Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Today I’d like to address a topic that has been rolling around in my head for years.  This is not intended to belittle any gender or principle taught at Church…simply an observation that we might be slightly off in some of our beliefs (not doctrine…just the traditional way in which it is presented).

What I’d like to talk about is the feminization of the gospel and the subsequent effect on men.

To help illustrate my thoughts, let me tell you a story.

A few months back we took all our YM (12-18) up in the canyon to have a Duty to God activity.  As I’ve stated before in my posts, I’m conducting an experiment where every six months, we have an activity and issue a challenge to work on the Duty to God, with a reward to follow in the next six months.   This was such an activity.  As part of that activity I told a story about the race to the south pole from a post that I read here (art of manliness) We had some fun with it and to be honest, by the appearance of the boys, I thought it went in one ear and out the other.  They were fidgety, they were not looking at me…I figured it was gone.

Well, last Sunday, the guy who was supposed to teach the Deacon’s Quorum couldn’t be there so the Deacon’s Quorum President (who happens to be my son) asked if I could come and visit the quorum, tell that ‘South Pole’ story again and teach about the Duty to God program.  The Deacon’s Quorum has recently had an influx of about 6 boys and they have no idea what the Duty to God program is, or how to do it, so I thought he had a good idea.

Since half of the quorum had heard the story, I picked on them to help me tell it (also to see what they retained).  I was truly shocked at the details they could recall, and the lessons learned that night six months ago.  They rattled off to me details of the story that I had forgotten.  It was amazing.  The lesson was a rousing success because the boys taught each other…I did very little.

It also taught a very important lesson about how boys learn.  It is simply that, they will ALWAYS learn better out in the woods than they will sitting in a Church Building.  That isn’t to say that they can’t learn at Church, and I’ve been part of some very successful lessons in Church, but if you can engage more of their senses, they will retain it and internalize it much better. If you can get them away from a classroom and into an adventure, you can teach them marvelous things of the kingdom that will enter deep into their souls…because OUT THERE they are in touch with that warrior part of their spirit and they are more likely to hear the Holy Ghost whispering to them.

This idea has been bouncing around the educational communities for some time, that boys learn differently than girls and that sitting quietly in a classroom listening to the teacher talk and not interacting is detrimental to the male learning process.  We just don’t do as well that way, but girls do.  The conclusions have been that our education system is heavily skewed toward feminine learning styles, and I’d add that so is Church.

We insist that all be neat and clean.  That the boys sit still and ‘be reverent’, don’t interrupt or ask questions. Be respectful and quiet.  Sing the songs like a good kid and feel the love of Jesus.

OK that is a bit sarcastic…but do you get the point? We have created a very feminine learning environment for these boys.  One where they are told that the manly qualities that so many of them crave are not conducive to feeling the Holy Ghost.  We focus all our attention on the loving, gentle, caring Savior and neglect the ‘onward Christian soldiers’ part of our faith…it’s too violent and disturbing.  We can’t glorify war because this is the gospel of peace. Too often we fail to acknowledge that we ARE at war and our boys need to know how to fight this war by the power of the word of God (Sword of the Spirit).

Is it any wonder that many boys don’t stay active?

It is true that the Holy Ghost does cause feelings of peace and love, but it also carries the power that led Nephi and Abinadai to say “TOUCH ME NOT, for I am full of the spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:48 and Mosiah 13:3)  The Holy Ghost can give you strength, determination and ability to stand for righteousness in battle! (think Capt. Moroni)  The Peace of the Holy Ghost is the peace of a warrior who is ready to march into battle knowing that he is in the service of his Lord ‘and should we die, before our journey’s through, happy day, all is well’.  The comforter is in our armor that is keeping us safe from the firery darts of the adversary.  The love of a soldier for his brothers in arms, and the long-suffering of the warrior who has trained all his days for the time when his master will call him up to fight the good fight. It is CONFIDENCE that we stand on the Lord’s side and that is where we will be victorious!

It is in the nature of Men to dig and ask questions.  That seems to be frowned on at Church.  I can’t tell you ghastly looks that I get when I say things like “Why do we do that?” because it seems to some that I’m questioning the Prophet.  But really and truly, isn’t that what we are taught to do? Seek our own testimony? We never simply take a man’s word for it, we are supposed to search, ponder and pray that we might have that confirmation for ourselves.

President Brigham Young said,
"The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord."

Elder Dieter Uchtdorf has counseled that
“We are a question-asking people. We have always been, because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is how the Church got its start, from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn’t come in response to a question…. Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a precursor of growth.”


I have ideas of way’s we could change some of this.  It starts primarily with our activities.  We spend an awful lot of time and money going on outings with these boys,  but how often are we taking advantage of those opportunities to teach them the gospel (or to teach each other as men for that matter)?  AND not in a boring way, but in ways that will engage young men in active learning?  Too often I think that our image of preaching the gospel is the exact opposite of what it should be.  Look at Joseph Smith for example.  While helping his brethren build the temple, he taught them that they weren’t just building a temple to the Lord, but building men to serve Him.  What a great message and it only took one sentence.  I’m talking about US AS ADULTS being spiritually prepared to take advantage of opportunities to teach eternal principles whenever and wherever the spirit comes to us.  And it is WAY more effective outside of the Church Building when we are DOING something. This is where careful planning must occur, to create and activity that lends itself to these kinds of teaching moments.  This is usually best accomplished by first determining what it is that we’d like to teach, then determining what we can do to teach and reinforce that?  In Church we call this “Planning with a Purpose”…

“Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” St. Francis of Assisi

Our lessons also have to have a healthy dose of DISCOVERY.  Let the boys find the answers.  Let them ask challenging questions.  Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know the answer, but let’s figure it out”.

Another important point is that we must avoid dogma and focus on doctrine.  By “dogma” I’m referring to those things that are simply not gospel principles.  Things like: the uniform of the priesthood, avoiding caffeinated colas, men shouldn’t have beards, etc…kind of things that have NO basis in gospel doctrine.  Kids sense the ‘Pharisee’ and when they hear him, they will turn away eventually.  But if we focus on true, real, scriptural doctrine, we are on a more solid ground and can better serve the youth of the Church.

Lastly: BE MEN!  Rejoice in being a man.  Rejoice in holding the priesthood.  Make no excuses for being a priesthood holder (there is no gospel doctrine that says that we are less righteous, or that the priesthood is given in compensation for lack of spirituality…that is an oft repeated fallacy in Church)…we are given the priesthood because God trusts us to do his work and do it well. SO RISE TO THE CHALLENGE AND DO IT!