To Build a Fence
a public service message from
The Institute for Marital Concerns
Brigham Young Chapter
As all you RM gospel scholars know, Brigham Young once said:
- I will give each of the young men in Israel, who have arrived at an age to marry, a mission to go straightway and get married to a good sister, fence a city lot, lay out a garden and orchard and make a home. This is the mission that I give to all young men in Israel.
This presents us with a distinct problem, if we 1) do not want to get married, 2) don’t want to get married, or 3) would really rather not get married. If this sounds like you, then rest assured that we at the IMC are here to help you get out of what, at first glance, seems like a direct commandment from a prophet of God to get married.
Living in the post-Clinton era as we do, we have the right to demand strict word definitions and to nit-pick on how they fit together. Being exactly the sort of “Young Man in Israel” that Brigham Young was speaking both to and about, it is necessary to build excuses for ourselves. But a bad excuse is self-damnation and really good excuses are hard to come by in this dispensation of the fullness of times, so in order to stall for time, we need to demand some definitions while we strive to understand the “deeper” meaning of this prophetic utterance.
To the neophyte, defining “straightway” may seem our best starting point, but like any bomb, picking the wrong wire (or in this case, word) can make the whole thing go off in your face. Be warned: “Straightway” is such a potent word that it may, in fact, actually be impossible to completely disarm. In cases like this, where the obvious is not the ideal, it is wise to open the abstract mind, allowing fresh, clean and clear thoughts to fall in from above like so many bird droppings. In the case of this phrase (“go straightway and get married”), the best place to start is probably “get.” To those unfamiliar with the fine art of advanced word refinement, or clarification, “get” may not seem so great, but as every wise word clarificator knows, “get” is the word clarificator’s best friend. For one thing, it is of that rare tribe of word that is safe to look up in the dictionary! Dozens upon dozens of wildly disparate definitions for the choosing! “Get” can make a sentence mean anything you please! “Go straightway and succeed in coming or going married!” “Go straightway and achieve as a result of military activity married!” “Go straightway and be subjected to married!” (Oops, bad example . . . .)
But before we get too happy about discovering “get” just where it could have best been found, let’s look at a larger portion of Brother Brigham’s sticky speech:
I will give each of the young men in Israel, who have arrived at an age to marry, a mission to go straightway and get married to a good sister, fence a city lot, lay out a garden and orchard and make a home.
All right, clarificators, here we go! First of all, why do we need to refine this statement? Because it is presenting us with a mission—or, in other words, it’s handing out (heaven help us) responsibility; and if there is one thing we don’t need (or at least want), it’s responsibility! Brigham couldn’t have meant for us to have moreresponsibility! We’ve had enough of that! We’re RMs! Are you with me? ARE YOU WITH ME?!?!
BUT WAIT—who is he giving this mission to?
. . . each of the young men in Israel, who have arrived at an age to marry . . .
Ah ha! There’s an out right there! Who’s to say what “an age to marry” is? Or whether we have “arrived” at such an age? I don’t know, but I’m sure that doesn’t include me!
But that’s too easy, and not completely satisfactory. Here’s why: I can’t go around saying “I haven’t ‘arrived at an age to marry’ yet” all of my life. Also, unless I can point to what I am doing to obey President Young rather than my reasons (however valid) for not obeying him, then the focus will remain on what I’m not doing and no amount of pious explication is likely to save me from the judgmental frowns of others. So let’s look once again at this quote of Brother Brigham’s, and this time, let’s pay Close Attention to the commas:
[The mission is] to go straightway and get married to a good sister, fence a city lot, lay out a garden and orchard and make a home.
It doesn’t take a prophet to realize that President Young has offered us young men in Israel who’ve arrived at an age to marry three options:
1 Go straightway and get married to a good sister
2 Fence a city lot
3 Lay out a garden and orchard and make a home
The first option is what we kinda wanna avoid and the third is an awful lot of hard work. Therefore, the only option I can see left for us (short of apostasy) is to fence a city lot. If we can get oh, say, six thousand of us young men in Israel together some Saturday afternoon, we should be able to fence a city lot in no time! And then we can go home knowing we have been faithful in following the commands of the prophets! A major plus of this plan is that we will be able to carry around a Polaroid of our fenced city lot—our pride and joy—to show anyone who may ask us why the only ring we’re wearing is our well-worn CTR.
“You see, Brother XYZ,” we might say, “while you were off getting married to a good sister, I did the thing most wouldn’t. I built a fence.” That should shut them up.
And hey! It almost sounds heroic!