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The Body of a Man

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 21, 2009

This lesson from the 1963 manual for Teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood, covers material that I think many women feel is directed only at women in the Church. How does it hold up almost 50 years later? Are these matters still discussed with today’s young men of 14 and 15? (I assume so, but have no contact with young men that age.)

The Body of a Man

OBJECTIVE:

To stress the importance of proper respect, treatment, and control of the body as a vital aspect of teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood becoming mature and principled men.

AROUSING ATTENTION:

Joseph Smith was not what most people of his day expected a prophet should be. He was a powerful man and a remarkable athlete. There are numerous accounts of his physical prowess and courage. He is known to have bested the top wrestlers of the frontier. While in Ramus, Illinois, he recorded in his journal, “I wrestled with William Wall, the most expert wrestler in Ramus, and threw him.”

The young Prophet frequently engaged in another rigorous test of physical strength known as “pulling sticks.” In these contests the Prophet and his opponent would sit facing each other upon the floor with a stout stick between them and pull to see which could raise the other from his seated position. Benjamin J. Johnson indicates that in such tests of strength “he never found his match.”

Throughout his life are found evidences of love for both physical activity and a tender concern and compassion for the physical well-being of others.

What kind of thinking was the cause for such an unusual set of characteristics in this young prophet of God? What caused him to regard the physical body as a marvelous, useful, enjoyable, and yet sacred thing? Undoubtedly, the answer lies in the knowledge Joseph had from God – and the knowledge he had about God.

LESSON MATERIAL:

Joseph Smith Learned What a Man Is

After his marvelous experience in the grove, Joseph Smith had no need of theory, logic, or teachings of men to prove to him what God is. He knew the facts. He knew more about God than any human being on the earth. We might say even that, in one sense, he knew more about man than anyone in the world. He now knew certainly that man is in the express image of our Father in heaven; that we are his sons.

Joseph later learned how man is a combination of a physical body and a spirit, both of which are patterned after a divine parentage. He learned that the physical – both the physical earth and man’s physical body – were created as part of a plan to enable man to achieve the very most in power, glory and happiness.

Joseph learned that the body of a man can be used to bring either happiness or misery, strength or weakness. He learned that “man is that he might have joy,” and also that blessings are obtained only by obedience to irrevocable law.

Joseph learned that man’s emotions, drives, and feelings are a God-given part of the schooling of mortality – and will lead to added joy and happiness if mastered. In other words, the real man, the an who gets the most out of life, is the man who respects, honors, and controls his physical body. The real manly man knows the ultimate possibilities of a body and honors and treats it accordingly.

The Body of a Man

Do you know the ultimate possibilities of your body? Our bodies, if kept healthy and fit, if kept clean and under control, can add more to the success of our mortal adventure than we imagine. But the physical body is also an integral and necessary part of the eternal future of man. The Lord tells us that only those who truly honor and fully master the physical can become like unto him. And we are taught that being “like unto him” includes fatherhood and parenthood; it includes a literal resurrection of the body, and it includes a creator’s mastery of the physical world.

So we see that this body of ours has an important place in our lives both now and even more in the future, how we treat it and even how we guard it.

One to a customer. We get no seconds. Unlike some other things, a body cannot be traded in for an improved model when it gets damaged, weak or out of condition. The bodies we have must be cared for and respected. When they are so cared for, we have a basis for building richer and happier lives. But our achieving this will depend on whether or not these principles are “practiced” or “applied” in our own life.

Modesty is for Real Men

There is one great attribute which will greatly help us achieve a richer life. This attribute is too frequently thought of only in terms of women. It should not be so, for it is a characteristic of both fine women and great men. The attribute is modesty.

Modesty – or restraint – is simply a matter of thoughtful respect and good taste. “Modesty is a many-sided virtue. It applies to your manner of speech, your manner of dress, your manner of conduct. And thus it reveals the manner of person you are.” Modesty is that fine line, always found by fine women and real men – that lies between enough and too much. Modesty in terms of either speech, dress, or conduct, lies in not doing that which would attract undue or disrespectful attention. On the positive side, it is restraint and honor, self-control and mastery for the sake of principle.

Modesty is a principle of character which has some real and specific applications in the life of males as well as females.
Modesty is the best policy for boys. it makes a better man.
Modesty will help a young man in winning and maintaining friends.
Modesty in a young man’s speech promotes truth and understanding.
Modesty in a fellow’s clothing enhances popularity and lasting friendship with the finest people.
Modesty in conduct draws the respect of all fine people.
Modesty prevents hurt feelings.
Modesty stands as a guard against sin for both young men and women.
Modesty in a young man gives him self-respect.
Modesty enhances the powers of the priesthood.
Modesty in a young man lifts him in the eyes of his fellows.
Modesty in a young man makes him the kind of man that the finest young women look up to.

A Young Woman’s View

Listen to these words in which a teenage girl describes her view of the young men who hold the priesthood modestly and honorably. Her words give a picture of what we truly can and should be. Are we measuring up to them? She says of the young men who do:

They have a strong belief in God, a purpose in life, a faith in the present and a hope in the future. They have a code of living which helps to keep their bodies clean, their minds pure, and their hearts sincere. They are stable, understanding, and trustworthy. Among the greatest blessings in life is to feel safe with someone – someone without evil intent, someone who wouldn’t take advantage of innocence.

Such a man will be prayerful. he will be found on his knees often, which is a sign of strength!

He will have the desire to serve and bring joy to others through developing his God-given talents.

And when we date such a young man, we find that because his heart is filled with joy and goodness, he is interesting and exciting company. he is always a gentleman.

We know that such a young man will not tell us vulgar stories or take us to places of ill-repute. He will avoid the very appearance of evil and keep himself unspotted from the world.

Because he honors his priesthood, he has more respect for womanhood, and, therefore, he will choose carefully the girls he dates. He will realize that it isn’t the pretty face that counts, but the person – the face will take care of itself.

Such young men have the same desires as we have. Their lives parallel with ours in a wonderful way. …

On Being a Manly Gentleman

We know that some young men fail to appreciate and live up to these high hopes and happy standards. Some move into the areas of “too much” or “too far” in their speech, in their clothes, or in their conduct. Certainly the real man does not disrespect the presence of a young woman with coarse speech or uncouth conduct. The real man is a gentleman – a genteel man. he is a an of cultivation and good breeding. He is a man who honors that which is due honor. This kind of a man never disrespects the presence of a lady (young or elderly) with coarseness or familiarity. The uncouth character does. The uncouth or vulgar may be seen to come up behind a young woman and poke her in the side, or take hold of her in some way. Only the uncouth character does it. Only the cheap girl encourages it. For some other young men it is not a matter of being uncouth, but a lack of proper consideration and respect of self and others. Standing sweaty or unclean in the presence of another is certainly not the respectful thing. Wearing clothes which cause undue or disrespectful attention to the physical is not the standard for the gentleman. For the real man – the priesthood man – even thoughts are to be shunned which give undue or disrespectful attention to the physical body. the true gentleman – the fine youth – honors and loves that which is clean.

The Meaning of Cleanliness

Consider the words clean/cleanliness. These words, like others, sound good because of the ideas they bring to mind – words such as friends, hone, joy, beauty and peace.

Think of the opposite of cleanliness: dirt and darkness, smut and filth, unwashed, impure, contaminated, soiled, and sullied. And then by contrast think of some of the blessed connotations of cleanliness: clean clothes, clean sheets, clean food, clean hands, clean speech, clean minds, clean motives, clean men.

The honest sweat of toil, and the fresh smears and smudges on a boy’s face, have a sort of accepted virtue. But stale dirt, and dirt of mind, and dirt of morals are abhorrent in their contrast to cleanliness, and especially abhorrent to the inside kind of cleanliness. (– Richard L. Evans)

The wise young man, the one who wants to be happy, have real fun, and do well, seeks after cleanliness and modesty. He builds upon the great ideas about man which the Lord has given us through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

As a bearer of the Aaronic priesthood, the wise young man knows what a real man must be. He knows what a man may become. He knows what God expects and has a pretty good idea why. And he knows how important modesty is for a boy as well as for a girl. He respects individuals. He honors and respects others. He respects himself.

APPLICATION TO LIFE;

Maurice Maeterlinck said: “We are happy to see the degree that we are able to imitate Christ in our daily lives.” This is sound counsel. If we can follow worthy examples of well-rounded manhood, we will succeed and be happy. Note that the men of greatest success in any field – be it athletics, business, government leadership, science, scholarship, or spirituality – are men who have recognized the necessity of control and mastery in their area. The greatest of these are the men who master not one, but many aspects of life, the men who respect themselves, their own bodies, others and their rights, and who move and act according to principle.

The wise boy (as the real man) will not mistreat himself nro others. He will not mistreat the body, either by over-exertion or by slothfulness. He will not indulge his appetites with either wrong foods and stimulants or wrong emotions and desires. He will respect the sacredness of another person. he will value and honor the clean and the beautiful. he will respect womanhood and aspire to real manhood and gentlemanliness. The wise young man will seek to understand increasingly what man is and what he may become. he will not make the mistake of assuming that the body is man, but will realize the real an is also spiritual, mental, aesthetic and moral.



8 Comments »

  1. I am so immature, but I laughed out loud at “Arousing Attention”

    Comment by Matt W. — July 21, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  2. The general tenor of this lesson seems in keeping with a lot of the counsel I see in the current Young Men’s manual.

    There were two minor exceptions:
    1) I don’t see the word “modesty” applied much to the young men these days. Maybe the principles behind it, yes, but not the word itself. We see “virtue” and “moral cleanliness” and also attention to “dress and grooming,” but it’s not called “modesty.”
    2) It’s a minor point, but I don’t recall seeing this emphasis on the body as “also an integral and necessary part of the eternal future of man.” That emphasis on the eternal implications of the body are important, I just don’t recall seeing it taught this way recently.

    (I liked that phrase: “a manly gentleman.” I’ve never heard it expressed that way.)

    Comment by Hunter — July 21, 2009 @ 9:59 am

  3. Matt, I only snickered at that. As I’m doing again now.

    I’ll have to keep that in mind, Hunter, that just because the vocabulary has changed doesn’t mean that boys and men aren’t being taught the same principles. And once again you and I had similar reactions to something: I actually felt more motivated, more desirous of making necessary changes to care for my body, while typing this lesson than in ANY “your body is a temple” lesson in recent years. I haven’t analyzed how this lesson created that effect, but it did.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — July 21, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  4. There’s an intervening 16 years between this and the post yesterday about women, but the contrast is interesting, on my first reading. So much of this is positive, emphasizing good actions and setting an ideal to aspire to, where it seemed there was a lot more emphasis on negatives in the other lesson.

    Having taught the YM just a couple of years ago, I find very little in this that seems to have changed in the intervening years. If anything, perhaps the message has been watered down a bit. Part of it is that by emphasizing ideals, it is less proscriptive (“Don’t do A, B, or C) and is more proactive. I liked this lesson.

    Yeah, and I snickered too, manly gentleman that I am.

    Comment by kevinf — July 21, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  5. This is truly manly.

    FWIW, I prefer this usage of ‘modesty,’ (i.e. restraint in speech, dress, and conduct) rather than the proscriptive and somewhat pharisaic hemline-focused definition now in vogue.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — July 21, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  6. In general, I really like this, for reasons others have mentioned–the application of modesty to men as well as women (does that happen now?), the much more robust, comprehensive, positive definition of modesty (I’d really like to see much more of that in current discussion!), and the overall positive and inspiring approach.

    Comment by ZD Eve — July 21, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  7. The “one to a customer, no seconds, no returns, no upgrades” is a great analogy that motivates me to take better care of the body I’ve been given.

    A quick check through my Aaronic Preisthood manuals reveals precious little matching this lesson in content or power.

    This year’s course (Manual 1) has lessons on “Respecting Women” with a promising subtitle “We Can Learn From the Example of Christlike Men” On closer inspection, however, it consists entirely of the story of S.W. Kimball helping the single mother at the airport. Manual 2 has nothing related, and Manual 3 has the “Body is a Temple” lesson. This last one focuses exclusively on the Word of Wisdom.

    So, to answer the question posed in the first paragraph of the post: No, I don’t think the young men are getting this in their Sunday lessons. It is, however, covered in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, which has sections on modesty, cleanliness, piercing and tattoos, etc.

    Comment by Clark — July 22, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  8. Thanks, Clark. It’s surprising how powerful this lesson is as a motivator for care of the body, isn’t it? While I’m conservative enough that I would never suggest a YM leader scrap a lesson from the current manual for one from the past, I hope that posting lessons like this, and like the Sunday School series, might give teachers some supplementary resources or alternate ways of expressing lesson ideas that might make some modern lesson more successful.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 22, 2009 @ 10:43 am

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