Although my single status keeps me from fatherhood as of yet I have of late been pondering the position to a great degree. One of my professors lost his father last week. My nearest brother has recently become a father. I am attempting to teach young couples at church how to be good fathers. Plus I feel like my entire past has been one experience after another designed to make in to a better father. Much of my education was designed for it, the boy scouts certainly were an excellent preparation. My primary motive as a student has always been to someday become a good provider. That desire has influenced my selection of activities and even my major was altered because I thought I would be a better father because of it. I know this sounds sappy at this point in my life but I have been very surprised lately as all that training and soon instinctive power has begun to manifest itself.

Over the summer in Jerusalem one of my joys was my role as FHE leader or “dad.” Suddenly I found myself conducting Family Home Evening the same way my father always had. Suddenly I had eight “kids”. Now the church provides a lot of ways to keep track of souls in their quest to save all 100 sheep. Singles are particularly well watched for because it is so very easy to overlook them. Anyway, there are home teachers, visiting teachers, Bishops, quorum and Relief Society presidents, teachers in Sunday school (who are encouraged to watch over their students), regular teachers, friends, roommates, neighbors, and the ever present mandate to mourn with those who mourn no matter what your relation to them. Filling the role of Father I decide first of all that I didn’t care if I was technically a FHE Coordinator or whatever the actually title was, I was going to care as a father, even if some of my kids were older then I. Thus I took special pains to watch after my 6 daughters and 2 sons though they rarely needed any help from me. In any case, I feel better when I feel that someone needs me or that I am performing some sort of service. This might have caused me to awaken more powerful instincts then I intended. Through the course of the service I began to love them all quite dearly.

I am proud to say that two of my daughters are engaged and one has graduated (not these ones per-say). They are all wonderful children and I will be anxious to watch their progress through life. I was very surprised when at a recent reunion of Jerusalem students the boyfriend of one of my daughters came up to me and thanked me for my attention over the summer. I cannot account for how proper I felt it was or the lingering distrust that he would take care of my little girl. At that point I have to remember that she is as old as I and I am not really her father, yet the desire to protect remains strong. In two weeks I will attend the sealing of another daughter to a wonderful young man. She will be in wonderful hands and I feel a sense of completion over that task. I presided over weekly gatherings of these people for 4 months, why do I feel so protective of them? I can only suppose that it is a sense of fatherhood ingrained in me either by nature or nurture or both.

Three of my Jerusalem Daughters, all are now happily married. I consider it a personal success.

Three of my Jerusalem Daughters, all are now happily married. I consider it a personal success.

I feel a similar intense desire to protect and care for my 6 nieces and nephews. For some inexplicable reason I would gladly give my life without thought if someone told me it would protect them. Sometime after I was running through the burning building I would stop to ask if that action actually did protect them or not. Why do I feel so connected to people I have known for such a short time? Indeed, who I have met only twice or three times, or not at all. Although they are not my children I am driven to protect them and to love them. I watch movies like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the most important scene in my mind is the reconciliation between the boy and his father. I see young fathers playing with their children and wish them well. Is this the baby lust I hear so many people speaking of? Or am I simply being held captive by primordial programing to protect the species?

My ecology class teaches that animals are most concerned with ensuring the continuation of their own genes. You can actually mathematically calculate based on how many genes are shared how important one animal will be to another. Thus a mother will die to protect her offspring. Wolves will fight to protect nephews. In ant colonies the female worker ants sometime share 75% of the same genes making them more genetically similar then a mother is to her child. I do not know if the love of my nieces is simply a desire to protect genes similar to my own or some hyperactive manifestation of my own fathering instincts.

What I do believe is this. We are created beings. Our creator knew that our return to him and progress in life was dependent on us learning to be like him. Our personal relationship with God is a reflection of our acceptance of the forces that will save us.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.  John 17:3

God wants us to understand him, he wants us to comprehend in some fashion how he feels about us. So he organized the social structure of our species to contain a placeholder for Him, fathers. Our biological fathers are suppose to be a model of our relationship to our Divine Father. In this dark world that kind of fatherhood is all but destroyed. By destroying the father Satan has inhibited our understand of our relationship to God. I believe fatherhood to be sacred. It is a mandate from our heavenly creator to fill the position he holds and stand in it as he would stand.

For this fatherhood terrifies me, yet I remain drawn to it because the intrinsic desires to protect and comfort are nearly uncontrollable. Perhaps the expression of these thoughts ought to be slightly more restricted but I hope the length and awkwardness of the post will prohibit idle readers from reaching this far. To my future children I wish you to know this: I am ready to do whatever I must to guide and protect you. I am already living my life with the intent to make your lives as peaceful and wonderful as possible. I dearly hope that my efforts will be sufficient to meet whatever needs arrive throughout your lives.

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One thought on “Fatherhood

  1. Oh Riley, you are so great. I know how you feel.

    LOVE your picture selection!

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