The Rocket Man on Mormon Men

If you read this blog it will come as no surprise that my views are often different from those at Millennial Star. And if you told me when I started this blog that I would have already highlighted two posts by jettboy, I would have said you were nuts. When he visits Zelophehad’s Daughters to grace us with his comments, we tend to disagree.

That being said, I realize that I need to be careful about turning this blog into a progressive Mormon Shangri-la: a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world (borrowing from Wikipedia). So, I’m trying to give bloggers like jettboy some space for their views, and hopefully I can learn something in the process. I’ve strapped on my seatbelt and my protective headgear. I’m ready. Gerrrrronnimmmooooo!

jettboy’s post appears to be a complement to this previous post by Meg Stout that I only skimmed and perhaps will review later. Anyway, early on he acknowledges that men have a responsibility to improve:

…Should they step up more in helping mothers and children in family life? Yes. Should they be more accommodating and listen to the voice of all women more? Yes, of course. Should they support and encourage women into more spiritual participation and growth? Not doing that is irresponsible. Following the example of Jesus the way he interacts and takes women seriously as part of the fold is a more than commendable, its necessary.

Nice to see that I didn’t have to look too hard to find an area of agreement. jettboy then points out expectations of Mormon life that can be hard on men, beginning very early.Continue reading

All eyes are focused on the carefully choreographed lives set in stone by the time men enter primary.

Teenaged life can be complicated, feeling hypocritical about their priesthood duties if their personal lives are not up to snuff:

Outside peer pressure sends them drinking and partying on Friday or Saturday night, then passing the Sacrament on Sundays…They are drilled with teachings about following the Commandments to be worthy of passing the Sacrament, administering to the sick, and of course getting ready for missions.

Then if they recuse themselves from priesthood responsibilities, people are left wondering what they’ve done. I personally believe this is an important reason for inactivity among single Mormon men–inadvertent public shaming because of their highly visible priesthood responsibilities. I suspect that some would rather stay away than be hypocrites.

Then the mission:

If a man doesn’t go, then they are scrutinized, true or false, about righteousness. A lot of good leaders, like Prophet Hunter, never went on missions. That doesn’t deflate a certain amount of doubt as to a man’s character.

Returning home:

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

So far I’m on-board with jettboy. I think we place a lot of cultural expectations on Mormon men that can be overwhelming. I think these expectations can often be unhealthy.

Then some have priesthood callings with heavy responsibilities:

Despite the view that these are cosy positions of power, the reality is of a heavy time consuming burden with no pay and little praise. Secondarily is Home Teaching assignments that more often than not aren’t getting done. A few already overworked Priesthood leaders often pick up the slack. Then there is giving Priesthood blessings to just about anyone who asks. With a drop of the hat a man is required to stop doing whatever and go over to administer to the sick, scared, and lonely.

Not exactly sure who is calling these positions of power cosy, but jettboy’s point is taken. Being an active Mormon man takes a lot of time and effort, commodities that are precious when he is also the sole-breadwinner, as is often the case, and has many children at home (both cultural expectations that I also find problematic, btw). Work and wife and children can suffer from his absence, and he can suffer too because he misses that time with them.

Then there are the meetings, sometimes all Sunday, culminating with presumably a stake priesthood meeting:

…[that] gathers willing Priesthood holders to discuss how to improve ward numbers with a few sports analogies to mix it up. For once it would be nice to have a meeting devoted to improving personal scripture reading, pondering, and praying.

Been there, done that. Sports analogies reference cracked me up. And yes, a devotional meeting would be welcome. I remember my friend–a ward clerk at the time–who told me that his work friend could not believe that Mormons spent three hours at church every Sunday, and he thought to himself, “If it were only three!”

OK, so far jettboy and I are generally in agreement. It is not easy to be a Mormon man and I believe we need to think seriously about how our policies and culture might be changed to make life more enriching and full, rather than a dull grind of administrative work and meetings that often separates families.

We part ways a bit at his conclusion:

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

First of all, “bust into” the priesthood session? Using that sort of hyperbole to dismiss Ordain Women’s actions does not make his argument more credible to me. “Politely asking” was more in line with what actually happened.

Then explaining that feminists simply don’t understand or respect the patriarchal makeup of the Church because it is The Way God Wants It To Be. Well, a lot has changed over the years, much of it for the betterment of the Church and us as individuals. Much of that change has come from the grassroots asking church leaders to seek new revelation from God. Who’s to say God will not see fit to give us more change that will more fully welcome all members, male and female, into the work of building up the Kingdom of God on the earth?

My biggest reaction from jettboy’s valid arguments about the burdens placed on Mormon men is to ask: why don’t we share these burdens with women? Wouldn’t it be great if husbands and wives could serve together in bishoprics, rather than being apart all day because of work and apart all night because of church callings? Wouldn’t it be great if couples could home teach together, rather being apart once again? Wouldn’t it be great if working dads could be with their kids in the evening while stay-at-home moms could get some nourishing adult interactions through church service in the evenings?

In the comments, Joyce Anderson says:

As I have watched my own husband work closely with our bishop over this last year, I can say that none of these men have aspired to their leadership callings, but they accept them and go and serve the best they can.

Kareen Lauper adds:

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

I am glad Kareen is grateful for her husband’s service, but I also feel that she is making my argument for me.

Finally, Tiger adds another perspective:

From my father’s example and from my own experiences, possessing the priesthood is not all it is cracked up to be, and though exhausting at times, it is service that is spiritually rewarding and soul-stretching. Having said that, I’ve often thought that the desire for priesthood among some women is misguided, but at the same time, the priesthood is a sexist fraternity with occasional members that will inevitably ruffle feathers and pierce some tender sensibilities of our women (and men).

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

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

Paul teaches that all members are needful in the body of Christ, including “much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.”…

2 Comments

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2 Responses to The Rocket Man on Mormon Men

  1. Linnaeus

    We need to glorify fatherhood, not absentee fatherhood. I do think that has changed from past generations, and will continue to change. The list has gone from Church, Family, School (before my lifetime), to Family, Church, School (most of my young life), to Family, School/Work, Church (with President Hinkley) with much more emphasis on using councils (Elder Ballard). There are still many tensions, but I think it’s changing.

  2. Meg Stout

    Curious if you ever did go back and review my post on Being a Mormon Woman.

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