The Equality of the Couple in Serving the Home
As long as the world incorrectly see the home and family as inferior values, lacking the importance of supposed greater things like business, politics, the arts, letters and sciences, they will also incorrectly perceive and devalue the unique power of womanhood. This power, as the restoration of eternal truth reveals, is centered in motherhood!
The world’s solution to advancing the cause of women today is to change their historical roles, duties and missions to simulate a man’s place in the world. The role of motherhood is being systematically devalued and discredited. From the beginning Satan’s objective has been to separate the man from the woman, knowing he could thus thwart God’s plan. His work of subtraction and division stands in stark contrast to God’s design to add and multiply.
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Abraham 3:26).
This is my work and my glory -- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39).
And I, God, blessed them, and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. . . (Moses 2:28; Genesis 1:28).
Satan’s plan for separation and destruction of the man and the woman has not changed. Today alternatives abound, sometimes in the name of economic survival dependent upon two incomes, sometimes in the guise of a preferable lifestyle contrasted against the drudgery of homemaking, and too often in varying forms to avoid undesirable emotional baggage. One famous movie starlet on today’s Hollywood scene recently said, “I’ll never have children. They’re needy and greedy. Who needs that?”
These alternative voices, erudite or appealing as they seem to some, are excising the very heart of womanhood, the unique and precious power to bear and effectually nurture children, to be fruitful in bringing about the work and glory of the Gods, the immortality and eternal life of man. They would devalue, even destroy, parenthood, the very essence of Godhood. They seek to change the divine order revealed from heaven since the beginning. Our marriages are in shambles, our families are in jeopardy, and as the home goes can society be far behind?
. . . when the home is destroyed, the nation goes to pieces. There can be no question about this, and all historians or those who have followed a historical line of thought have come to that same conclusion. (Ensign, May 1978, 5).
In 1981, his advancing age silenced his prophetic voice. Today we live in that time he foresaw. More marriages are failing, more families are collapsing, fewer are staying together. Because of this dreadful state of affairs our society is floundering socially, economically, politically and physically.
President Kimball offered this encouragement in the midst of the world’s confusion over the woman’s role:
There has never been a time in the world when the role of woman has been more confused. There has never been a time in the Church when women are able to do more to show what their true role in the world can and ought to be. The impact and influence of women and mothers on our world is most important. The thought that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” is more viable today than ever before. (In Woman [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 1).
Some confusion, or at least much discussion, is ongoing about gender and rights and priesthood. In the Young Woman’s Journal of 1914, Elder James E. Talmage wrote a remarkable piece, with particular relevance to the 1990’s. Noting the sacred and eternal role of both women and men, Elder Talmage said eighty years ago, “The status of woman in the world is a subject of present-day discussion and an element of current social unrest; it is, however, by no means a new topic. . . [Woman] has suffered the greatest humiliation during periods of spiritual darkness, when the Gospel of Christ was forgotten. [But in the light of the gospel] woman occupies a position all her own in the eternal economy of the Creator; and in that position she is as truly superior to man as is he to her in his appointed place. Woman shall yet come to her own, exercising her rights and her privileges as a sanctified investiture which none shall dare profane.” (To Rejoice As Women, Talks from the 1994 Women’s Conference, ed. Susette Fletcher Green and Dawn Hill Anderson, “Concerning Covenants: Women, Men, Perspective, Promises,” [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 107).
Today the trumpet of “women’s liberation” sounds louder than ever before, but it has never sounded a more confusing tune. Liberating women from oppression and victimization is both desirable and absolutely necessary. From the exploitation of Japanese sex slaves during World War II to women who are victims of domestic abuse at the hands of their husbands in their homes today, it seems there have always been severe examples of the mistreatment of women begging for correction. No one disagrees these egregious assaults against women must be eradicated.
However, when seemingly brilliant people seek to liberate the modern woman from marriage, the home and full-time motherhood in exchange for anything else resembling a more attractive lifestyle, they propose something entirely different, extremely evil and terribly destructive.
As we discussed in Chapter One, man is not complete in the single state. “It is not good for man [or woman] to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). “Neither is man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:11). Within the single state it is simply not possible for men or women to fill the measure of their creation and to find a fulness of joy therein. Except in those conditions where there is no other choice, the single state is not an option the Church can embrace or sanction, nor is the child-limiting married state. Individuals, as partners in unfruitful marriages who voluntarily limit themselves to little or no offspring after the manner of the today’s conventional wisdom, are virtually no different than those who remain voluntarily single. Their state is the same. It is not the “true state” -- the fruitful state in which mankind finds joy in their posterity. God had much more in mind than merely curing Adam’s loneliness by making certain he was not alone in the garden. He had in mind a procreative partnership whereby the man and the woman could productively multiply and fill the earth and have the joy and rejoicing therein that could not come in any other way!
The prime purpose of marriage is to create the family and give unborn spirits earthly tabernacles and the privilege of building their own eternal lives. As we give way to the world’s notions, and ape their ways, we become enmeshed in their follies and we suffer accordingly. (In the World But Not of It, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: 14 May 1968], 5).
There seems to be a growing feeling that marriage is for legal sex, for sex’s sake. Marriage is basically for the family; that is why we marry -- not for the satisfaction of the sex, as the world around us would have us believe. When people have found their companions, there should be no long delay. Young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing their children. (“Marriage is Honorable,” in Speeches of the Year, 1973 [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1974], 263).
The family is the most important organization in time or in eternity. Our purpose in life is to create for ourselves eternal family units. (Ensign, July 1972, 27).
When a man and a woman are married and they agree, or covenant, to limit their offspring to two or three, and practice devices to accomplish this purpose, they are guilty of iniquity. . . (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56], 2:87).
We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity. (Letter to bishops, stake presidents and mission presidents, 14 April 1969).
The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its pills and practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father’s children. We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else. There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity. The first commandment given to man was to multiply and replenish the earth with children. That commandment has never been altered, modified, or canceled. The Lord did not say to multiply and replenish the earth if it is convenient, or if you are wealthy, or after you have gotten your schooling, or when there is peace on earth, or until you have four children. The Bible says, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord. . . Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. . .” (Ps. 127:3, 5). We believe God is glorified by having numerous children and a program of perfection for them. So also will God glorify that husband and wife who have a large posterity and who have tried to raise them up in righteousness. (CR, April 1969, 12; or Improvement Era, June 1969, 43-44).
The Church recognizes that not all women in the Church will have the opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality. Of necessity, some of our sisters have had to choose careers as a means of their own livelihood, and in some instances to provide for their families. But we do not encourage our young women to enter careers as lifelong objectives nor as alternatives to marriage and family. There is a godly and noble reason for this counsel. (Woman, 70-71).
Godhood is our goal, our high and singular aim. Godhood is the only complete state, the only state wherein man and woman can obtain a fulness of joy. As we have been taught, this happy state comprehends the power of the seeds through the effectual and eternal union of the male and female, then the subsequent effectual parenting necessary to successfully bring children up in light and truth to a glorious kingdom. Herein is the work and glory and joy of God and mankind!
In the accomplishment of this pre-eminent goal here or in eternity, the division of gifts (capacities) and duties (missions) between the male and female remains the same. The male, lovingly presiding in the family, is the partner mainly responsible for needs outside the home. These include the necessities to preserve the well-being of the family within the external context of the family’s socio-ecclesiastical, socio-economic, socio-political and socio-physical environments.
The Male Role
Since the early 70’s when the traditional roles of men and women came under acute attack, every President of the Church since then has given specific and consistent counsel:
Men ought to be men indeed and earn the living under normal circumstances. (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 318).
What, then, is a father's specific responsibility within the sacred walls of his home? May I suggest two basic responsibilities of every father in Israel.
First, you have a sacred responsibility to provide for the material needs of your family.
The Lord clearly defined the roles of providing for and rearing a righteous posterity. In the beginning, Adam, not Eve, was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow. . . In a home where there is an able-bodied husband, he is expected to be the breadwinner. . . Brethren of the priesthood, I continue to emphasize the importance of mothers staying home to nurture, care for, and train their children in the principles of righteousness. . .
Second, you have a sacred responsibility to provide spiritual leadership in your family. . .
Mothers play an important role as the heart of the home, but this in no way lessens the equally important role fathers should play, as head of the home, in nurturing, training and loving their children. (See Ensign, November 1987, 48-51).
You who hold the priesthood have the responsibility, unless disabled, to provide temporal support for your wife and children. No man can shift the burden of responsibility to another, not even to his wife. The Lord has commanded that women and children have claim upon their husbands and fathers for their maintenance (see D&C 83; 1 Tim. 5:8). President Ezra Taft Benson has stated that when a husband encourages or insists that his wife work out of the home for their convenience, “not only will the family suffer in such instances... but [his] own spiritual growth and progression will be hampered” (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 49).
We urge you to do all in your power to allow your wife to remain in the home, caring for the children while you provide for the family the best you can. We further emphasize that men who abandon their family and fail to meet their responsibility to care for those they have fathered may find their eligibility for a temple recommend and their standing in the Church in jeopardy. (Ensign, November 1994, 51).
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. (Proclamation To the Church and To the World, Sept. 23, 1995).
The Female Role
Normally, the husband is the breadwinner. We believe that the place of the woman is in the home, as a general rule. We realize that some women may need to be employed when their children are grown, or when there have been problems in their home and the breadwinner has been taken from them. The most sacred privileges that a woman could have are in the home, to be a partner with God in the creation of Children. (See Ensign, February 1974, 2).
You [sisters] were not created to be the same as men. Your natural attributes, affections, and personalities are entirely different from those of a man. They consist of faithfulness, benevolence, kindness, and charity. They give you the personality of a woman. They also balance the more aggressive and competitive nature of a man.
The business world is competitive and sometimes ruthless. We do not doubt that women have both the brainpower and the skills (and in some instances superior abilities) to compete with men. But by competing they must, of necessity, become aggressive and competitive. Thus their godly attributes are diminished and they acquire a quality of sameness with man. (Woman, 70-71).
The First Presidency has said: “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest holiest service to be assumed by mankind” (in James R. Clarke, comp. Messages of the First Presidency, 6 Vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75, 6:178). The priesthood cannot work out its destiny, nor can God’s purposes be fulfilled, without our helpmeets. Mothers perform a labor the priesthood cannot do. For this gift of life, the priesthood should have love unbounded for the mothers of their children.
Honor your wife’s unique and divinely appointed role as a mother in Israel and her special capacity to bear and nurture children. We are under divine commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and to bring up our children and grandchildren in light and truth. (Ensign, November 1994, 50).
Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurturing of their children. (A Proclamation To the Church and To the World, Sept. 23, 1995).
These kindly and tender patriarch-prophets are not chauvinistically attempting to put women in their place, but are rather lovingly bearing witness and counseling the daughters of God as the Lord’s inspired servants. They point unerringly to that place where their sisters’ greatest privileges and joys can be found, both here and in eternity.
Secondly, they counsel that these principles, privileges and joys unique to womanhood do not concern merely some of God’s daughters.
Every girl, and I say every girl, should prepare herself for marriage and for domestic responsibilities. You are not reading that in the magazines today, but it’s true nevertheless. She should be encouraged to be proud to prepare for true womanly service. She should become skilled in things that are useful and enriching to her family life. She should develop her talents, strengthen her knowledge and testimony of the gospel, and be eager to serve others. . . (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1982], 320).
We hear much talk -- even among some of our own sisters -- about so-called “alternative life-styles” for women. It is maintained that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood, or that a combination of both family and career is not inimical to either. Some have even been so bold as to suggest that the Church move away from the “Mormon woman stereotype” of homemaking and rearing children. God grant that that dangerous philosophy will never take root among our Latter-day women!
I repeat: You are elect because you were elected to a certain work. How glorious is the knowledge that you are dignified by the God heaven to be wives and mothers in Zion! (Woman, 70).
Only a fool would attempt to competitively compare or erase these unique differences between the male and female roles. For 6,000 years ignorant and unwise men and women have fought the so-called “battle of the sexes.” The truth is we not only want the parts to retain their unique differences and missions, we need them to, or the whole will never be complete, and the missions never accomplished! We need to come to appreciate and value our differences instead of making light of them, disdaining them or seeking to eradicate them. We need to recognize how glorious our unique differences are, and how wonderfully they complement, temper and round out the whole to make our marital partnerships effective and marvelously complete.
As Latter-day Saints blessed with an eternal perspective of life the world does not generally enjoy, we need to stop allowing the world to set our priorities, shape our values and influence the course we each choose during our mortal probation. The highways and byways of the worldly-wise are not the strait and narrow path to Godhood.
It makes no sense for both the female and the male to leave children and home, seeking to serve and save their external environments while their family dies of neglect. The home is the fountain of life, the center of the universe! It cannot be ignored without reaping a sad harvest. Similarly, it makes no sense for both to stay home full-time, taking no thought for the provision of the family or the preservation of the environments in which the home exists. The home will not survive if the environments in which it exists socially, physically, politically, economically, ecclesiastically are destroyed. Similarly, the environments cannot survive if the home fails at the very headwaters of life.
When intelligences live destructively they destroy not only themselves but also the environments to which they are connected. The home is the only place where the inculcation of true principles has been consistently effective in producing righteous lives to preserve and bless life and the environment, rather than injuring and destroying them. These unique and equal dichotomous roles of faithful mothers and fathers cannot be overemphasized.
Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. (TSWK, 316).
Fathers, you cannot delegate your duty as the head of the home. Mothers, train up your children in righteousness; do not attempt to save the world and let your own family fall apart. . .
The home is the rock foundation, the cornerstone of civilization. This nation and others will never rise above their homes. The church, the schools, and even the nations stand helpless before weakened and degraded homes. (In CR, Taiwan Area Conference, 1975, 3).
The gospel is about fostering faith in, and obedience to, the eternal principles of eternal lives. Individuals can obtain eternal life without the degrees of men and professional success, but we can never obtain eternal life without faithful, righteous, viable marriages and families in the gospel context. The stringent requirements of exaltation do not include professional careers or nice houses, but they most certainly require successful marriages and loving homes.
The Church is in the celestial home building business, and its blueprints are taken from the pages of the holy scriptures containing the fulness of the gospel and the inspired teachings and counsel of living prophets. To build on any other foundation will produce sand castles in futility.
Taking Counsel from the Lord
Some may contend the leaders of the Church offer general counsel for the general rule, and might seek to excuse themselves on the basis of specific perceived needs they do not think the prophets have seen or taken into consideration. We must be so careful. Refusing to follow the Lord’s prophets has always brought sorrow to the children of Israel. As God’s beloved sons and daughters we have been continually admonished to humble ourselves and to exercise great faith, not to seek to counsel, but rather to “take counsel from [the Lord’s] hand” (see Jacob 4:10-12).
In my view, seeking to counsel the Lord generally means disregarding the Lord’s counsel, either knowingly or unknowingly, and in place thereof substituting our own counsel or the persuasions of men. Doing this is a very common human weakness. But until we are able to conquer it, real closeness to the Spirit of the Lord eludes us regardless of our other gifts and attainments.
On the other hand, when a person learns what the Lord’s counsel is and follows it, he irresistibly draws close to the Spirit. From its very beginning, the history of God’s dealings with his children on the earth testifies to the fact that those who disregard his counsel fail and come to grief. . .
Now I do not think that many members of the Church consciously urge the persuasions of men or their own counsel instead of heeding the Lord’s. However, when we do not keep ourselves advised as to what the counsel of the Lord is, we are prone to substitute our own counsel for His. As a matter of fact, there is nothing else we can do but follow our own counsel when we do not know the Lord’s instructions. . . (Ensign, August 1985, 2-5).
We bear witness that following divine counsel will always bless our lives, both now and in the eternities to come. We are loved and cherished children of the Gods with divine potential to become like them, to find the same joys and obtain the same glories they possess, but only if we walk the same path they have walked then revealed to us for our benefit and blessing. We are little children with much to learn. Our eternal parents have walked this road before us. If we will have the humility and faith of little children to trust and follow them, while we may not understand all things now, the day will come when we will comprehend and rejoice in the great wisdom and power of these eternal principles our Heavenly Father has revealed through his anointed servants.
The eternal truths pertaining to the dichotomy and synergy of our sexual natures, gifts and roles as male and female offspring of Deity are both beautiful and powerful. In the end we will come to know the singular roles of men and women both now and in eternity have always been and always will be mutually dependent, perfectly equal, but effectually different to bring to pass the work and glory of God.