In the Book of Mormon, there lives an account of a group of young men, brothers, collectively known as “The sons of Mosiah”. Mosiah was a righteous king who ruled over the Nephites and he was often deeply saddened by the wicked actions of his sons. Mosiah’s counterpart, the prophet Alma, was similarly distressed both for the sake of his friend (I suspect, they just read like those types of men to me) and because his own son would also engage in wicked behavior. Finally, these young men were visited by an angel. Following the encounter, Alma the Younger lay in what we would likely call a coma for several days and when awoke he enlightened his peers about the iniquity of their ways. They repented and spent the remainder of their days in service to their people, and ultimately in service to a people who had previously been their mortal enemies (the Lamanites). You can find this account, should you so choose, in the book of Alma chapters 17 to 26.
Regardless of your acceptant of the historical accuracy of this tale, there are some strong truths that I believe warrant discussion in our society today. Within this story, we have a group of five young men who are displaying toxic masculinity. Over the course of their account, we read about them very clearly taking advantage of people, behaving in an extremely entitled fashion, and causing the older adults within their community a lot of stress and a significant feeling of helplessness. After an awakening, there is one young man who educates his peers and they all begin to improve and lead by example. They embody the advice of Cesar Chavez: “The end of all knowledge should be service to others.”
I choose to tell this story for several reasons as we continue our discussion on masculinity. First, my brother Caleb is serving the people of northern California on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he just turned 19 years old a few days ago. Second, because I think that this story very clearly illustrates that as we work to improve ourselves and those around us it’s important to work hard to influence your peer group. While I am all for inter-generational collaboration, it is also really easy to say “Those old guys don’t get how it is for us” or “Those young guys just don’t understand how the world works.” In talking to your peers and demonstrating a clear service-oriented attitude you begin to break down those barriers. Third, because I think that this story illustrates the power that one person can have in a group. Alma was one man, and his ability to share his knowledge and example changed things for hundreds of people. This is important because it’s important to understand that one person can make a difference, but it’s also important because those of us who are survivors of violence don’t always need to tell our stories over and over. We don’t have to bear the burden, if we tell those that can amplify our voices we can share in the burden of creating a better society.