• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Thursday, March 21, 2013


A week ago, after SS while on my way to the library to return things used in class, I joined a young girl, about age 13, strolling slowly in the hall. She was headed the same way (and away from YW). Since I may be her SS teacher next year I thought I might be able to establish the beginning of a relationship by walking with her for a few minutes. I will call her Cera.

Cera had a small ball in her hand. It was just a bit larger than a golf ball. She bounced it a couple of times and I ignored that - we were in an empty hall. There was no one else around to hit with it and nothing for it to hit or break. It did not make a loud noise either. She is old enough to know what she should or should not do; I wouldn't boss around an adult friend so why would I boss around a teen?

After she bounced it a couple more times, she asked me, "Do you think I should bounce this ball in the church?" I laughed. I asked her if she thought she should. She said, "I want to."

I laughed again. I told her we all want to do lots of things and must rely on the Holy Ghost to help us know if they are right or not. "You have been baptized, right? and received the gift of the Holy Ghost?" I asked rhetorically. Then as I resumed my quicker pace to hurry to RS, I asked her, "If you need to ask if it is right or not, do you think you are being prompted about something?"

At that precise moment her father came in sight at the other end of the hall. She continued to bounce the ball. As soon as he was in earshot he began to shake his finger at her and scold. I increased my pace exponentially - I did not want to be party to what followed.

Our fathers love us and want to teach and help us. It is hard to know what is best for each child. Some fathers may be unkind,or misguided but I believe they mostly love their children. Some may have never known a kind father or had a role model of gentleness. They must do the best they can at a daunting task. They may have never been taught and do not know where to find answers or how to teach implement what is learned or known.

It is even harder to feel responsible for the eternal welfare and happiness of a child. Papa has often expressed his concern that he teach and train our family so that he can face his maker and say he did his best. As a SS teacher I can leave daily discipline to parents.

I have thought on that repeatedly since then. It helps me realize what a kind and gentle father I have. I asked myself what my father might have done in a like circumstance. I was a deliberately rebellious daughter.

I asked Papa what his father might have done. He replied that he wouldn't have been bouncing a ball! He wouldn't have dared. He has mentioned in the past that he got a 'whipping' almost every single Sunday. He tells a story about that. When he got home each Sunday, he had been 'whipped' for some behavior at church for several weeks in a row apparently to no avail. His father often went to meetings in the morning long before church. One morning he gave Papa a whipping before he left for church to remind him to behave that day. Papa felt like he had a free pass - he already had endured his whipping so he could do anything he wanted to do. He got another whipping after he got home! He still feels that was terribly unfair - he understood being punished for what he was doing and accepted that was what was done but to be punished for the same thing twice he just could not understand.

My father would had come near enough to touch me or catch the ball. He would likely not have said a word, except perhaps my name in a disappointed voice. If I had dared to bounce the ball while he was in arms reach he likely would have caught it and pocketed it.

If I ever wanted my ball back I would have to ask him for it. To get it I would have needed to explain to him appropriate use and purposes of balls and when and how they should be thus employed. If my understanding was lacking he would add to it. Some people call such interactions with their parents 'lectures'. His explanations were seldom lectures. They were just a very loving father making sure I knew what was right and should or should not be done. He expected me to choose to do what I knew when I understood. The harshest and most difficult punishment he ever inflicted was the expression of disappointment.

My father whipped me once when I was 15 ish. I provoked him. After a face to face, head on show down of wills he took off his belt and strapped me with it 2 or 3 times. I fell to the floor. I could not stand. (The stripes took quite some time to heal.) He threw his belt down as he left the house.  I went to my room and cried. I also spent quite some time laying on my bed face down.Some of my siblings witnessed that event. One of them came to try to comfort and help me. I think she wondered if I were going to die. She had never seen or heard of anything so terrible. She brought me some ointment,  Mentholatum, and helped me put it on where I could not reach. 

In the years since that time my father has told me that I was the only child of 11 that he ever gave a whipping like that. I was the 5th child and first girl in our family of 7 boys and 4 girls. He said he had never done it before that and vowed to never do it to anybody again. He has apologized several times and said it made him sick at himself. I tell him I too am sorry. I am sorry I was so disrespectful to a loving and kind father. I tell him I don't know what he might have ever done differently. I was extremely willful and deliberately disobedient. I don't know how my parents endured having a kid like me.

We have talked about this a few times when he has brought it up. As we age we sometimes look with hindsight on our past and wish we had done things differently. There is no going back. It often begins as the littlest of things, a bouncing ball or a misunderstanding. I had wanted to finish a report I was working on for homework. He expected my chore of sweeping the floor to be done immediately. I had fully intended to sweep the floor ... soon ... but ordering immediate compliance was not successful in any way.

I have had to learn more humility. I have had to learn to bend my will to the will of a loving Heavenly Father without needing a harsh punishment. I have learned to try to be obedient to the commandments of God because he loves me and has good reasons to give them. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to be safe. He wants to bless me, and everyone around me, with more of every good thing. I KNOW he does. His commandments explain how to be happy. His commandments are given so that all his children can have joy - forever and always.

Can I try to understand?

Can we try to understand?
Can we trust an omniscient Father?
Can we accept the words of the prophets?
Can we obey?