“Telling My Father I Loved Him,” Ensign, Feb. 1978, 51
She stood before us at stake conference, relating a simple, but effective, incident of a Sunday School teacher’s advice, which eventually changed the life of her inactive father. This was the experience she shared:
I am sure my Sunday School teacher was unaware of the impossibility of her request. “Class,” she had said, “I want each of you to promise that some time during this next week you will tell your father you love him.”
It sounded like such a simple thing. But I knew I couldn’t do it. Perhaps if I had the kind of father some of the others had, I said to myself, I could say those words to him. But Dad was completely inactive in the Church. He appeared to me to be insensitive and the communication gap between us was wide. We had not talked seriously together about anything for years. Besides, “I love you” was something that I didn’t think was ever said in my family. I felt I could never do what my Sunday School teacher had just asked.
After the closing prayer, I waited until the others had left, and then I approached my teacher.
“Sister Innes, what you’ve asked us to do is good. But I think I need to be excused from that assignment. You know how my dad is, and, well, I just couldn’t say something like that to him.”
But Sister Innes wasn’t convinced. She looked at me and said, “No matter what your dad is or does, he needs to hear those words from you, just as much as any other dad needs to hear them. I want you to promise me that you’ll fill this assignment.”
I agreed, and during the next few days I felt a great burden. I knew it would only be lifted when I fulfilled my commitment. One night, after the others had gone to bed, I nervously waited for the right moment to say those words. Dad was smoking a cigarette and stood up to put the ashes in the trash. With a trembling, nervous, almost inaudible voice I said, “Dad, I love you.”
He had his back to me, and he didn’t turn around or say anything or do anything. I was sure he hadn’t heard me. And so, weakly, I repeated it. “Dad, I love you.” And then, very slowly, he turned toward me. My insensitive, untouchable dad had tears streaming down his cheeks. He put his arms around me and held me close and kissed the top of my head. That was the first time in my sixteen years that I could remember my dad and me embracing.
Today I’m a mother with my own big family. I love you is a familiar phrase, used often in our home. And what of my beloved dad? Today he is a high priest, working diligently at building up the kingdom of God. My heart is full as I think of a faithful Sunday School teacher who loved me and gave me the challenge to express love to my dad.