03133_000_031Contains questions of general gospel interest, answered for guidance and not as official statements of Church policy.
My colleagues at work constantly speak disrespectfully of women. How can I as a Latter-day Saint influence them to hold women in their proper esteem?
The question as presented involves two concepts: first, what respect men , bishop of the Miami Second Ward, Miami Florida Stakeshould render women; and second, how one can influence others so that actions toward women and reference to them in conversation will be proper.
As in so many other things, the Lord himself provided an example in his own life of how we should regard and treat women. In the Gospels we find no hesitancy on his part to deal openly and equitably with women, healing compassionately, teaching impartially, and conversing freely; he was open and just, and considerate of their standing as children of divine parents. The Lord stands out as one who treated women with respect, not as “a mere toy or slave of man”; his conception of womanhood was one based on “the eternal foundation of truth, right, honor, and love” (see James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973, p. 484).
This is certainly the doctrine of the Church—that woman is not to be thought of as a servant of man but as a companion and partner in the eternal unit, the family. Man without woman—or woman without man—is not complete and cannot receive the fulness of exaltation. From this viewpoint, it is inconceivable that any man could esteem woman as anything less than what she is—a child of God and the partner of man for eternity. And it should go without saying that the Lord would not countenance any form of lewd reference to women.
On the second issue, I suppose there are many tactics that could be used to discourage colleagues from making unfair, unkind, or obscene remarks about women—or indeed, from using disagreeable language of any kind. We might intimidate them. If we were the boss, we might threaten to fire them or give them less desirable work to do. Or we might assume a self-righteous stance and belittle and embarrass the offenders. But I’m sure we understand that none of these is the gospel way. In the long run, the most effective way to influence others positively is through example and kind persuasion.
A positive experience from my life may illustrate the power of example:
Some years ago as a police officer assigned to a ghetto area, I encountered the problem of foul language among my fellow officers and many of the citizens of the area. I simply did the best I could to maintain the standards we are taught, by (1) refusing to use foul language myself, and (2) discouraging offensive talk whenever I could without offending others in the process. I soon noticed that in my presence the use of foul language was at a minimum. I felt that the other men respected and honored my example, even though they did not accept my standards for themselves when they were out of my presence. I never asked for this deference; it was given almost unconsciously.
I think I appreciated this deference the most the night an irate citizen of some standing in the community lodged a complaint against me for excessive force and abuse when writing him a traffic citation. Because of this citizen’s standing and to appease him, it was likely that I would receive a reprimand. However, in his complaint this citizen swore that I had used foul language and cursed him. My fellow officers and superiors, knowing that I would not have done such a thing, immediately rejected the complaint on that basis.
I believe that when we first decide how we will act, and then follow the course we have chosen and endure in it, others who associate with us will be encouraged to follow that example. Many people will recognize the merits of decent action and some may in time embrace it. At the very least they will begin to understand it, and although they may not accept it for themselves, they will respect our actions and even insist that others respect our actions. If they do accept our example, they will endure in this course long after we are gone and will become an influence on others as well.
Certainly there are times when firmness, tempered with love, is required. I like the example of a well-known lecturer who, after a speech to a group of college students, was entertaining questions from the audience. One young man who spoke up prefaced his query by commenting on some of the negative effects of television on our society. In particular, he mentioned “women and their lousy soap operas.”
The speaker didn’t let the remark pass. “Before I try to answer your question,” he said, with kindness in his voice, “let me say that I am uncomfortable with the feelings you expressed about women and soap operas. I think it’s an unfair and inaccurate stereotype. And even if it were true, we men have enough bad habits of our own that we should be very timid indeed about venturing any kind of criticism. …” And then he went on in a friendly way.
No one in the audience was offended. In fact, an invisible wave of approval swept through the audience, and, to his credit, the young man nodded, acknowledging that he felt chastened but not offended. The rest of the discussion was very relaxed and open.
It seems to me that sustaining the Lord’s example for us is not such a fearful thing when we go about it in this way. My experience is that by taking this course, not only will we not offend our fellow workers and friends with complaints and indignant lectures, we will, in fact, make it comfortable for them to honor our feelings and be encouraged by our actions to change their own attitudes. Righteous influence through example requires patience, tolerance, and longsuffering, but it can bring about change.
How can a father truly give top priority to his family and still magnify his callings in the Church?
Once while serving as a mission president in Kentucky, I was faced with a direct conflict of , Regional Representative, director of the Church Priesthood Genealogy Division, and father of eight.family activity and Church activity. The Kentucky Derby was coming up, and our family had looked forward to going for weeks. Three days before the big event, the schedule for the Lexington Stake conference was shifted one week forward, and the Saturday leadership meeting now fell on Derby Day. As mission president, I was invited in a midweek phone call from the visiting authority to be at those sessions.
In the conversation, I advised the leader of my previous plan and asked him his opinion. He replied, “Sometimes we just have to choose.” And that is all he said.
What would you have done?
Church work often requires that fathers be away from home. But by setting proper priorities, planning, and delegating, a father can organize himself to be effective in church duties and to be home much more often than he would suppose.
Some fathers who spend undue amounts of time in church callings take pride in these long hours away from home as a mark of dedication. Often it is dedication, but in some cases it is just a way of not going home. Some fathers feel more capable in activities away from home than they do with their families. We should examine ourselves to see if, under the guise of “dedication,” we’ve left to our wives the most important of all causes to which we should be dedicated—our families.
Some feel that if they devote many hours away from family to their church duties, the Lord will compensate by ensuring that all will be well at home. But fathers faithful in the Church can and sometimes do have critical problems at home, and one reason may be a lack of father-family experience.
On the other hand, a father who feels successful at home comes out of that home filled with the spirit of love. His heart has been warmed by the home fires of his own family, and he is then able to warm the hearts and souls of his brothers and sisters. A man who devotes sufficient time and energy to family activities and who likewise is dedicated to the Lord and building his Church receives the Spirit of the Lord. It is that Spirit and not endless hours at away-from-home Church activities which brings success in church work.
In my opinion, some Church planning and leadership meetings are far too long. I was once asked by a Church leader, “Are you as a leader punctual in conducting meetings?”
I said, “Yes, I always start meetings on time.”
He said, “But are you punctual?”
I answered again the same way, “We start on time.”
He asked me the same question again, and as I sat looking perplexed he said, “I know that you begin your meetings on time, but do you end them on time?” He added, “End the meeting at the appointed time and let people go home to their families. Those who neglect the appointed quitting time are as much in error as those who neglect the beginning time.”
Sometimes a father will excuse himself for not being home enough by saying, “It isn’t the quantity but the quality of time spent that matters.” There is some truth in this statement for some people, but we must not use it to salve a conscience that tells us we are too much away from the family.
When I was called to be a mission president, I was fearful that at a most critical time in the lives of my eight children I might not have sufficient time to be a good father. I had determined that being a father was as important a call from the Lord as being a mission president. That meant that even though I would dedicate myself to the mission, I would have to double my dedication as a father.
With that in mind, one of my first orders of business was to tie a big rope to a high limb on the huge ash tree that towered over our front yard. With the swing came instant neighborhood friends for our younger children.
A few months after our arrival, we attended a mission presidents’ seminar. Each president was asked what he felt was the best idea he had put into practice so far in his mission. When my turn came, I said, “The best thing I’ve done so far is to build a swing.” Everyone laughed. I described the swing and explained that my major goal was to be a good father and that the swing was my symbol of this priority. The leader sustained my action.
I’ve found that I allow more time for my family if I remind myself that playing with the children is church work. While I was mission president, I would often go to a beautiful amusement park with my family. I would just walk around the park with a smile on my face, holding hands with my children, eating cotton candy.
Once in a while, the thought would enter my mind: “Hey, you’re the mission president. You’d better get back to the office.” But then I’d smile again and say to myself, “Well, I’m doing my church work here. I’m with my children and my wife. We’re having a fun day, and tonight I’ll be able to write in my journal that I did six hours of glorious church work today.” I’d eat a little more cotton candy and let the children lead me wherever they wanted to go.
Church work with your family doesn’t mean you leave other church work undone. It merely means that you do both—and you can do both. Somedays you can spend a whole day with the children. Other times it will have to be a ten-minute wrestle or one paper airplane constructed after the evening meal.
Some years ago I was serving as a bishop. At the same time I was working on a doctor’s degree at a university and holding a full-time job. I was under some strain, fearing that because of my desire to succeed in so many areas I was really failing as a father.
One Sunday evening I stayed late at church to complete some work. As I walked into the chapel to turn off the lights before going home, I suddenly felt lonely. I felt that my back would not bear for another day the heavy burdens I was carrying.
I fell to my knees near the pulpit and cried to the Lord. I poured out the feelings of my soul to him and described in detail my seemingly insurmountable tasks. When I finished I remained kneeling. And then I heard the Spirit speak to me in my heart. The answer it gave me was all I needed. It said just three things: Go forward. Do your best. Love your family.
I arose a new man.
Since then, whenever specific conflicts have come up between my family and church work, I’ve remembered those words and followed the advice given me years ago in Kentucky by a great Church leader—“Sometimes you just have to choose.”
Perhaps the only mistake we really make is when we choose one way over the other all of the time.