So anyway, with Church cancelled I don't have to teach the lesson this week after all. I was actually looking forward to it. The lesson was based on Todd Christofferson's October 2012 conference talk: Brethren, We Have Work to Do. He begins by citing statistics and examples where men seem to be slacking,
“Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school through graduate school. By eighth grade, for instance, only 20 percent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 percent proficient in reading. Young men’s SAT scores, meanwhile, in 2011 were the worst they’ve been in 40 years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college. … It is predicted that women will earn 60 percent of bachelor’s, 63 percent of master’s and 54 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016. Two-thirds of students in special education remedial programs are guys.”3
I believe it may be more complicated than that. Although there are more women in graduate school than men, many fields, including my own, have very few women. I definitely agree that
"In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed."
I loved "The Simpsons" when I was younger; my Mom hated it, and it was funny. Bart and Lisa are great examples of this trend.
Bart and Homer are lovable buffoons with little drive or ambition. Lisa on the other hand works hard, studies hard, and has big plans for herself. As the father of 5 daughters, we need more women in media like Lisa, instead of the princess and beauty obsessiveness that is so common, but that is another topic for another day.
Just look at what magazines and entertainment are marketed to men. What do you think of as a Men's magazine? Maxim, maybe. Sports Illustrated is focused on sports and a yearly swimsuit edition and is probably one of the better choices and that isn't saying a lot. Elder Christoffersen calls for a rebellion from this shallow sex and fun obsessed view of masculinity:
"The Church and the world and women are crying for men, men who are developing their capacity and talents, who are willing to work and make sacrifices, who will help others achieve happiness and salvation. They are crying, “Rise up, O men of God!”10 God help us to do it. "
How do we do that? My plan for the lesson was to discuss this as a class and use the suggestions from the talk when they matched comments or when the discussion waned. Elder Christoffersen cites a short video he saw about a hard-working young man in India named Amar. An inspiring hard working kid.
I was also going to suggest searching out better media.
One of my recent internet guilty pleasures is the Art of Manliness website. It reminds me of the Boy's Life magazines that I read as a boy - but with even more retro view of style and art. Check out the ode to the handkerchief or this graphic on types of mustaches. I loved their stocking stuffer list. Each Sunday, they have a "Manvotional" - usually reprints of old essays or poems. Today's fit this lesson perfectly. From James Freeman Clarke,
"But, you may say, we cannot all be inspired apostles or great philosophers. No; but the motive, the principle which made their lives rich, we can have in ours. This principle is, to be interested in something good; to have an object, an aim, a purpose outside of ourselves.
In the great storms which have lately swept over the north Atlantic, a steamer from our shores discovered another, dismasted and rudderless, drifting before the gale, its decks swept by terrible seas. The sailors volunteered to man a boat, and go to save those on the wreck. The labor was appalling, the dangers frightful; but they succeeded, and saved the lives of their fellow-men. Which has made the noblest use of life, the self-indulgent epicurean, who amuses himself with a little art, a little literature, a little criticism and a little vapid social pleasure, or these rugged, brave hearts, who bade defiance to storm and sea, and brought salvation to those in despair? To forget yourself is the secret of life; to forget yourself in some worthy purpose outside of yourself.
The poor steamer foundered because it drifted; because its steering apparatus was lost. The man who has no aim higher than himself also drifts; he has nothing by which to steer, nothing toward which to direct his life. Do not drift, but steer; that is the second rule."
- Forget yourself in some interest outside of yourself.
- Do not drift, but steer.
- Do with your might what your hands finds to do.
- Trust in God, and your own soul.
“The primal duties shine aloft like stars;
The charities which soothe and bless and save,
Are scattered at the feet of man like flowers.”
This is the type of manhood that builds a better world.