Divinely appointed role

Children often can be heard complaining light-heartedly that it is unfair for society to celebrate a Mother's Day and a Father's Day but not a special day for children. The truth is both of those days are special days for children because righteous mothers and fathers who take their roles seriously are essential to the proper rearing of children.

That is obvious not only to people steeped in religious values, but also to secular researchers who have accumulated mounds of evidence through the years about the value of homes consisting of a mother and father. Unfortunately, these truths seem to be lost on a growing segment of the popular culture.

Father's Day in many nations is observed the third Sunday in June. It is an appropriate time to consider how fathers are like strong threads that bind together society's essential fabric. And yet, while many in the world give lip-service to this fact, movements are afoot that would demean this role, as if the thread could unravel and the fabric remain strong.

Some are advocating the legalization of homosexual marriage, which would allow two men, or two women, to join in a union as binding in the eyes of the state as traditional marriage. Some countries already have legalized the adoption of children by same-sex couples, which amounts to an official declaration that the separate roles of mother and father are of little worth.

These movements will serve only to further undermine efforts to promote responsible parenthood, particularly on the part of fathers. Too many men who sire children already are abandoning their responsibilities to their offspring.

Further, these efforts also serve to undermine the sacred role of the family, as articulated in the Proclamation to the World on the family, issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve:

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

Researchers have found a parallel between the rising crime rates of the past 40 years and an increase in families that were abandoned by fathers. The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, studied all 50 states and concluded that a 10 percent increase in the number of children living with a single parent translates into a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime. According to a recent position paper, "The rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the number of families abandoned by fathers."

The foundation also found that evidence of this trend exists as far back as the early 19th century. Since then, the accumulated research has found that children whose fathers abandoned them tend to have lower intellectual development, a greater chance of becoming an illegitimate parent as a teenager and a higher risk of eventually becoming dependent on government welfare.

This is, of course, the negative side of the equation. Think of all the positive things that righteous fathers of integrity can provide to their children.

Of course, some families are fatherless through deaths by accidents or natural causes. In other cases, wives and children are abandoned. To these people, the Lord has promised an extra measure of strength and comfort.

Prophets have been teaching important truths about fathers for centuries. Ezra Taft Benson said fatherhood "is an eternal calling from which you are never released. . . . It is a calling for both time and eternity." He defined this calling as one of providing a family's material needs as well as its spiritual leadership. (October 1987 general conference; Ensign, November1987, pp. 48-51.)

On Father's Day and other days, it is appropriate to honor the proper, divinely appointed role of fathers. Honoring this sacred principle is necessary in order to truly honor and protect children and mothers, as well.