LDS Men Aren’t Incredible

September 22, 2011 | 110 comments
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Wheat & Tares ran a fun post earlier this week titled LDS Men Are Incredible … although the URL string shows that the original draft title of the post was “Why Men Suck.” That kind of marks off the two ends of the spectrum, doesn’t it? That’s a nice lead-in for the question: What remarks are going to be directed at LDS men in next week’s General Conference?

Last Conference the message directed to young single men was to get married. That’s not new advice, but it was certainly highlighted. I’m guessing a few thousand young single men who might otherwise tune in to Conference next week will find an excuse to do something else instead. That’s one of the tricky things about giving advice — wrong timing or wrong tone can produce the wrong effect.

I’m thinking that some attention will be given to the ongoing concern of leaders to get more men to attend church (see here for earlier discussion of the Mormon gender gap). It is not a uniquely Mormon concern, as is evident reading the article “Jesus Is Not a Cagefighter” by Joe Carter over at First Things. No, Jesus isn’t a cagefighter, but that might nevertheless be an effective pitch if you’re trying to get the guys a little pumped up about going to church.

But that is an approach to the problem that might work better than just complaining about it from the pulpit. It is a well-intentioned effort (with a long historical pedigree) of combatting the idea that Real Men don’t go to church, they go golfing or fishing or just watch football on TV while their wives go to church. Here’s how a paragraph from the article frames the issue:

Although this has been a problem for decades, it has increased recently because of the resurgent fear of the “feminization” of the church. For a purportedly repressively patriarchal organization, the American church has a peculiarly perennial obsession with being associated with the feminine. No doubt some of the concern is nothing more than a childish “girls are icky” male chauvinism. But there is also a genuine reason why we should be concerned about the church’s failure to attract men.

Interesting last phrase, “the church’s failure to attract men.” In the LDS case, is it the men’s failure or the Church’s failure? And is anything likely to change?

110 Responses to LDS Men Aren’t Incredible

  1. chris on September 22, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I once heard a (former) catholic priest lament that it was only the women who were out to church first on Sunday in their services. The men were rarely there. He remarked that it was dramatically different to see so many men at church in LDS wards.

    I’m not sure how this squares with a failure to attract men. Even though I disagree with how some on the nature of the discourse regarding the issue, I think more of an issue is keeping young women strong in the gospel. As hard as it may be to keep a single male, return missionary active in the church if they don’t get married, it seems it would be twice as difficult for a single, non-RM (or even RM) sister.

  2. Dan on September 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

    if it were men’s failure, what exactly are men doing wrong?

  3. SusanS on September 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I think that there is a lack of an active outreach towards men on a personal level in the church. The women have a built in support group in Relief Society that reaches out to their needs as individuals. Visiting teachers are assigned to visit individuals, not family groups. They have regular additional meetings to address the spiritual, physical, and mental needs of the sisters as they try to raise children.

    What are we doing for the men? Where are their support groups? Where are their activities? Where are their visiting teachers coming out specifically to see how they are doing and to give them a spiritual message? It’s as though once our boys leave the YM program and are marched off on missions, they are expected to “suck it up.” You deal with your problems and challenges on your own like a grown-up Priesthood holder.

    The attitude that the sisters need special, additional help that the brothers don’t is condescending to women and wholly disregards the men. Men need spiritual, emotional, and physical support as much as women do. I know plenty of men who have become inactive because they didn’t feel like they had any friends at church they could relate to or no one they felt they could turn to when they had spiritual or emotional problems. I bet if the church had institutional support for the men as they do for the women, we would see a much higher number of men attending regularly.

  4. AHLDuke on September 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I think the Church actually has a pretty good track record with getting men involved, the large number of single never-married sisters notwithstanding. To a greater extent than with most other Christian churches, almost everything that happens on a Sunday depends on X number of lay leaders (almost all men) showing up (e.g. sacrament, clerks, many teaching callings, etc.). We can quibble about whether what gets done is done well (and I do), but most of the prescribed actions and functions of a ward are fulfilled each and every Sunday. That in one sense, is not just proof but the root of success– the Church gives men something to do, and not just something, but really important things. I grew up outside the Church, and I can say pretty confidently that in most Christian churches, you could get by without a single man in the congregation (except for a pastor for those denominations that do not ordain women). A gay friend who has been excommunicated but who very much retains his Mormon identity once remarked to me that this is why you see many gay men try to make it work in the Church, while you almost never see any lesbians– the men have the priesthood, they have duties, responsibilities, a history with strong experiences (i.e. mission), and so on. If that man does not subscribe to the heterosexual married norm prominent in the Church, there is still plenty from an organizational perspective for him to grasp on to. Not so for many women.

  5. clark on September 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I’m not sure what one means by failure in this context.

    Clearly women are more religious than men. I think a compelling case could be made that much of human religiosity is a higher order effect of our brain’s cognitive functions. (See for instance Atran’s In Gods We Trust for some pretty compelling arguments from cognitive science for this) That doesn’t mean, as atheists like to suggest, that religion is a misfiring of the mind anymore than the fact we make all sorts of other cognitive judgements are. While the evidence is hardly anywhere near as strong I think a case could be made that women tend towards religiosity more than men due to cognitive “style.” (Notice how, for instance, autistics are much more apt to be atheist, and men just tend towards the autistic spectrum more than women)

    None of this is to suggest there aren’t large social issues that lead men towards being less religious. Especially in our present culture where in some senses we value an eternal adolescence. (Which once again is pretty different for men than women)

    Anyway how the Church could address this is anything but clear.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say, “if the church had institutional support for the men as they do for the women.” It is interesting though that VT tend to be focused on the female head of the family whereas HT visit the family as a whole. However ideally (and I fall down pretty bad on this myself) the HT will be seeing the family more than just a 20 minute lesson each week. If they see a problem hopefully they work one on one with the husband. So I think the structures are in place just that men tend to fall down on this typically. (I’ve no idea how well women do with VT but I’m pretty familiar how well most men do HT)

    BTW I think the “feminization” issue is silly. Typical reporter trying to find controversy or fit it into an easy category.

  6. AHLDuke on September 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Clark, I disagree with you about the irrelevance of the feminization issue. Despite being a patriarchal organization through and through, the Church still operates very much in a female “tone of voice.” Everything is geared towards traditionally (if not stereotypically) feminine ways of thinking and speaking. Think about how we are encouraged to speak in Church- focus on spiritual experiences when teaching, share your testimony (in the form of feelings, not in terms of the fruits of hard-won rational analysis), the Holy Spirit confirms through warm, peaceful feelings. Think about the virtues that we typically call Christ-like (and which all members of the Church are encouraged to cultivate in themselves, no matter the gender)– kind, self-sacrificing, gentle, in tune with the Spirit. I don’t want to get into gender essentialism or whether these modes of speaking and acting are actually masculine or feminine, but I think that they are generally perceived that way, and would be by a majority of the non-Mormon population as well. That will just turn some men off.

  7. SusanS on September 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Clark: Personal experience and statistics side with women being visited much more regularly than families being visited by their Home Teachers. And, when a sister is visited by their VTs, she is asked how she is doing as an individual, not in the context of how she is doing in the context of her being a member of her family. Men have no corollary for this whatsoever. As you say, if Home Teachers see a problem, they see it in the context of the family group, not of the individual brother. Ironically, in this respect, brothers who are single are more likely to benefit from visits from Home Teachers. Unfortunately, because they have no family, are not going to be a priority when Home Teaching assignments are handed out.

  8. Tim on September 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I think SusanS is correct. It’s true that men are typically given more responsibilities at church (sometimes leading to burnout followed by inactivity) but it is also true that men often don’t receive the same level of support women do. It’s hard to go to church when you feel isolated and alone there–and I think that isolation is why some men stop attending church altogether.

  9. Bob on September 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    clark:
    “Clearly women are more religious than men.” That’s not clear to me.
    I think men are as open as women to “Attractions”. It’s just the Mormon Church has fewer things that attract men. Yes Mormon men are attracted to Mormon things. And yes Mormon women are attacted to Mormon things. But I think the question is: Why aren’t more “men/women attracted to Mormon things?

  10. Last Lemming on September 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    At the risk of extending a theadjack, let me comment on the difference between HT-ing and VT-ing. It seems to me that imposing the VT model on men would just be further feminization — let’s get all touchy-feely one-on-one. Yuck. I’m not really a fan of being home-taught either, but if I have to be visited, I would pick the HT model that recognizes my role in the family over the VT model. (I suppose an exceptionally skilled home teacher could persuade me otherwise, but I have yet to meet such.)

  11. Michael on September 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    In my opinion there are three things that need to be done:

    1) Make the Sunday services actual worship services that concentrate more fully on Christ and provide deeper spiritual nourishment instead of the child-like, touchy-feely, water-down crap. Why should I continue to go to gospel kindergarten week after week.

    2) Allow married men in LDS culture to actually have real male friends (besides stupid basketball nights) who meet together often WITHOUT having to be tag-teamed to their wife in all social situations. Allow the man to be a man when interacting. There is definitely pressure for men to subsume their identity into that of the family and the wife.

    3) Stop with the pedestal worship of women and stop with the incessant berating of men. Men are only told of their obligations and responsibilities. They are never nourished in a positive manner. Local leadership is the worst culprit in this but general conference is guilty also. Women are never berated for the gossiping and nagging. They are praised as though they have already reached godhood.

  12. AHLDuke on September 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Agree with Last Lemming. Maybe we are the only two men in the Church who feel this way (though I doubt it), but if my wife’s descriptions of VT visits and their length (1-2 hours each) are any indication of how that program works, count me out. Give me your poorly prepared message which you prepared from the Ensign on the drive over in 5 minutes or less, ask if you can help me lift anything heavy, and call that good.

  13. Dave on September 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Yes, maybe the VT model doesn’t work for guys. I’m thinking the cheeseburgers-and-big-screen-TV fellowshipping model works better. I do look forward to the annual Super Bowl party — I would not complain at all if it were a monthly event.

  14. Starfoxy on September 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    In the LDS case, is it the men’s failure or the Church’s failure?

    The [church] was made for man, and not man for the [church].

    One thing I find interesting is that when feminists critique the patriarchal structure of the church a common response is to point out how women are so much more likely to attend church than men. “Why,” they ask “aren’t men swarming towards this church where they supposedly get sooooo many ‘privileges’?”
    That response forgets that historical patriarchy privileges men as a class, but only really rewards a select few men. I think this is true of the church as well. Lots of men are left to do quite a bit of grunt work with little to no social support or other sorts of rewards while a small group of men are highly praised and rewarded, yes with more work, but also with high social standing, notoriety, and authority.

  15. SilverRain on September 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I, personally, fail to see all the social support we women are supposedly getting. And I’m not particularly satisfied with spiritual cotton candy, either. Despite my female status.

    I think it has a lot more to do with male-gender cultural stereotyping than with the Church OR the men themselves.

  16. Rebecca J on September 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Allow the man to be a man when interacting. There is definitely pressure for men to subsume their identity into that of the family and the wife.

    Michael, will you expound on this further? What does this look like in real life?

    I agree that men probably don’t get to interact with each other enough, just as men. I think a lot of men are reluctant to take advantage of social opportunities with other men because they feel internal and external pressure to spend all of their free time with their families.

  17. clark on September 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Bob (9), the statistics on church going are pretty overwhelming across the board that women are involved more religiously than men. This includes rates of praying, rates of going to church, rates of believing in god, Now one could suggest that men just manifest a broadly religious mindset in a different fashion. I’m open to that. However in terms of what I think we’re discussing it’s pretty established fact that women do more of the religious activities. This has long been established in study after study for decades.

    Note this isn’t just for our church going but for religiosity across many countries and religions.

    It’s a problem for certain feminist critiques of established religion since even religions disparaged as “patriarchal” (like our own) appear much more appealing to women than men. Exactly why this is has been the subject of debate for decades. It was once thought that child rearing and differing attitudes towards work could account for that but I believe those theories have been pretty soundly refuted. My personal thoughts (as I mentioned above) is that it ends up being tied to differing cognitive styles between men and women. This isn’t just in terms of say agent detection, impugning of communication to theoretical agents or so forth. Rodney Stark speculated that it might be tied to the tendency of men to take many more risks than women. There are other theories as well.

  18. Michael on September 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Rebecca J,

    You already answered your question in your comment. I can call up any guy in Elder’s Quorum that is around my age and ask them if they want to go to the movies. Or maybe bowling. Or take a Saturday morning and go canoeing.

    Almost every single guy will decline. They do not feel it is appropriate or right to participate in such an activity unless it involves the spouse or the entire family. There is extreme pressure for them to spend every free moment with the family.

    However, the wife or the kids would never think twice about immediately arranging such an activity without the rest of the family.

  19. Sam Brunson on September 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    They do not feel it is appropriate or right to participate in such an activity unless it involves the spouse or the entire family.

    Do you think that’s caused by the Church? Because I kind of don’t; it’s all anecdotal, of course, but I don’t think that men in earlier generations had the same compunctions about going out with the guys.

    I suspect that it’s largely a result of a society in which we’ve begun to focus on equal responsibility in parenting, or at least in bridging the gap. Statistics seem to suggest that, even today, men do less parenting than women; could it be in reaction to that that men don’t go out?

    That said, as an anecdotal datapoint, I’ve never had a problem getting an LDS guy to go out to a movie, etc., without the rest of the family. I don’t do it often, but I don’t get pushback.

  20. Adam Greenwood on September 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Michael,
    I’m sympathetic to what you’re arguing, but most LDS women of my acquaintance *would* think twice, if for no other reason than they’d need their husband’s consent to watch the kids while they did their shindy. Women do socialize a lot more than men, partly because they want to, but partly because they do a lot of socialization with the kids tagging along with them.

  21. Brad on September 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    It seems that males around the world are generally less active in organized religion than females. Males, especially after marriage, tend not to be as interested in having close male friends as females are in having close female friends.

    As for what the LDS church could do to attract more males (especially young single adult males), some things that might help, at least in the Mormon Belt:

    1. Singles ward reform. Create more wards that cater to 24-30 year-olds, or young professionals/graduate students. Bishoprics in these wards should be counseled to not treat the single adults as their kids (as they may do in younger singles wards) but as peers. These wards are likely to be a bit more intellectual and members are likely to find more in common with one another and feel like the ward is a place that fits them and not a silly baby-sitting operation.

    2. Encourage men to pursue solid careers and not just rush them into marriage. For two reasons:

    a. Many men after their missions feel pressure to marry soon after they get home. They start dating to marry, only to find that an increasing number of women are uncomfortable with such pressure. Some men do find spouses rather quickly, but an increasing percentage don’t. Those who don’t often become disillusioned with and cynical about the LDS dating scene. This may lead to cynicism about the Mormon environment that they live in and especially the singles wards, which they begin to see as silly. If they go to family wards, many of them find it difficult to fit in and pressured to marry and return to the singles ward to find a spouse.

    b. As women are becoming increasingly professional and career-oriented, men have to keep up. As men build confidence in their careers, they will find it easier to attract a quality mate, and not some marriage-desperate eighteen year-old.

  22. Bob on September 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    clark: You did not say church going__you said are more religious. Tell that to the muslim man on his rug. Tell the to the Buddhist Monk. Tell that to all the men of the Bible.

  23. Adam Greenwood on September 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    “As men build confidence in their careers, they will find it easier to attract a quality mate, and not some marriage-desperate eighteen year-old.”

    That’s a disgusting sentiment, frankly.

  24. Bob on September 22, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Rebecca:
    Most men spend far more of their day speaking to other men, than women spend talking to other women. By the end of my day, I had my fill, just as a lot of womem have had their fill of talking with kids by the end of their day.

  25. clark on September 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Bob (22), by almost any measure of religiosity women are more religious than men. I didn’t just say church going I also noted prayer rate and belief in God. One could list several more categories that have been studied.

    Starfoxy (14), certainly some patriarchal societies reward a relative few men. Honestly I don’t see that kind of patriarchal structure in our church. Maybe in the 19th century but not a lot beyond that. Being a Bishop frankly sucks. You have a ton of extra work you don’t get paid for, a ton of extra stress and no personal time. What’s the reward again? We’re honestly not talking about the 19th century here with extra wives and having a higher probability of being financially well off. Further the way callings go you are just as likely to go from being Stake President to a nursery worker. I just don’t see this as a valid criticism.

    Brad (21), between this thread and the one at BCC it often seems like you tend to embrace the very sexisms you criticize in others. “…not some marriage-desperate eighteen year-old.” You honestly don’t find that a disparaging sexist comment?

    Don’t get me wrong. I think one problem in the church is a one size fits all mentality towards young men. I certainly was no where near mature enough to marry when I got off my mission (let alone at 18). However some are. If the Church wants people to marry early (and avoid some of the problems when most are and a few aren’t) then I think they need to help the youth acquire the skills necessary. I’m honestly not sure the Church is capable of that. Culture has changed and while some people have the necessary social skills to cope there will be a sizable minority that don’t. Unfortunately they are cast in the same net as those who perhaps are capable of getting married but don’t because they want to prolong a kind of “eternal adolescence.” That’s unfair to the broad selection of men and ultimately not too helpful.

    All that said, I honestly am pretty skeptical that has much to do with the difference between men and women’s religiosity.

  26. SusanS on September 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I disagree with the men here who say that they wouldn’t benefit from a program like Visiting Teaching. And it’s hardly fair to dismiss the program from examples of ineffectual or mediocre efforts. Visiting Teaching is intended to have sisters look after each other in a spirit of love, charity, and service. Please explain to me why men are so radically different that they would not benefit from the same? Given the pressure on men to be the sole providers of their family, being buffeted by relationship stresses, not to mention the ever growing concern expressed in conference about the increased addiction to pornography, is it really fair to supply the sisters with additional individual support and none for the brethren? As for how to implement a similar program, obviously there would be differences. A group of men meeting together and delivering a spiritual message would look vastly different from how it would happen among a group of women. If I see any argument against such a program that could hold water is the time constraints that it could cause, i.e., do you really need another calling? However, women can be just as busy in their home lives and their callings and are still expected to fulfill this responsibility.

  27. Michael on September 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    SusanS,

    Men just don’t want to talk about feelings in the same way as women. Nor do they want to share with other guys the pressures they are facing or the dysfunction they may be having in the home. They deal with the issues and pressures in different ways. Many times they just need to get away from the house and let the issue become clearer.

  28. SusanS on September 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Newsflash, Michael. Many women don’t want to talk about their problems either. Many inquiries from Visiting Teachers as to how they are doing won’t yield anything more than a “We’re great, thanks.” Many women aren’t going to want to talk about her own pressures or dysfunctions either most of the time. The point is that someone is there asking the question, not that the question gets answered.

  29. Don Livingston on September 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Speaking as a single male (divorced) it isn’t always easy to maintain activity in the church. I recently moved into a new ward over two months ago, and I still feel like raising my hand to introduce myself in Sunday School or Priesthood when they ask, “Is there any one here for the first time?” While I’ve been attending faithfully and I do pretty well at participating in Sunday School and Priesthood discussions, I feel a certain… gap. One thing about being a single male in the church (a divorcee even more so) is the general feeling that the ward doesn’t quite know what to do with you. Single females are (kind of) accepted (though at times it alternates between piteously or condescendingly). Single males don’t even get the recognition of pity or condescension. (just my POV mind you) It feels like being a zebra in a horse corral. The horses don’t mind you there, but there is certainly something different about you. That being said, my testimony of God and of this church is too deep for me to ever abandon it. So, zebra that I am, I will do my best to find a field to plow no matter how odd it may seem to the horses.

  30. Knob on September 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Many men after their missions feel pressure to marry soon after they get home. They start dating to marry, only to find that an increasing number of women are uncomfortable with such pressure.

    There are actually a couple of recent RMs, and one of them spoke of a powwow they had within weeks of returning from their missions. In this powwow, they all set a goal to be married “within 1 year” of their mission return date, all in an effort to follow the counsel given at the last GC.

    I chuckled when he said this was a “goal,” until I realized how dead serious they were. The whole time I was thinking, “Dude, you’re 21 going on 19. Take it easy and enjoy yourself a little. There is absolutely no need to rush into marriage within 1 year of being home from a mission…” but, hey, what do I know.

  31. Knob on September 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Should read, “there are actually a couple of recent RMs in our EQ…”

  32. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Wow, this is so interesting, not because of the things said, but because of the things that cannot be said.

    “certainly some patriarchal societies reward a relative few men. Honestly I don’t see that kind of patriarchal structure in our church. Maybe in the 19th century but not a lot beyond that. Being a Bishop frankly sucks. You have a ton of extra work you don’t get paid for, a ton of extra stress and no personal time. What’s the reward again?”

    Answer: STATUS. The LDS Patriarchy is an elitist system of status for the most part, regardless of what our canon teaches it should be. Bishops enjoy being Bishops, not only because of the service but because of the status. Whoever denies this is most likely a hypocrite. We all know it, it’s just one of those taboo things we are not supposed to say at loud.

    “not some marriage-desperate eighteen year-old.” You honestly don’t find that a disparaging sexist comment?”

    Unsolicited answer: I don’t find it disparaging sexist. I find it a result of our culture. Marriage being pushed on young people by their leaders in an irresponsible way. “Get married first and everything else will fit into place later, just have faith and get married.” This bogus has generated scores of ignorant and yes marriage-desperate teen women and 21 year old returned missionary men. We have all seen it, experienced it, lived through it, and we all know it, so, c’mon, the “outrage” is kind of misplaced.

    Kindergarten classes: couldn’t agree more. I feel as excited about my next gospel class as I would about watching a Barney and Friends video. My gospel classes and “powered” by the ultra correlated watered down pre-digested milk mind numbingly boring readings in the manuals produce ZERO stimulus in my brain.

    Home Teaching – I have been home taught less than 10 times in the last 18 years as a member of the Church. The program is broken. I always hear those wonderful hometeaching stories and I have yet to visit the parallel universe where they happen. The problem: I think most of us like it that way. No, I do not want to have visiting teaching men, thank you. Especially not when they are assigned to me. The shorter the vistits, the better. Didn’t come at all? God bless, my prayer was heard!

    “Allow married men in LDS culture to actually have real male friends (besides stupid basketball nights) who meet together often WITHOUT having to be tag-teamed to their wife in all social situations. Allow the man to be a man when interacting.”

    This is actually very possible: it is all up to you. You just have to develop a thick skin against the wife freaking out that you are no longer interested in being a conjoined twin with her when it comes to social activities and the social frowning and the labeling of “oh, he just wants to keep on being an irresponsible bachelor.” It takes time, but anyone can develop the thick skin.

    “Interesting last phrase, “the church’s failure to attract men.” In the LDS case, is it the men’s failure or the Church’s failure? And is anything likely to change?”

    Yes and no? I think we are looking at a cluster of socio-cultural phenomena and it would be difficult to pin point who is actually failing. I don’t think this is necessarily the Church’s failure, I don’t think it is the men’s failure, I think both contribute significatnly to how things work.

    Having said this, I believe my answer to the original post is: I do not believe anything is likely to change, and I do not believe it is possible to find a definite component to place the blame.

  33. Knob on September 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Many inquiries from Visiting Teachers as to how they are doing won’t yield anything more than a “We’re great, thanks.” Many women aren’t going to want to talk about her own pressures or dysfunctions either most of the time. The point is that someone is there asking the question, not that the question gets answered.

    Maybe that’s because they aren’t interested in being part of the ward/branch grapevine. The problem with reporting anything relating to a problem or concern or what have you to your VT/HT is that the odds of that getting brought up in some meeting with people who were never intended to hear it is exponentially greater. Many people (myself included) look suspiciously on these questions simply because of what I’ve heard in meetings, I know full well that many VT/HT don’t hold confidences very well. Some do, but many don’t.

  34. Jax on September 22, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve never seen a zebra pull a plow… aren’t they too onry?

    I wonder if we started advocating more manly activities (actual cagefighting, physical violence against non-believers, etc) if we could attract more men . Would that help increase numbers? or would the resulting loss of currently active men be greater than the number gained?

  35. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    “actual cagefighting”

    Count me in.

  36. clark on September 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Bishops enjoy being Bishops, not only because of the service but because of the status. Whoever denies this is most likely a hypocrite.

    And we have an unfalsifiable claim…

    I’m really skeptical of this. I honestly don’t know too many people who want to be a Bishop. There are some for sure. And some of them even become Bishops. But I think most would just prefer to have a regular calling and be able to spend time with their family.

    Now if you have some empirical evidence that all (or even most) Bishops are all about status I’m open to it.

  37. Adam Greenwood on September 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    My most recent bishop’s hair has turned grey and, already gaunt, he lost another 6 pounds. He has developed deep lines. He looks like Abe Lincoln now.

    On the other hand, he has all that awesome status.

  38. Starfoxy on September 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    From the discussion we’re having here you’d think the highest calling anyone ever got was a Bishop. Don’t forget that we have general authorities, and area authorities, and temple presidents, and mission presidents. I would say that serving in a Bishopric is still on the level of grunt work. But Manuel is right about the status thing. My dad is currently a stake Patriarch; he has status coming out his ears for very little actual time spent on his calling.

  39. Knob on September 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Clark:

    It doesn’t require empirical evidence. Maybe that’s your own mind trying to downplay the role ego plays in many/most/all the things we do. Even in the church, there is (without appealing to statistics) a large cadre of members who enjoy the status that comes with certain callings. In private we might downplay those roles, but many people like being the figure heads of local jurisdictions.

    Add to that the very real leader worship we have in the church and you can get to a space where status is recognized. My friend’s brother, for instance, was just called to be a Bishop and his whole extended family threw a big party to celebrate his calling. It was a veritable fete. Another close friend of mind was called to be Bishop less than 6 months ago in the southeast U.S. and the same thing happened with him (extended family threw a celebratory party) and his facebook was lit up with congratulatory messages stating how he was now such a “spiritual giant”, going to be a “great example” and how many now “look[ed] up to [him] for guidance”, to echo some of those posts.

    These people might be great people, but with positions of prestige in the church comes a certain acknowledgment that your word is now “the” word in your jurisdiction for most intents and purposes. They may or may not want the status, but status comes regardless…especially in our current LDS culture. With that comes a certain expectation about where you sit/stand with those members, and it ain’t in the back pew and it ain’t the last person to receive the Sacrament…

    Do we really want to deny that and ignore that it doesn’t exist?

  40. Jim F. on September 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Count me with Clark and Adam Greenwood as one of the hypocrites. My anecdotal evidence, like theirs, is that few bishops think their status is worth much. I’ve known exceptions–they weren’t in it for the status but once they got it clearly enjoyed it–but they were exceptions. I’m pretty sure my current bishop would be glad to give up the status and be the scout master again.

  41. Jim F. on September 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Knob, while I was commenting you went from “bishops like being bishops because of the status” to “bishops are given status in the Church.” Those are different claims. In most cases I’m skeptical of the first. The second is obviously true.

  42. clark on September 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    It doesn’t require empirical evidence.

    Famous last words.

    Let us say I’m very skeptical both of the number and the strength of such egotism. I’d want to see evidence for it. Your account certainly demonstrates your belief on the topic but I just don’t see any evidence. (Note I don’t deny there are some who enjoy the status – just that I am skeptical about the amount)

  43. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    “And we have an unfalsifiable claim”

    Clark, I said “most likely” :)

    Like I said, it is one of those taboo things we are not supposed to talk about, therefore, evidence is not available. I still stand firm on my un-scientific assumption: YES most bishops (all?) do enjoy the STATUS that comes with the calling, and don’t get me started on the wives… because they do too.

    You don’t know too many people who want to be a Bishop, because we all play the humble game, and remember, admitting it is a taboo, not supposed to be that way. You probably know more people than you think that want to be a Bishop, and not because they want to serve, because they want the *STATUS*

  44. clark on September 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    To add, let me give a famous quote:

    “The plural of anecdote is not data.” (Roger Brinner)

  45. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    No, no, no, no. No empirical evidence, no homework done for the lazy, no tangible proof for the willingly blind and no sign for tha Baal worshiper.

    He who has eyes, let him see. It’s in front of our noses, we don’t have to agre or recognize it. It’s there. It’s a taboo, we will pretend until the end of time status does not play a role, it does.

    ““bishops like being bishops because of the status” to “bishops are given status in the Church.” Those are different claims.”

    Not that different, and the former being a result of the latter. I am not saying that is “the only thing,” but it is a significant thing.

    Once again, no sign for the Baal worshiper, no empirical evidence. Just open your eyes and see.

  46. SusanS on September 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Knob: Again, you cannot dismiss an entire program based on ineffectual efforts, or as you insinuate, failures. While most sisters are reluctant to open up about their problems because of a lack of trust, time, and a real effort on the part of her Visiting Teacher will remedy that. Many, many sisters have been saved because of confidences they’ve shared through their Visiting Teaching relationships. I would argue that the Visiting Teaching program is the most important program in the church for the sisters and I would go further to say that if the program were discontinued or remove, that you would see a drop in activity among the sisters as well.

    The fact that most people commenting here are eager to speak of it pejoratively, is profoundly sad.

  47. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    “The fact that most people commenting here are eager to speak of it pejoratively, is profoundly sad.”

    I hope I was not one of those people… let the sisters have what they need. In my case, I just do not want it for me, and I suspect most men probably would not want it either. And I further suspect that is precisely why Hometeaching works the way it does (or doesn’t).

  48. Brad on September 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The comment I made about “a marriage-desperate eighteen year-old” in comment #21 is not intended to disparage women or those who chose to marry at the age of eighteen and has been grossly misinterpreted (comments #23 and 25, although Manuel, #32, explains it well). The church has long encouraged people to marry young. This in turn has created a culture that is largely does not understand, and is sometimes unsympathetic toward, the unmarried single male from his upper twenties onward. People who marry younger have not really experienced the difficulties of dating in the LDS world, especially as you get older. What emanates from them is an ethos of pity toward older single females, and an ethos of blame toward older single males, with the assumption that their persistent bachelorhood is simply due to a lack of initiative. They don’t often realize that LDS female attitudes toward career and marriage have changed and that an increasing number of LDS females are willing active career-seekers. Hence they have greater expectations for what they seek in a mate. The advice to the males to just “go out and get ‘em’” tends to be more alienating than encouraging since it does not acknowledge the fact that males do want to marry but that the pool has become more demanding of them.

    Bottom line: the church needs to stop urging people to marry so young, to bide their time, and find someone suitable. Also, much as church leaders have on occasion told the not-so-attractive females to try to look more attractive in order to increase their chances of finding a good mate, they should tell the men to focus on enhancing their credentials to increase their chances.

  49. Brad on September 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    PS, I’m not the Brad at BCC.

  50. clark on September 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Manuel, sometimes when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. I’ll just leave it at that.

  51. clark on September 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Sorry about that Brad (49). My apologies.

  52. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Clark,

    I would absolutely agree with that statement (inversely of course), but you got it.

  53. First Counselor on September 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I haven’t known a bishop yet who wouldn’t give up the calling in a heartbeat if they could do so and still have fulfilled their duty. Sure, other people heap honor on the bishop, but there is no way that compensates for having most of the rest of your life totally screwed up for five years. Most of that status crap is other people shirking their own responsibility to make decisions anyway. The bishops I know love their callings because they love the people they serve, but they would much rather be something like an auxiliary counselor where you get to have most of the same good experiences without the constant stream of CRAZY knocking on your door in the middle of the night. Not to mention the cesspool of sin you have to wade through. Whatever you’re seeing in your bishop, good or bad, is an external shell around someone desperately trying to keep a grip on his sanity. It’s a miracle any marriage, job, or mind survives those five years.

    Our EQ is awesome. We get together to play WII on the big screen in the cultural hall, we play paintball (unofficially), we watch movies together, we do dangerous construction projects, and we cook some insane, possibly life-threatening chillis. If you want it, you can have it. Just do it.

  54. Jon Miranda on September 22, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I think a good idea would be to let men be visit taught or to visit teach and let women be home teachers. Does anyone know of a situation where
    1. Women have gone home teaching
    2. Men have gone visiting teaching or have been visit taught.

  55. brian larsen on September 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Jon Miranda @54 I have seen several times when a man goes HTing with his wife, if that counts.

  56. Bob on September 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Jon Miranda,
    yes, I have had both. A young HT, wife and baby. For my wife, an old couple as her VTs.

  57. Naismith on September 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    “I haven’t known a bishop yet who wouldn’t give up the calling in a heartbeat if they could do so and still have fulfilled their duty. Sure, other people heap honor on the bishop, but there is no way that compensates for having most of the rest of your life totally screwed up for five years.”

    Five years? It would have been nice to be released after five years.

  58. First Counselor on September 22, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    @Naismith: exactly! I know at least one person today who is on his second stint as branch president within fifteen years and there is *no one* to replace him. What “status”!

  59. Manuel on September 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    LOL! Status comes at a price… and we all know they are sure willing to pay for it (besides the fact not everyone can actually be a functional bishop). But I think my threadjack has gone too long.

    Back to the original post, what remarks are going to be directed to the diminishing population of active LDS men, I think men need true spiritual nourishment from the brethren at conference if any trend will change. Something that actually speaks to us, something we actually need to hear.

    Men in general do not need to hear pornography is terrible and destructive anymore. Single men don’t need to hear they are single because they are neglectful about marriage and that they are “delaying marriage,” which to the audience inevitably comes accompanied with a callous and shortsighted assumption. How many single men probably say in their hearts, “wow, they really don’t understand what is going on.”

    With the current crisis, men probably don’t need to hear messages that imply true manhood is measured by self-sufficiency. Or messages that imply blessings are a sure outcome of keeping commandments, and that by paying tithing financial security will surely follow. There needs to be a bit of a hint of much more relatable material than just, be good and all good should follow.

    Do I think it is going to happen? Short answer: no. There will be a scolding, there will be a depressing berating message for the men, for sure. Is the church “failing” so to speak in this particular context? I don’t know. Peter was told to feed the Lord’s sheep. While making sure the sheep don’t go stray, I think He was more concerned about the actual nourishment. And I think that is where the focus should be. I pray for a nourishing conference, rather than a scolding one.

  60. hawkgrrrl on September 23, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Dave Banack – thanks for the shout-out!

    Our ward piloted “Menrichment” activities this summer, including seeing movies (no Rom Coms I noticed), sports stuff, concerts, dinners, you name it. It was popular, and kept the men occupied rather than out having affairs while their wives abandoned them. The SAHMs here often take the kids and spend the summer with their parents back in the states (something I consider unfathomable, but I saw it in our US ward also).

    Honestly, I agreed with both Brad and Manuel’s points about what drives men away and the perils of encouraging early marriage without considering the downside. People should have a stronger foundation for marriage than cultural pressure. Doesn’t anyone else find it weird to even be thinking of marriage when you’re not even in a relationship? I had a college roommate who set a goal to be engaged by the end of semester. She started dating guys (none of whom she knew). She had a system: home-cooked dinner in our apartment, backrub on the living room floor, then a movie. I had seen her go through this routine so many times that I got a kick out of asking her (while she was giving date of the evening a rub down) who she had on the floor tonight. Bless her heart, she was successfully engaged by end of semester. But IMO, that’s one icky story.

  61. Adam Greenwood on September 23, 2011 at 5:17 am

    From the discussion we’re having here you’d think the highest calling anyone ever got was a Bishop. Don’t forget that we have general authorities, and area authorities, and temple presidents, and mission presidents. I would say that serving in a Bishopric is still on the level of grunt work. But Manuel is right about the status thing. My dad is currently a stake Patriarch; he has status coming out his ears for very little actual time spent on his calling.

    (1)
    I don’t even know who my Stake Patriarch is. Neither do most other folks in my stake. The Stake President, on the other hand, yes I know him. He’s the guy who teaches seminary in addition to everything else, because apparently that’s part of the duties now.

    This status stuff is 8 kinds of bunk wherever I’ve ever lived. Maybe the church is less true outside my august presence, dunno.

    (2)
    For the majority of men, thankfully, the highest calling isn’t even bishop.

    (3)
    The difficulty of becoming bishop or stake president or whatnot is not why women are generally more religious than men. I don’t even see the logic.

    Status comes at a price… and we all know they are sure willing to pay for it.
    My bishop pays it because he know his duty, not for status. You are slandering thousands of good men who are serving God, not your status idol.

  62. Adam Greenwood on September 23, 2011 at 5:26 am

    BTW, LDS marriage ages have been steadily rising. Has this coincided with an increase in involvement and Church satisfaction from men? If not, the gripes about early marriage are, I suggest, an orthogonal bugaboo.

  63. Peter LLC on September 23, 2011 at 6:01 am

    For the majority of men, thankfully, the highest calling isn’t even bishop.

    I too am thankful that many are called but few are chosen. Imagine the quality of life in heaven if the backsliding louts you spent mortality with ended up there too!

  64. Dave on September 23, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Hold the presses! I agree with Adam Greenwood (#61).

  65. ldsbishop on September 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Taking 4am phonecalls due to a crisis in a home.
    Leaving my 8-month pregnant wife at home for yet another evening because someone is dying in the hospital.
    Excommunicating people who wallow in in sin.
    Dealing with petty disputes each and every Sunday in the office while my family waits for me.
    All worth it of course, because I have all this “status”
    Bulls—
    I do it because I was called to fulfil a duty and I understand a covenant is.

    Sorry that isn’t really relevant to the post but I needed to get it off my chest.

  66. Anonomous on September 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Are you gentlemen aware that the rugby (football) world cup is being played in New Zealand at present? Sport was mentioned in the original blog. I don’t know if it’s available anywhere on US TV but it is worth a watch. See what football is like without the helmets, padding, tights and stops for discussions.

    How many team sports does America compete against the world in. World series of course?

    America has a team in the world cup but they are not in the top class. They played Australia this week, the final score was 67 to 5 Australias way, but they played well.

  67. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Nice try, Adam (#62). I liked the orthogonal bugaboo quip. Marriage ages have been rising some, but are still way below the national average. Despite the increase, young marriages (21-23 year-old male to 18-21 year-old female) are still extremely common in the LDS church. Furthermore, the who’s who in the LDS church is still very much largely composed of people who married young. They in turn tend to identify with and gravitate toward others who married and started having kids at a young age. Leadership circles seem to be dominated by those who marry young. Hence, the attractiveness of the counsel for men and women to do likewise and the widespread acceptance of the notion that inactivity rates among single male young adults are attributable to them not marrying and having kids at a younger age.

    Don’t misinterpret me as saying that those who marry young aren’t fine people. However, their lack of understanding of and identification with older single males (this includes the high-ranking leadership of the church as well) explains why many of these older bachelors may feel out of their element at church and choose to disassociate themselves.

  68. KLC on September 23, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Manuel, I think your comments about GC in #59 are thoughtful and perceptive, why do you have to wrap them in such sweeping generalizations about the motivations of LDS men in leadership positions? But the same goes for those who have stepped up against Manuel to rebut his claims. There certainly are religiously ambitious men in the church, not all are like that but I would say from personal experience that it is a significant minority. And of course none of them would ever claim that they are, all of them are humble, self-sacrificing servants who only want to spend more time with their families…

  69. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 9:54 am

    “Why do you have to wrap them in such sweeping generalizations about the motivations of LDS men in leadership positions?”

    Perhaps because my interaction with them has made me very cynical?

    Perhaps because internally, I don’t really demonize such attitudes and I simply recognize it as an inherent human trait that we should all acknowledge and be comfortable with?

    Perhaps because generalizations are unavoidable when speaking of a socio-cultural trait in a defined category within a group of people and it is expected from the audience that their own criteria will allow them to know nothing really applies to everything, but for the sake of conversational fluidity it is important to keep those exceptions in mind and yet be able to speak of a phenomenon in an objective way?

    Perhaps because I disagree with you that they are a significant minority, rather I view it as an inherent human nature that most likely nobody is trully fully excempt from?

    Perhaps because I never meant to imply that status is the only motivation of leaders to hold on to their positions, rather a significant factor?

    I guess I do it because my views differ from the rest? So?

    This was the original question:

    “Being a Bishop frankly sucks. You have a ton of extra work you don’t get paid for, a ton of extra stress and no personal time. What’s the reward again?””

    The reward is Status. Whether social, whether personal and internal, whether in the eyes of God. The reward is Status.

    I am not the one demonizing status or the inherent human nature to aspire to it, I am just saying the reason is status. Period.

  70. Naismith on September 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I haven’t been able to respond to Manuel’s comments about why bishop’s serve because I can’t formulate a response that doesn’t include a lot of profanity, and I know that this blog has a higher standard for that kind of thing.

  71. Peter LLC on September 23, 2011 at 10:09 am

    ldsbishop: Bulls—

    Naismith: I can’t formulate a response that doesn’t include a lot of profanity

    For a couple of people who do everything for the right reasons, that’s a lot of angst about what everyone else thinks.

  72. KLC on September 23, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Manuel, you’re articulate and thoughtful and prone to making sweeping generalizations and blanket assertions that only serve to devalue what you’re trying to say. Yes, generalizations are unavoidable but broad brush assertions certainly are. They change perceptive comment into stereotypical cartoons.

  73. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Naismith,

    Wow! I didn’t know my views could generate so much vitriol against me. Really? Am I really so “out there” that only profanity could be the medium to communicate with me? Wow. You are also a self proclaimed Christian too, I asume…

    Why don’t you go ahead, ask a perma in this blog to share my email with you and shoot me all the profanity you have been saving for me. Just for the sake of you having a chance to get it out of your chest.

    The title is very correct. LDS Men Aren’t Incredible.

  74. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

    KLC,

    I am a minority in an ultra-conservative white LDS community. I have been the object of stereotypes from day one I arrived to happy valley. I know being different here is supposed to be intimidating and I should keep quite, and my observations need to be aligned with everyone elses. It just isn’t so. Can you accept someone has had a different experience and has formed a different view of your world?

    I can. I do everyday. Can you?

  75. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Both Adam (61) and Manuel have a point. LDS aren’t accepting leadership callings because they would hope to use them to rise in the ranks. Most LDS members should know that service as a bishop or a stake president doesn’t guarantee you a high-ranking position in the church. However, people tend to accept these callings because they fear that turning them down or shirking responsibility may result in a loss of status either in the eyes of important families of the church community, or if serving as a leader, the community as a whole. So the fear of losing status does play a role, but not aspirational status so much.

    But Manuel’s thrust is generally right. What drives people to serve in high-ranking callings? (Perhaps one of you at T&S should take on this question in a future post) The hope that the calling may be an avenue to enhance their status and respect in the community, even if it doesn’t necessarily do that (e.g. obscurity of stake patriarch). The feeling of being needed in the community (even if it is in the form of phone calls at three in the morning) is undeniably fulfilling.

    Also Manuel is right that people play the “humble game” too often in the church. People say that they don’t want to be bishop, but you know that deep inside many do, because they would be noticed, recognized, and respected in their immediate community. This also applies to missionaries. How often do you hear people claim that they didn’t want to serve in the mission office as a secretary or as an AP (Assistant to the President) because then they couldn’t have as much time for the “work?” I know when I was on my mission that I coveted the position of AP. For one it would relieve me of the grunt work of knocking on doors and contacting people in the street. Second it would get me the recognition that I craved from fellow missionaries.

  76. Jeff Spector on September 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I would say it is: porno, football, beer and guy time that is the problem, not necessarily in any particular order.

  77. Martin on September 23, 2011 at 11:07 am

    “People say that they don’t want to be bishop, but you know that deep inside many do, because they would be noticed, recognized, and respected in their immediate community.”

    Certainly true. But in a solid ward, these aren’t generally the type of men that get called as bishop, and when they are, I think they change their thinking pretty quick.

    In the case of bishops who enjoy being “important”, I’m convinced that for many of them it’s that they enjoy feeling they can do some good, that the Lord accepts their sacrifices, that they’re filling an important role. Sure, it’s still somewhat selfish, but it’s also a different thing than “Look at me, I’m an important man in my society — give me respect and deference”.

    What was the OP again? I think I read too many comments…

  78. KLC on September 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Manuel, since you have been subject to stereotypes you feel you have the right to do the same? Maybe you do but don’t expect people to sympathize with what you say when you engage in it. So I’ll say a third time, I do sympathize with much of what you say, some of its core is very close to my own thoughts so this has nothing to do with my accepting someone with a different view of the world. But your stereotyping dilutes your message. Can you accept that?

  79. ldsbishop on September 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    RE: Manuel (#69)

    “The reward is Status. Whether social, whether personal and internal, whether in the eyes of God. The reward is Status.”

    Maybe in this case “status” is the wrong word. I don’t think Heavenly Father deals in status. He just sees me doing my duty (and therefore His will), or not.

  80. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Re:79

    Heavenly Father doesn’t, we do. So, in that dicotomy, our side seeks a certain status with him, for our own sake, not for His.

  81. ldsbishop on September 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Re: 80
    If I were looking for that sort of “status” with Heavenly Father, all I would want to do is be assigned as a Home Teacher and actually do it every month.

    In the words of Elder Haight:
    “The Lord isn’t going to be concerned about whether you were a bishop, or stake president, or Apostle. He’s going to be concerned about how you treated people.”

    Anyway, we have got away from the original spirit of the post. Unless it was to confirm its title.

  82. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    ldsbishop,

    I am not claiming what happens is the ideal, or the canonical description of what should happen, it’s just what happens from my point of view.

  83. Jax on September 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I think the bishop who accept and fulfill their calling because of the ‘status’ would probably all fit into D&C 121′s definition of those who, when gaining a little power, as they suppose, begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. I think if you’re in it to look cool then your probably making decision that you think make you look good rather than ones that are spiritually guided. just my opinion.

    Anyone have ideas on how to buck the trend? Do we need a men’s VT? Or “menrichment” nights (which sounds interesting)? Do we tell women to lower their modesty standards? Are we not getting enough social interaction or not enough spiritual nourishment?

  84. Sonny on September 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Manuel,

    My brother was called as a bishop last year, and I based on my conversations with him prior to and since his calling, I concur completely with ldsbishop. I can guarantee you this calling was not something he sought, aspired to, or views as some sort of ‘in’ with Heavenly Father. He greeted the calling with the utmost humility, and with great personal uncertainty of how he will manage to keep his business going in this economy. But on he goes, with tremendous trust in the Lord and love for those he serves.
    I think your “point of view” on bishops feeling they have status with the Lord is at best overly broad, and at worst completely mistaken.

  85. Naismith on September 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    “Wow! I didn’t know my views could generate so much vitriol against me. Really? Am I really so “out there” that only profanity could be the medium to communicate with me?”

    What are you expecting? For me to smile sweetly and say in a syrupy voice, “Yes, Manuel, you must be right and know so much better than little old me because after all, you have a penis–uh, I mean, priesthood.”

    How am I supposed to behave when you malign the honor and lie about the man who I love best? (As well as many good friends.)

    The only way I could comment on your slander about bishops’ motivations is to use profanity, because that is exactly what YOU have written. It is stinky garbage.

    Do you have data to back up these claims about status seeking?

    Then how do you know so much better about what every bishop is thinking than their life partner or brother or friend?

  86. Porter on September 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I want to echo Don’s comment (#29). I too am recently divorced and I have discovered that there are legions of middle-aged divorced men here in Utah who have left the church. Some may be inactive due to their new lifestyles (its VERY hard to be divorced and celibate — but that’s a discussion for another day) or because of issues that caused the divorce in the first place, but most are not going to church. I’m not sure if the inactivity causes the lifestyle or vice versa, but I suspect that its a much bigger problem than anyone knows.

    At the same time, all of the single women are bemoaning the lack of temple-worthy divorced men out there. But many of them are having celibacy struggles as well, so they are part of the problem too. Its a mess folks. But fun ;-)

    I’ve often wondered whether if the wards did a better job keeping track of the divorced men and integrating them into the wards by giving them calling and even asking them to speak (gasp) then more of them would be coming to church. Hard to say, but I certainly still feel like a visitor in the ward I have been attending for over a year, and I have to admit that despite my intentions to stay active and worthy, I find myself attending less and less.

  87. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Naismith,

    Clearly you don’t understand me nor what I am trying to say.

    1. I am not slandering anyone and I am certainly not using profanity.

    2. Other people here have agreed with me, and I’ll have you know, many good people I know also agree with me.

    3. I don’t expect you to smile sweetly at my views, I just expect you to be an adult.

    I pity you for your rage. I also pity you for living in such confined and protected bubble, where, anyone better be careful to point something out or else you will go after them with profanity and rage.

    If I were to be as mad as you are for all the bull crap I have taken from so many insidious, ignorant, self-centered, insecure and racist people of this church (who often times use the garbage that has fallen off some of the flapping mouths of the “humble” and “non-status seeking” leadership of this church); and if I considered slander and profanity many things said in the church the same way you consider my views, I would live enraged at this church every single day of my life.

    And make no mistake this most of this “utopian” society would be considered slanderous and profane before my eyes. I however, understand other people’s backgrounds, upbringing, and any other factors that serve to formulate their opinions and form their views. So, I have to words for you: Wake up. Your “Zion” is hell in the views of many others, and that is not slander, that is just the way it looks from a different perspective.

    Taking things so personally is also extremely childish. Did I mention the name of anyone you “love” and did I direct a personal attack against them? So, I don’t demonize “status” and I believe aspiring to it is an inherent part of humans. That’s my attack? That’s my slander and my profanity? And that is my wrongful sweeping generalization? Whatever you hypocrite!

    I am no stranger to personal attacks in this narrow minded and hyper hypocritical community infested of deniers and self-liars, so I can take all your vitriol and all the vitriol that any person in this blog has to offer. Believe me, if there is something I have gotten out of this so called “Christian” church, is a thick skin against vicious people like you.

    And, with respect to your “penis-priesthood” comment, I’ll have you know I am an active feminist in the Church, and unlike your “humble” and “non-status seeking” leadership, I never claim to be “right,” I just express my opinions and I also believe in “true equality.”

    Go chill a bit, listen to some spiritual music, read an inspirational piece of literature or pray, but please help yourself rid of so much venom.

    Hypocrites, I can’t believe how vicious many of you can be with anyone who has a differing view. I hope you all have a good conference. And yeah, as my ultimate response to the original post: the church is not inviting, and attitudes like “you either agree with me or else you are slandering me and all I have for you is profanity,” is probably part of what keeps many away. And no, that is not likely going to change.

  88. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Martin (#77),

    You can enjoy being noticed, recognized, and respected in your community and still be a humble and serviceable person at the same time.

    The point is that the question of why people accept and perform leadership callings such as that of bishop cannot be answered without social status; either out of fear of losing one’s currently existing status in the community or out of hope of enhancing it.

    To assume that our church leaders don’t have status-related motives (status motives don’t have to be a sinister thing, it is just human nature) in what they do and say is disingenuous. The far end of this argument assumes leadership infallibility; the notion that all they do and say in the capacity of that position is a mirror image of what God would do. Of course not many LDS assume local leaders to be infallible, but a sizable number seem to bear the view that higher ranking leaders are or have become such.

  89. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    ldsbishop (#65)

    Yes you may make sacrifices as a bishop. But imagine if you didn’t step up to the plate when people asked for your help. They may not think so kindly of you, then. Maybe you go above and beyond the requirements. Great. People will think more highly of you. Does that not a feeling that you would desire? You can’t say that status doesn’t play some sort of a role.

  90. Adam Greenwood on September 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Manuel,

    pleas for more tolerance and understanding and less rage go over better if you don’t call people hypocrites, racists, slanderers and profaners, deniers, self-liars, hell-dwellers, etc. They are less fun, but they go over better. In case you care about that.

    Brad, you’re simply lordlily asserting what people’s motives are. There’s no argument–I don’t know if there can be an argument–so what’s the point? You know through intuition or whatever that status is a big part of it, and we know through intuition or whatever that for many it isn’t. Is there any point to lobcocking our intuitions back and forth?

  91. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Adam,

    The rage was there way before my defensive response, and if I made allusions to any of the above, there is a crucial difference: I never directed any of it to anyone in particular.

    I am a human though, and I don’t have to take from anyone that the only appropriate way to treat me is with profanity. And I don’t need anyone here to refer to my penis.

    I am sorry, I have to defent myself.

  92. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Adam, you are trying to sound all noble again and ignoring important questions. I’m simply calling out disingenuousness when I see it. The role of status-seeking or status-preserving in behavior in religious communities is a good question, and one that needs to be posed. To say that we should throw our hands in the air and conclude that an argument cannot be formed is bordering on denialism of the vital forces that drive the church and its members.

  93. ldsbishop on September 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Brad (#89)
    Yes of course it is nice if people think highly of you, but in my experience there are just as many who don’t. So, yes, there are days when someone will say something nice about something or other I have done. Of course people saying nice things to me makes me feel good, as it should. It really doesn’t happen very often though.

    I can only speak from my own experience, but the bishop before me nearly died of a heart attack when in office due to the strain of the calling along with worries about his family and business. That was enough for me to not want to be next. However, when I was called I said yes, not because I saw any benefit to the call at all (spiritual, temporal, status-wise or whatever) but because I knew that Heavenly Father was calling me to serve for a time and He knew I have something to offer.
    In the years I’ve been doing this I have had to weigh terrible decisions that I know would deeply effect and upset people. So, status be damned. Even if there was some kind of sub-concious part of me that wanted higher status before I was called, there certainly isn’t now. I just do my duty the best I can and hope that my offering is sufficient for Heavenly Father and those that I have stewardship over.

  94. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    “pleas for more tolerance…”

    Oh, and that wasn’t a plea, it was a response to a classless and unfounded comment. I think gave up making pleas for anything a while ago.

  95. Alison Moore Smith on September 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I’m about to leave for a Relief Society camp out (no, in real sleeping bags), so I apologize for not taking the time to read the comments before piling on.

    The post slug doesn’t show an original working title. It can be set independently. Maybe she was just being funny — or going for SEO. :) heh heh

    I think we need a couple dozen more talks about porn.

    If the church isn’t attracting men, well, look who’s in charge.

    My husband IS incredible. So there.

    P.S. Seriously, who did the CSS for ordered lists?

  96. Ray on September 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I think those who think Bishops generally want the calling for the “status” probably haven’t been Bishops.

    Of course, there are some people who seek and want the calling for its status – and, of course, there is status attached. Nobody here has denied either of those points. However, I also believe that the vast majority of Bishops didn’t want the calling – and certainly didn’t want it for the status that is included. I think even a greater majority would have walked away from the status in a heartbeat after serving as a Bishop for a couple of years (and probably much sooner).

    Theoretically, if I wanted to become a Stake President or Area Authority, I would pray nightly for a way to do that without ever being a Bishop. If there was no way for that to happen, I would pray nightly to never be a Stake President or Area Authority.

    I’ve known too many Bishops in my life to want to be one.

  97. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    ldsbishop,

    I don’t doubt the strains of being a bishop. The question I’m trying to answer is if it is so stressful, then why bother with it? Why not shirk responsibility or delegate more of it to others? There is no paycheck on the line. You could quit or shirk without incurring legal or civil penalties upon yourself. But would there be social penalties that you may incur (i.e. ostracism, image tarnishing, falling-out with family/community, etc.)? Also I am trying to answer this question without couching it so much in Mormon, or religious, terminology.

    Status (which isn’t necessarily a sinister motive) answers this question quite nicely. Maybe not so much the status-seeking which Manuel is referring to (i.e. climbing a social ladder of sorts), but status-preserving. Status-preserving would include undertaking responsibilities to maintain the status-quo in the ward; creating and preserving a good image, or the best image possible (can’t please everyone), of yourself, the church, and the community; and preventing important people in family and church from thinking less of you. I actually think that status-seeking and status-preserving (with all its nuances) is a good starting point to explain behaviors and interactions in most religious communities. So don’t take status to mean opportunism. It is just part of being in a community and religion.

  98. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Brad,

    I wasn’t referring to a simplistic upward movement in a social ladder. That’s why I noted in my comment speaking of status in the Church is a taboo. The reactions to the comment and the way it has been misconstrued seem to validate my point. People seem to have made the decision that status is the core ingredient of an opportunistic and evil person, and that status has no place in normal human behavior.

    Like I said in my original comment, it’s one of those things we are simply not supposed to talk about. It’s part of everyone and we see it everywhere, yet, the mere acknowledgment that it is part of our social behavior in Church seems to literally drive some to ire. I think these reactions are extreme. I knew it is a taboo, but I really didn’t know how much of a taboo it really is.

    I bet these same people would not be uncomfortable talking about status as a normal behavioral trait in any other context. I bet they would be fine if we were talking about status in terms of Catholic clergy, politics, boards of chairs or hierarchies in important companies, England’s royal family, the historical evolution of social classes, etc. They would probably acknowledge human behavior is status driven. While it’s definitely not the only thing that drives human behavior, the role status plays in our regular decision making process is undeniable.

    Strangely, when it comes to our own community, our own leaders (local or general) somehow, status no longer applies. If it were to be applicable, it would only be applicable to a minimum and non-significant few. And these significant few are in contempt of how they really should behave. Status cannot possibly be a factor in our decision making process and is definitely not when it comes to our leaders. Status can only apply to “other” socio-cultural groups. We, as LDS, are somehow exempt. And somehow, the hardships of specific positions become the genuine and tangible evidence that status is simply not a factor for us. I think this is self-righteousness bordering on delusion.

    The level of denial is bizarre. I don’t think it is possible to analyze objectively the behaviors of our Church members because we are too riddled with these taboos. That’s why posts like this probably become a bit pointless. Leaving the church is a socio-cultural behavior; attracting members to come to church is trying to find out how to influence their socio-cultural behavior, yet there is an important area of socio-cultural behavior that we simply will not accept as part of an analytical discussion of socio-cultural behavior. It’s a taboo, and whoever dares to speak it up will be punished.

  99. Naismith on September 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    “The rage was there way before my defensive response,”

    The rage was there when you ridiculed those of us who serve. Right after my earlier un-angry comment you said,
    “LOL! Status comes at a price… and we all know they are sure willing to pay for it.”

    You laughed out loud and I wasn’t supposed to be offended? You claimed that bishops (including my husband) are willing to pay the price for status.

    And no apology that maybe it isn’t true of everyone (if anyone). No data source cited to prove your point.

    “…and if I made allusions to any of the above, there is a crucial difference: I never directed any of it to anyone in particular.”

    Oh, I see. It’s okay if you direct your slander at all bishops in general, not my husband or our friends in particular? Can we also laugh at prophets in general as long as we don’t name them? What are these rules? Where is the line where we fall into evil speaking of the Lord’s annointed.

    “I pity you for your rage. I also pity you for living in such confined and protected bubble,”

    Excuse me, but I DON’T live in a confined and protected bubble. As a bishop’s wife of course I have been to sleazy hotels, homeless shelters, prisons, mobile home parks in a shady part of town, and all manner of places far from any protection. And I didn’t do it out of a quest for status.

  100. Tim on September 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I heard Elders in my mission talk a lot about aspiring to specific callings. “So-and-so was called as ZL before I was? What was the president thinking?” “If you really want to become a GA, you need to marry into a GA’s family.” Etc. etc.

    I’m sure quite a few church leaders (local and perhaps otherwise) aspire to specific callings for status purposes. There is quite a bit of status involved in having leadership callings–people congratulating you and a lot holding you in higher regards than they probably should. But I think most (maybe even the vast majority of) leaders don’t aspire to their callings, and don’t accept them because of the status the calling grants them. Most accept the calling out of feelings of duty and responsibility.

  101. clark on September 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Manuel, I really should leave good enough alone but…

    I think people are complaining that you see as obvious what no one else does and you can’t really offer much by way of evidence to so many of us who just don’t see what you do. Instead you talk about people who are hypocrites or blind.

    Of course status seeking is an intrinsic part of human instinct. However I see no evidence that the topic is taboo. In fact it seems a rather common topic at Church. (I hear it brought up relative to D&C 121:39 frequently)

    You seem to note that humility is seen as important but believe it usually a faux humility. How do you tell? I assume you recognize the constant topic of humility and pride, especially relative to priesthood. Yet it would seem that anything we could point to as contradicting you will simply be seen as hypocrisy, falsehood or acting. It’s kind of frustrating as you’ve set up a world view which can simply explain away any evidence to the contrary.

    No one is saying that Mormons are exempt to pride or status seeking. Far from it. However that’s not what we have been arguing. We are instead saying it is not as important or widespread as you are claiming. That’s quite a different claim.

  102. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Naismith,

    Clearly, you don’t care about what I mean by people aspiring to status in a behavioral context because not understanding it means you can keep on accusing me of “slander.” I didn’t slander anyone with my comment; and you, your husband and your friends are not victims of what I said. But you have made your decision and I understand that will not change. Being the victim of “slander” is more comfortable than trying to understand human nature.

    “LOL” That’s what generated your rage? Look, I’ll take the blame for that. I did intend it as a cheeky thing to say, and if you were offended, I take responsibility for that. I do not consider aspiring to status a vilifying aspect to any individual.

    Still, I stand by my statement that bishops are willing to pay for their status, yes, even your husband. I now know that you are not willing to understand what I mean with that no matter how I explain it. If you still think I mean it as a slanderous and personal directed attack, I really don’t consider it my problem anymore. I think it’s just is dysfunctional.

    I still find your response perplexing and not very coherent to tell you the truth. I am no stranger to profanity being the only response irate people have for people who caused their ire. OK, but your accusation that I think I am right because I have a penis or because I hold the priesthood or because I am a man… well I just can’t find any coherence in that. Sorry, I think you have issues, and I just happened to be an easy target to focus whatever issues your are having to deal with. In which case, your rants are no longer important since I don’t think I am having too much of a rational conversation with you.

    Can we also laugh at prophets in general as long as we don’t name them? What are these rules? Where is the line where we fall into evil speaking of the Lord’s annointed.

    Well apparently the rules are made by you. And so are the solutions and the punishments. I frankly don’t care. I have laughed and cried at much uninspired stupidity uttered by the Prophets and General Authorities. I could not possibly care less if that constitutes or not speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed to you, because I don’t live this religion the way you would want people to live it, I live the way I want to live it.

    You do live in a bubble. These places you have been to are not really that far beneath you, you may go down there to help; the thing is, help is also needed up here, in the pedestal of gold we church attending Mormons supposedly live in.

    I am glad “Smith” is part of your name. If you had my name, you probably wouldn’t have made it in this wonderful Church. Too much slander would have made you too angry to survive here.

    Have a good conference.

  103. Ray on September 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Manuel, good points get buried in hyperbole and hypocrisy all the time. They also get buried in sarcasm and ridicule.

    It’s worth considering, since there is much of both in your comments – but the former get lost in the latter almost all the time. You have some excellent points to make – but they’ll never get made properly in the midst of the crap in which they’re wrapped.

  104. Brad on September 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Admin, probably time to close the comments.

  105. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Clark,

    Those are my views and I think I have explained them plenty.

    I view your position the same way you see mine. You have not really provided any “evidence” and your anecdotal experiences do not really constitute “data” proving status does not play a part in our LDS society. I can counter each of your anecdotal experiences with mine… what would the point be? It still doesn’t represent data. It would only be a competition to describe as many experiences as possible, who would be correct? The one with the most compelling experiences?

    I am an engineer and I rarely deal with so many data hungry people on something that cannot be quantifiable either way. The truth is, for most topics, data is not available. We simply have our experiences. That’s what’s behind my views, experiences, not “data.” And that is also what is behind your views, experiences, not “data.” You cannot provide “data” for humility, therefore anyone could argue humility is limited to an insignificant few and there is no evidence to the contrary… it doesn’t work like that.

    The issue has been explained enough. I have nothing further to say. I leave this topic with the following quote:

    “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” (Albert Einstein)

  106. Manuel on September 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Ray,

    That’s fine with me. I find many comments full of crap too and without the points, so, there.

  107. Sonny on September 24, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I second Brad’s call to close comments.

  108. Peter LLC on September 24, 2011 at 6:31 am

    I move to lay the question whether comments should be closed on the table.

  109. Naismith on September 24, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Yes, I would also vote to close.

    And I apologize for helping sidetrack what could have been an important discussion.

    My take is that the LDS church actually does better than some other faiths in encouraging male involvement. Our lay priesthood provides a vehicle for that. E.g., at the birth of a new baby, when so much focus is on mom and newborn, he gets to perform a blessing.

    While the lack of participation of even one member diminishes us, I don’t think our “disappearing male” problem is near as severe as other congregations. In grad school, one of my cohort was a baptist minister who didn’t like what we believed, but admired our system of home teaching and that dads could baptize their own children.

    The great thing is, while other congregations are trying to figure out how to establish a “men’s ministry” from the ground up, we already have a mechanism in place. Yes, adding “menrichment” activities might help (we’ve done that, too) and other tweaks. But there was already the infrastructure of an Elder’s Quorum in place, from which to build.

  110. Dave on September 24, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for a fine discussion, everyone. Comments are now closed.