Men-Richment
by Clark L. and Kathyryn H. Kidd

Geoff Card, a game designer from Seattle, recently started a topic in the Nauvoo online forum (www.nauvoo.com) where he wrote about how unprepared he felt when he left home for the first time.  He didn’t know a lot of the basic skills that he believed he should have known – skills such as financial planning and yard maintenance.  He wrote,

“Why in the world was I being taught to tie knots and fry eggs in Dixie cups on Tuesday nights, while the girls were all learning to be good mothers? Didn’t I need practical, applicable life skills, too? Or was my job supposed to be running off and camping, while my wife took care of the kids?

“Many young men are fascinated, I’m sure, by wilderness survival. And it is a useful thing for everyone to know, to some degree or another. But these days, it’s even more important to learn urban survival.  How do you manage your finances?  How do you buy a house?  How do you get a job?  How do you handle home emergencies – fire, break-ins, poison ingestion?  How do you raise and discipline children?  How do you solve problems fairly with a partner you love and respect?  How do you drive defensively, keeping your family alive on the highway?  How do you maintain a smooth-running vehicle?  How do you cook edible food from actual ingredients, using modern equipment?  How do you do laundry without turning white bras pink or pink bras white?  How do you set up and operate home electronics?  How do you handle food storage in different-sized homes, with different-sized incomes?  How do you invest money, and get it back again?  What is equity, or credit, or interest?  How do you keep a yard well-tended?  How can you make small home improvements and repairs?

“This is all stuff that I never learned as a youth, and much of it, I’m still learning. What would be so hard about running a unique program for both young men and adult men in the Church that addresses the real problems, skills, and challenges of modern family life?”

Geoff even devised a name for this program.  He called it “Men-Richment.” 

One of the other participants in Nauvoo, Anonymous Reader, said that the Scouting program in his ward does exactly what Geoff was suggesting.  He wrote,

“I’ve worked with the Young Men much of my adult life.  We spend all our time teaching them how to be missionaries and preparing for missions.  For example, we send out the missionaries in our ward with 24 simple recipes they have helped cook themselves at our monthly priest dinners.  We have activities teaching them how to budget their mission finances.  We teach them to serve for just cookies by taking care of widows’ yards, windows, and snow in the winter.  We teach them how to have compassion for others by serving in the Care Center in our stake.   We teach them to do their priesthood duties, to look for ways to use their priesthood, and look for and recognize the Spirit.  We teach them how to get along with a companion they clash with, and try to teach them to love them even if they can’t squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube without getting crusties all over the outside.  All of these are pretty good training for fatherhood as well as for missions.  And just the mission experience alone will do so much to train the young man for his responsibilities in fatherhood from the spiritual, “lead the family by example” side of the equation.  Yes, I think the Duty to God Program and the Young Men’s program does a pretty good job of doing both of those.  And does it in a way the young men will accept.  Sixteen-year-old boys aren’t going to sit through lessons on financial investment management.  You have to trick them into learning these things by disguising it as missionary training.”

It’s apparent that when human cloning is perfected, Anonymous Reader should be the first person cloned, and there should be one of him assigned to every ward in the Church.  But until this can be accomplished, there are a goodly number of young men in the Church who feel as though they are being thrust out into the world without enough preparation.  And even after they are out in the world and know all the rudiments of manliness, there are men who want their equivalent of Men-Richment so they can bond with each other in a Church setting just as the women are allowed to do.

Another reader, Anonymous Priesthood Holder, wrote,

“Part of me is a little bitter that the women of the Church have a monthly scheduled social activity that is seen as almost compulsory.  My only monthly scheduled priesthood meeting is a home teaching interview.  The men of the Church don’t get together to socialize; they get together to move someone, or to pour someone’s driveway.  I know that when I have tried to schedule High Priest Group or Elders Quorum Socials that involve only the men, I have gotten grief about taking the men away from their families and encroaching on their limited sacred family time.  Ever hear the same complaint with respect to Enrichment?  I doubt it.  That is seen as hallowed time, and dads are told that they must do everything in their power to ensure that their wives can attend.  They better be home from work in time to babysit, make dinner, and so on, so Mom has no excuse for not attending.

“I had a very positive experience with Scouting as a young man and had exposure to lots of neat life skills that served me well later.  Unfortunately, many of the merit badges Anonymous Reader referenced are not required, and thus, a small percentage of boys ever do them.  I’ll confess, I, as an adult, am clueless about auto mechanics.  I would love for there to be a Men-Richment Night where a merit badge counselor came and taught the merit badge to all guys, scouting age or not.  It would be a great bonding experience for all the men in the ward.”

Oddly enough, there is at least one ward in the Church that has its own version of Men-Richment.  Larry Wilcox of Kingsland, GA, wrote that the elders quorum president in his ward sponsors quarterly nights that are designed for men only.  “And his reasoning is – enrichment.  The women have it, so we can have it.  The men get together, eat, play games, and just be men.  It has gone over very well,” he wrote.  The men look forward to it, and the only complaints have been from a few wives who think their husbands should be home with their families.  Once the elders quorum president explains that if women get one night a month to get together with women, their husbands should certainly be allowed one night a quarter to get together with other men, the women usually see the light.

If your ward does not have its equivalent of Men-Richment, you may want to think about it.  Until then, Anonymous Reader writes that one way men can learn “things they don’t know and don’t want to admit they don’t know” is to go to Enrichment Night.  “I went to one a few months ago about growing indoor plants,” he wrote.  “The lady who did it made it look so easy.  I learned about how to kill spider mites (and what one is) along with several other things.”

How did Anonymous Reader get to go to Enrichment Night?  He was sneaky about it.  “All I did was volunteer to help with tables and chairs.”  He added, however, that his ward has a couple of meetings a year where husbands are invited if they want to attend.  “We have had food storage people, financial people, and others.  I bet if I went to the enrichment leader and said I wanted to organize a simple home repair enrichment night where the husbands were also invited, she would be delighted to hear me out, and let me do it.  I don’t think we men folk could or should take over enrichment night, but I bet once or twice a year we could help organize and join in with one.” 

We have had a couple of enrichment nights in our ward where men have attended – either because they were invited or because they invited themselves.  They seemed to have a good time, and certainly did not distract from the tone or spirit of the meetings.              In our family, Kathy once blanched at the thought of attending yet another James Bond movie with Clark.  She suggested to the high priest group leader that the men should get together and go see the James Bond movie together, and then go out for ice cream.  From the look the high priest group leader gave her, Kathy’s first inclination was to check her head to make sure she hadn’t grown horns.  Needless to say, the men did not see the movie together.  We think an opportunity was lost – not just for Clark to see the movie, but for the men to get together and spend time as a group.  Who’s to say how many marginally active members could have gotten some much-needed fellowship from such a simple outing.

Sometimes society teaches us that men or women should act in certain ways and be interested in certain things, but that is not always true.  Just as surely as there are women who would like to be better auto mechanics, there are also men who are interested in cooking or growing plants, or even just bonding with other men who are active in the Church.  The savvy church leader will understand this, and will not let gender become a barrier to learning or to the building of friendships between ward members.  There is definitely a place in the Church for “men only” and “women only” meetings, and you may want to see that if in your ward some extra attention should be given to activities for men.  But there is also a place for common sense when a co-ed meeting would enrich everyone, and we shouldn’t overlook those opportunities.