Boys Need Men

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session from the April 1974 Conference.

This week we read the Priesthood Session of Conference, and since I have three boys just at, or coming up on, Aaronic Priesthood age, I thought about them a lot while I was reading. (I also have a baby boy, but thinking about HIM as a priesthood holder is just too much of a leap for my imagination right now.)

One of my favorite talks was "Boys Need Men" by Elder Marion D. Hanks. I loved this section:
Boys need men to learn from, men to be with who understand their need for activities that are challenging and socially and spiritually constructive and that stretch them and give them a chance to learn manly skills, men to love and who love them, men who are models of what a man ought to be…
If the Lord’s program is effectively operating, literally no boy in the whole Church should be without the blessing of choice men in his life, and every boy will, in fact, have several good men actively concerned for his well-being.
I thought of all the good men that have taught my boys in church or in Scouts, and I just felt overwhelmed with gratitude that this model is being followed, and that it's working! It seems so perfectly set up. Boys need men—but the Lord knew that not all boys would HAVE good men to follow. And so within the inspired priesthood organization, there are constant opportunities for the men to influence each other (and especially the boys!) for good. Even if each man only manages to find time to fill ONE of his stewardships very well at any given time, the collective strength of the priesthood has a chance to reach every boy through Home Teacher, Home Teaching companion, Sunday School teacher, Quorum Advisor, Scoutmaster, Bishop, Bishop's counselor, Young Men's President, Young Men's counselors—not to mention those men who simply befriend their young priesthood brethren without having a specific calling to do so.

I'm in awe of how neatly "the Lord's program" works. For a boy with an upright, involved, righteous father, the influence of other men is perhaps less critical, but in that case the boy and his father can work together in their priesthood quorum to do true good for the other people around them. And for a boy without a male family role model, the priesthood order gives him a family, gives him fathers and brothers who can strengthen him and point him towards Christ.
I don't suppose a lot of good is said about groups of men these days. People seem to think that "locker room talk" and boasting and crudeness is not only typical, but inevitable. But I can't even put the men I know in the same universe as that sort of thing. They are so much better than that, or they CAN be. And in the groups of Priesthood holders I'm associated with, they ARE. I was in a classroom with a bunch of 14-year-old boys recently as my son was being ordained to the office of Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. I know these boys. They are just boys. I see them tipping back in their chairs and elbowing each other and snickering with their friends as they walk to the bus stop. I see them sitting with their heads bent over their knees during sacrament meeting, looking sullen or sleepy or bored. And yet when the teacher asked me to bear my testimony in that classroom, I was immediately overcome with my feelings of love for the Priesthood of God, which these boys bear, in my life. It was almost funny to stand up in front of them with their floppy hair and their too-short pants and their tipped-back chairs and feel such awe and gratitude, but I did! To me they suddenly looked like the "royal army" we are always singing about, full of strength and light. I felt so amazed that even these adolescent boys can have a confidence and a goodness that come from their association with the Priesthood. I felt so thankful for the good choices they have made and will make, and for the good men that guide them, and for the chance my own sons have to be influenced by that great fraternal order—rather than the kind of fraternities the rest of world thinks are "the only thing men and boys are capable of."

There were several other sections of Elder Hanks' talk I liked, but one that stuck out especially was this:
Boys need more than a promise and more than a name; they need to be permitted to test their strength, to use their abilities, to use their priesthood.
I had just been listening to President Uchtdorf's most recent talk about Alma and Amulek, where he encourages us to "find our Amuleks" and give them a chance to rise up from their current situations, to stretch themselves and become the great leaders God knows they can be. And this quote made me feel a similar urgency to seek opportunities for my boys to contribute to the work of the Lord. I do want them to be able to use their abilities and use their priesthood to serve others, and I think I could do more to think of situations where this could happen! Sometimes it's hard to face the thought of doing one more thing as a family, but I feel like serving others together, and maybe especially involving my older boys in the planning and carrying out of that service, would be a really worthwhile thing in helping them grow into their priesthood capabilities. I'm mulling over some ideas. We've used this website before to find service projects that families can do together, and there's a specific section geared to things that youth under 18 can do to volunteer! And I think I also shouldn't overlook the little, basic things that boys are always getting asked to do anyway—shoveling snow and babysitting and so forth. Even when there has been initial resistance, I can always see the pride and confidence in my boys when they have completed a job that they know was truly useful and truly needed (and I love the advice given in this post, especially #7 and #8!) so I'm going to try to search out more of those!

I'm so glad I have good boys in my life, and even more, a good husband who sets the bar high for them! And it's the gospel and the Priesthood that makes it all possible. What a blessing!

Other posts in this series:


  1. A pleasure to read, as always, Marilyn.

  2. Mike has talked about some of the low class crudeness that permeates some of the tactical trainings he goes to. I love what you said -- how the men I am close to can't even be put in that same universe. I was thinking recently of my dad and my brothers and wondering how many women might be more confident and secure in their strength etc if they'd just grown up with men like that.

    Also so crazy yo think of your Abe just entering teachers? When was his birthday again? With my recent looking at Abe pictures (my Abe) I can't help but wonder if your own Abe will undergo such a dramatic transformation during his short stay with the Teacher's Quorum!?

    1. I was thinking that same thing when I looked at those pictures of your Abe. He has already grown and changed so much in the last year, I can't IMAGINE it happening even MORE in the next few years, but no doubt it will! Crazy.


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