Before I begin, I would like to wish a Happy Fathers day to all the Dads in the congregation. That should hold me over until I call my Dad this afternoon.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm Joseph Puente and for the last month I've been serving in this ward as the Young Men Secretary... a calling that I am very grateful for and has blessed me in many ways.
When Bishop Priggemeier asked me to speak in sacrament meeting, I jumped at the opportunity not having given a talk in a few years. When I asked him what the topic would be, he said, "The 19th is Fathers Day. You'll be speaking on Fatherhood."
So, I went home and began to ponder this thing called fatherhood... Then, I realized... that I don't have any kids... so speaking from practical experience was out of the question. It was a bit of a struggle at first but there's a quote from D&C 112:10 in my secretary notebook which reads: "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers."
Then I thumbed through the notebook and found my starting point. I wish to address this talk to the future fathers of the church. The Aaronic Priesthood. So pay particularly close attention, Guys.
Part of the Mission of the Aaronic Priesthood "...is to help each young man-... "Prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood..." and "...Live worthy to receive temple covenants and prepare to become a worthy husband and father."
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to get married and have a family. But when I was in the Aaronic Priesthood, I didn't pay as much attention to the mission and responsibilities of that priesthood as I could have. I knew the duties of the respective quorums but my understanding of them was somewhat vague and preparation to become an Elder was not something that I took into consideration until I Became a Priest and even then I wasn't exactly sure what being an Elder meant... aside from Home Teaching and giving blessings.
I grew up in a somewhat abusive household. My father wasn't perfect... Okay, at times he could have taken a few pointers from Homer Simpson. But my father taught me many things... usually by showing me exactly what not to do. But I don't hold it against him. Unfortunately, as much as I hated some of the things he said and did, I found that these things began manifesting themselves in me... I was very much like my father... which no normal teenager wants to hear, but to me it was frightening because, as much as I want to be a father and a husband, and as much as I love and respect him, I don't want to be my Dad. I haven't heard him say "I love you" to my Mom in maybe ten years. But I wouldn't trade my childhood or my Dad for anything because Dad made me into a very strong person.
I was trying to remember something nice that my Dad did for me... It took me a while, simply because the negative experiences had a tendency to overshadow the positive ones, but I finally remembered something. And it involved the Priesthood. I remember him giving me a fathers blessing one night when I couldn't sleep because of an allergic reaction. After my blessing, I slept like a baby.
I didn't have as much support and encouragement from my Dad that many other boys had from their fathers which forced me, rather reluctantly, and difficultly, to push myself to do things. And when I didn't do as well as I could have, or wanted to, I was always very hard on myself as my father was on me.
I had to ask myself, "Is this the way I am going to treat my children? Am I going to be the type of father I want to be or the type of father that I'm most familiar with... My Dad. How am I going to treat my wife?"
This led me to question my worthiness in other areas as well. I was already very depressed over the way I was treated in my youth... from all sides, not just at home, and I drifted away from the church for a short while... not attending meetings as often until I got to boot camp where I reintroduced myself to the gospel by sitting in on the missionary discussions.
After a period of much prayer and learning, my testimony grew and I was ordained an Elder on December 26th. I had already been attending Elders quorum meetings for close to a year and I was astonished to discover the content of the lessons. For some reason, I had always pictured the Elders Quorum discussing nothing but Priesthood ordinances, Home Teaching statistics and ways to serve members of the ward. But as I listened to the lessons being discussed, I learned that there is much more to being an Elder. At the young age of 20 years, I'm not only learning how to help others by using the priesthood. I'm learning how to be a gentleman. How to be a better husband. How to be a better father.
Here are a few of the lesson titles in the Melchizedek Priesthood manual:
Counseling with Your Children.
Fathers' Blessings and Patriarchal Blessings.
Improving Family Communications.
Live Joyfully with Your Wife.
This is a regular "How-To" manual. Supplemented by the thoughts and experiences of worthy patriarchs. I don't need to go to the self help section of the book store to learn how to be a better father. As an Elder, I'm learning to do these things because it's my responsibility to know them. A responsibility that I have always been willing to accept but was blinded by doubt to ever pursue... And I want so much to be able to share the blessings of the Priesthood with others simply because I have seen so many who could use it.
In the past year, I have seen a number of marriages of young people just getting started in life. I've seen a few of them end in divorce rather quickly and more that just didn't turn out to be what the couples had expected. Unfortunately, I have also seen a few unplanned pregnancies, new young fathers unwilling to take responsibility and taking out their frustrations mentally and emotionally on their spouses.
Oftentimes, I have seen these young men and have wanted to say, "If only you had the Priesthood in your home... you would at least know not to take it out on your wives. And you would be better prepared to care for your children." But there are others who have had a better start. Others that have been more responsible and caring and happy... but could be so much happier.
I have a friend on his way to Okinawa and his new wife will be on her way to be with him very soon. This couple is very special to me. I had the honor of being an usher at their wedding. She is a sweet, intelligent young woman and he is a dedicated and honorable man. A great husband and will one day be a wonderful father. As I got to know him, I felt that he would make a great Elder, for already he was putting into practice some of the basic principles that I have learned.
At HIS request, I did give him a Book of Mormon.
Through the experiences shared by my brethren in every Elders quorum lesson I've had the privilege of hearing, I have witnessed the power and love of fatherhood magnified so greatly by the Priesthood. And it is through these examples that I continue to learn what it really means to be a father. To really be the type of gentleman that I want to be. But more importantly, the type of husband and father that my Father in Heaven wants me to be.