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What I Really Want to Hear Next Father's Day

Normally, I really try hard to be positive in all my blog posts. This is a good thing as I am a happier person when I focus on the positive. Sure, I have occasional rants about the fact that I hate camping, but generally, I'm pretty chipper.

However, I have a pet peeve I want to talk about. Imagine, please, that you go to church on Mother's Day. While the speakers talk about how important mothers are, they frame their remarks in the context that most mothers are deeply flawed and not doing a good job. Then you go to Relief Society and are told by the bishop or the Relief Society President that you need to seriously step it up. The lesson is about how much better you need to be and all that you need to do. The lesson ends with the Relief Society President saying, "Make sure you are worthy of your special day."

Now, I suspect that hypothetical actually incensed and/or depressed most readers to such a degree that some people stopped reading. If any ward did that, there would seriously be an uprising--and rightly so. No one would think about doing that.

This, however, is pretty much par for the course on Father's Day.

I remember my first Father's Day. I was so excited. I was also struggling with some depression, so I was excited to go to church and get built up.


Our bishop, an inspired, loving man, got up in Sacrament Meeting and announced that the Elder's Quorum Presidency would be speaking. He then acknowledged, with a slightly rueful tone, that his first instinct in planning the day had been to tell us fathers all the things we needed to do better. He seemed to see that as a mistake, and the talks weren't exactly harsh, but they weren't really celebratory and mostly had the tone of "Hey, we're just dumb men, so we need to try harder."

It was discouraging to me. Seriously so. I felt deflated.

In Elder's Quorum, it got worse. The lesson was on how to be a better husband, with specific focus on what not to do and how not to be abusive. It was a good lesson, based on a recent talk by President Hunter. I acknowledged the need for my improvement, but to have it on Father's Day was really depressing and frustrating. Especially after the encomiums that had been heaped on the mothers just a month earlier (yes, I know, most women are very uncomfortable with this).

Again: I don't quibble with the inspiration leaders have to reprove or correct their flocks. As a bishop, I did that often. But why on Father's Day? There are a lot of other Sundays to choose from.

Because this was my first Father's Day, I suppose I started out on the wrong foot and am overly sensitive. But I know a lot of men who feel the same way I do. To be honest, I don't think they care as deeply as I do. A lot of them are used to hearing stuff like that and while they don't exactly like it, they shrug it off. But there is a growing number of men for whom this is really bothersome.

This year was more or less the same. I know there was a sincere effort to be positive. But even the positive stuff was like being damned with faint praise. The normal procedure, whether it's a newspaper column, a Sacrament Meeting talk, even comments by the President of the United States is often along these lines: a) Fathers are important. b) Bad fathers cause lots of problems. c) There are a lot of bad fathers/husbands and our society is suffering for it. d) We need to make sure we are all doing better.

I don't disagree with any of this. But timing is everything. (In fairness, I also want to say that our RS did a lovely spread of cupcakes and milk for all the men in priesthood, and that was a thoughtful touch).

Next year, I don't want to hear about bad fathers. I don't want to hear about all that fathers aren't doing or need to do. I would love, absolutely love, to go and hear about how important fathers are, how wonderful they are. I'd love to hear about the doctrine of fatherhood and important fathers from the scriptures. I'd love to hear about how great it is that a man, with all his flaws, gives up his life to take care of his family.

It occurs to me that perhaps one day we'll be find a happy medium between the sugary praise mothers get and the stern lessons fathers get. Both fathers and mothers would be happy with that, I think. (Is that the problem? Is everyone just so burned out on adjectives and sweetness and praise from Mother's Day that it's sort of like a sugar low/insulin coma for Father's Day?)

If this is too hard, how about just having a regular Sacrament meeting and priesthood lesson and don't mention fathers at all? Is that too much to ask?

Thanks for listening.


Braden Bell is a husband, father, teacher, author, and director. He blogs about all of the above at

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