Father's Day 2018
Today I spoke in church while Elyse and Kyria cried in the front row (and countless others in the congregation, too). I felt so inspired while writing it that I wanted to share it with the rest of the world too. So here ya go, Happy Father's Day!
When Brother Shipp asked me to speak, he told me the date, asked if I would be in town and willing, and then said, “I will send you a topic in a couple of days but that is Father’s Day and I feel that you may have a great perspective on fathers and the priesthood.” He was right, I do have a very unique perspective of fatherhood. And no, it is not because Brother Shipp knows I have the best father in the world, or because I am an expert on how to be a good father. I am standing before you today with a unique perspective that has come to me through perhaps the most difficult trial I have been asked to face in my short 24 years on this earth.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve pondered how best to approach the topic of “the role of our fathers in teaching and shaping our lives” and have decided to tell you the story of a series of events that took place nearly 8 years ago and point out along the way some of the lessons I learned from my earthly father, my heavenly father, and countless other stalwart priesthood holders.
LESSON #1: SPEND INDIVIDUAL TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN ONE ON ONE, KNOW THEM, TEACH THEM, AND SHOW THEM YOU CARE. When I was seventeen years old my father and I went kayaking on a river near our home in Austin Texas. This was something we would do often after a period of heavy rain would bless central Texas. It was a Wednesday and my dad suggested that I leave school early and he’d take off work and we would spend the afternoon together. So we did. My mom dropped us off with the plan that we would call her when we were done with our location and she would come pick us up. My father and I spent more than 2 hours kayaking, talking, laughing, and discussing things that were important to me. I was a month into my senior year of high school, so that conversation primarily surrounded dating, friends, and preparing for college. My dad counseled me to surround myself with good people, date boys who respected me and shared my values, study hard, develop my talents, love the Lord and never take life too seriously.
LESSON #2: TESTIFY TO YOUR CHILDREN OF THE TRUTHS YOU KNOW AND HOLD DEAR.
Earlier that day, when I arrived home from school around 1 o’clock, I found my dad sitting at the computer in his office. He and my mom then informed me they had just received an email saying that my father’s 90-year-old mother had passed away peacefully that morning. My dad then pulled me into an embrace and told me that he was so happy that after 40 years of being without her husband (who had passed away when my dad was a boy) he was so happy that his mother was reunited with her eternal companion and was freed from the pains of her aging mortal body and mind. – MY FATHER KNEW OF THE PLAN OF SALVATION AND OF THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL FAMILIES. HE WAS NOT SAD FOR THE LOSS OF HIS MOTHER BECAUSE HE KNEW THEY WOULD BE REUNITED FOR ETERNITY ONE DAY.
LESSON #3: REGULARLY COUNSEL WITH AND SET GOALS WITH YOUR CHILDREN.
The Sunday before our afternoon spent kayaking my dad sat me down to discuss my goals for that year– This is something we regularly did and since I had just celebrated my 17th birthday, it was time for another one of Rod Dial’s famous PPI’s. One of the things I remember telling him was my desire to develop a good habit of exercise before I went off to college, so we set a goal together: we were going to begin jogging together in the evenings a few times a week. What stands out to me still to this day from this conversation is that my father did not say he would remind me to exercise, or even tell me he would buy me a gym membership – he offered to join me in this goal and support me every step of the way. Which brings us to..
LESSON # 4: NEVER HAVE FEAR IN SERING OTHERS.
That Tuesday evening we began our goal to exercise by going for a walk after dinner. We walked a few miles and discussed how we were going to hold ourselves accountable to our exercise goal and how we were going to reward ourselves for sticking with that goal. When we were a few houses away from ours we passed a car that had left their headlights on. My reaction was “bummer, those people left their lights on – glad its not me!” but my dad’s reaction was to – without hesitation – walk up the driveway, knock on the front door (mind you, potentially waking up the family since it was after 10PM and all the lights were off) and inform them that their headlights were on so they did not have to deal with a dead battery in the morning. (his first initial reaction was to turn the light off himself, but alas the car door was locked) While he marched up to the door, I stayed safely on the street, out of view, too embarrassed that my dad was waking up strangers so late at night and worried they would see it as an imposition. It didn’t even occur to my dad to worry. All he thought about was being a good neighbor.
LESSON #5: ALWAYS MAKE THE TEMPLE A PRIORITY.
The Sunday before our Kayaking trip, we had to stay after church while my dad met with the bishop to renew his temple recommend (which to me and my 2 younger brothers was the biggest imposition in the world). On our way home my dad explained to us that his temple recommend would expire at the end of the month and he wanted to make sure he renewed it before then. I WAS BAFFLED – HE MADE US WAIT AND HE STILL HAD 2 WEEKS LEFT OF A PERFECTLY GOOD RECOMMEND? Why wouldn’t he just wait and do it another time instead of keeping me from my very important Sunday afternoon nap. To my surprise, he didn’t lecture me for my bad attitude that afternoon, but the lesson I learned from his example will never leave me. Being a worthy temple recommend holder was the most important thing to him and he knew it was important to Heavenly Father. He was preparing for the future and ensuring that he would not go without a recommend.
That Wednesday afternoon on the Brushy Creek River in Round Rock Texas, my dad and I came to a low water crossing that was filled with debris from a fallen tree branch. Our kayak quickly approached the low, clogged bridge and as I went to jump out at my father’s directive, our kayak flipped and I, by some miracle made it under the dammed-up bridge and out the other side. My father however hit his head on the concrete support beam and was knocked unconscious and pinned underwater.
When I was finally able to make it out of the water I saw some nearby construction workers and yelled for them to call 911. I loosened my dad’s body from the pinned kayak but was unable to stop him in the rushing water. I will refrain from going into too much detail of the agonizing next 90 minutes as I waited for the police to arrive, then my mother, and then some close friends. Eventually life flight was able to locate his body a few miles down the river and took him to the nearby hospital. Though the first responders would not tell us anything conclusively until we were at the hospital – I knew he was gone. Not because I am a genius or a medical professional, but because I felt the same peace my dad had expressed to me earlier that day that he felt when he found out his mom passed away. Sitting in the back of a police car on that low water crossing, I told my mom I was scared but that I knew no matter the outcome, We would get through it together as a family.
Though I lost my dad at a young age, the lessons I learned from him still bless my life to this day. Not only that but I have been able to learn from many other men in my life which brings us to..
LESSON #6: CARE FOR THE WIDOWS AND FATHERLESS
Soon after this tragedy a group of eleven men, close to my father began meeting once a month to discuss the needs of my mother and my siblings. They would plan who would take my brothers to father/son campouts and who would make sure I got my oil changed and that my mom had help with her ‘honey do’ list. They would regularly discuss how to serve and watch over us during this terrible time. For years, the signature on my dad’s work email was a quote from scripture, James 1: 27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” I have been blessed by countless priesthood holders who live this doctrine and strive to serve as the Lord would.
In preparing for this talk I made a list of all of the great men I know and how my life has been shaped by countless fathers. The experiences are endless, but here are a few I feel prompted to share:
My best friends father continued holding regular PPI’s with me to counsel together, set goals, and show me love and support, just as my father did.
My home teacher would regularly check in on the needs of my car – did I need my oil changed, were there any lights on, how are the tires – things I didn’t even know I needed to think about.
Close family friends came to all of my younger brothers basketball games, to support and cheer (though no one would ever cheer quite like Rod Dial). Not just immediately after his passing, but even 7 years later when my youngest brother played in his last high school game.
Years later, my mission president counseled with me regularly not only as a concerned priesthood leader, but also as he felt prompted from the spirit to share counsel that he informed me he felt like my father would like for me to know.
My older brother Rodney has continued to give me fathers blessings, counsel me in my career path, encourage me to be wise with my money and shown me unconditional love through my tumultuous young adult years.
My younger brother Joseph has taught me the importance of being strong and stalwart – he is currently serving a mission in Mexico and every week in his letters I see him become more and more like the great man my father is.
My baby brother Luke is 18 years old and has even fewer memories than me of our dad (he was 10 when he passed) – but he knows the plan of salvation. The day after the accident I was talking with Luke and he said “Nikka, I am sad because I miss dad, but I know that we will see him again so we don’t need to be sad forever.” What an example
My Brother in law, Avian, though he never met my dad – has been a great example to me of putting your wife and children first and providing for a family. It has been amazing to watch him go from a bachelor trying to woo my sister, to a father of 2 perfect children.
Through these men, and countless others I have continued to learn what it means to be a great father and priesthood holder and how we are all blessed by exemplary men and priesthood holders.
I realized while writing this talk that it may sound like I’m saying my dad was perfect – and though in my eyes he may have been – I know he was a flawed mortal man who decided every day to be a disciple of Christ. My sister and I had the opportunity last year to live with my dads childhood best friend and college roommate – their family lives in Utah county and have taken us in when we need a place to live. Sunday evenings were often spent listening to stories of my dad as a youth and young adult and boy did he do some stupid stuff. Like jumping in the San Diego harbor in a polyester 3-piece suit while waiting to board a boat for a YSA dance, all for $20. He was one of the men who would lend advice and has acted as a father figure for me – one night I was expressing to him how I was just looking for a man as perfect as my dad and is that so much to ask? His response has stuck with me since that night, he said “you have to remember, Rod Dial wasn’t always Rod Dial – he was at one time a stupid 24 year old trying to figure it out” Huh, in my eyes my dad is a perfect example of being a great father, worthy priesthood holder, and true disciple of Christ – but he did not come that way. He chose every day to serve others, love his wife, put his children above himself, and follow the Lord.
In the days, weeks, and years following my dads passing, there have been times I felt as I imagine Joseph Smith did when he wrote from Liberty Jail, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” That day Joseph was given this assurance from our Father in Heaven “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” I testify of a loving God who knows us personally and loves us all with a perfect fatherly love.
Perhaps the greatest blessing from my fathers passing is the relationship I have developed with my father in heaven. There is something marvelous and beautiful that comes from the deepest pains and sorrows of losing a loved one. I had never before had to rely on my Heavenly Father to guide me so fully and to comfort me as my father would have. I learned that I not only have a wonderful father who was with me on earth for 17 years, but that I truly have a Father in heaven who is perfect, He knows me perfectly, He loves me perfectly, He is infinitely patient with me and will always be there beside me when I need him, walking with me and carrying me when I need him most.
Another miraculous and perfect example of selfless love is that of our savior. Jesus Christ is a perfect example of what a worthy priesthood holder should look like. He always obeyed the Father’s commandments, He served others constantly, He love without question and stood for what he believed. After losing my father I learned about the healing and enabling power of the atonement of Christ. Not only are we able to be made clean from our sins, but through Christ’s atonement we can be made stronger than we are to bear with patience our afflictions. There is no pain our savior has not felt and there is no one more able to empathize with us during times of sorrow. I have felt that on a personal level on numerous occasions. Day in and day out He will be there.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Our Father in Heaven is perfect, he loves perfectly, he leads perfectly and he has commanded us to become the same. The path to perfection is not easy and it is not perfectly mapped out, but we have all been given guides along the way to lead and guide us toward our father in heaven. I challenge you all this fathers day to make a list of the lessons you’ve learned from your earthly father – share it with him. Thank him for his example. If he is not around or if he is not the best example, make a list of the other priesthood holders who have guided and protected you through the years. Then make a list of the lessons you’ve learned from your Heavenly Father – share it with him, thank him, and make a resolve to seek his hand daily.
The Priesthood Is the Authority to Act in God’s Name – We are given fathers and those fathers hold the priesthood to act as God would on the earth.
Men, I urge you to always remember that – the power and authority you hold is never to be taken lightly. Ponder this: what are you doing today to pave the way so that in 30 years your daughter can stand in a sacrament meeting much like this and say that she knows her father is a man of God who loves the Lord and honors his priesthood.
I know my Father in Heaven loves me, I know he gave me a great father to lead and guide me and that even though he was only around for a short amount of time, his example and legacy of love and service will outlive him for generations to come.