[Given by Chris Juchau at Stake Priesthood Meeting July 27, 2014]
Brethren, I would like to speak to you for the next few minutes “man-to-man.” I wish to speak of manhood, of masculinity, of the magnificence and majesty associated with manhood, of being sons of God.
Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Son of Man.” That “Man” He is the son of is our Father, whose name is “Man of Holiness.” God, our Father, possesses all the qualities of perfected masculinity. Part of our job is to learn to become more genuinely masculine—like Him.
Honoring manhood does not dishonor womanhood. The opposite is true. We honor and respect womanhood more fully as we embody and express true qualities of manhood. Man is not better than woman, nor vice versa. It takes one of each, together, to make a whole.
The world needs men. Wives need men. Children need men. It would be easy to cite myriad statistics about the social and economic benefits that accrue to individuals, communities, and society as a whole from engaged fathers. From a socio-economic standpoint, the clearest solution to crime, poverty, and ignorance is fathers who are both present and engaged. If you doubt that—or are interested in the subject—you should read a book called “Fatherless America.” It is no coincidence that in the Celestial Economy, nobody is fatherless and all fathers are present—and the same with mothers.
Let me begin by underscoring the fact that when we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, we give ourselves to God in a very literal sense. We become God’s—not that we are gods, but that we become His—to the point where we have committed to living by every word that comes from his mouth no matter how that word reaches us. Once I receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and accept the associated Oath and Covenant, my wants and desires must either be the same as His or must become subordinate to His. I am His.
If you are asking yourself whether or not you will serve a mission, you are asking the wrong question.
Young men, you need to understand this. As you approach your 18th birthday, you should recognize that the biggest thing coming up in your life is not a decision about serving a mission. It is a decision of whether you will choose God to such an extent that you will receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, make a covenant thereby to serve him, become His, and dedicate your whole life (and not merely two years) to His service. It is a decision of whether you are willing to prepare yourself to go to the temple and there make covenants which will further bind him to you. If you are asking yourself whether or not you will serve a mission, you are asking the wrong question. Missions naturally follow eternal covenants with the Lord.
To you less-young men, if you did not appreciate the significance of the Melchizedek Priesthood and its associated covenant when you received it, it may well be because nobody taught you very thoroughly. You should understand and accept the significance of it now.
A man is not complete without a wife. Just ask [name withheld], whose wife of 55 years passed away a few weeks ago. He will tell you that she made him a better man and that without her he is now “half a person.” He has said those very words—and he is right in a legitimate sense—except that his covenants render their separation temporary and in a coming day he will not only be, but will feel again, like a complete man as they are reunited, never to be separated.
Young men, when you return home from missions, make finding a wife your highest priority. You need her and she needs you and without each other you’re neither complete nor qualifying to live as God lives.
After my own goal of qualifying to return to Heavenly Father, my most important goal is that my wife will be glad she chose me and will be happy at the thought of continuing our partnership in the next life. When we reach the end of our mortal lives, I want her to say—and not just because she’s being nice—that she is glad we’ve been—and will be—together.
Let me share with you a short (and incomplete) list of qualities that apply particularly to men and to masculinity. These traits are not found in their completeness in all men, neither are they absent in women, but they are particularly tied to masculinity. Here are a few—and their definitions. Some, but not all of these, come from a talk given by Elder Christofferson.
Ambitious: having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.
Courageous: the ability to do something that frightens one. Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Analytical: relating to or using analysis or logical reasoning.
Action-oriented: willing or likely to take practical action to deal with a problem or situation.
Risk-taking: the tendency to engage in behaviors that have the potential to be harmful or dangerous, yet at the same time provide the opportunity for some kind of outcome that can be perceived as positive.
Stoic: the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.
Self-reliant: reliant on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others.
Initiative-taking: the ability to assess and initiate things independently.
Fortitude: strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.
Fidelity: faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.
Of course we should hasten to add to the list those qualities associated with priesthood power as listed in Section 121. These include:
- Persuasion—which surely includes inviting and encouraging but never coercing or manipulating
- Long-suffering—or patience
- Meekness—which includes humility
- Love unfeigned—sincere love
- Knowledge—ignorance and a disinterest in learning are qualities unassociated with true manhood and the priesthood.
You may struggle with some of these things. All that means is that you’re normal and you’re just like the rest of us. We all struggle with some of these things. If we consciously and purposefully and prayerfully struggle with them, we will get better at them. The Lord said, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, I will make weak things become strong unto them.”
In my experiences, the strongest men are the humblest. It takes both strength and humility to acknowledge weakness. In such men, it is commonly true that weak things do become strengths. I have been watching that in men around me for years. It is beautiful and miraculous.
The weakest men are often the ones who are least willing to acknowledge their faults. They are kept from being open and honest by pride or fear or both and they have, in my view, a miserable struggle as those weaknesses becoming greater weaknesses instead of strengths.
Now, as I recently reminded the young men and their advisors heading up to Helaman’s Camp, you’ll recall the scene in the movie “The Princess Bride” where Wesley (the “man in black”) and the Princess Buttercup emerge from the deadly fire swamp only to be surrounded by Prince Humperdinck, his six-fingered accomplice, and some other armed thugs. Let’s review the dialogue that ensues in that scene. You may recall…
Prince Humperdinck: Surrender!
Wesley: You mean you wish to surrender to me. Very well, I accept.
Prince Humperdinck: I give you full marks for bravery. Don’t make yourself a fool.
Wesley: Yes, but how will you capture us? We know the secrets of the fire swamp. We can live there quite happily for some time, so whenever you feel like dying feel free to visit.
Prince Humperdinck: I tell you once again: surrender.
Wesley: It will not happen.
Prince Humperdinck: For the last time, surrender!
Wesley: Death first!
Princess Buttercup: Will you promise not to hurt him?!
Prince Humperdinck: What was that?
Wesley: What was that?
Princess Buttercup: If we surrender, and I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man?
Prince Humperdinck: May I live a thousand years and never hunt again.
Princess Buttercup: He is a sailor on the pirate ship revenge. Promise to return him to his ship.
Prince Humperdinck: I swear it will be done. ([Aside:] Once we’re out of sight, take him back to Florin and throw him in the pit of despair.)
The Six-Fingered Man: Yes sir. I swear it will be done.
[The Princess Buttercup says goodbye and is carried off by the prince…]
The Six-Fingered Man: Come sir. We must get you to your ship.
Wesley: We are men of action. Lies do not become us.
The Six-Fingered Man: Well spoken sir.
Now I realize the dialogue from “The Princess Bride” is not scripture. But it is fun to identify truth in many places all around us, even, on exceptionally rare occasion, from a Hollywood movie script.
There are two kinds of creatures: those who act and those who are acted upon.
I would like to emphasize the two points made by Wesley, the man in black. First, he says, “We are men of action.” Brethren, we should be men of action. Father Lehi taught his children that there are two kinds of creatures: those who act and those who are acted upon.
To act means to think, to plan, and to lead by taking the planned actions. To bring spirituality into it, we would add “ponder” and “pray” to “think” and we would add “seek the Spirit” to “plan” and we would add “exercise faith” to “lead by taking the planned actions.” That would give us this three-step formula:
First, think, ponder, and pray about what needs to happen—either in your own life, or the life of your family, or in the lives of people you serve. Because we can apply Lehi’s concept of “acting” to all three of those scenarios.
Second, seek the Spirit and plan. One might add “search the scriptures” or “review the teachings of priesthood leaders.” But the point is to determine a plan and what one will do.
Third, muster the courage, the initiative, and most especially, the faith, to act on the plan. This requires forms of leadership.
Every one of us is capable of following this formula, and of course, many men do on a regular basis. The point is to be intentional and to take action.
You and I need to be men of action. Young men, you need to know where you are going. Where will you be in five years? Where will you be in ten years? The opposite of acting, as Father Lehi taught, is to be “acted upon.” This means that we largely ignore the gifts of agency and of manhood that God has given us and we allow ourselves to be moved around like a leaf in the wind. We don’t take charge like the man in black, we just let ourselves become victims to life’s circumstances. Such situations don’t end well. Where will you be in ten years? Do you have a plan to get there? Are you acting? Are you following your plan and taking the right steps to make it come true? Are you leading, in this case, yourself? We all wanted agency, which is why we ended up here on earth. We have it here in abundance. We are men and we have agency. Let us use those gifts to bring about much goodness.
Men, where will your marriage be in five or ten or twenty years? What will happen if it stays on its present course? What do you need to do to strengthen the friendship and partnership and mutual respect and love in your marriage? Are you acting on this or letting circumstances act on you?
Where will your children be in five or ten years? What steps are you consciously, intentionally taking to get them to the right place? How are you acting to strengthen?
Brethren, we are men of action, or, rather, we must be men of action. To be otherwise, is to give away the gift that is so great that God Himself suffered and died to protect it for us: agency. Let us use it. Let us be men of action.
Lies do not become us.
Now secondly, as the man in black also said, “Lies do not become us.” Truer words were never spoken. I don’t know if honesty and integrity are inherent traits of manhood. Some think they are. I’m not sure. I might have included them in my earlier list. All I know for certain is that they should be traits of manhood. They are certainly traits of true manhood. A man cannot become the full measure of a man without excellence in the area of honesty and integrity.
I have, for much of 48 years, been amazed by women and the qualities—the divine qualities, I’ve concluded—of women and young women. I have been in awe of them and tried to understand them. They think differently than I do. They speak differently. They often seem to sense and perceive things differently than I do. They seem sometimes to me to be inherently better.
One of the things I have learned about women—and I’m surely just scratching the surface—is about the enormous amount of trust that a woman places in a man when she marries him. It is, really, a staggering act of trust for a woman to marry a man. She, naturally, seeks safety. Doing so is a divine quality of femininity. She wants safety and stability for herself, for her children, for the family. Men have a divine responsibility to protect. Women inherently understand that the protection needed goes beyond protection from physical threat or danger. A man’s responsibility to protect extends to the atmosphere of trust and integrity and reliability he should help create—and to the peace and stability and safety that that will result from those ambient conditions—and which a wife is absolutely entitled to expect and receive from her husband.
If a woman discovers that her husband has been unfaithful or dishonest with her, it is a staggering, crushing blow which we must not attempt to minimize or justify in the slightest way, but rather which we must work long and vigorously to repair. Trust once lost is hardly regained. Only after much time and consistency and proof of integrity.
As I mentioned earlier, I consider my greatest goal in life, after my goal to please my Father in Heaven and Savior, to end life with my wife pleased that she spent hers with me. Next is that my children will know and feel that I love them and will desire the same things for themselves as I do, though they will be their own independent people and not people I try to control.
In the temple recommend interview, there are 18 questions if I’m not mistaken. We might sometimes think of the law of chastity question as the most difficult of them. It is probably not right to say that any one of those 18 questions is more important than the others, but I have learned to have a special appreciation for the question about honesty.
“Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?” The wording of that question, with its reference to “dealings,” makes me think about honesty in business and in various worldly transactions. But I am sure that that question includes ideas like, “Are you honest with your wife—both in word and in deed, including in those things she’s not aware of?” “Do you set a real example of honesty to your children?” “Are you honest with yourself?” “Are you honest with your priesthood leaders?”
Too many withhold important truths from their bishops. Those situations end in more pain than they need to end in. “My yoke is easy,” said the Savior. “Take my yoke upon you,” He said. One way we do that is through honesty.
Brethren, we are men of action. And lies not only do not become us; they destroy us.
It is good to be men. The better men we are, the more we will become like our perfect, masculine Father and His Firstborn, the better and happier we will be. And the happier our wives and children will be. Not much else matters more than that.
Let us act with prayer and inspired intent to serve the Lord, let us love our wives, and let us teach our children to become healthy, independent, and thriving men and women. Let us experience the joy that comes from committing ourselves to the Lord, to serving him with all the tirelessness we can muster, to helping our families along the covenant path, and to bringing the blessings of the gospel to our neighbors and to our deceased ancestors.
I testify that joy comes from acting in the service of our God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
It was said by the writer of Hebrews (which, if I understand correctly, may or may not have been Paul), that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I’ve been hearing that phrase for decades and wondering what, exactly, it means. With the help of this Thursday’s YSA seminar, I think I’m getting closer.
Our LDS Bible Dictionary (which I am guilty of underutilizing) associates at least five things with faith:
- hope (of things unseen)
- confidence (or “assurance of the fulfillment of the things hoped for”)
- action (“true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action”—the “and” in that sentence is noteworthy)
- power (“when occasion warrants”), and
- belief (probably the most obvious—but not the only!—element of faith)
Further, the Bible Dictionary clarifies that “true faith must be based upon correct knowledge” and that if it is to “produce salvation,” faith “must be centered in Jesus Christ.”
So if I fail to hope and believe with confidence or if I fail to act on what I believe, my faith is (partially or entirely) absent or it is a type of false faith. Further, if my faith is based on something that isn’t true, it may still be faith, but it is not true faith—and if it is not centered on Christ, it will neither bring about a remission of my sins nor my salvation.
It is interesting to distinguish between “correct knowledge” and “perfect knowledge.” Alma taught that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.” (Alma 32:21) The thing I believe in and act upon must be correct—and I must have a reason to believe it is correct, otherwise it could not be considered knowledge. (And heaven knows we do not believe in blind faith.) Yet my knowledge must be in some way imperfect, lest it be “perfect knowledge” and faith no longer present.
This confirms the idea that faith and agency are—as are testimony and agency—connected. Neither faith nor testimony involves perfect faith, so there is a strong element of choice involved with both. In fact, we come to earth to use our agency to choose faith—faith in redemption and even exaltation through Jesus Christ. In short, we must have reasons for what we believe and exercise faith in, yet those reasons will not be perfected to the point (in this life, at least) at which they squeeze out uncertainty and, hence, choice.
What is a bit baffling to me is why Evangelical Christians are so good at declaring their salvation with firm (to say the least) confidence whereas if you ask a Mormon “Have you been saved?” the answer is often a look of shock, confusion, uneasiness, or embarrassment. Why do we lack the willingness to answer that question positively? Is our faith in Christ partially or entirely absent?
Well, an easy answer is because none of us—Evangelical, LDS, or otherwise—is yet literally and permanently standing in God’s presence, so we cannot factually say that it has happened already. But Mormons struggle with that question even if it is placed in a future context: “How confident do you feel that, if your life ended today, you would end up exalted in the Celestial Kingdom after the Judgment?” Would it be inappropriate for me to look you in the eye in response to that question and answer firmly, “Completely confident”? I don’t think so. In fact, I think we usually ought to and that true faith even demands it (provided I’m not in violation of my covenants—which does not mean that I’m perfect).
So where does confident, assured faith come from? Well, the Bible Dictionary says it comes from learning (“hearing the testimony of those who have faith”) and doing (“obedience to the gospel”). It stands to reason that we must learn about something before we can believe in it and that the more we learn about it and understand it, the greater our reasons may become for believing in it. But learning must also be accompanied by action. Faith is not faith without action; faith without works is very much dead; and without action our learning becomes seriously obstructed.
So as my friend Newell recently taught me, it is a cycle: if I am willing to experiment and exercise faith in something I’ve learned by acting on it, through that action I will learn more, which learning will prompt me to act more, which will in turn teach me more, and so on and so on and so on. There is a “virtuous cycle” of learning and acting and being obedient to what we learn. But when I cease either learning or acting correctly on that learning, I cease spiraling upward and commence sliding backward into a spiral descent.
Jesus taught clearly and succinctly the relationship between faith and action and learning and doing: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine….”
Learn. Do. Exercise agency through hope and belief. Exercise confidence and a sense of assurance in that hope and belief. And power will follow—if, when, and as needed by our Father in Heaven—but in any event to the producing of our salvation if our faith is centered on Christ.
Such faith is liberating. The alternative of “faith in nothing” leads to hopelessness. And the alternative of “faith in myself” leads to high stress, a lack of assurance, and ultimately failure. Faith in Christ, however, including acting on it as best we can, results in confident assurance.
So with respect for my Evangelical friends who don’t believe me and for my Mormon friends who think such statements are inappropriate… I, for one, am not yet saved. But I’m going to be. And you can bank on it.