Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.
In the family proclamation, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve counsel that “by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” These three expectations for fathers—to preside, to provide, and to protect—remain in force today. At the same time, the proclamation explains that in fulfilling the responsibilities given to them, “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”1 Providing for families remains one of the Lord’s important expectations for fathers. The Apostle Paul declares, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
Commenting on Doctrine and Covenants 83:4, Elder D. Todd Christofferson teaches: “Breadwinning is a consecrated activity. Providing for one’s family, although it generally requires time away from the family, is not inconsistent with fatherhood—it is the essence of being a good father. ‘Work and family are overlapping domains.’ This, of course, does not justify a man who neglects his family for his career or, at the other extreme, one who will not exert himself and is content to shift his responsibility to others.”2
Even in situations in which divorce or other circumstances change typical family dynamics, fathers still have an obligation to do their best to see that their families are provided for. The General Handbook of the Church lists a person who “deliberately abandons family responsibilities, including nonpayment of child support and alimony” as one in danger of a membership council.3
In addition, providing for a family does not just mean providing financial support. Fathers have an obligation to provide love and emotional support. In an address to fathers, President Howard W. Hunter teaches: “You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”4
1. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
2. D. Todd Christofferson, “Fathers,” April 2016 General Conference.
3. General Handbook, 18.104.22.168
4. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter, 2015, 224.
Under the system of consecration that existed when section 83 was given, if parents did not have the resources to continue to support their children who came of age, these children could draw on the resources in the community storehouse to meet their needs until they could provide for themselves. Likewise, widows had the right to seek assistance from the Church. The number of references to widows and the fatherless in the scriptures demonstrates how seriously the Lord holds the Church responsible with regard to those who live in families with these kinds of challenges (see Exodus 22:22; Psalms 146:9; 1 Timothy 5:3; 2 Nephi 19:17).
A large part of the work of the Church is to provide a surrogate family to its members, but particularly those who have lost family members. The family proclamation counsels that “disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation” and that “extended families should lend support when needed.”5 Covenants of consecration allow the Church to form a large extended family that can offer support if a family has a parent missing or other challenging circumstances.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke to those who might face the challenge of living without a father: “To children whose family situation is troubled, we say, you yourself are no less for that. Challenges are at times an indication of the Lord’s trust in you. He can help you, directly and through others, to deal with what you face. You can become the generation, perhaps the first in your family, where the divine patterns that God has ordained for families truly take shape and bless all the generations after you.”6 In our day we deal not only with widowhood but also with divorced families, mixed-faith marriages, and a number of other circumstances. It is imperative for the Church to look after those who live in complex family situations.
5. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
6. D. Todd Christofferson, “Fathers,” April 2016 General Conference.