Monday, August 6, 2012

The Why of Priesthood Service

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Why of Priesthood Service, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

"Because I said so." This sentence is perhaps the most despised when heard by children—at least that's how I viewed it growing up. I admit that most of my dissatisfaction with this sentence was that it provided no wiggle-room; there was no way for me to exploit potential loopholes and get what I wanted or do what I really wanted to do. Underneath my selfish reasons, though, was the dissatisfaction I felt in not understanding the reasons why.

"Because I said so." This sentence is perhaps the most favorite when used by overworked and tired parents. I admit that I use it too frequently—usually when I'm tired of my children finding holes in my arguments against doing whatever it is they want to do that is too loud, too messy, or too potentially-dangerous; it works well to squash behavior that I'm too tired to lovingly deal with.

From these two views on a single sentence, it becomes clear that not only am I a hypocrite, I'm terribly selfish. I should point out that there are occasions when I take the effort to try to be a loving and devoted father in person, but I'm selfish and dogmatic altogether too often. (I can argue that working hard at work is showing love and devotion, but it's easy to say that because when I'm at work, my children are essentially outsourced to my wife; she's the source of most of the love and devotion in our family.)

President Uchtdorf's address was given in Priesthood Session, so it has a definite priesthood service angle, but I read "parenthood" between the lines. I hope this is appropriate. In the first talk of this Priesthood Session, Elder Bednar shared what many wives and mothers would ask of him as a priesthood leader (bishop and stake president):

Please help my husband understand his responsibility as a priesthood leader in our home. . . I wish my husband would be an equal partner and provide the strong priesthood leadership only he can give.

With this quote as ammunition, I'm going to interpret President Uchtdorf's remarks on priesthood responsibilities through the lens of parenting.

Earlier I admitted that I'm a selfish hypocrite as manifest by my use of the terrible "because I said so" conversation stopper. The reason I despised this end-all as a child was because it left me intellectually unfulfilled—I was left with a big why (bigger than the BYU Y on the mountain).

Here I am, decades later, with no compassion for my equally curious and inquisitive children. If I don't change things, their alphabets will suffer from ElephantYasis—the swelling of the Y.

Here's President Uchtdorf's prescription for ElephantYasis (with substitutions made by me):

We all have lists of what we could and should do in our [parenting] responsibilities. The what is important in our work, and we need to attend to it. But it is in the why of [parenting] service that we discover the fire, passion, and power of [parenthood].

The what of [parenting] service teaches us what to do. The why inspires our souls.

The what informs, but the why transforms.

Instead of hypocritical parenting, I want to embrace the why by explaining why I'm asking my children to do certain things. If part of my job as a father is to help my children prepare to enter the world as active participants in making the world a better place, they will definitely need to know more than what to do—they need the why, too!

I predict that it will take some time and effort for me to get things right. Here's some reassurance from President Uchtdorf:

We know that despite our best intentions, things do not always go according to plan. We make mistakes in life and in our [parenting] service. Occasionally we stumble and fall short.

When the Lord advises us to “continue in patience until [we] are perfected,” He is acknowledging that it takes time and perseverance. Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of [parenthood] will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard. Staying focused on the basic principles of gospel living will bless us with clarity, wisdom, and direction.

My name is Clark, and I'm a hypocritical selfish father. I admit that I have improvements to make, and I'm committed to be better. I hope that's enough.

I take comfort in knowing that despite my many flaws, as I tuck my children in bed at night I often hear them say: "you're the best daddy in the whole world!"

Hearing them say this gives me hope for the future (in many ways).

And I'm not even going to ask them "why?".

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