In priesthood meeting a couple of weeks ago we discussed fasting and prayer and how long you need to fast or pray for it to be effective. It occurred to me then that many male members of the Church have a tendency to approach spiritual isssues like this as a macho exercise.
Perhaps the best example of what I mean is a male reaction that I’ve often seen to the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon. As most Mormons know, Enos prayed all day and all night to get an answer to his prayers. For many men, this is like a challenge. It implies that if they pray long enough or more intently than Enos, they will get an answer to their prayers. Spirituality thus becomes a feat of strength or endurance–perhaps even a sport. All they have to do is outperform Enos.
It isn’t just prayer, or Enos’ example that leads to this reaction. Missionary life sometimes becomes more competition than catechism. And I’ll bet more than one Elders Quorum President has thought that if he could only make home teaching some kind of competition…
Its a little hard to know how to respond to this enthusiasm when it surfaces. I hate to discourage anyone from putting positive effort toward the gospel, even if it is misguided. But, on the other hand, this approach might put the participant on the road to failure and confusion. And if the person taking this approach has already misinterpreted the spiritual as sport, how will he interpret failure?
I don’t mean to imply that this happens often. It only happens some times. But for other men out there, I think this is something we should be aware of, and perhaps give some thought. Its easy to drop into the mode of a macho interpretation of the gospel.
[Now perhaps someone else can weigh in on what the feminine interpretation of the gospel is like?]