Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Priesthood Quorum

A few weeks back I read a blog post on men groups in christian churches.  It fascinated me because I could see how closely it related to our LDS culture.  I've studied and written a lot about masculine ideas in todays society and how they have changed over the years.  There are some incredible correlations with the decline of male friendships, exclusively male societies, boys failing in schools, and even the national average levels of testosterone with an increase of homosexuality, male college and high school drop out rates, divorce, and date rape.

The question many sociologists ask today is, "Where are all the men?"  What do they mean?  What they say is the idea of what a man is today is not what he was to our grandfathers.  We have a lot of guys and boys masquerading in the bodies of men but few men indeed.

In history, masculinity was measured not by how well of a provider you were, how strong you were, or your number of sexual conquests.  It was measured by your virtue.  The word 'virtue' actually comes from the Latin word vir meaning man.  The opposite of manhood is not womanhood but boyhood.  Brett McKay wrote "Women and men strive for the same virtues, but often attain them and express them in different ways. The virtues will be lived and manifested differently in the lives of sisters, mothers, and wives than in brothers, husbands, and fathers. Two different musical instruments, playing the exact same notes, will produce two different sounds." (Manvotionals, pg. 3)

Holding onto the idea that femininity and masculinity are opposites of one another presents a very superficial idea of what masculinity is.  It presents anxiety in men that often look to others to ensure that x, y, and z are manly because they may also be enjoyed by women and men may also enjoy them. (pg. 2)  Unfortunately, I feel that this is the definition held on to by the general priesthood body of the church.  Such a shallow definition of what it means to be a man creates shallow connections and complacency.

That's what we find in priesthood quorums.  It is rare to find a priesthood quorum that embodies the camaraderie of the mission field.  We rarely find quorums where men are real with one another and truly support one another.  If home teaching is ever done in a singles ward, it is usually only the sisters visited, not the brethren.  I am curious to know if there is a gender divide in active and inactive church members.  I would not be surprised if there were more inactive men than women.

So how is this issue resolved of disbanded brothers?  After giving some thought, I've come up with a list of things I would do.

1. A two word check in priesthood meeting.

Very few quorum members will know more than half the names of the members of their quorum.  After announcements, the opening prayer, and opening hymn, going around and checking in with each member would get the men to know one another by name.  It wouldn't be complicated--a lesson still needs to be discussed.  It would be something like, "I'm Stephen. I'm checking in with joy."  Or it could be, "I'm Joe. I'm feeling troubled and happy."  This gives the opportunity for men to see one another on a deeper level that is needed for us to grow together.

2. Use i-statements in priesthood meeting.

Why use an i-statement?  It's a simple but powerful change.  Instead of speaking with the generic 'you' in a sentence, I would have the men change it to 'I.'  Instead of saying, "You numb your feelings to the spirit when you look at pornography" the man would say, "I numb my feelings to the spirit when I look at pornography."  This makes the man own his issues.  It's brave.  It's manly.  It's beautiful.  A man that recognizes his weaknesses and is vulnerable in a priesthood body because he's willing to trust them is a true man to me.  This isn't about shame of the man owning his own stuff.  This isn't about taking care of the tender feelings of someone that would take it personally when "you" was used in a general sense.  This is about a priesthood holder owning his own ideas and feelings.

3. Sit in a one row circle or U shape in priesthood meeting.

This is another very simple change.  I would do this because it would allow each man to look the other in the eye.  If the teacher needs to use a visual or a board, he can use a U shape with the same effect.  It requires a man to be vulnerable.  He cannot expect to get connection without being vulnerable.  I can't be in a unified quorum unless I am vulnerable along with the other men.  (See what I did there?)  There wouldn't be any men hiding in the back row playing Angry Birds.  There isn't a back row.  There isn't a front row.  There's just a circle of men that have come together because they want to be better men closer to God.  That's a real quorum to me.

4. A father and sons or men's outing once a quarter.

Each quarter there would be a planned father and son's or men's outing.  It would be best out in mother nature as a camping trip.  Getting in touch with nature this way is spiritual.  For me, it connects me to my roots and causes me to ponder on my ancestors.  It makes me feel like a real man.  All digital devices (with the exception to the necessities) would be required to be shut off on this weekend trip.  The men can bring a book, board game, or even a football.  The idea behind this would be to get away from the isolating activities and connect as a community.  The men would naturally and maybe slowly open up at this point and actually get to know the other men on a deeper level.  They may go on this trip as warm acquaintances but leave knowing names and having made not just friends but brothers.

5. Menrichment nights.

Why should the relief society get all the fun?  If I could influence a quorum, I would organize bi monthly nights for men to interact and connect with one another.  There would be a short lesson and then an activity.  It may be a sport, learning to start a fire, or even a nerdy game.  I would encourage the men normally interested only in sports to expand their views and try Magic: The Gathering.  I would also encourage (don't you love how 'courage' is in there?) the quieter, geekier guys to try the sports.  I'm really thankful that I participated in sports in High School and at my singles wards.  It's allowed me to be well rounded and connect with men that have become a huge blessing in my life.

6. Other Stuff

I would also implement some guidelines for the men in the quorum.  I would tell the men that if they don't know something or don't know how to help in a situation with another man to not pretend that they do.  When an addict or someone struggling with depression comes to me to talk about how they feel, it's easy for me to want to fix their situation but that's not what they are looking for.  Furthermore, different issues are experienced and healed differently among God's children.  What may have worked for me when I was depressed may not work for someone else.  To show real love and support is to show understanding.  A man looking for support doesn't need to hear, "Well, you should do this."  What he does need to hear is, "I get it."  Or, if I don't understand what I can say is, "I don't understand, I wish I could."

I honestly believe that the priesthood quorum can be a huge blessing to the lives of all members of the church.  To have a more unified quorum would mean better husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.  It would mean better home teachers and stronger, more unified families.  Men need men.  I think following these simple ideas would increase activity and even missionary work.  Quorums like this will never be found but they can be built in your own wards.


1 comment:

  1. Very well said! That would be a group of men worth being around!