Victor L. Brown, Jr. “Roles of Men,” in Latter-day Saint Essentials: Readings from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. John W. Welch and Devan Jensen (Provo, UT: BYU Studies and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002), 133–5.
Roles of Men
For men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ideal example of manhood is Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind. There is no substitute. All men must transcend cultural biases and variations when they decide to pattern themselves after the Son of God, who is the complete representative of the Father. LDS men ideally strive to follow Christ by serving family and fellowbeings through love, work, priesthood callings, instruction, and example.
The scriptures and the prophets make it clear to Latter-day Saints what the Savior expects of a man. To the Nephites he plainly stated, “For that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do. . . . Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:21, 27). King Benjamin, tutored by an angel, described what has become a characterization of the challenges and potentials of manhood:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the Fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father [Mosiah 3:19].
Paul taught about manliness by addressing the husband’s role: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:25, 28). President Brigham Young often expounded on this theme: “Let the father be the head of the family, the master of his own household. And let him treat [the sisters] as an angel would treat them” (Journal of Discourses, 4:55). “Set that example before your wives and your children, before your neighbors and this people, that you can say: Follow me, as I follow Christ” (Journal of Discourses, 15:229). “I exhort you, masters, fathers, and husbands, to be affectionate and kind to those you preside over” (Journal of Discourses, 1:69).
Husbands and fathers are expected to emulate the love of the Savior by teaching, serving, and ministering to their families. It is the man’s role to engender and nurture life in benevolent partnership with his wife. It is not the man’s role to serve his own selfish interests, declining to marry and to create a family. Obviously, he cannot fulfill his proper role without a loyal wife who is likewise true to her covenants with God.
By ordination to the priesthood, LDS men covenant to magnify their callings and to so live that, after sufficient diligent service to Christ’s work, “all that my Father hath shall be given unto [them]” (D&C 84:38). To receive all that the Father has is to be endowed with the power, knowledge, blessings, and loving responsibilities of eternal fatherhood. With this power, however, comes a sacred obligation to act in love as the Heavenly Father does, never in selfishness or lust.
The duty of men is to acquire knowledge and love so that everything they do is right and true, patterned after Jesus Christ, for “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Here, then, is eternal life-to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves . . . namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace” (Teachings, pp. 346–47).
By serving according to the principles of the priesthood, each man should learn how to conduct himself like the Savior, who learned from his Father, for “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42). It is a general responsibility of all men in the Church to serve as home teachers; in addition, each will usually hold another calling, such as an Aaronic Priesthood quorum adviser, a scoutmaster or cubmaster, a Sunday School or Primary teacher, an athletic director, musician, activities chairman, clerk, bishop, stake president, or General Authority.
As it is God’s work and glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), so it is the responsibility of men to work while in mortality to help other people progress toward eternal life. Work in its broadest sense becomes a mark of a true man: A man is responsible for seeing that he and his family have sufficient means to live and to develop their talents. He is expected to labor to make the place where he and they live as comfortable as possible. He is also to work to bring spiritual order to the household through family prayer, father’s blessings, and gospel study, teaching his children that life’s proper priorities are gospel centered. He is taught to pray for, and bless, his family members. He shows them by example how to treat a wife—and women in general and children—with utmost respect (cf. Eph. 5:25; 6:4; D&C 42:22; 75:28). The Church encourages husbands to make every possible effort to keep their families intact and, should divorce occur, to strive to influence their children for good and to pay appropriate respect to their mothers, both to make the best of a difficult situation in this life and to prepare for adjustments in the next.
LDS men are exhorted by their leaders to become strong yet mild, to be ambitious to serve yet selfless in order to add to another’s eternal growth, and to measure their success by how they nurture others and how they teach and make possible the progress and growth of others rather than use others to feed their own needs. Men, in other words, are expected to become Christlike natural patriarchs, as exemplified by the Father and by the Son, devoid of harshness, domination, or selfishness.
Hinckley, Gordon B. “What Will the Church Do for You, a Man?” Ensign 2 (July 1972): 71–73.
VICTOR L. BROWN, JR.