Being a Mormon Man

josephPriesthoodNow that women have had a day, its time to explore how patriarchy is not always what its cracked up to be. The responsibility can sometimes put pressures on that exhausts even the strongest individual. All eyes are focused on the carefully choreographed lives set in stone by the time men enter primary.

Yes, there are obstacles that women have to face in the Church as Meg and SilverRain mentioned in the previous post about Mormon women. Finding out how we fit in the Kingdom of God is part of the challenge for every Latter-day Saint. The goal of perfection is hard and confusing for everyone. Mix in the political expectations and its no wonder lives seem to fall apart. The two worlds really can’t co-exist without fissures and hurt feelings. The words of Jesus are still applicable today, no one, “can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24, read the whole chapter). No doubt conservatives are less conflicted than progressives because the former already supports structure and what some negatively define as the status quo. That doesn’t mean shaking things up for them is wrong, because complacency can be spiritually dangerous. On the other hand, its often no use trying to convince the latter that a quiet life is a good one; they are always on the move to somewhere for something no matter if the road leads to destruction.

There is no getting past the idea that the argument of women’s’ role in the Church is political. The unity of Zion transforms into the battle of the sexes. The glass ceiling and not the Kingdom of God a destination. That doesn’t make women’s issues any less real, but the focus put on the subject can harm men. They become the object of scorn, jealousy, and conspiracy. They start walking barefoot on the broken glass rather than boldly doing their Priesthood duty. Should they step up more in helping mothers and children in family life? Yes. Should they be more accommodating and listen to the voice of all women more? Yes, of course. Should they support and encourage women into more spiritual participation and growth? Not doing that is irresponsible. Following the example of Jesus the way he interacts and takes women seriously as part of the fold is a more than commendable, its necessary.

Heaping guilt on top of an already busy life doesn’t foster better leaders. The grass is always greener . . . as the saying goes. Mormon Men’s lives are not a cakewalk full of privileges, even if rewarding. Most active men are honestly trying to be good stewards. They can certainly improve. We all can and must.

A Mission

The article in the New York Times discussed more women going on missions as if a new phenomenon. The first female missionaries Inez Knight and Lucy Jane (Jennie) Brimhall were set apart April 1898 in Provo, UT. The influx of even more women going out into the “field” will more than likely not substantially change things for women in general.

The responsibility for men to go on missions has not changed. It is considered a Priesthood duty if not requirement. Boys are encouraged to go starting with Primary. Actually, encourage is the wrong word. They are expected to go. Pres. Monson said, as an example:

“Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord. Maintain your health and strength. Study the scriptures. … To you young sisters: while you do not have the same priesthood responsibility as do the young men to serve as full-time missionaries, you also make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome your service.”
“As We Meet Together Again,” Ensign, November 2010, 4–6.

If a man doesn’t go, then they are scrutinized, true or false, about righteousness. A lot of good leaders, like Prophet Hunter, never went on missions. That doesn’t deflate a certain amount of doubt as to a man’s character. Luckily, the older one gets the less not having served is seen as a predicament. Converts of an older age are excused from the stigma of never having gone.

Priesthood Duties

By the time a boy becomes 14, they are given the Priesthood with responsibilities great and small. Modern definitions of teenagers can turn them into hypocrites for some older ones. Outside peer pressure sends them drinking and partying on Friday or Saturday night, then passing the Sacrament on Sundays. There are a lot of really good teenage boys, but plenty of bad apples. The Bishop and Young Men leaders have a tough job to do countering High School influences. To say boys are not taught to control themselves when confronting pretty girls, for instance, is ignorance of every Sunday School and Priesthood class. The impression can sometimes be they are barely able to control themselves if not careful. They are drilled with teachings about following the Commandments to be worthy of passing the Sacrament, administering to the sick, and of course getting ready for missions. What they decide to do outside of Church settings really is a choice.

Boy Scouts falls into this section. Feelings about this mixture of Priesthood with a secular organization has been explored before. It is more fun and camping than spiritual development, with even the little of that criticised by those who want to seperate Church from uniform. Besides, not all boys enjoy the outdoors. No matter the view, it became synonymous with Priesthood responsibility to participate from the start. Getting an Eagle represents becoming a man.

After returning from a mission things don’t become easier. In fact, they become much harder. Men are expected to get married, start a family, get an education, and then have a full time income job that supports the whole family. That doesn’t even cover all the Church related expectations.

In Church there are really two types of callings. The first is whatever position the man is called to accept. This can be a “lowly” quorum secretary up to Bishop and Stake President. Despite the view that these are cosy positions of power, the reality is of a heavy time consuming burden with no pay and little praise. Secondarily is Home Teaching assignments that more often than not aren’t getting done. A few already overworked Priesthood leaders often pick up the slack. Then there is giving Priesthood blessings to just about anyone who asks. With a drop of the hat a man is required to stop doing whatever and go over to administer to the sick, scared, and lonely. Cheerfully they will do this from the heart, but it is one more expectation without widespread recognition.

Meetings Within Meetings

Depending on the Priesthood calling a man receives, Sundays can be more busy than a typical work day. Bishops and Stake Presidents have it the worst because the job can go from early morning to late evening. Some bring or have a family member deliver lunch.

At the start of the day a leader and small group of advisors meet to discuss the needs of the Church and individual members. Soon a cadre of other Priesthood and auxiliary leaders arrive to find solutions brought up by concerns during the first meeting. Then Church starts where the Bishopric presides over song selections, ward speakers, and other business planned earlier in the week. Three hours later another meeting takes place at the secretary office going over financial and statistical records. Personal meetings discussing spiritual progress and repentance last into the early evening. Another meeting, presumed right before or after dinner, gathers willing Priesthood holders to discuss how to improve ward numbers with a few sports analogies to mix it up. For once it would be nice to have a meeting devoted to improving personal scripture reading, pondering, and praying.

Considering all the meetings that go on at any time on the weekend, its a wonder that a group of women want to “bust into” the Priesthood session of General Conference. What is it they expect to hear? Its more of the same call to repentance and respect for family like the other Conference sessions, only geared toward men and boys with a few more sports analogies. Unlike the women’s session, there is hardly any specific talks of how special they are. I can understand why feminists might be a little confused when women’s conference has men speakers. That is if they don’t understand or respect the current patriarchal makeup of the Church hierarchy; developed by revelation to Joseph Smith with visits from John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John.

Conclusion

Apparently, a poll taken about women getting the Priesthood shows more men than women want that to happen. One theory is that men agree to this as a kind of sideways statement of how hard Priesthood responsibility can be. They are tired and don’t get more than grudging respect. The world wants them to feel guilty about something and a few women inside the Church are helping along. That said, behind every good Priesthood leader is a woman who loves and supports them as a person.

For those who are concerned women are the ones not getting enough respect, how can women gain more influence in the Church when they don’t hold prestigious positions? I like what Meg said about women who really want more spiritual participation need to be proactive with what they already have been given. Faith, prayer, revelation, and worshiping God with service to others has no gender or position. Get rid of the idea the Church is equivalent to a business because its purpose is completely different no matter what the skeptics say. Screaming from the rooftop might be powerful, but God rewards those who give alms in secret. That isn’t to be interpreted as a statement about women staying quiet. Its about women becoming active in the Lord’s way with His priorities. Men, who are busy enough as it is if they are doing their duties, will see the women’s good works and praise God. To be fair, men need to speak up more when we do see those works; and they are plenty. The Gospel of humility, forgiveness, and repentance is for everyone.

15 thoughts on “Being a Mormon Man

  1. Great post, Jettboy.

    However, I am not looking forward to the inhospitable, hypocritical, and incendiary comments you’ll get from the loving, all-intelligent feminists.

  2. Jettboy, I think your point that the Church is not run like a business is an important one that needs to be internalized. In addition, the idea of “power” within the Church is very different than the world’s perception of “power.” Christ had the most power of all yet was the humblest and most meek of all. There is an important lesson there.

  3. Jettboy, you get a very hearty AMEN from me with this post. Well said. As I have watched my own husband work closely with our bishop over this last year, I can say that none of these men have aspired to their leadership callings, but they accept them and go and serve the best they can.

  4. I can identify with all of it. My husband has been a bishopric counselor, a bishop, a stake president, and at the moment branch president to a Soanish branch, and I have lived it all with him. I don’t know a busier or a more dedicated man than him. I don’t see much of the poor man, he leaves early in the morning and come home late. He works at his job and then some. Interviews at church, meetings and more meetings, visits to members, home teaching, helping people move, giving blessings, setting people apart, welfare program. He still have to find time for FHE, family prayer, scripture reading. I feel bad sometimes because there isn’t a lot I can do to ease his burden as far as his calling is concern. So, I really don’t want those extra burdens that come with the Priesthood, and like you said they don’t get a lot of respect or thanks for all they do. My husband is one of those tired and overworked priesthood holders, but very grateful for the contribution he makes to the Lord’s Kingdom.

  5. An excellent and well thought-out post, Jettboy (and I appreciated the female perspective from Meg). From what I can tell, you haven’t embellished or exaggerated on any points…your narrative is spot on. From my father’s example and from my own experiences, possessing the priesthood is not all it is cracked up to be, and though exhausting at times, it is service that is spiritually rewarding and soul-stretching. Having said that, I’ve often thought that the desire for priesthood among some women is misguided, but at the same time, the priesthood is a sexist fraternity with occasional members that will inevitably ruffle feathers and pierce some tender sensibilities of our women (and men).

    It is apparent from scripture that men, more than women (for “we have learned from sad experience…” and “no man taketh this honor…except he…is called of God”), need the priesthood just as much as they need their wives in order to inherit exaltation. Men, by our very nature, are frequently (note I do not say always) aggressive, selfish, and controlling–the very epitome of the “natural man” outlined in scripture, though these qualities, when tempered with Christ-like virtues, serve a purpose in defending virtue and protecting the family, yet in a complementary partnership with his helpmeet.

    Christ, for instance, ejected the money-changers from the temple. No doubt this was viewed by his enemies as those three aforementioned adjectives, but these very qualities served His Father’s purpose. Others, less antagonistic, recognized his authority and His right to behave in such a manner.

    I think the Church as a whole is doing a better job or incorporating the views of female members, as it should–and the women do very well in the purview of their own “sorority”–despite occasional slights or oversights, but by and large the leadership needs the prayers and support of all the members to conduct the many tasks under their stewardship week in and week out.

    I should add, from a non-sexist POV, that I personally have a physical disability that limits my opportunities for church service, even though I am an elder. I am often overlooked, and even misunderstood, by my local congregation and leaders–both men and women. I guess I could feel slighted, rebuffed, ostracized, and isolated, but I have a real relationship with Heavenly Father, a fervent testimony, and I know I have a place–though as yet undisclosed–in His plan. So I am content with my place and the lot I have been given. My challenges are mine, and fpr me alone.

    Paul teaches that all members are needful in the body of Christ, including “much more those members of the body, which seem to be amore feeble, are necessary.” So more than “agitation” as a necessary component is the need for unity and oneness toward receiving further light and understanding. I fear that in agitation, there will be those “looking beyond the mark” when we should be striving for unity, for only then, as members of the body of Christ, can we “be still and know that [He is] God” and progress toward Zion.

  6. Kareen,

    You have truly been blessed with a wonderful man in your life. My own father, while never having served as bishop or stake president, has been an incredibly faithful home teacher for decades, and I am convinced that the service he has rendered in that regard will see him crowned in heaven. He’s just about the most humble man I’ve ever known with respect to holding and exercising the priesthood.

    (Also, please let me say that I am deeply touched by your kind words on the other post. I won’t comment over there again for obvious reasons, but after being a bit bruised up today, it was very healing to read some friendly words. Thank you.)

    Tiger,

    I really appreciate your words. I have had Paul’s teachings on the importance of every member on my mind today. I think it’s vital for all of us to remember that “he that is least is greatest in the kingdom of God”. I’ve also often considered the fact that mere holding the priesthood will actually prove a cursing to those of us that don’t magnify it. Nobody — men or women — has a “right” to hold it. It’s a privilege. I’m not worthy of it, in my opinion. My dad would probably say the same thing even though I’m convinced he is.

    For those women that do seek the priesthood I would say be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

  7. Good Mormon men are fabulous. For the most part they are the diligent, loving folks you mention.

    My father was a child of war who was subjected to homosexual abuse and raised by an angry father himself. He had issues. I remember one day watching as he propelled the dining room table across the room by repeatedly jamming his middle finger at it. There was another time when he’d been at church and gotten a lesson about the honor fathers should receive from their wives and children. We were driving home when he told us about this lesson. Then something snapped and he started swearing, accusing us of not giving him adequate respect, all the while steering the car wildly from side to side across the entire road, to include the side where oncoming traffic would have been. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic that day.

    I love my father. I bring him up just to point out that some women do not have the dedicated, spiritually whole, men described in jettboy’s post.

    Luckily I am currently married to a dedicated and sweet man. I have the privilege of seeing my oldest daughter in a marriage with a good and diligent man.

    I look into my past generations, which has included leaders such as John Taylor. However many generations included a man who had decided to avoid the Church. In those families, the women raised their children without any spiritual help from their spouse.

    Perhaps it is observing those families that I’ve developed the perspective that priesthood gives men the chance to develop in ways women have traditionally been forced to develop due to their family responsibilities. I’ve sometimes even thought of priesthood as a consolation prize because men cannot be mothers.

    Thinking of the NYT article, I don’t think the reporters trying to describe this Mormon phenomenon have adequate grounding in the culture they would attempt to shame into change.

    By the way, so cool about the new change to Stake Conference sessions. All members age 12 and up are invited to the Saturday evening session. In the US NorthEast, all stake conference will take place on the same day, allowing a portion of the proceedings to be broadcast from Salt Lake City. This kind of shift positions the Church to reach their faithful much more quickly and directly than would be possible otherwise. I see this also as part of changes required to ensure the rising generations have the training to be successful missionaries at the younger ages we are permitting. These changes also help standardize the experience of church members.

    As we move forward into a day when the “traditional” roles of men and women are being radically altered, I see the Church positioning itself to be able to direct the faithful in a uniquely agile fashion. I will be interested to see where this alignment will take us.

  8. Michael, I will say that I am sorry for “bruising” you.

    I hope that you understand that it came from a place of frustration. It is frustrating for me to stand on one side of a room, and earnestly entreat others to come join us while those with me are mocking and ridiculing, only to have one of my fellows haul off and punch them in the noise. Repeatedly. I got to the point yesterday when I essentially decided that maybe some of your same bluntness would communicate what I have been trying to say more gently for years.

    Sometimes when you throw a punch, your target will simply block it. I generally try to do that. Yesterday, I hit back. I never dreamed it would actually hurt you, judging from your words to me and to other members of the church you have named enemies.

    Knowing that it did, I am sorry that I didn’t try to point out the effect of your words more gently. I wanted to communicate. Hurting you was not my intention.

  9. Michael, I meant every bit of it, you are a good man, defending what he knows with his whole heart to be the truth, and I agree with you most of the time. I like that you don’t beat around the bush, even though it may seem harsh to some, and maybe sometimes you could be a little softer when expressing your opinion, but you also apologize when necessary. I am glad that I made your day a little better.

  10. Don’t ever water down your rhetoric Michael. You, and I, are the high velocity molecules that cause chemistry to occur. The 6 sigma folk gotta stay true to their nature. Perhaps we’re just born that way (speaking truth), and some others don’t like that…

  11. Pingback: The Rocket Man on Mormon Men | Out of the Best Blogs

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