Exploring Concepts for Mutual Improvement

I was intrigued by a recent article on the Art of Manliness about the male desire for true brotherhood. It discussed what I have chosen to refer to as intentional brotherhood (that is the most succinct of a variety of terms that seemed to be applied to the idea being presented). The article discussed the origins of that natural desire and also ideas for how to find or foster bonds of intentional brotherhood. To put that in context, when speaking of finding those bonds of brotherhood the author and commentors  frequently pointed to church groups and fraternal organizations (e.g. Elks, Moose, Rotarians, Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, or college fraternities).

The whole concept was interesting but it also reminded me of the idea of Master Mind groups¬†(sometimes called mutual improvement societies) that the Art of Manliness wrote about a few years ago. I’d like to explore how those two concepts relate to each other, how they differ, and whether there is any connection between either of them and the theological concept of priesthood quorums. I would also like to have others share their perspectives on the relationships between the three concepts.

I’ll start by summarizing my understanding of each of the three concepts.

Intentional Brotherhoods

  • One of the key characteristics of intentional brotherhoods is that they have no expiration date. They are intended to be lasting and they are focused on general improvement for the participants.
  • Membership in the group may be seen as a matter of chance or choice, but it is necessarily voluntary. Each member of the brotherhood must buy into the association for it to have any meaning and effect for them.
  • There is no functional limit on how large an intentional brotherhood may become although the individual bonds are likely to be stronger in smaller groups or in sub-groups of larger groups.

Master Minds

  • Master mind groups, according to Napoleon Hill come together for “harmonious co-operation of two or more people who ally themselves for the purpose of accomplishing any given task.” While they need not be short-term in nature the example cited of the Tennis Cabinet proves that having a limited duration does not impede the formation of a master mind group.
  • Membership is voluntary. Anyone who might have the opportunity for membership will functionally have no place if they are not active participants in whatever the group is doing.
  • There is no express limit to the potential size of a master mind group but I suspect that functionally they would lose their efficacy as a master mind if they grew too large and thus weakened the bonds between members. To function as a master mind it seems to me that each member of the group must feel a real personal connection with each other member of the group. Based on that assumption I would suspect that a master mind would naturally begin to splinter by the time it reached two dozen members (often before it got that large I would guess).

Priesthood Quorums

  • Priesthood Quorums are defined by priesthood office (and usually geography as well). Members of the quorum may come and go but the quorum remains regardless of any particular friendship or group focus. Their general purpose is to fulfill the duties for that priesthood office in advancing the work of God on earth.
  • Membership in a priesthood quorum is not voluntary. A member may choose not to participate but their membership remains intact. Likewise they could be excluded by the group and yet their membership would remain as a matter of fact. Someone that a particular quorum might not have chosen to ordain to a given office may move in from another geographic quorum and their priesthood remains.
  • With the exception of High Priest Quorums (consisting of all high priests within a geographic stake regardless of how many that might be), all priesthood quorums have an upper limit on how large they can be before they must split based on the priesthood office around which the quorum is defined.

Compare and Contrast

I dabbled with the idea that Intentional Brotherhoods and Master Mind Groups were synonymous with each other but considering that Master Minds can be temporary and/or focused on a specific goal while Brotherhoods are relatively or expressly permanent and generally open in scope (even if they have an overarching core focus that guides them) I felt that they could not be considered truly synonymous with each other. I also considered the possibility that Master Mind Groups might be a subset of Intentional Brotherhoods – that is, any master mind group would necessarily be an intentional brotherhood. I consider that a more likely possibility but I still don’t think its true. I believe that any master mind group has the potential to become an intentional brotherhood but I also believe that by choice or necessity a master mind group can be formed and perpetuated that does not display the characteristics of intentional brotherhood.

The one thing that all three should have in common is that they should result in making each member of the group into a better person as a result of the group’s activities.

Relationship to Quorums

I feel confident in my conclusion that priesthood quorums at their best would become intentional brotherhoods and could foster master mind groups either of the whole quorum (in small enough quorums) or of sub-groups of the quorum (especially in larger quorums of Priests, Elders, High Priests, or Seventies). I also know by experience that there is nothing about priesthood quorums that guarantees either of those outcomes.

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About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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