What Makes a Man a Man?


(Adapted from an April 1992 conference address. See Ensign, May 1992, page 40.)
How oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men (D&C 3:6).

It seems that everyone at some time or another is invited to smoke, drink, steal, or do something else that is immoral, and if he refuses to do it, he is ridiculed and called names like “mama’s boy,” “chicken,” “sissy,” or “religious fanatic.” Such names are used by those who think the ability to drink liquor, blow tobacco smoke out of one’s mouth and nose, or break other moral laws without his conscience hurting him are signs of manliness. They would have you believe that brute force, or crude behavior, uncontrolled temper, foul language, or a dirty appearance make a man.

“What makes a man a man?” is a question used in a popular beer ad. It suggests that by drinking the beer, the drinker becomes a man. How very stupid! Those who try to get you to drink alcoholic beverages and use drugs have no regard for you—you who are the “temples of God.” (See 1 Cor. 3:16–17.)

In his autobiography, Parley P. Pratt gave us a description of a real man. In his account of his imprisonment in Liberty Jail with Joseph Smith and others, he told of one of those awful nights in which they had to listen to the guards brag of their deeds of rape, murder, robbery, and other crimes committed against the Mormons.

When the Prophet Joseph could bear it no more, Elder Pratt wrote, he rose to his feet, and spoke with a voice of thunder: “SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and bear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!”

Said Elder Pratt: “I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes … in the Courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session … : I have tried to conceive of kings … : and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”

The perfect model of manliness is the Savior. He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52); He yielded not to temptation (see Mosiah 15:1–8); He grew from grace to grace (see D&C 93:12–14); and He stood before His tormentors, having been scourged, beaten, spat upon, and platted with a crown of thorns. Pilate admitted, “I find no fault in him.” Then he proclaimed, “Behold the man!” (John 19:4–5.)

Thus, Jesus Christ, the only sinless and perfect man who ever walked this earth, is qualified to state: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).

[illustrations] Artwork courtesy of Visual Resource Library