[Given by Chris Juchau at the Priesthood Leadership session of Stake Conference, October 2016.]
Good morning, brethren. Thank you for being here this morning. My Patriarchal Blessing reminds me to attend faithfully all the meetings at which I am expected. I have tried to do that and it has blessed my life. You are in the right place and I join you in looking forward to being taught by Elder Worthen in a few minutes.
Sometimes it seems to me that when women are spoken to in the Church, they are provided comfort and reassurance—whereas men are told to buck up, shape up, and get with the program.
I have come to the conclusion that there is a “healthy” way of approaching life and understanding ourselves, which allows us to see ways in which we need to improve without being discouraged or frustrated (or perhaps demoralized) by it. It is, I believe, Heavenly Father’s desire that we strive for improvement from a position of security in the assurance that while we are striving, faithful, and observing our covenants, we are acceptable to the Lord in spite of our various needs for improvement.
And I believe that describes the vast majority of the men here this morning—faithful to the Savior, observant of and committed to covenants, and striving to magnify callings at home and in the Church. It is my testimony that we may do so from a position of confidence and trust in the Lord.
I would like to speak to you this morning about what must surely be the very most foundational aspect of effective priesthood leadership: personal righteousness. I often shy away from the word “righteous.” I suppose I confuse it with “self-righteous” sometimes and I often think of the Savior’s comment, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” Nevertheless, in our healthy way of striving for improvement, personal righteousness is what we ought to be striving for.
Let me begin by quoting the first paragraph of Chapter 3 from the Church’s Handbook of Instructions (Book 2):
All Church leaders are called to help other people become “true followers of … Jesus Christ.” To do this, leaders first strive to be the Savior’s faithful disciples, living each day so that they can return to live in God’s presence. Then they can help others develop strong testimonies and draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ….
Leaders can best teach others how to be “true followers” by their personal example. This pattern—being a faithful disciple in order to help others become faithful disciples—is the purpose behind every calling in the Church.
This pattern—being a faithful disciple in order to help others become faithful disciples—is the purpose behind every calling in the Church.
I don’t think we talk about that pattern very much. Perhaps that’s because it seems so obvious. But I think we would do well to talk and teach about it more explicitly. When an Elders Quorum presidency, for example, calls a man as a quorum instructor, the discussion accompanying that call could include a discussion of this pattern: “You are being called, not to teach lessons, but to help others become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ—and to be able to do that effectively, you will need to be a faithful disciple, yourself. What do you need to do and how can I help?”
Such a discussion would also be appropriate for bishopric members who are training young men to be leaders in Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidency meetings. And we ought to discuss this pattern in our own presidency meetings.
Let me mention five fundamental areas of personal righteousness we need to all attend to. I would invite you to take notes and teach these things to those you lead. All come straight from the Handbook.
We should keep in mind that all men who bear the priesthood are called to lead. Some may, at the moment, have formal callings of leadership within the Church, but all are called by virtue of the priesthood, itself, to lead others to Christ, beginning with those in our own homes. Principles of priesthood leadership apply to all priesthood holders.
First, effective leaders must keep the commandments. This is a broad notion with myriad associated specifics and applications. All the law and the prophets are summarized in the commands to love God and to love our neighbors. At the heart of our efforts to keep the commandments should be a conscious striving for expressions of love toward God, toward our families, and toward all people.
To keep the commandments, we must be honest in all aspects of our lives. We must be faithful to our wives and our children in every way. We must honor the Sabbath meaningfully. And, we cannot be “Sunday Mormons” or publicly one way and privately another. The integrity of our professed devotion must extend to moments both seen and unseen.
An excellent guide for all of us with regard to the commandments is the pamphlet, “For the Strength of Youth.” In my family, our Family Home Evening lessons are often drawn from “For the Strength of Youth” which is certainly no less applicable to us than to our teenagers. It is full of good counsel and reminders, which, exactly as its title suggests, will strengthen us as we follow them.
Second, we should study the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. Studying the scriptures is, I believe, essential nutrition for our souls. Dietary nutrition makes for a good analogy. If I get a steady diet over the course of a week or a month of all the vitamins and nutrients my body needs, I may notice some fairly immediate effect, but the most important effects will be long-term. Conversely, if I eat a steady diet of junk food and empty calories for a week or a month, I may also notice some fairly immediate effects, but the most important effects of such a sustained diet will be long-term—only they won’t be that long term because I won’t live that long.
Similarly, I can study or not study scriptures and living prophets for a week or so and the short-term effects will be real but probably not staggering. A steady, consistent diet of God’s word, however—or the absence thereof—has tremendous mid- and long-term effects.
These days I find three other things particularly important about scripture study in addition to consistency.
One is a steady connection to the Book of Mormon. The purpose of Joseph Smith’s mission and the purpose of the Book of Mormon are to bring us to Christ. The Book of Mormon does do that. From my observation, members of the Church who grow skeptical of Joseph Smith, also grow skeptical of the Savior and sometimes lose their connection to Him. The critical effects of the Book of Mormon are therefore twofold: it brings us closer to the Savior in a direct way and it brings us closer to the Church, which also strengthens us in our relationship with the Savior.
Another is the importance of studying the words of living prophets. I recently began reviewing again conference talks that were given 12 and 18 and 24 months ago—and this time preserving in my own electronic document the words and messages from those conferences that particularly touch my spirit and my mind. Just as we ought not disconnect ourselves from Joseph Smith, we need to stay in touch with living prophets—all of which will help us come to the Savior.
Lastly, I have long believed that we need to be outstanding students of the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There we learn so much about the Savior, about our Father in Heaven, and about their love for us.
Do you need to study scriptures for two hours every day? Not in my opinion. But meaningful time in them each day has critical short- and long-term effects on our spiritual well-being.
Third, to develop our own personal righteousness in order to be effective leaders, we must pray. Of course, there are prayers, and then there are prayers. Prayers should be meaningful and they should be bi-directional as much as possible. Prayers should include enough time to be still and listen to the thoughts and feelings we receive in return.
Prayers are best in my opinion when they are heavy on thanking and light on asking. We shouldn’t ask for things we’re not willing to do our part for. And sometimes we should pray for strength to endure challenges more than we pray for our challenges to be removed from us.
Prayers should be more than thanking and asking, though. They should include worship. Worship is personal and, in some ways, hard to define, but I believe it has a lot to do with the depth and sincerity of our gratitude and respect and of our recognition of God’s perfection and generosity toward us. We can feel those things when we pray—and feeling them benefits us.
Fourth, we should fast. We all know the scripture wherein the Savior taught that some problems are not solved except through prayer and fasting. Fasting shows devotion, earnestness, and submissiveness. This is true when we approach Fast Sunday purposefully—and also when we fast for special purposes outside of Fast Sunday. Fasting can help foster unity for families, wards, and quorums.
As with prayer, we might consider sometimes fasting without tying our fast to a request. We might fast purely as an expression of gratitude, an expression of humility, and an expression of worship.
Fasting connected to caring for the poor has many beautiful promises attached to it:
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. (Isaiah 58:8-9)
Lastly, the Handbook mentions that if we are to lead effectively through our example, through personal righteousness, we should “humble ourselves before the Lord.” What does that mean?
Nearest I can tell, all significant blessings associated with salvation, other than the resurrection, are tied to our humility. In 2 Nephi we read:
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. (2 Nephi 2:7)
I am convinced that, other than our covenants, the one thing that will most enable the Savior to save and exalt us is the achievement of having and maintaining a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Such a heart reflects faith in the Savior. Such a heart moves us not to occasional repentance, but to constant repentance. Such a heart keeps me well within the bounds of my covenants and stops me from trying to test limits of obedience and submissiveness.
When the Savior encountered broken hearts during his earthly ministry, He responded with compassion and mercy. When he encountered proud or rebellious hearts, he responded with chastisement and justice. When I am sufficiently self-aware, I see that there is too much pride in my heart. It is in my moments of legitimate humility that I find myself most at peace with myself and with the Lord—and I find myself in a position of strength because it is His strength I am recognizing.
Brethren, let me say again: Holding the priesthood, and particularly the Melchizedek Priesthood, is a call to lead—to lead others to the Savior. The very term “priesthood leadership meeting” seems redundant. We who have come this morning have each been asked, though, to lead some specific people in some specific ways and our call to leadership is particularly clearly defined right now.
We will be most effective helping others come to the Savior when our own lives are in order, when our spirituality is healthy, and when we are striving for personal righteousness not just in our outward examples but in our very personal private lives.
That we may keep the commandments, study the word of God, pray, fast, humble ourselves, and do all other things that are necessary for our own spiritual strength is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[Given by Chris Juchau at Stake Priesthood Meeting, March 2016.]
Before getting to my primary topic tonight, brethren, a quick word about PPIs…
Please take advantage of PPIs. One good reason to do so is to sustain your Elders Quorum presidency or High Priest Group leadership. But there are other excellent reasons, including realizing the benefits that come both from being accountable to and sharing your goals, challenges, and concerns with a priesthood leader.
Men do too much alone. If two men go to sit down in a row of three chairs, you can bet your mortgage that the empty seat will be the one between them. Big mistake. When life’s challenges come, too many men internalize things, limit or shut down communication, and turn themselves into a pressure cooker, which is neither necessary nor healthy.
You don’t have to tell your deepest darkest concerns to everyone. And I don’t suggest you share personal things with someone who has not yet earned your trust. But I have been on both ends of PPIs and I have very much appreciated the sincere love and concern I have felt from my priesthood leaders. I have appreciated that their concern was genuine to the point, in some cases, that they would ask me questions about things that matter. PPIs in my life, though too seldom throughout the years, have blessed me.
You young men leaders—and I’m not talking about young men advisors. I mean those called as leaders: you young men who are in Deacons Quorum, Teachers Quorum, and Priests Quorum presidencies. I think we old men and you young men share the same goal for you, which is that you become mature men and feel successful in your manhood. I encourage you to work with your bishop or his counselors to establish PPIs in your Aaronic Priesthood quorums.
You need to learn while you are young about the spiritual and emotional benefits of having a support system in your life and not trying to do too much alone. You need to learn what it is like to sit down with a peer, one on one, face to face, and care deeply about each other.
Now to my main topic…
Magnifying Through Ministering
When we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and are ordained to the office of Elder, we enter into the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Many of us received the Melchizedek Priesthood with only the vaguest idea of what the Oath and Covenant should mean to us. That problem continues in the Church for too many young men and sometimes happens still in our stake, though it should never happen. This is why we hold a class every winter for graduating seniors and other Melchizedek Priesthood candidates.
You boys—who will become men as you learn to focus more on the well-being of the people around you, starting, but not ending with your families—it is critical that you understand that receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood means committing to an entire lifetime (and beyond that) of devotion to God and to helping Him fulfill his purposes. Two years on a mission is typically the beginning of that devotion, but it is not intended to drop off after your mission—nor ever in all eternity.
Whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods… and magnifying their calling…”
According to the Oath and Covenant, we are required, if we want to receive all the blessings Heavenly Father offers us, to “magnify our callings.” To what calling is the Lord referring when He says that? Broadly speaking, there are two:
First, as Alma indicates in the Book of Mormon, the Lord is referring to the priesthood itself.
As holders of the priesthood, we have specific duties. One of those is to home teach. There are duties related to the sacrament and other ordinances. There are duties to provide service and help where needed. There are specific duties to fulfill when we are asked to take specific assignments, whether that be a shift at the cannery or setting up chairs for a meeting or helping a family get moved in or out.
But we also have a broader but very critical duty to help everyone around us come to the Savior. We do this when we care about the Savior and when we care about people enough to extend ourselves to them. It is, in my opinion, part of true manhood. We do it by setting an example, by teaching (sometimes formally, sometimes informally), and by taking sincere interest in individuals.
Secondly, when the Lord talks about magnifying our callings, he is surely also including specific callings that we receive and are sustained and set apart to perform. That may mean being a counselor or secretary or teacher in a priesthood quorum. It may mean teaching primary or Sunday School or being a clerk or family history consultant.
What, though, does it mean to magnify? Well, we all know that to magnify means to enlarge. I find it helpful to contrast the idea of magnifying with the idea of minimizing.
“Magnify” ≠ “Minimize”
To minimize a calling, we do as as much and as little as necessary. We attend only the meetings we feel absolutely compelled to attend. We may not actively drive the success of those meetings. We lay low when volunteers are requested. And we do no more than explicitly required. We move when told to move—or we resist moving (either actively or passively) when we think the person asking us to move has exceeded his or her authority. Where we are talking about that our responsibility for helping others come to the Savior, as referred to a moment ago, specifics are often lacking; so if we are in minimize mode, we don’t reach out to people any more than we have to.
I want to focus for a few minutes on magnifying our callings as that relates to helping others coming to the Savior, sometimes referred to as missionary work or reactivation work, though we could also be talking about reaching out to fully active members.
There is a statement in the Handbook that marries two critical “M-words” (one of which is not “minimize”). You’ll remember my talk tonight if you remember that it is about “M&Ms.”
In Chapter 2 of Handbook 2 (which is available to everyone online) “magnifying” is defined in large part as “ministering.” We find this statement:
“Priesthood holders magnify their callings as they minister in their own homes and to other Saints…”
In connection with that statement is a description also that we should “lift, strengthen, and nurture” others.
We also read this:
“Like the Savior, [priesthood holders] seek to minister to individuals and families, both spiritually and temporally. They care about each person…. They reach out to new members, less-active members, and those who may be lonely or in need of comfort.”
Lastly, from the Handbook, we are given some very specific examples of what is included in “ministering.” What does lifting, strengthening, and nurturing others look like more specifically? Well, here are four strong suggestions, again from Handbook 2:
Ministering to others includes:
- Remembering their names and becoming acquainted with them (Yikes! Please forgive me!)
- Loving them without judging them. (We have a lot of work to do in this area.)
- Watching over them and strengthening their faith “one by one,” as the Savior did. (Notice the emphasis on one-on-one. Good things can happen in Sacrament Meetings and Sunday School classes, seminary classes, and priesthood quorum meetings. Good things can, should, and do happen in those settings, but there is something critical about one-on-one ministering where especially good things can result. I think I will probably remember certain PPIs that I have had more than lessons I have been taught.)
- Establishing sincere friendship with them and visiting them in their homes and elsewhere. (Note that there are important places to minister to others besides within the walls of the church.)
Now, brethren, I would like to show you a video…
What did we see in that video?
We saw a young man begin to do something out of a sense of duty. Though he was obedient, he didn’t initially see the person on the other end of his assignment. He did not know that to magnify his assignment, he was going to have to minister to a person—a real person who has struggles and problems and who responds to love. And he could not minister effectively (or really at all) without becoming sincere in his desire for friendship with Steve.
Was his heart in his response to the bishop at first? Perhaps, but not to the extent that it would be after he began to know and care about Steve. His first attempt was actually not that bad, but something was missing which appeared in the end.
What made his heart begin to change in this assignment? Do you remember when he asked the bishop, in frustration, “What’s the point?”
The bishop responded by quoting Mormon’s teachings about charity. Moroni admonished:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ;“
The bishop then commented, “Some wounds are large and they take time to heal.” Guillermo found out Steve was dealing with something real and something difficult— and then Steve switched in Guillermo’s mind from an assignment to a human being.
Guillermo’s heart changed. Friendship became the primary issue—not trying to get somebody to do something.
Brethren, part of what we’re talking about tonight is about human connection and happiness. It is hard to have happiness without real human connection—and that connection doesn’t have to come as much from someone loving us as it has to come from us loving someone. When we do, reciprocation is not guaranteed, but is common. Part of “living after the manner of happiness” is loving others—or, as the handbook calls it, “ministering,” which is what we have covenanted to do when we agreed to “magnify” our priesthood.
[“Magnify” = “Minister”]
This week I received a text from a friend of mine who is going through some very hard things and is struggling with herself. Her text came unexpected in the middle of the day and it said, “One who loses his life shall find it? How does one lose his life?”
One loses his life by becoming concerned for the welfare of others and by ministering to them. In the perfect example, this is what the Savior did. If we will follow his lead and attempt to the same—if we live up to the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood—we will receive all that He has.
With regard to some practicalities… There may be a million ways we can love and serve other people in various contexts. Let me just throw out a few ideas…
If you are a home teacher, you can…
- Drop in on your family between monthly visits—even if you’re 14 years old.
- Find time—somewhere / anywhere—to spend a few extra minutes visiting with Dad about his family.
- Do something socially with the family or share a Family Home Evening together or just a bowl of ice cream sometime.
If you are a Primary or Sunday School or Priesthood Quorum teacher, you can…
- Stop by the home of a class member who couldn’t make it on Sunday.
- Support a class member at one of their activities.
- Send a note or drop by just to tell someone how much you enjoy their being in your class.
If you are husband, you can…
- Do something nice for your wife that she would appreciate but wasn’t expecting.
- Make sure you have a weekly date with her.
- Be sure to spend quiet time with her just talking and listening and making sure you understand how she feels.
If you are a father, you can…
- Spend one-on-one time with a child.
- Make sure your child hears much more that you love them and are proud of them than they hear criticism.
- Talk to your children about their goals and dreams.
- Lead the family in prayer, scripture reading, and Family Home Evening.
If you are a son, you can…
- Do something kind for your mother.
- Tell your parents you love them and give them a hug.
- Spend one-on-one time with a sibling—whether older or younger.
If you are teenage young man, you can…
- Invite someone into your circle of friends who could use some friends and some validation.
- Begin smiling and saying hello to people you don’t normally smile at or say hello to.
- Make sure that you stand up for the absent when something judgmental or unkind is said about them.
If you are a neighbor, you can…
- Share that bowl of ice cream or dinner together.
- Provide a listening ear when times are tough.
- Pitch in with the yard or whatever when help is needed.
Brethren, my message tonight is very simple. There are two reasons we should magnify our callings:
- By virtue of the priesthood, we are under covenant to do so.
- It is one of the key ingredients in the recipe the Book of Mormon refers to as “the manner of happiness.”
Magnifying your calling means ministering to individuals. It means:
- getting to know them
- judging them kindly or not at all—being inclusive and accepting
- showing personal, sincere, one-on-one interest in them
- becoming a real friend, regardless of their choices for or against the Church.
My invitation to you tonight is to magnify by ministering. Magnify your calling in the priesthood by ministering to individuals and families around you. My testimony is that you and they will feel edified and uplifted.
I am deeply grateful to those brothers and sisters who minister to me and to my family. I feel their sincere love. If you ask me who loves me and my family, I will place my home teacher, my High Priest Group Leader, and my Bishop at the top of the list—not alone, but among many dear friends who do not have a specific leadership responsibility for me or our family right now, but who are accepting, non-judging friends nevertheless and whose ministering to our family strengthens us.
May we go out of our way a little bit to establish friendships and communicate love and encouragement to those who are close to us or should be is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[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.