Shortly after my baptism, a Young Women’s leader invited me to her home to view my very first general conference with her family (herself, her husband, and three young children). She told me they would be having a big breakfast and watching church in their pajamas- my very first introduction to the custom I would participate in for the rest of my life.
Upon arriving at her home, she answered the door and we engaged in a few moments of polite conversation about her house, my Friday night, you know, the usual. But something seemed amiss. I could smell breakfast cooking (I still remember that scrambled eggs, bacon, and biscuits and gravy had been on the menu- and it smelled delicious) and kept anticipating her needing to scoot back to her kitchen to keep something from burning. The sound of clanking kitchen tools then caught my attention- she wasn’t needing to worry about the eggs getting rubbery because someone else was doing the cooking. “That’s strange,” I thought, “She’s right here, her kids are too young to be in charge of a meal, and I didn’t think anyone else had been invited.”
After a few more moments, we migrated enough that the kitchen and it’s workings became visible, and what I saw shocked me enough that I couldn’t keep from expressing my surprise.
“I didn’t know Mormon men cooked!”
There was her husband, with a towel over his shoulder, perhaps in an apron, stirring the gravy.
I am a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I really didn’t think Mormon men cooked, or cleaned, or cared much to help with the children in any kind of “housewife” way. You may be surprised that I was willing to join a church where (I thought) the men were so unwilling to deviate from gender roles, but maybe we can just take it as a sign that I really did join the church for God, and not for guys.
The couple giggled at my surprise and the conversation moved on. I have since learned that Mormon men do, in fact, cook. And they fold the laundry, and take the noisy babies out of sacrament meeting, and do any other imaginable thing that needs to be done.
Now I don’t consider cooking, cleaning, or caring for children to be actions that make a man extra-special. I expect any good man to be completely willing to do anything that needs to be done to help care for his home or his family, and I was raised with a father who, while being the primary breadwinner, cleaned and cooked regularly, without expectation of recognition or applause.
The thing that I love so much about Mormon men is not that they are willing to cook meals for their family- it is that they seem to be willing to do just about anything that needs to be done for anybody. And they don’t do it to be self-serving- they simply do it because it needs to be done.
There are a lot of common positive attributes shared by LDS men- they’re hard-working, they’re kind, they’re self-regulating, they’re ambitious, and they’re valiant. But the attribute of being willing to take personal responsibility in a broad spectrum of situations is what endears them most to me.
I once attended a “Linger Longer” at a singles ward in Utah- basically, an excuse to talk, eat, and generally not go home after church ends. That day we were eating burgers, and they were delicious. As I was walking to my car, I noticed the two young men standing at the grill, wearing suits and aprons, flipping burgers so that everyone inside could enjoy the fruits of their labors. I remember there being snow on the ground and that it was cold- much too cold for them to be comfortable. I’m sure these boys were thanked for their work (I certainly did), but I also know that many people enjoyed those burgers without acknowledging them or even being aware of what they were doing. And that’s okay- they weren’t standing outside in the cold making our food for praise- they were just doing it because it needed to be done. And they were doing it happily.
I had a vision of sorts in that parking lot that day. I pictured them standing in front of a grill, in the cold, in their suits, with everyone else in the warm church building filling their bellies, for the rest of their lives. Or maybe they are cleaning cheerios off of pews, or giving the young man in an other-wise inactive family rides to church for years and years, or jumping up to pass out the hymnbooks, or scraping the ice off of their wife’s car before she is even awake.
Maybe this characteristic of personal responsibility is so impressive to me because it stands on stark contrast to what the media tells us we should expect of men- that they are carnal, lazy, and only take care of business when they grow tired of the naggings of their wife. I hope that no woman has accepted this as what she should expect of her man, and I hope no man has accepted this as what he should expect of himself.
Now, I know that there are LDS men who are complete jerks, to whom my admiration is not applied. I also understand that I am being extremely general in describing a large and diverse population. And maybe at some time in the future I will highlight one of the general flaws I’ve observed among Mormon men. But with all of my women-centered ranting and raving, I need to make sure that people know that not only am I not a “man-hater”, but that I am a “man-lover”, in every sense of the word. I love them, I admire them, and in total candidness, I need them.
I know that there are good men of every faith and of no faith at all, but my experience is with the Mormon ones, and I’ve never witnessed evidence that there is any better collective group.
I want to send a special message to the young single men of the Church: Please continue in faith and in devotion. Your goodness and your efforts are being noticed. Romantically, you are not “needed” by women, but you are so, so very wanted by them. Nothing inspires me to be obedient, gentle, or devoted like the influence of a priesthood holder who is serious about the gospel.
Thanks, boys. You’re amazing.