Can Men Control Themselves?

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

This week we are reporting on the Priesthood session of the April 1978 General Conference. President N. Eldon Tanner spoke to the men on being “Worthy of Proper Recommendation.” He said a few interesting things that got me thinking: can men control themselves?

In the news, recently, we’ve heard of men being instantly fired after years of sexual abuse toward women. These are men who have become household names; that in many ways we respect because of what they’ve accomplished in life. And yet they have committed these heinous crimes for years. And the common reason for their crime? “Men just can’t control themselves!”

But shouldn’t they?

Isn’t that the whole point of coming down to earth? To learn to control ourselves?

In the church, we hear of Priesthood-holding men hiding the fact that they have been abusive (to what degree, it doesn’t matter) while holding high offices. And so we blame the church, in general, for somehow protecting these men under the cloak of “the priesthood.” Is it a misunderstanding of how God works by both men and women? And does this point fingers at a church that would play party to such sin?

As we all know, people aren’t perfect. The church is an organization FOR imperfect people. And people (not just men) have to figure out how to control themselves in order to gain favor with the Lord.

Two examples in the scriptures show clearly how God feels about abuse of any kind:

Gen. 39 tells us the story of Joseph, who is being pursued by Potipher’s wife. As soon as Joseph realizes what she is after, he “hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her” (v. 10). He couldn’t even allow himself to be in the same room with her. But when he accidentally finds himself alone with her, he is willing to run away naked (see v. 12) rather than be caught with her.

This is a man who absolutely honors his priesthood and his Savior. He took no chances, but when cornered, he ran! Men have absolute control over their choices and should do as Joseph did. And you know what? I believe there are many honorable, priesthood holders who do just that.

In Alma 20, we read about the brotherly relationship between Ammon and King Lamoni. However, when King Lamoni’s father discovers his son is with a Nephite (the sworn enemy of their people), he loses all control. The father demands that King Lamoni kill his friend on the spot, but King Lamoni refuses. The father raises his sword to strike down his son and Ammon stops him only to be struck himself.

Ammon condemns this action in the name of the Lord, saying:

“Behold, thou shalt not slay thy son; nevertheless, it were better that he should fall than thee, for behold, he has repented of his sins; but if thou shouldst fall at this time, in thine anger, thy soul could not be saved” (v. 17).

This is how the Lord feels about abusers of all kinds; male and female. Unfortunately, we have to recognize that there are abusers of all kinds within our church membership. And it is the individual who must repent, not the church.

Pres. Tanner says, “It is true … some who are guilty of transgression will lie to be advanced in the priesthood, to go on missions, or to enter the temple. But the Lord knows, and they cannot expect to enjoy his blessings.”

He also says, “It is not what work we do, but how we do it that counts.”

Our Heavenly Father wants us to choose righteousness. He wants us to take control of our lives and take on the power offered to us by our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s hard to ignore Satan, but the more we do it, the easier it gets.

“For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts” (Jacob 2:28). I invite you to read the rest of this chapter where it also says, “Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them.”

Reading on, in Jacob, chapter 4, he exhorts his people to believe in Christ and be obedient to the commands of God. Miracles and revelation come to a faithful people and with that unshakeable faith “we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (v. 6). Then why not the ability to control our sexual behaviors, anger, and above all else, our pride?


Other posts:

To Hold the Priesthood is to be a Man under Authority  G

Invitations I have refused  Marilyn Nielson