Gospel Manhood

boy-riding-fathers-shoulders-1156154-wallpaperLatter-day Saints understand the priesthood to be the power and authority of God, delegated to men for the purposes of doing His will and accomplishing His work on the earth. Ordination to the priesthood is available to any one of God’s sons who is living a life in harmony with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and, while the priesthood comes with the authority to govern in the affairs of the church, the power to bless others, and the commission to teach eternal truths, it also comes with a charge to conduct oneself according to God’s standard of manhood. Indeed, if priesthood holders are to represent the Lord, they must also emulate the Lord, modeling their lives after His.

Teaching the prophet Joseph Smith about recently restored priesthood authority, the Lord explained, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). In this statement, I can’t help but see a gentle repudiation of the world’s expectations for manhood: God’s standards for His sons is not that they be brawny, aggressive, or loud—but that they be gentle, loving, and persuasive. Indeed, God’s standards of manhood, the gospel model for masculinity, is much more about strength of character than handiness with a wrench.

The world recognizes men by their rugged individualism, by their ability to build fires in the woods without matches, by their aptitude for identifying and repairing any automotive mishap, by their willingness to play rugby in the mud without any protective gear. However, by the Lord’s standard, these “hallmarks” of masculinity are, at best, peripheral to the true measures of a man. In the same revelation to Joseph Smith regarding priesthood leadership, the Lord went on to instruct him—and all priesthood men—saying, “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). And if a true man is full of charity, then it must be true that he “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not [his] own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (Moroni 7:45)—all traits that he can possess and demonstrate whether he’s replacing a fan belt or filling macarons with ganache.

In speaking to His disciples in the ancient Americas, Jesus Christ asked, “[W]hat manner of men ought ye to be?” going on to answer: “Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). Ultimately, the true measure of a man is in his efforts to follow the example of Jesus Christ, to develop a character that, like Christ’s, is above reproach, and to exert an influence that, like Christ’s, builds and improves everyone and everything he encounters.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson declared:

As men of the priesthood, we have an essential role to play in society, at home, and in the Church. But we must be men that women can trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust. In the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world. We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home.

Thus, a man is not failing in manhood if he happens to know more about pliés than about pliers. To suppose so would be to look only towards superficial and culturally driven criteria for manhood. Instead, we should look to the eternal and fundamental criteria of manhood, the character traits set forth by God in charging His sons with priesthood service. When he is striving to emulate the example of Jesus Christ and to embody God’s vision of righteous manhood by showing himself to be trustworthy, loving, purposeful, spiritually sensitive, and capable of righteous leadership, then we may say that a man truly is a man.

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