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Today, some women might balk at the idea of men “owing” them support, either physically or economically. Modern ideas of equality purport that men and women must be treated similarly, with no favoritism or coddling allowed. Some women demand that all traces of chivalry, a medieval code that required men to perform acts of deference and service to women, should be extinguished in our modern world. While I am very much in favor of equality between men and women, I’d argue that things like chivalry and men owing women sacred support are still important, and they are good for women, because they help develop Christlike men.
C. S. Lewis wrote a famous essay in which he stated that chivalry, with its high code of conduct for men, is “the hope of the world.” Chivalry was developed in the Middle Ages, because knights, men of war, were rampaging and pillaging villages without recourse. Pope Urban II, who sent knights out on crusades to reclaim Jerusalem, began to inspire men to fight for something higher than themselves—God, their families, and freedom— very much like Moroni inspired his men. Lewis argued that chivalry, then and now, is important because of “the double demand it makes on human nature.” Lewis wrote,
The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle modest, unobtrusive man. He is not a compromise of happy mean between ferocity and meekness; he is fierce to the nth and meek to the nth . . . The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate toward one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was likely as not to be a milksop . . . [Chivalry] offers the only possible escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend.
The ideal, as Lewis saw it, was a man who could be both a lion and a lamb—a man who could be fierce and strong but also meek and humble, a man very much like Captain Moroni. In Alma 48, Moroni is described to us as “a strong and mighty man” one who “did not delight in bloodshed” and “whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God” (vs. 11–12). Mormon, who had great admiration for Moroni (he even named his son after him), claimed that “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever” (vs. 17).
As Lewis noted, such a mix of valour and humility does not come naturally but must be developed. Joe Rigney, who writes about C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Christian life, had a beautiful thought about how we are to develop such conflicting virtues. He wrote,
Our Lord requires that husbands show honor to their wives as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), and that wives respect and honor their husbands as their head (Ephesians 5:33). Children likewise must honor their parents (Exodus 20:12), and parents must imitate God in remembering the frame of their children (Psalm 103:14) and not provoking or discouraging them (Colossians 3:21). All Christians are called to sacrificially serve one another rather than lording our authority or rights over each other like the unbelievers do (Matthew 20:25–28). Elders in particular are singled out as those who must not be domineering over those in their charge, but instead be . . . an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).
I think this is one of the most beautiful aspects of the idea of men providing sacred support. It challenges them to develop strength with weakness, confidence with humility, and bravery with meekness. Standing for what is right and offering sacred support challenges men to become like Jesus Christ, and more Christlike men in the world is always a good thing for women.
What do you think of this? Let us know in the comments!
The following was taken from the book Walking with the Women of the Book of Mormon currently on sale at cedarfort.com.