President Boyd K. Packer
President Joseph F. Smith made this statement about the priesthood in the home: “In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount. To illustrate this principle, a single incident will perhaps suffice. It sometimes happens that the elders are called in to administer to the members of a family. Among these elders there may be presidents of stakes, apostles, or even members of the first presidency of the Church. It is not proper under these circumstances for the father to stand back and expect the elders to direct the administration of this important ordinance. The father is there. It is his right and it is his duty to preside. He should select the one who is to administer the oil, and the one who is to be mouth in prayer, and he should not feel that because there are present presiding authorities in the Church that he is therefore divested of his rights to direct the administration of that blessing of the gospel in his home. (If the father be absent, the mother should request the presiding authority present to take charge.) The father presides at the table, at prayer, and gives general directions relating to his family life whoever may be present.”
During the Vietnam War, we held a series of special meetings for members of the Church called into military service. After such a meeting in Chicago, I was standing next to President Harold B. Lee when a fine young Latter-day Saint told President Lee that he was on leave to visit his home and then had orders to Vietnam. He asked President Lee to give him a blessing.
Much to my surprise, President Lee said, “Your father should give you the blessing.”
Very disappointed, the boy said, “My father wouldn’t know how to give a blessing.”
President Lee answered, “Go home, my boy, and tell your father that you are going away to war and want to receive a father’s blessing from him. If he does not know how, tell him that you will sit on a chair. He can stand behind you and put his hands on your head and say whatever comes.”
This young soldier went away sorrowing.
About two years later I met him again. I do not recall where. He reminded me of that experience and said, “I did as I was told to do. I explained to my father that I would sit on the chair and that he should put his hands on my head. The power of the priesthood filled both of us. That was a strength and protection in those perilous months of battle.”
Another time I was in a distant city. After a conference we were ordaining and setting apart leaders. As we concluded, the stake president asked, “Can we ordain a young man to be an elder who is leaving for the mission field?” The answer, of course, was yes.
As the young man came forward, he motioned for three brethren to follow and stand in for his ordination.
I noticed on the back row a carbon copy of this boy, and I asked, “Is that your father?”
The young man said, “Yes.”
I said, “Your father will ordain you.”
And he protested, “But I’ve already asked another brother to ordain me.”
And I said, “Young man, your father will ordain you, and you’ll live to thank the Lord for this day.”
Then the father came forward.
Thank goodness he was an elder. Had he not been, he soon could have been! In the military they would call that a battlefield commission. Sometimes such things are done in the Church.
The father did not know how to ordain his son. I put my arm around him and coached him through the ordinance. When he was finished, the young man was an elder. Then something wonderful happened. Completely changed, the father and son embraced. It was obvious that had never happened before.
The father, through his tears, said, “I didn’t get to ordain my other boys.”
Think how much more was accomplished than if another had ordained him, even an Apostle.
Leaders to Leaders is a series of posts that share what leaders of the church have learned from other leaders of the church. This might include stories from general conference, accounts of one leader attending a stake conference with another leader, or simply recollections one leader’s interaction with someone they respected. There are great leadership skills one can learn by pondering these interactions. Listen to other stories in this series HERE.