[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.
The question of whether I believe in the devil has long seemed interesting to me. I remember walking down a street in Hamburg, Germany, knocking on doors with Elder Barton one day and asking him if he had a testimony of Satan. He looked at me as if wondering what he would ever do with his greenie (we actually called new missionaries “goldens” in my mission) and I said, “Well, if we have a testimony of God and of the doctrine of the Church, we must have a testimony that Satan is actually a real, live, specific person.” He agreed.
While I do, indeed, believe in the doctrine of the Church and that Satan is real, I’m honestly not all that certain what to think about his influence in my life or in the lives of others. I think there’s a lot of it, to be sure, but I don’t understand how direct it is. That is, I don’t understand how directly he or his Screwtape-like minions (and I do think he is not alone) influence events or circumstances or my thoughts and feelings. How directly do they create temptation? How directly do they mess with my thinking, understanding, and vision? At any rate, I am sure he exists. I am sure there is evil in this world and other places and that he is the author of much of it. And I am sure that “he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
A few days ago I was asked to consider methods Satan uses to deceive us. I misunderstood my assignment a little and, instead, started creating a list of lies he gets us to buy into. Here is the list I’ve come up with. If I think of more, I’ll probably come back and add them. If you think of other important ones before I do, please shoot me your thoughts. (By the way, with a nod to “full disclosure,” I’ll tell you I keep hearing the Thompson Twins singing “lies, lies, lies, yeah” in my head when I think about this. Perhaps that is one way Satan gets into my head. ;-)
- I’m unworthy to receive God’s help. I am so bad or I’ve done so many bad things that God either can’t or won’t help me. The saving grace of the Atonement is beyond my reach and hope. That is never true for any of us, but if Satan loves to do anything, it is to extinguish hope. For that reason alone, we ought to embrace optimism and shun pessimism. (Not to make light of an important subject, but Mariners fans know this intuitively, even though the aspiration of our hopes remains unrealized.)
- The fact that I can repent later makes it more acceptable for me to sin now. Well. It is true that our sins, though scarlet and crimson, shall be as white as snow. (And it is true that Ute fans are Ute fans in spite of the clear association—and biblical warning, even—between crimson and sin.) But that “shall” is conditioned upon the state of our heart, and hearts that choose to make a mockery of the Savior’s suffering will find the road to a legitimately broken heart and contrite spirit difficult to find. “White as snow” can always happen (see #1 above) but not without sincerity from us—which sincerity, once brushed aside, will be all the harder to achieve later.
- Tolerance is a virtue, so the more of it, the better. If I do not show tolerance for things other people say I should show tolerance for, I am wrong and un-Christ-like. Tolerance is a virtue. So are patience and acceptance and compassion and understanding. We ought to have all of those things, at least to some degree (perhaps there’s a limit with acceptance) with regards to people. But not with people’s actions or words. In fact, nobody in their right mind thinks that literally all behaviors should be tolerated. The lie is that if I don’t accept the same behaviors that others accept, then I’m bad. But Christianity in its best forms has always rejected popular behaviors that depart from God’s plan and His commandments. Good is good and evil is evil. Ours is to understand how God sees them and to be as generous with people as appropriate.
- This problem will never be fixed. My spouse or child will never change. I’ll never change. This circumstance will never improve. Satan loves to mess with our perspective. One of his best tools is to extinguish hope through short-term thinking and a distraction from what should be a long-term, even eternal, perspective. People do change. Usually slowly, but they can and do change. (Surely I change—at least for the better—mostly slowly of all!) Circumstances do change. Some problems go away on their own; some we can fix; most can be endured. My wise pharmacologist father used to tell us that 90-something percent of all physical ailments will fix themselves no matter what you take, so think twice before introducing medicines with inevitable side-effects into your body. Patience, hope, and endurance are virtues for us to embrace. And they are well justified. Just wait and see.
- Men and women are the same—or, at least, they should be. Manly men should be less manly. Women should be more manly. There are no true gender roles. There isn’t even gender—or, at least, it’s whatever I want it to be. Yikes. Vive la difference, I say. And so does God. At least, He does if you believe in living prophets, the plan of salvation, and the Proclamation to the World. Check, check, and check for me (even if the six-hour version of Pride and Prejudice is in my list of top movies). Man up, men. Woman up, women.
- He (or she) did that on purpose! Some years ago, I sat through two days of corporate training on “Crucial Conversations.” (Interestingly, it was conducted by a woman who just knows I’m going to hell because of my false (her word) form of Christianity. Bless her heart, her prayers, love, and caring for me are so sincere! My sincere assurances to her that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and that I believe I can only be saved by and through his grace bring her no relief.) Anyway, all I remember from those two days is that we hear people say things and/or see them do things and then we tell ourselves stories—often negative stories that fuel our anger—about what that person meant or what their bad intentions were or about how they wanted to hurt us. Truth is, people are generally good, they’re generally trying, they usually don’t want to hurt us, and we’re just plain wrong about ascribing negativity to them. Too often, unfortunately, that doesn’t stop us from sharing our (mis)interpretations about other people’s badness with anyone who will provide a sympathetic ear, so we get a second dose of positive reinforcement for our self-deception to go along with our sense of victimized indignation.
- The Church has in it sinners, posers, and self-righteous hypocrites, so it must be a bad place. Further, Church leaders have said erroneous and, occasionally, stupid things, so the Church’s authority must be hollow. In my mind, this is akin to saying that since hospitals are full of sick people and doctors frequently mistaken, then hospitals and are bad and doctors have nothing to offer. (By the way, teenagers often do something similar with their parents: my parents are flawed parents so I’ll do well to distance myself from them.) Truth is, “they that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.” We’re all sick and the more of us sick people who get together in search of real healing, the better. That men are fallible ought not be a shock to our naiveté. Moroni, himself, acknowledged this as he closed the Book of Mormon: “If there be faults, they be the faults of a man…” but he warned, “he that condemneth, let him be aware.” Let us reject neither the hospital nor, too broadly, those practicing medicine within it. (And, regarding those practitioners, see #6.)
- Women are sexual creatures. I’m half shaking with fear and half chuckling at my foolishness for broaching a topic here I don’t know how to wisely articulate, but here goes. Of course, all human beings are sexual creatures to some extent or Adam and Eve would have been the end of it. And sexuality varies in healthy ways between genders and individuals. But. Satan is the master of the half-truth. Young women, often ill-equipped to even perceive Satan’s marketing tactics, are taught to sexualize their look and behavior and to view modesty (in appearance and behavior) as passé. Some mature women have gotten so much positive reinforcement (from men and women) from immodesty that they still don’t see the problem with it. And boys and men are living in a virtual swamp of fantasy about how women want sex all the time just like they do. Everybody loses. I suspect we need mothers to explain the female view of sexuality more clearly and effectively to their children (and perhaps to their husbands—who ought to try hard to understand).
- This will make me feel better. Addiction. He’s really good at this one! And, as is so often the case, he’s half right. Nephi described Satan’s method: “He leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.” Indeed. As I have come to understand addiction (and, as on every other topic, including that last one, I’m no expert, I know), most addictions, chemical or sexual, are inspired by a desire to avoid, cover, or replace pain. Unfortunately, as the man in black, lying limp and helpless, said, nay, shouted to Prince Humperdinck too correctly, “Life is pain!” So our desires for relief can be strong and frequent. The real lie is in believing that there isn’t a better way to handle life’s pain or that life, itself, can’t be made better through other means. The real solution is in finding the real source of pain and addressing it emotionally and spiritually. Easier to say than to do, to be sure. Addicts (a term which may describe you and me more than we care to acknowledge) should be granted patience and very consistent support.
- A little breeze is good; I really don’t need to lean into it. (This one was inspired—post original publication—by alert reader, Jim Golden. Thanks, Jim!) Most of us are probably ready and willing to stand up to substantial, obvious adversity when it comes our way, but Satan can sometimes get us to drop our guard by convincing us that things are going well enough and a little relaxation won’t hurt. “I’ve said my prayers 12 days in a row; it won’t hurt any if I skip them now when I’m so tired.” Or, “My family knows I have a testimony; I don’t really need to bear it again publicly this year.” While it is true that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up to excess over our shortcomings, it is essential that we maintain a constant striving for progress and not let our guard down—and keep leaning into the wind, so to speak. Cliché, maybe, but it seems true: if we’re not progressing we’re regressing. Getting us to relax out of comfort can win the same effect for Satan as getting us to give up from discouragement.
I am convinced that truth isn’t just nice and doesn’t just help provide fairness and justice. It is essential to happiness. Living “after the manner of happiness” includes seeing and dealing with things the way they really are. The Savior spoke, when he spoke of motes and beams, of the necessity to “see clearly.” Life gets really unhappy when we lose our vision or it becomes blurred by lies and half-truths.
Some of the ways that I can tell that I am seeing clearly include seeing myself as being acceptable and OK while needing significant improvement; seeing others as good people trying hard and dealing with their own pain; seeing God as willing—and He is much more than that—to embrace not only me but those I’ve taken offense from; seeing his commandments (such a tough word for us sometimes!) as guard rails along the proverbial road of (not to) happiness; and being optimistic. Almost always, when I am unhappy, it is, at least in part, because I am not seeing something clearly.