Brotherhood as Practiced by The Twelve
During the April, 2018 General Conference, two of the apostles used striking language to describe the brotherhood they experience in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Andersen referred to “the unparalleled brotherhood of the quorum of the twelve,” while President Nelson described their quorum as a “unique brotherhood.” As we watch the Brethren interact, it is clear that they openly model love, connection, and intimacy with each other. In colloquial terms, some might call this a "bromance", and yet it is so much more.
In recent times, "bromance" has become the common way of expressing a deep friendship between men. Anyone who has observed a bromance knows that it appears strong, fulfilling, and not easily understood by the outsider. In a different era, these men would just be called friends. But in the modern era – where some men have a fear of being judged and given an identity that doesn't fit for them, emotional intimacy between men is no longer the norm – we have to have a special word, although it falls short, to describe what seems like unfamiliar behavior. To the Brethren, however, emotional intimacy is not unfamiliar, nor is likely that they worry about how their affection will be judged; their intimacy seems natural and spontaneous. Intimate connection and common purpose is the means by which they create a brotherhood that sees them through the trials of life and the strains of leading the church.
Observe the members of the Twelve as they interact. When I watched the January 16, 2018 broadcast where President Nelson was formally announced as the successor to President Thomas S. Monson, I noted the affection these men showed each other. I noticed frequent verbal expressions of their love, trust, and affection. I also noticed deep, intentional eye contact and touch; there were hugs, and on several occasions, you can even see them hold hands. These men love each other, and they don’t restrain its expression.
Now consider the average Elders Quorum in the church. How much of this same behavior will you see? Very little, I suspect. This could mean that the men in the average Elder's Quorums, 1) don’t love each other as deeply or 2) don’t know how to express that love. What if we changed that?
If you’re a "dude" reading this, your first response may be that this would be super awkward. But that isn’t the case for the Brethren. It also wasn’t for two men described by Elder Holland in his Sunday Afternoon General Conference talk, a man who had just lost his wife, and the man’s home teacher, “As Brett sobbed, Edwin simply held him in his arms and cried with him, for a long, long time.” While Edwin and Brett's show of emotion resulted from an extreme circumstance, however it need not nor should not always be the case.
I have shared deep emotion with men in word and in feeling. I have held men and been held by men as we shed tears of pain, gratitude, or joy. When done in a spirit of brotherhood and love, it always feels natural and brings us closer. I love and am grateful for those men who are comfortable enough with themselves to show Christlike love for me in my moments of need by freely sharing and receiving emotion. These are unique and special moments with unique and special men.
My hope is that more men will follow the model of our modern day Apostles, the model they are handing us through the more intimate ministry program and expanded Elder’s Quorums. My hope is that as men in the Church follow the model of the Twelve, healthy male intimacy will become the norm in our church culture, so that we don’t settle for isolation, but rather have a quorum of brothers to whom we are deeply connected, individually and collectively.
My hope is that as we minister to each other from a place of love and develop deeper bonds in our quorums, that the unique and unparalleled brotherhood experienced by the Quorum of the Twelve may be likewise experienced throughout the entirety of the priesthood body. I believe this is what Heavenly Father envisions as He spreads the priesthood to all corners of the earth in preparation of the Savior’s return.