This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey.
One upon a time someone tried to insult me on the Internet1 and inadvertently paid my parents a lovely complement. I was, my interlocutor informed me, “emotionally spoiled.”
Being spoiled isn’t great, of course, but what this person was actually saying was that I was relatively well-adjusted. This was an angsty little corner of the Internet, but I didn’t really share in the angst. I didn’t feel lonely, or isolated, or bitter, or wronged, or any of those things. Most relevantly, I didn’t harbor any of the simmering anti-parental resentment that your typical 90s kid was supposed to harbor. I was free of all these hang ups not because of some virtue on my part, but because I came from a normal, typical, regular home: one where mom and dad loved each other.
Of course, I consider that normal, typical, and regular, but it’s not something to take for granted. That was what came to mine, when I read the end of a story from Elder Hanks’ talk in the Priesthood session of the October 1977 General Conference:
Somehow early in his life Bob has mastered principles and developed character that set him apart from most others. He is a regular boy in every choice sense of the description. Can anyone doubt that he will be an equally fine man, a good husband, a regular dad, a concerned leader who will help many others?
Elder Hanks came back to the idea of a “regular dad” again later on in the talk:
Only a few days ago in Arizona as I was at the pulpit in a conference meeting, a tiny boy came walking down the aisle and up on the stand, perhaps searching for a mother in the choir, maybe just investigating. He wasn’t making any fuss, but he was a wonderful little boy and I couldn’t refrain from pausing a moment and talking with him. I asked him his name and where his mommy and daddy were, and at that point a tall, handsome young man stood in the chapel and advanced to retrieve his child. When the father took his son in his arms in front of the pulpit he kissed him, and I had to swallow a quick lump in my throat. There was no embarrassment, no spanking, no yanking, no anger. There was just the gentle kiss and a loving hug in those big strong arms, and for all of us present a warm, tender, memorable experience from a fortunate youngster and a wise, mature, regular dad.
There is something both beautiful and perilous in this kind of normalcy. The beauty is easy to spot, like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life if just for a moment. The peril is there too, however, because once a moment like this becomes ordinary—which is the goal of any religion, society, nation, tribe, or family—we start at once to forget all the lessons that made such an everyday moment seem effortless and forgettable in the first place.
Every generation has to relearn the same lessons again for themselves, and the conduit for transmitting kernels of wisdom from the parents to the children is slender and fragile.