I was already planning to cover the topics I am going to talk about today when I heard it mentioned last week that the Church is often cheering up the women and chastising the men. It gave me pause to reflect on my life in the Church and my life as a man. Over my time in the Church, especially in my adult years I have also noticed this pattern.
This is something that often would put a burr under my saddle in my younger years. If I was really honest with myself, once in awhile I'm probably still a little petty about it. Thinking about this last week confirmed to me that I needed to continue doing the research I was doing for my talk, because I needed to improve more.
One large part of my coming to terms with this injustice I felt I was seeing, is something that can be a tough thing for people to comprehend. The thing I had to figure out was…males and females are different.
That’s right. Boys are not the same as girls and men are not the same as women.
I think sometimes we spend time and energy comparing ourselves to the other gender. We perhaps see things that appear unfair when looking at each other. So I wanted to get that out of the way up front. Males and females are different.
Males and females are different, but Equal. Equal does not mean the same.
Let’s imagine for a moment a quarter and then also imagine 2 dimes and a nickel. The value of a quarter, 25 cents, is equal to the value of 2 dimes and a nickel, also 25 cents.
Now imagine a person walks up to a 25 cent gumball machine. The person reaches in their pocket and pulls out 25 cents, two dimes and a nickel, which is equal to the value the gumball machine requires. Nonetheless, the task the gumball machine performs is designed to only work with quarters. WELL THAT’S NOT FAIR!. And yet, that’s how it works. It would be a great challenge to get a gumball out of that machine with two dimes and a nickel. Likely when trying it one would damage the machine or damage the money.
Elder M Russell Ballard said:
“Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman.” (Elder M Russell Ballard, “Men and Women and Priesthood Power, Ensign September 2014)
Elder Ballard also said:
“Men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the Church, but equal does not mean that they are the same. Although responsibilities and divine gifts of men and women differ in their nature, they do not differ in their importance or influence.” (Elder M Russell Ballard, “Men and Women in the Work of the Lord”, New Era April 2014)
He further points out:
“Men and women have different gifts, different strengths, and different points of view and inclinations. That is one of the fundamental reasons we need each other. It takes a man and a woman to create a family, and it takes men and women to carry out the work of the Lord. A husband and wife righteously working together complete each other. Let us be careful that we do not attempt to tamper with our Heavenly Father’s plan and purposes in our lives.” (Elder M Russell Ballard, “Men and Women and Priesthood Power, Ensign September 2014)
There was a lot in Elder Ballard’s words about husband and wife relationships, but let’s remember that men and women are different even when they are single. We must not beat ourselves up if we struggle when we are single to perform both genders’ responsibilities. We can still draw on the strength of others of the opposite sex in our life. Because of the natural order of things, we can not do it alone.
I believe the reason the brethren are called to repentance in Conference and the reason the sisters are told to be of good cheer is because generally neither group understands their roles.
For the sake of time I will only go into two things in this context today, the sacredness of motherhood and that all women are mothers.
Generally, I believe that people do not fully comprehend the sacredness of mothers. I believe they also generally do not fully understand that all women are mothers, no matter if they have children or not.
All Women Are Mothers
A single woman, a married woman with no children, a woman with children, and a woman whose children are grown all are mothers.
Let’s review a portion of the the family proclamation:
“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."
I would propose that for a mother the meaning of the word children extends to neighborhood, city, state, and so forth and that a mother’s stewardship becomes greater the closer she gets to the house she lives in.
A mother’s role is primarily to nurture. Fathers are to preside, provide, and protect, which I believe translates to doing whatever is necessary to make it possible for the work of motherhood to thrive.
Sister Marriott, second counselor in the young women general presidency, in the women’s session of general conference stated, “The Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow declared to sisters almost 150 years ago, ‘The Lord has laid high responsibilities upon us.’2”
Sister Marriott pointed out that sisters, not women who are married or who have kids living at home have high responsibility. She said that sister Snow was addressing all sisters. All women.
Sister Marriott continues, “The Lord’s Church needs Spirit-directed women who use their unique gifts to nurture, to speak up, and to defend gospel truth. Our inspiration and intuition are necessary parts of building the kingdom of God, which really means doing our part to bring salvation to God’s children.”
Mothers have stewardship over the nurture of children. Not just their children, but all of God’s children.
So far my evidence for all women being mothers may be a little thin, so let’s go back for more words from Sister Marriott, “Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby—and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them—but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a 'mother' before she had children.4 I believe that 'to mother' means 'to give life.' Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God. Sisters, all of us came to earth with these life-giving, nurturing, maternal gifts because that is God’s plan."
I would note that Sister Marriott’s stewardship is over the young women of the Church and yet she is speaking to the role of mothers. I propose again that all women are mothers and have stewardship over things of motherhood. Young women are still women.
I believe the young women theme gives us a view into this concept: “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will 'stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation."
Standing strong in the stewardship of motherhood can be hard. The world or a woman’s peers or maybe even the men in her life may have incorrect ideas on what her responsibilities are. They may apply pressure to her to spend time on things that have nothing to do with what God has called her to do. This pressure sometimes changes as they changes phases and circumstances in life. A young woman may feel pressure to pursue things in her youth that get in the way of her calling as a mother now and perhaps in the future as well. A married woman without children may feel the pressure to be engaged in other things that get in the way of her calling as a mother, simply because she has not children in her home. Mothers that have children may get grief from people that do not understand the sacredness and stewardship of motherhood. A mother with children that are grown may feel an emptiness from not being able to nurture full time, because they do not realize that children leaving the home does not remove the stewardship of mothers to nurture children full time. Again, the definition of children extends to all of God's children in a woman's neighborhood, city, state, and so forth, and that stewardship becomes greater the closer she gets to the house she lives in.
Sister Marriott said this:
“Being distinct and different from the world will draw some criticism, but we must anchor ourselves to eternal principles and testify of them, no matter the world’s response.”
“Women and sisters, we can do these things! Primary girls, is there someone in your family who needs your love and kindness? You build the kingdom by nurturing others too.”
“Our high responsibility is to become women who follow the Savior, nurture with inspiration, and live truth fearlessly. As we ask Father in Heaven to make us builders of His kingdom, His power will flow into us and we will know how to nurture, ultimately becoming like our heavenly parents.
Carole M. Stephens in April 2015 General Conference was telling the story of a sister that understood the concept of being a mother beyond just our home. She had this to say:
"Sister Yazzie doesn’t limit her love and influence to her biological family. She understands what it means to expand her sphere of influence as she goes about doing good, blessing, nurturing, and defending the family of God."
Women Are Sacred
Motherhood is sacred and all women are mothers, thus all women are sacred. Let’s dig into that concept a bit.
President Gordon B Hinckley stated, Quote “When you save a girl, you save generations.”
Rosemary M Wixom when she was Primary General President said:
“Our divine nature has nothing to do with our personal accomplishments, the status we achieve, the number of marathons we run, or our popularity and self-esteem. Our divine nature comes from God. It was established in an existence that preceded our birth and will continue on into eternity.
Elder Russell M Nelson said on the sacredness of our duty towards women:
“Let us speak about our worthy and wonderful sisters, particularly our mothers, and consider our sacred duty to honor them.”
“if one dishonors mother, one dishonors the commandments of God.”...
“the highest and noblest work in this life is that of a mother.”
Many years ago, the first presidency issued the statement, “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.”
Let’s hear that last part again, “It places her... who honors... its holy calling and service next to the angels.”
Elder Nelson shared more on the sacredness of women, “Because mothers are essential to God’s great plan of happiness, their sacred work is opposed by Satan, who would destroy the family and demean the worth of women.
How is Satan trying to destroy the family? Through influences that come into our home. Through men demeaning women. And through women demeaning themselves. Sometimes the idea is expressed “I am only a mother.” Which is like saying “I am only one with power given by God.”
More from Elder Nelson:
“We who bear the holy priesthood have a sacred duty to honor our sisters... We respect sisters—not only in our immediate families but all the wonderful sisters in our lives. As daughters of God, their potential is divine. Without them, eternal life would be impossible. Our high regard for them should spring from our love of God and from an awareness of their lofty purpose in His great eternal plan.”
We have a tradition of men holding doors for women when they enter or exit a building. Clearly women are capable of opening a door, after all they are mothers who are given power directly from God. But consider the symbolism of this with regard to our responsibilities as men and the sacredness of women. Men are to preside, provide, and protect. We take responsibility and preside over the task of opening that door. We provide a way for a sacred mother to enter or exit. We protect in that we pay attention that it is safe for her to enter and that after she is in there is no danger behind her.
This may seem a bit silly that entering a church building in Layton, Utah requires that much security. The point is that in this simple act we can take the opportunity for both the man opening the door and the women entering or leaving to take a moment and recognize that which is sacred. It is also an opportunity to ingrain the sacredness of women into our youth. Boys need to understand to respect sacredness. Girls need to understand their great worth.
I often see young women adopting behaviors of boys who are behaving badly because they want to be close to those boys. Young women are mothers and are sacred. They do not have time to waste with crude boys.
I often hear phrases like boys will be boys. The entire phrase should be boys will be boys until they are taught to be men.
1 Corinthians 13:11 states:
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
I hope putting away childish things doesn't include my Star Wars action figure collection.
Nonetheless, when young women stand firm in their values without judging others, young men eventually figure it out and change their behavior. Young women, the boys you want to date and the men you want to marry should be those boys that figure it out quickly or better yet, that have already figured it out.
If women and men really understood the importance of motherhood and the scope of what motherhood entails and that women are sacred, many more things in life would make a lot more sense to us and would be a lot easier for us to deal with.