I love women. I love womanhood. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the beauty, power, and glory of a woman. It is a powerful and profoundly Celestial thing. I am blessed to be married to a woman who glows with this goodness and power. Her strength and goodness make our family work. I was born to a woman with the same qualities. My sisters, and sisters-in-law are the same way. As a bishop, I was honored to work alongside inspired women leaders who were a great blessing to our ward.
I also think manhood and masculinity are wonderful things. There is every bit the majesty and grandeur in a righteous man as there is in a righteous woman. It's different, but it's there and every bit as wonderful. Men were designed to do different things, to serve different functions and to fill different roles. They aren't just flawed women. They were meant to think differently, to feel differently, and to act differently.
Consequently, it should be no surprise that they do.
Last night, I spent the evening with men from our ward. A family in our ward's home was flooded. For three days, it sat in water up to the ceiling. Everything was lost. Our priesthood quorum showed up and took down wallboard, took up linoleum, pulled out nails and trim. It was messy, sloppy, hard work that was done cheerfully. As I took part in this, I was moved by the majesty of these men in their coveralls and painting clothes. There was a kind of simple, rough beauty in the work that was done. It will continue to be done until the job is completed.
Through most of history, the Lord has assigned men to do things like this. Messy, sloppy, hard work. I think that's why He made us the way He did. When you are responsible for killing and gutting a buffalo, maybe being sensitive isn't such a great trait. When you have to defend your family from a neighboring tribe, maybe an internal pool of charity isn't the most helpful quality. When you are called to leave your family and cross and ocean to preach the gospel in a strange land, you'd better be a little bit self-sufficient emotionally and unphased by physical adversity.
Things are different now. Most necessary tasks in our contemporary world can be done equally well by men or women. Technology, which came about largely because of men's inherent drive to experiment, build, and tinker, has leveled the playing field in an unprecedented way. This is a good thing.
But just because we don't currently live in a world where our family's daily life is secured by a strong, tough, agressive male, doesn't mean we ought to be done with or diminish the whole sex.
There are moments when our civilization blinks and gets put on hold, when the elements pierce our carefully constructed wall. Moments, for example, when skyscrapers fall in flames. At these moments, honestly, who do you want to see? A big burly firefighter in all his unrefined masculine glory, or a sweet and loving, smart mother? When the floodwaters rise and people have to be rescued by people chopping through their roofs and carrying them to a boat, who do want responding to the calls? And, I might add, who normally does respond?
Yes, women can do these things. Don't comment to tell me that. I know. Just like men can be teachers and nurses and can cook and do laundry. I know that, too. But there is something elemental, something imprinted in the DNA of most men that leads them to do these kind of things as instinctively as most women will nurture a crying child.
I've learned a lot of interesting things and read a lot of interesting posts since becoming a blogger. One of the things I've learned is that a lot of women really don't seem to have a lot of respect for men in general, or their husbands in particular.
I guess that's their right, but it strikes me as ironic that women I know who bristle at any suggestion of disrespect to women freely and openly bash the Lord's other great creation: Men.
Some take a humorous approach. That's fine. All of us have done silly or stupid things and being able to laugh at each other and ourselves is a good thing. But, in my estimation, it goes a bit far sometimes, reducing the husband to a silly, trivial, stupid figure. A sometimes benign, but usually shallow fellow. This is what happens on most TV shows now.
The other approach is to see "male" as the root word of "malevolent" and attribute every problem and ill to men, and see men as irredeemable, indivisible louts and villians.
Still another approach is to see the men in their lives as sort of like an appendix: a mostly harmless organ that has lost it's purpose, fine as long as it stays in it's place but a real pain when it flares up. In church members, this manifests itself in a thought that the priesthood is basically a consolation prize given to the inferior sex, or a sort of life-long remedial program in spiritual goodness.
Reducing a man to a stereotype of the stupid brute, or good-natured idiot, or useless blunderer seems to me every bit as much an affront to the Creator as reducing a woman to her physical appearance. Again, I'm struck by the irony of this: women I know who complain about what society does to women, women who would never brook or tolerate this kind of thing, openly bash men--including those closest to them.
I find these trends disturbing. I see them as being rather ugly manifestations of a growing spirit in our society. It seems to me that reducing a man to his weaknesses and ridiculing the entire sex (especially one's husband) is not a Celestial thing to do. In fact, it seems downright calculated to sow dissent and division in two of the most important institutions: home and church. The solution to cultural debasement of women is not to demean men. It is to insist that men and women both be treated respectfully and with the dignity that is their due as God's creations.
I have heard all my life that God created Eve from Adam's rib because they were meant to be equals. I believe that. But I have heard women who quote this then go on to bash men in the most patronizing terms conceivable.
I think most of this is unintentional, the result of the frustrations that come with the fact that men and women are so very different.
I want to spend some time in my next posts thinking a bit about this difference: why it is, but especially, how it can become a blessing and not a root of contention.
We learn in the D&C that the spirit AND the body are the soul of man. I like that understanding. That means that a perfected being is composed of equal parts spirit and body, working in perfect harmony. We learn from the Book of Mormon that our bodies, our flesh, are incomplete vessels, prone to sin and temptation. They have to be informed and guided by our spirits. At the same time, spirits without bodies are not much use. In fact, the scriptures tell us that spirits look upon their time away from their bodies as a form of imprisonment.
Only in the eternal and perfect union of spirit and body can we find joy and completion. This is a doctrine peculiar to the Restoration. It seems to me it is also a perfect explanation of the differences between men and women. Both have things they are good at, both have strengths--and limitations. Only through the eternal and harmonious union can either one find full joy or realize their full potential.
The other day, in my 6th grade class, this was brought home to me. I looked at the row where the girls were sitting. Without exception, they were sitting up straight and listening quietly. For women. I looked at the boys' row. Almost without exception, they were slouching and fidgeting, not listening at all.
We sang the girl's part. They sang beautifully. But quietly, without a lot of energy or expression. The boys all sang off-key. Their voices are changing. But they sang with volume and energy.
I want the boys to sing with more refinement. I want the girls to sing with more gusto. I don't want a choir of just boys or just girls.
I love how the girls behave in class. But I know who I want to have my back in case I am ever in some kind of danger. Those same squirrely, squirmy boys would rush an army of rabid rhinos if I asked them to.
Just as the resurrection is designed to reunite spirit and body forever, marriage is designed to unite male and female.
Make sure you are that soft place for your husband to land. A place where he knows that his name will always be safe.