As a man, you are responsible to step forward and be a leader, in the home, the church, the workplace and the community—and in your search for an eternal companion. You have a responsibility to lead in righteousness, but not the privilege to pull rank—EVER! Leading in the Lord’s way (whether you are a man or a woman) honors the agency of all others at all times. It follows the teaching of Jesus that, “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). That is the spirit in which you are called to lead.
Many men are not stepping forth to be leaders. Many have given up on women. Many single men feel broken by life. Men are told by society that they have been mysogonistic, oppressive and untrustworthy—and some have been. Many shrink from taking the lead in dating and in the home. Many are also fearful about being leaders in the workplace or in the community as they worry about being accused of sexism or worse.
If YOU will not lead in the community, the Church, and in the home, Satan will. When Satan was busy tempting Eve, where was Adam? Interesting that when God first visited Adam after the fall, His first words are described in Genesis 3:9, "And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” Where was Adam? He answered God, "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself" (Genesis 3:10). Adam was hiding. He was afraid. Men and women are stronger when they are side by side, working together to accomplish their life purposes—out in the open rather than hiding in fear.
Men, where are you? Are you afraid to take the lead (pursuing role) in a relationship and straightforwardly tell a woman you would like to date her? How many of you are afraid of the emotional risk and passively wait for a woman to take the risk of approaching you? Cathy and I often tell women that, in this day and age, they do not need to be bashful asking a man for a date. Trying to date who one wants is not the exclusive privilege of men anymore. But that does not absolve men of their responsibility to lead. Be a leader in the dating process. Be bold and loving and take the risk—and always honor the agency of the women you are interested in.
The priesthood does not convey authority to rule over (or overrule) your future wife. You must honor her agency in your marriage just as much after you enter the marriage covenant as you did before. As elder Earl Bruce C. Hafen and his wife Marie wrote:
“Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to ‘rule over’ Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. … [The word [o]ver in ‘rule over’ uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling ‘with,’ not ruling ‘over.’ … The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s ‘help meet’ (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate.”
There is a happy medium between timidly refusing to be a leader and becoming a dictator. Describing leadership in marriage, Paul used the example of Jesus Christ’s relationship to the church—for which he sacrificed his life:
"[T]he husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:23-25).
Can you read the foregoing passage and believe that God is authorizing you to rule over your wife or ensure that your will prevails over hers? Your leadership in your marriage is to bless your future wife—not to take advantage of her. You lead by serving and doing for others what is best for them, not doing what is in your own interest. When necessary, be self-sacrificing as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. This means the relationship is always more important than the issue.
The Lord revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood" (D&C 121:41). That means you don't get to pull rank! It means the priesthood does not entitle you to have your way at her expense. Your priesthood and your leadership mean that you are responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of your wife and children. It does not mean that you are entitled to unquestioning compliance with your demands.
So how are you to lead? "[O]nly by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy" (D&C 121:41-43).
Think of these principles in terms of dating. You can take the initiative and ask someone for a date. You can take the lead and ask someone you are dating to be exclusive or otherwise more serious. But what can you do if she refuses to follow your lead? Nothing. You can try to persuade her within the bounds of honesty and civility, or you can move on. Either way, you must honor her agency. You have to be able to take no for an answer and recognize the autonomy of those you lead. You have no right to demand or force anyone to follow you. But I promise you, there are many good and noble women who want you to take the lead.
The same is true in your eventual marriage. Side by side with your future wife, you are responsible to take the lead in doing what is best for your family. Can you do that with force and intimidation? Can you do it with anger? You can only do it with love, while honoring your wife’s agency 100 percent. That includes listening to your wife and your children and taking their opinions, desires, and feelings seriously.
When we reprove a person we lead, we do it with sharpness—which means with clarity not harshness. To reprove is to re-prove. It means to prove again. It means to restore truth. Make sure that what you are saying is actually truth, and not self-serving. We are also counseled to give reproof in a timely manner. It is unconstructive to save up all your grievances and then dump them on your partner all at once. And after we restore truth, it is important to show forth an increase of love to reassure your partner that you have his or her best interest at heart. (I believe this counsel is equally valuable for women).
The foregoing principles are not the easiest way to lead. It is easier to be a bully. People jump to your commands—while you are present. But they resent you, and you have no influence over them when your back is turned. If you lead in the right way, your influence will last forever.
"Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever" (D&C 121:45-46).
A scepter is a rod which a king holds as a symbol of his royal authority, sitting side by side with his queen on thrones of power. That is what you are promised if you learn how to wield it properly. If you lead in God's way, your dominion with your queen will be everlasting "without compulsory means."
To single men, I say be bold but meek. Ask for what you want, but honor agency. Learn how to lead with patience, love, and persuasion. Welcome the challenge of gentle leadership together with your queen in the home, in the workplace, and in the community—and do it to make other people's lives better. Rise up and become the kings you were always born to be.