Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Far above rubies

Yes, I'm still alive. I haven't had the desire to post anything for almost a year. Until today. And I want to talk about gender today.

In my Pen and the Sword class last semester at BYU, we were talking about gender distinctions (which was nothing unusual in that delightful course) and social perspectives on gender. As a part of his commet, one diplomatic young man said, "There are things women do that men can't do, and there are things men can do that women--" He stopped abruptly and plowed onward to his next thought. But I was rattled. I had mentally nodded in agreement with the first part of his comment, the admission of women's power to do things men were unable to do. But I felt my hackles rise in anticipation of what he'd almost said next. But why? Why could he not say that men can do things that women cannot? What kind of social boundary in our culture forbids that? Is Mormon feminism still so new that the fervor of newfound social power hasn't died down enough for women to settle in their rightful place beside their male counterparts rather than projecting themselves as far above?

This comment was made months ago and I still think about it. So today, I want to write on manhood. As Mormon women--maybe I'm the only one with this opinion, but I've a hunch I'm not--I think we often overlook the divinity of man in order to emphasize that of women. And that makes sense in a way; historically, women have been socially and culturally downplayed and ushered into the background. It is the exception rather than the norm for a woman to be named and discussed in holy writ. "Influential women in history" returns many google search results with the same phrase; "influential men in history" returns results like "Top 100 Most Influential Historical Figures" and "The World's Most Influential Persons," as if it is extra-notable when a woman is particularly influential as opposed to when a man is. But we can go too far in our emphasis; we need to make sure not to overshoot in our attempts to re-balance the scales.

I digress. The divinity of men. I want to copy what a friend of mine posted to Facebook recently. Here is part of what she wrote: 

"A co-worker of mine yesterday mentioned how in Young Men's all he ever learned was how amazing women are and how he could never measure up. I just want all the guys out there to know that you DO measure up. We girls aren't dumb enough to like someone because they are less than us; we like guys because they are our EQUALS, if not our superiors."

It's so true. I admire so much the young men I know who are quietly obedient to those with authority over them, yet know how to stand up and lead when it falls to them. I have known the peace of being surrounded by worthy priesthood holders who know who they are and where they are going.

I have written before about the importance of confidence before. Here I want to reiterate that belief. Faith and fear cannot coexist. Confidence is one manifestation of faith. I am inspired by the confident, humble men in my life. And it's interesting that the two traits seem to go together. When someone comes to an understanding of who they are in the scheme of God's Plan of Salvation, the confidence that follows faith rises and solidifies his character. But with that comprehension inevitably comes humility when it is understood how great and beyond us the Plan really is. There are many beautiful, inspiring things about a righteous man, but this confidence combined with humility is the most admirable, attractive aspect I've found yet.

This last semester, I had the pleasure of meeting tons of young men in my classes and at work and in my student ward. It meant a lot to me when my roommates and I would get a visit from a troubled young lady needing comfort to be able to call up a couple of these young men to give her a blessing. It means a lot to me to be able to go to the temple and see several friends from school, all choosing to sacrifice time for the Lord instead of partying or gaming or even working on one of the last days before they return to school. And I am so, so proud when I see my brothers performing the Sacrament ordinance at church every week. It means so much to me to know that I have worthy brothers.

May I take some scriptoral liberties? Proverbs 31 is often quoted in reference to praising the worth of women. I'd like to submit that men ought to be praised in the same way. 
"Who can find a virtuous [man]? for [his] price is far above rubies."
I am thankful for the examples of strong, confident, humble righteousness I have in my male friends and acquaintances.