood and that we will love one another by making relationships with each other one of the great, eternal priorities of our lives. I so pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Quoted from President Ballard's October 2009 general conference talk "Fathers and Sons: A Remarkable Relationship"
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Photo from Deseret News.
As a father, I wonder if I and all other fathers could do more to build a sweeter, stronger relationship with our sons and daughters here on earth. Dads, is it too bold to hope that our children might have some small portion of the feeling for us that the Divine Son felt for His Father? Might we earn more of that love by trying to be more of what God was to His child? In any case, we do know that a young person’s developing concept of God centers on characteristics observed in that child’s earthly parents. . . . I don’t want this talk to sound ungrateful, nor is it meant to make fathers feel they have fallen short. Most fathers are wonderful. Most dads are terrific. I don’t know who wrote these little storybook verses remembered from my youth, but they go something like this: Only a dad with a tired face, Coming home from the daily race, Toiling and striving from day to day, Facing whatever may come his way, Glad in his heart that his own rejoice To see him come home and to hear his voice. Only a dad, but he gives his all, Smoothing the way for his children small, Doing with courage so stern and grim The deeds that his father did for him. These are the lines that for him I pen, Only a dad—but the best of men. 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. . . . I bear my witness this Easter weekend that “great things [will] be required at the hand[s] of [the] fathers,” as the Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Surely the greatest of those things will be to have done all they could for the happiness and spiritual safety of the children they are to nurture.
Quoted from Elder Holland's April 1999 general conference address titled "The Hands of the Fathers"
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Asked about her father and his new calling, Antje replied, “We are blessed to have such wonderful parents. When we were younger, I didn’t realize how busy my father was because he always had time for us. We were never a second priority. When we have a problem, we seek his advice. And our children feel that Opa will know the answer, whatever the question may be. Now that he is in the First Presidency, we feel an even greater responsibility to do our very best.” Guido’s recollections are quite similar. He spoke of an occasion several years ago when he, his sister, mother, and father all took skiing lessons. That was the beginning of an enjoyable family tradition—skiing together. Guido realized that his father’s vocation as an airline pilot necessitated his absence from home for lengthy periods. “But when Dad returned home, we played, we talked, and we laughed together,” Guido added. “That was quality time!”
Elder David A. Bednar
Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Elder Bednar's relationship with his father taught him that there are many good people who are not members of the Church. A tool and dye maker, Anthony G. Bednar was a man of order and priority. There was an individual space on the wall of the family garage for every tool his father owned, with the shape of the tool drawn on the wall. "He made wooden furniture for our home, and he had all these metal doodads that he made." In fact, when Elder Bednar spoke at general conference the day after he was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve, he was wearing cuff links with tiger's-eye, a semiprecious stone, his father made years ago. His dad was also a devoted father. Although he was almost 60 years old when his youngest son was a teenager, he was the receiver for young David Bednar, a high school football quarterback, running pass patterns in the family yard in San Leandro. His mother, Lavina Whitney Bednar, was "steady," a word he often uses to describe her. She was steady as she reared the three Bednar children in the Church, something fully supported by her husband. And she was steady through the years as she prayed for her husband to be baptized and her family sealed in the temple. Elder Bednar, as a young man, also prayed for the same things. He continued to pray while teaching others the gospel in Germany as a full-time missionary. "We had a bit of a tradition for a time. I think I ended every letter that I wrote home from the mission field with, 'Dad, I love you. When are you going to be baptized?' " The years passed. Young David Bednar returned from his mission, entered BYU and met a young woman while playing flag football for family home evening. He and Susan Robinson were married March 20, 1975, in the Salt Lake Temple. Three sons have come from their union, and they now also have three granddaughters. Finally, in 1979, while studying for his doctorate at Purdue University, he received the phone call for which he had long prayed. It was his dad in California saying. "What are you doing this Saturday? I need you home to baptize me." "We always talk about fathers blessing their children and performing the ordinances, and those are wonderful experiences. But I've had the experience of providing all those ordinances for my dad," Elder Bednar said quietly. His mother and father, now deceased, were sealed, along with their children. Elder Bednar has tried to carry on with his sons his father's tradition of hands-on fathering. In fact, Sister Bednar laughs when she points out that their home in Arkansas never had trees in the back yard. It was always a football or baseball field for not only their own children but also for the neighborhood children who lined up for football passes from "Mr. Bednar." "There are some things that are nice. There are a few things that are absolutely necessary," Elder Bednar said of career accomplishments being lower in priority to family.
Quoted from "Legacy of family, Faith is Foundation of Life"
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
When our children were small, my wife, Mary, and I decided to follow a tradition which my father taught when I was a child. He would meet with us individually to help us set goals in various aspects of our lives and then teach us how Church, school, and extracurricular activities would help us achieve those goals. He had three rules: 1. We needed to have worthwhile goals. 2. We could change our goals at any time. 3. Whatever goal we chose, we had to diligently work towards it. Having been the beneficiary of this tradition, I had the desire to engage in this practice with my children. When our son, Larry, was five years old, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said he wanted to be a doctor like his Uncle Joe. Larry had experienced a serious operation and had acquired great respect for doctors, especially his Uncle Joe. I proceeded to tell Larry how all the worthwhile things he was doing would help prepare him to be a doctor. Several months later, I asked him again what he would like to be. This time he said he wanted to be an airline pilot. Changing the goal was fine, so I proceeded to explain how his various activities would help him achieve this goal. Almost as an afterthought I said, “Larry, last time we talked you wanted to be a doctor. What has changed your mind?” He answered, “I still like the idea of being a doctor, but I have noticed that Uncle Joe works on Saturday mornings, and I wouldn’t want to miss Saturday Morning Cartoons.” Since that time our family has labeled a distraction from a worthwhile goal as a Saturday Morning Cartoon.
Quoted from Elder Cook's October 1996 General Conference address "Rejoice"
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Elder Christofferson married Kathy Jacob on May 28, 1968. Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Certainly teaching the gospel is a shared duty between fathers and mothers, but the Lord is clear that He expects fathers to lead out in making it a high priority. (And let’s remember that informal conversations, working and playing together, and listening are important elements of teaching.) The Lord expects fathers to help shape their children, and children want and need a model. I myself was blessed with an exemplary father. I recall that when I was a boy of about 12, my father became a candidate for the city council in our rather small community. He did not mount an extensive election campaign—all I remember was that Dad had my brothers and me distribute copies of a flyer door to door, urging people to vote for Paul Christofferson. There were a number of adults that I handed a flyer to who remarked that Paul was a good and honest man and that they would have no problem voting for him. My young boy heart swelled with pride in my father. It gave me confidence and a desire to follow in his footsteps. He was not perfect—no one is—but he was upright and good and an aspirational example for a son.
Quoted from Elder Christofferson's April 2016 General conference talk "Fathers"
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Elder Neil L. Andersen with is grandchildren. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
The Andersens’ oldest daughter, Camey Hadlock, says, “Daddy [an endearing term still used by his sons and daughters] always made time for the children. For example, he took each one individually to breakfast with him once a month. He let us pick the place for breakfast and the topics we would talk about. We looked so forward to having his undivided attention.” Derek Andersen remembers his dad making time to play: “Growing up, we loved playing basketball as a family. He’d come home from work, and we’d team up against my older brother and play basketball together.” Daughter Kristen Ebert recalls that even though her father was extremely busy, “he always had time to listen and to give sound advice.” The Andersens were so faithful in having family scripture study and singing a hymn each night that the children would do it alone if their parents returned home late. For family home evening, the Andersens would often study the conference talks in the Ensign. “It was clear that when the prophet spoke, we listened,” Derek says.
Quoted from "Elder Neil L. Andersen: Man of Faith"
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Elder Ronald A. Rasband with his family. Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Despite his busy schedule, Ron tried to be home on weekends. And when he traveled, he would occasionally take family members with him. “When he was home, he really made the children feel special and loved,” Melanie says. He attended their activities and sporting events whenever possible. Jenessa MacPherson, one of the couple’s four daughters, says her father’s Sunday ecclesiastical duties often kept him from sitting with the family during Church meetings. “We would fight over who got to sit by him at church because it was such a novel thing to have him there,” she says. “I remember putting my hand in his hand and thinking to myself, ‘If I could just learn to be like him, I’ll be on the right track and will be becoming more like the Savior.’ He was always my hero.” The couple’s son, Christian, recalls fond memories of “father-son time.” Friends came and went because of the family’s frequent moves, he says, “but my father was always my best friend”—albeit a competitive one. Whether shooting a basketball with Christian, playing a board game with his daughters, or fishing with family and friends, Ron loved to win. “While we were growing up, he would never let anyone win,” Christian says. “We had to earn it, but it made us better. And the tradition continues with his loving grandchildren.”
Quoted from "Elder Ronald A. Rasband: Gifted Leader, Devoted Father"
Elder Gary E. Stevenson
Photograph courtesy of the Stevenson family, taken from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
When Gary Stevenson was about 11 years old, his father took him hiking. “I was jumping from rock to rock in front of my father,” he remembers. “I intended to climb a large rock and look down. As I clambered toward the top of the boulder, he grabbed me by my belt and pulled me down. “‘What’s the matter?’ I said, and he replied, ‘Don’t climb on that rock. Let’s just keep on the trail.’ A moment later as we looked down from higher up the trail, we could see a rattlesnake on top of the rock, basking in the sun. “‘That’s why I pulled you back,’ my father explained. “Later as we were driving home, I knew he was waiting for me to ask the question: ‘How did you know the snake was there?’ He said, ‘Let me teach you about the Holy Ghost.’ We had an impromptu lesson about the roles the Holy Ghost can have in our lives: protector, comforter, and one who testifies. ‘In this case,’ my father shared, ‘the Holy Ghost was protecting you through me. He warned me to pull you away.’” This experience, though simple, helped Elder Stevenson to understand that when promptings of the Spirit are received, they should be accepted and acted upon. It was one of many lessons gleaned from his father.
Quoted from "Elder Gary E. Stevenson: An Understanding Heart"
Elder Dale G. Renlund
Photo from Facebook.
Life couldn’t get any busier for Dale and Ruth Renlund. They were in their late 20s, living in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Dale had completed medical school at the University of Utah. He and Ruth had moved across the country so he could undertake a demanding and prestigious medical residency at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. They had a beautiful young daughter, Ashley. His precious wife, Ruth, was undergoing cancer treatments, and Dale had obediently accepted a call to serve as bishop. As he visited ward members, Dale sometimes took Ashley with him. One day they visited a less-active member. “I knew that no one would be able to turn away this adorable little girl at my side,” remembers Elder Renlund. He knocked on the door of a man who had angrily dismissed Bishop Renlund’s counselor sometime earlier. When the man opened the door, he was so large he filled the door frame. He glared at Bishop Renlund. Four-year-old Ashley blurted out, “Well, can we come in or what?” Surprisingly, the man said, “I guess so. Come in.” When they were seated inside, the man told Bishop Renlund he did not believe the Church was true, nor did he believe in Jesus Christ. He kept talking angrily while Ashley played with a toy. Finally she got off her chair, cupped her hand to her father’s ear, and whispered loudly, “Daddy, tell him the truth.” So he did. Bishop Renlund bore his testimony to the man. He recalls, “The man’s attitude softened, and the Spirit came into his home.”
Quoted from "Elder Dale G. Renlund: An Obedient Servant"
Elder Gerrit W. Gong
Members of Elder Gerrit W. Gong’s family. Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Dear brothers and sisters, when our sons were very young, I told them bedtime stories about beagle puppies and hummed bedtime hymns, including “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Sometimes I playfully changed the words: Now it’s time to go to sleep—hallelujah. Usually our sons fell asleep quickly; or at least they knew if I thought they were asleep, I would stop singing.
Quotes from Elder Gong's April 2018 general conference address "Christ the Lord is Risen Today"
Elder Ulisses S. Soares
Image from ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Gustavo, the Soareses’ oldest child, remembers the night when, as a boy, he disobeyed his parents and slipped away to check out an annual celebration in their São Paulo neighborhood known as Festa Junina. “I was in the middle of a large crowd having a good time when I heard an announcer call me up to the front,” he says. “That’s when I saw my dad.” His parents had been worried sick, but rather than scold Gustavo, Ulisses hugged him tight. “We had a serious conversation about me getting lost, but my parents treated me with respect,” Gustavo recalls. “I felt protected, and I knew that they really loved me.” Ulisses is devoted to his family. Despite his busy work and travel schedule over the years, he made time to build relationships with his children. When Elder Soares was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on March 31, 2018, perhaps no one was more surprised than Gustavo and his two sisters, Lethicia Caravello and Nathalia Soares Avila. But if love, hard work, empathy, and humility qualify a person for the apostleship, they say, they can understand why the Lord called their father. “When Jesus called His Apostles, He didn’t pick the most knowledgeable Pharisees, He picked fishermen,” says Lethicia. “My father and mother are like that. They totally trust the Lord, and He uses them to fulfill His works because He knows they are selfless, willing to work hard, and humble enough to accept correction.” Their father’s “big heart” will help him as he goes forward as one of the Savior’s special witnesses, adds Nathalia. “He has the heart for it,” she says. “He feels heaven’s influence, and he loves everybody and wants to do what’s right."
Quoted from "Elder Ulisses Soares: A Man without Guile"