Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Good Men

It's late Tuesday evening and I just said goodbye to my parents who were kind enough to watch the kid-crew tonight. As always, my Dad put his arm around me and gave me a tight hug before he slipped out the front door.

Always a hug. When we greet and when we part. He is the most tender Dad a girl could have. The older I get, the more I appreciate who he is. Kind, committed, and consistently able to draw a laugh. I better appreciate the challenge it must have been for him to financially provide for a family of eight, to work a very demanding job with no predictable schedule, to offer years and years of church service as a young father, and to do it all (as far as I can remember) cheerfully. 

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Gordon with Grandpa, trying on Grandma's reading glasses

He's the most cheerful guy I know. Something I believe he learned, or inherited, from his parents.

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Baby Robert (my Dad) catching a ride on his dad's shoulders.

This photo of my Grandfather always makes me smile. I've mentioned in a previous post that he died before I was born - before my Dad finished medical school. I wish I could have known him.

My life, and the lines that fueled it, are filled with good men. Good men who tilled the earth for a living, knew periods of unemployment and hardship, cultivated their talents because it brought them joy, and unfailingly loved their families.

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My Mother, as a small girl, with her daddy.

This black and white photo shows my other Grandpa in his prime. Strong arms wrapped around his little girl. Look at my mother's smile. She loved her Dad. We all did.

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And then there's this good man. When I'm too serious, he cracks a joke. When I'm beyond spent, he rescues. When I'm slightly irrational, he is a sensible voice of reason. He offers playfulness, perspective, and an example I simply can't offer my children. I am so very grateful for him.

This Father's Day had me considering the influence of good men. 

I know not every family has one. Not every child has a Dad they revere and love. Not every mother has a husband she can count on. Not all Dads are worth celebrating. But those I know who are courageously living without will be the first to tell you, it is not ideal.

Sometimes I worry, that in all the recent attention over issues like gender inequality, or a media bent on demeaning those who defend traditional marriage, we, as a society, are believing the subtle and flawed message that men are dispensable. That Dads, are dispensable.

And I disagree.

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W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says that studies show quite the opposite.

He writes, 

 "The view that men are superfluous in today’s families is dead wrong. While it is certainly true that some children raised without fathers turn out just fine (I did), on average, girls and boys are much more likely to thrive when they have the benefit of a father’s time, attention, discipline and especially affection."

Dads are the ones that usually initiate play. They are more likely to encourage their children to take risks, try new skills, do something hard. They offer an element of protection that often helps teenage daughters choose safer environments. And they discipline differently. Studies show fathers are more firm in enforcing discipline, while mothers are likely to be more flexible and reason with their children. Together, both parents offer a balanced approach to discipline.

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On a slightly different but somewhat related note, if you are reading much news, you're familiar with the publicized movement of a group of women (Ordain Women) who are pressing for priesthood ordination within the LDS church. The excommunication of their founder, Kate Kelly, has caused a great stir among Mormon bloggers. And much of what has been published on the topic has been critical of the church and their stance. 

I am usually hesitant to chime in on heated issues, but I have been feeling the need to say something here. In this safe, less conspicuous place. While I appreciate the conversation that is going on, and I have compassion for these women and their experience, I do not support the movement. 

I believe the matter has been carefully considered by our prophet and the leaders of our church (both men and women), that they are very much aware of the situation and open to hearing the opinions of its female membership. But when it comes down to it, the principle is a matter of revelation. And it has not been revealed that women should have the priesthood, at least not in the way this group is seeking it.

I am okay with that. I trust the leaders of our church. I trust the process of revelation.

What bothers me about the issue, as well as certain discussions on gender and same-sex marriage, is the sentiment that men and women are equal - meaning identical. Thus, one of them is dispensable, or not necessary.

And that is not how God designed families.

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Both mother and father bring unique and essential gifts to the rearing of a child. 

I believe they also bring these unique and essential gifts to the teaching and leadership of our church.

During all the years I have been a member of the LDS church, and served on various leadership councils, I have never felt undervalued, dismissed, or discarded. I have developed tremendous friendships in those circles of leadership, learned from both men and women, and always, I have felt heard and valued as a woman. I am thankful for that.

Unfortunately, I think the Ordain Women movement has been counterproductive in promoting equality between men and women. Because it has perpetuated the belief (in major publications like the NY Times) that women in our church are considered less than, that they are mistreated and misunderstood. I am not naive enough to say that doesn't go on. No church is a church of perfect people. But it is not the doctrine or structure of the church. And the men I have worked with have always been exceptional, good men, who esteem women and genuinely care about their needs.

For more depth on this perspective, read Ashley Isaacson Wooley's piece in the Deseret News. Ashley is a faithful member of the LDS church, has a master's degree from Harvard Divinity School and a JD from Stanford Law School.

Doctrinally, we believe men and women are absolutely equal in value, status, and purpose. Different, however, in abilities, divine gifts, and roles.

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I am so grateful for Doug and the unique gifts he brings to our family life. We cannot dismiss or underestimate the influence of good men. We ought to seek them out. Find them for our children. Thank them for their love.


  1. Thank you, thank you for this, dearest friend. I am fully with you on this. I feel that there is an urgent need to speak more openly about the value and strengths of men. If we disparage men, we disparage ourselves. We are one in a way I am only beginning to understand. Neither gender stands alone. I have wrestled the last few years with my own beasts on this issue and have finally come to a peaceful place. Men and women complement each other (husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters). They carry different burdens and responsibilities that they are uniquely qualified for. God created men and women. I trust God. I trust His designs. I trust His purposes. I only see a tiny piece of His plan right now. I am willing to take the leap and just believe that if I could see and know what He does, it would all fit together and make complete sense. Thank you again for this. I love you and wish I could just sit down with you and hear more.

    1. Dearest Anne Marie, would you please come for a visit? I would love to sit down with you and discuss. You always come to the table with kind insights and truth. You alluded to some of this wrestle in your email (which btw, I am so sorry I haven't responded. Since May, I feel like I've been a treadmill that I can't get off. But I think of you often and plan to respond soon! Thank you for being patient with me.) And thank you for seeing this for what it was. A desire to celebrate the gifts and qualities good men bring to families, the church, and the world. I think you are so right about just beginning to understand the connection between men and women, how entwined God expects us to be in his work. Love your good heart.

  2. You are a friend of a friend and I have enjoyed reading your posts over the years. I'm not Mormon or religious. Full disclosure: I'm liberal. But I believe deeply in morality, respectfulness, and the importance of human kindness.

    This post shocked me. The idea of rendering an entire sex unnecessary based on equality or feminism is not one I've ever heard before. And I attended to Sarah Lawrence College, one of the most liberal spaces in America. I'm an ardent feminist, as is my husband. We view each other as equals (hence our self-categorization as feminists), but we also acknowledge our differences. In fact our differences combine to make us a better team.

    Equality has nothing to do with identicalness. A man and a woman share many differences just like a man and a man share many differences. Individuality matters.

    Believing that all people deserve to be paid the same for equal work, or deserve to vote, or deserve to own property, or deserve to inherit property, or deserve to walk to their car in a dark parking garage without threat of violence has nothing to do with gender, nothing to do rendering anyone dispensable.

    Like you I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by fantastic men in my family. My father is my hero. My husband....I could not have found a more wonderful person to raise a family with. Those of us lucky enough to be raised by parents in a loving relationship were given a real gift.

    My sister-in-laws married in Massachusetts five years ago. They moved to MA so one could attend Harvard Medical School while the other was on scholarship for her Masters at Brown. They are wonderful, intelligent, contributing members of society. They might both be women, but they are incredibly different and those differences bring out the best in each other. Last year they became Mothers. And their daughter is incredibly lucky. Not many people in this world have parents that are so commented and loving and involved in their lives. They do not want to bar men from their daughter's life. She is very close to both of her grandfathers as well as her uncles. They have many male friends. Their love is not an indictment of the male sex.

    I hope my comment has not made your space feel any less safe. Again, I do not wish to be disrespectful. I know little about the details surrounding the excommunication of Kate Kelly. I respect your faith. I might disagree with you, but that doesn't mean I don't value you.

    1. Dear Karen, I love your disclosure. Liberal, conservative. You are always welcome here. And I appreciate your comment so much. Your words were gentle and compassionate, only adding to the safeness here. Please feel free to always express your thoughts.

      I do not think all feminists (which is hard to define because the spectrum varies so much; and I include myself on that spectrum) or proponents of same sex-marriage wish to render an entire sex unnecessary. That sounds ridiculous, right? But that is some of the commentary I have read. That more aggressive proponents deem men, or women, unimportant in the development of a child.

      Like you, I would hope the world at large does not come to view equality as identicalness. To me, equality means being equal in status, rights, and opportunities. Not roles, responsibilities, or gifts. We need the contributions of both men and women. And as you said, individuality does matter. Very much. That is the beauty of diverse global culture, families, and workspaces. But some, maybe unknowingly, are trying to make a case for equality that sounds to me, more like identicalness. Identical roles, identical contributions, identical job titles. Rather than looking at our unique abilities as men and women and encouraging each other in them. And treating each other with absolute respect.

      I am grateful to hear the experience of your sisters-in-law. They sound like wonderful women, who care very much about their daughter and the life they are offering her. I think you and I probably feel more the same about equality than different. I did use the phrase "certain discussions" but maybe I should have been more clear at not alluding to identicalness as a general belief within certain groups.

      I hope you will continue to read here, and offer your ideas. I rarely write about hot topics, but with a high concentration of readers that share my faith, I felt I needed to say something. You seem a very wise and compassionate person. Please know, I value you too. Thank you Karen.

    2. Oh, thank you so much for responding. I was feeling guilty for my comment and worried it was upsetting.

      You are probably right that we are more alike than different. I wish that it was easier for more people who were on different parts of the ideological spectrum to have reasonable conversations.

      I enjoy your blog, and look forward to reading more.

  3. Dearest Cath, thank you for your faith and kind words. No hurry on my end. Our communication truly feels timeless (truly without the normal limits of time) so whenever a pocket of time opens up, I would love to hear from you, but no hurry. you have such a full life. So many who need you hourly to be there and available. Blessings. By the way, if you happen to stop by segullah and read the flurry of comments regarding this issue, my words are under the name of "Hope". Because of its incendiary nature, I have chosen to use that name for now. Just so you will know my voice if you read over there. Xox. You are truly a light to me

    1. Oh bless you. I read all the comments and you were so well-spoken there. I quoted you in a private Segullah forum. Because I could relate to you. And others said they related to you as well. Your voice matters to me. And to others. xoxo

  4. I don't like to chime in either in these heated issues. I am grateful you did in your loving and thoughtful way. Thank you Catherine.

  5. The gentleness of your spirit is something that touches me time and time again, Cath. Thank you for who you are.

    One of the simple sentences of your post reflects a concept I think about a lot -- that men + women are what makes the Church what it is. I don't believe it was ever supposed to be men || women. The parellel structure would preclude the potential for synergy, that Gestalt creation of a whole that cannot be measured by positional power or opportunity...power that is only possible through unity and willing service in whatever part of the vineyard or body where we may be. I am deeply saddened that the dialogue often limits our sense of worth, value, and contribution to structurally-based opportunities. I understand why this happens, but I think it leaves our views so far short of what we could achieve as a whole. Where there is no vision, the people perish. I think often of Sister Beck's pleas that we as women come to understand the grand views of womanhood and our roles in the plan -- in the family, in the Church, in the world.


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