(Note: This is one of my favorite papers. Ever since I found out my first son would be a boy I have fretted over how to teach him to be a man. What does it even mean to be a man? Our society has such twisted ideas on what makes a “man” – they don’t usually include being a worthy priesthood holder, serving others, obeying God, and protecting your family. The world is more likely to see a “man” as someone who is “buff”, someone who can “get the ladies” and someone who does whatever he wants to, without regard for anyone else’s needs or feelings. The Lord’s way is not our way (Isaiah 55:9), and is definitely not society’s way. Let’s teach our sons to be men. Godly men.)
Lehi and his family traveled for many years in the wilderness. Near the end of Lehi’s life, he spoke to all of his sons and gave them words of wisdom and admonishment. Lehi spoke to Laman and Lemuel and counseled his sons to be men. What did Lehi mean when he gave his sons this counsel, and how can this counsel be applied to how one lives in today’s world? When Lehi gave this counsel to his sons, he was encouraging them to be strong in the faith and stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ so that they would be able to receive eternal life and live with their families in glory for eternity. Men and women today can take the same counsel to heart if they desire the blessings promised to those who become men or women of Zion.
Lehi was concerned about the spiritual welfare of his sons, which is seen throughout his life as recorded by Nephi. Along with his father, Nephi tried several times to convince his brothers of the truthfulness and necessity of accepting the gospel. Throughout their journeys in the wilderness, Laman and Lemuel rarely showed the qualities of manhood which were desired of them by their father. Lehi showed his great concern for his sons when he instructed them to “arise out of the dust… and by men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity.” The dying prophet was trying to get his sons to understand what qualities would make them part of Zion – by being “of one heart and one mind, and [dwelling] in righteousness.”(Moses 7:18) To Lehi, being a man meant possessing and developing the qualities of Zion.
Other fathers also counseled their sons to “be men.”(2 Nephi 1:21) On his deathbed, King David of the Old Testament pleaded with Solomon, “Shew thyself a man.”(1 Kings 2:2) David had the same ideas as Lehi on what would make his son a man. A son could become a man if he would “keep charge of the Lord thy God, to walk his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies.”(1 Kings 2:3) These qualities also can be included in the list of those that build Zion.
Laman and Lemuel were further instructed by their father to “put on the armor of righteousness”(2 Nephi 1:23) to escape the chains of Satan. This instruction is explained more fully in Lehi’s discourse to Jacob, his firstborn in the wilderness. Lehi teaches his family, or rather reminds them, of the plan of salvation and the law of the atonement and the Messiah, whereby men are justified. It is by observing the commandments of Christ that Lehi encouraged his sons to be men, and the commandments of Christ begin with the atonement and salvation through Him.
Lehi desired that his sons become men, just as the Father desires that all of His children become men and women, heirs to celestial thrones. Therefore, mankind must “stand fast in the faith… [and] be strong”(1 Corinthians 16:13) and “be of good courage”(2 Samuel 10:12) and be steadfast in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Mankind must choose to heed the counsel of Lehi and other fathers, including that of the Eternal Father, and be determined, be of Zion, “be men.”
How are you teaching your sons to be men, and your daughters to be women? Are we men and women of God? Are we courageous in keeping the commandments – a mark of true manhood and womanhood?
If you haven’t seen the movie Courageous, I can’t recommend it enough! It is an excellent movie, which testifies of the importance of fathers who are godly men, and also testifies of the redeeming power of the Savior’s atonement. Go watch it. You won’t regret it, I promise. It’s even action packed enough to keep your husband’s awake! Here’s the trailer if you need more convincing: