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5 Toxic Myths About Men In The Church of Jesus Christ

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We’ve all heard the jokes.

Walk into a Relief Society lesson and you’ll find celestial women with visual aids, baked goods, and a sweet spirit. The Elder’s Quorum? Forget it.

Go to the women’s session of General Conference and hear words of affirmation. Go to the priesthood session and learn just how badly you’re failing.

While these are exaggerations, they highlight some of the toxic myths we often have about men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Let’s break down five of these myths and why they are not only harmful to men but the body of Christ as a whole.

MYTH #1: “The Priesthood” refers to the men of the Church.

Have you ever heard something like this in sacrament meeting?

“We’d like to thank the priesthood for blessing and passing the sacrament.” 

We’ve inadvertently gotten into the habit of referring to men who hold priesthood offices and keys as the priesthood itself. However, the priesthood is not any singular person or group of people. It is the power of God used to bless His children and move forth His mighty work. President Dallin H. Oaks said, “Some of our abbreviated expressions, like ‘the women and the priesthood,’ convey an erroneous idea. Men are not ‘the priesthood.'”

He also said, “While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as ‘the priesthood,’ we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike.”

We can better utilize God’s power on Earth when we recognize that the priesthood is not some amorphous power that lies within men alone, but a gift from loving Heavenly Parents who have in turn assigned certain responsibilities to Their worthy sons.

MYTH #2: Men aren’t naturally inclined to serve, which is why God gave them the priesthood.

In an attempt to explain why the Lord has chosen men to hold the majority of the keys and offices of the priesthood (and thus the majority of leadership callings in the Church), many have claimed men were given the priesthood because of their lesser character.

“Women are more spiritual. Women are more loving and likely to serve others. Men need the priesthood in order to reach the same level of selflessness and spiritual maturity that women are already at.” 

There is a lot to unpack with these assumptions, which are dangerous to the way we value and honor both men and women in the Church.

Why do some believe women are more spiritual than men? It’s a complicated issue with multiple potential explanations and human variables.

What does spirituality mean? Expressions of spirituality are often associated with what our society would call deem more feminine traits. Examples of this include sharing feelings and personal experiences in lessons and talks, becoming emotional while bearing testimony, and empathizing with others.  The man who may be more hard-wired to come up with a great system for passing the sacrament is often overlooked.

Men, especially those who don’t fit gender norms or buckle under the pressure placed upon them, may struggle to stay in a church that doesn’t seem to value their contribution. While women experience the same thing, men don’t receive often the same support. Men need a Church that believes in them and expects them to succeed without crippling them from the pressure.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.”

While holding the priesthood is absolutely a refining for men, we haven’t been given any indication that it comes from an inherent lack in their nature. If we know anything about God’s nature, He utilizes the unique gifts of His children when extending specific callings, rather than basing it on their faults. We do a disservice to men everywhere when we deem them lazy, oafish, and needing to be dragged to the celestial kingdom.

MYTH #3: Men can’t help but sexualize women.

Chastity has long been a principle for both sexes. In 1969, President David O. McKay taught, “In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is but one standard of morality. No young man has any more right to be unchaste than has a young girl. That young man who asks for a recommend to take a pure girl to the altar is expected to give the same purity that he expects to receive.”

However, the work to untangle myths about men’s sexual agency and responsibility continues. For too long, chastity has solely been focused on a women’s virtue and laid the blame at their feet. Conservative religions often claim men are weak beings who have no control over their sexual urges and must rely on the modesty and chastity of women to combat temptation. This is in opposition to what God has taught about the divinity of His children and the power of His plan. While all brothers and sisters in Christ should support one another in the pursuit of virtue, we all must take full responsibility for our thoughts, choices, and actions. To say men have no control is to dishonor their agency and one of God’s greatest gifts.

We all must also wrestle with the natural man and be tempted in various ways. The goal of all men and women is to put off the natural man and become one with Christ. Men of God can be full of virtue, with respect for women, and no disposition to do evil. That is their true divine identity.

MYTH #4: Men need to get married so a woman will inspire them to be more righteous.

Now, as we most of these myths, there are true principles hidden behind the adversary’s deceptions. A spouse should inspire us! President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “And one good yardstick as to whether a person might be the right one for you is this: in her presence, do you think your noblest thoughts, do you aspire to your finest deeds, do you wish you were better than you are?”

The adversary twists this truth and places the burden upon the wife to fix or change the man. Instead of being equally yoked in spirituality and dedication to the Lord, we sometimes see a wayward young man and hope he will marry a good woman so he will get his act together. We think not of a woman’s right to an eternal partner but claim she has a duty to settle for someone living beneath his privileges in the expectation she will elevate him.

Yes, all relationships require us to tolerate faults and progress together. Yes, no man or woman is perfect and marriage is a divine institution to help us better ourselves. But do women find themselves trapped in the extremes, choosing spiritually deadened men or staying with abusive men because their job is to inspire them? Also, yes. A love of the Savior should be the primary motivating factor of righteousness in every disciple of Jesus Christ.

MYTH #5: If a man is older and single, something must be wrong with him.

If you were to happen upon a single adult female at Church, she’s likely been told how amazing she is. How crazy it is that she’s not married. Take a male of the exact same age and it’s likely everyone has thought, “If he’s not married yet, something has to be wrong with him.” We’d feel much more uncomfortable talking about a single woman this way.

Of course, there are situations in which a man or woman has failings that might make a happy marriage more unlikely. But on the whole, good single men of the Church exist under the scrutiny of constant judgment and choose to stay anyway. They should be applauded and embraced. They are faithful, hardworking, and live consecrated lives. Just as most women, their longings for marriage have gone unfulfilled for a reason that may be unknown to them and surely to us. Instead of chastising individuals in our minds, we should focus on healing our broken world and broken dating systems.

Marriage or the lack of marriage has no bearing on an individual’s worthiness and shouldn’t be used to judge someone’s character.

These are just a few of the myths we have in our culture about men. In all things, we should strive to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve as “a beloved spirit or daughter of heavenly parents” with “a divine nature and identity” (Family Proclamation). Men are adored by our Creator. Men are capable. Men are needed. As we begin to discover how God feels about all of His children, we will follow the counsel of President Linda K. Burton when she said, “Will you join me in seeking the help of the Holy Ghost to teach us how we can better lift each other in our complementary roles as covenant sons and daughters of our loving heavenly parents?”

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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