Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Divine Role of Womanhood

I have been thinking a lot about the role of women, in particular the role of women in the church, and I have some deep feelings about this that I want to share.  My target audience is female members of my church, but I hope that others will be able to understand my message.  Much of this come from my own feelings and thoughts, and not necessarily from any doctrinal source.  But I think you will find my reason sound.

To understand the role of women, we have to understand who we are.  First and foremost, we must understand that we are daughters of God.  I don't know how other religions view that statement, but in our religion, we believe that we are actual, literal, spirit children of God the Father.  He is the actual father of our spirits as evidenced in the two following scriptures.  

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"  Romans 8:16. " 

"Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?"  Hebrews 12:9. 

We learn more about ourselves in the creation story found in Genesis.  " So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."  Genesis 1:27  God the Father has a body, and basically looks like us.  But His is a glorified, immortal body.  We were created in His image.  But clearly, there must have also been a Heavenly Mother, after whose body image we women were created.  In the LDS religion, we have the belief that we have a Heavenly Mother, but there isn't much taught about her. For those who have grown up singing Eliza R. Snow's hymn, "Oh, My Father", these words have sunk in to our minds:

 "In the heav'ns are parents single?  No, the thought makes reason stare!  Truth is reason; truth eternal Tells me I've a mother there."

 Perhaps one of the reasons we aren't taught more about this truth is that it isn't found in scripture.  But as Sister Snow pointed out, truth, reason, and pure logic tell us that there must be a Heavenly Mother, if there is a Heavenly Father.

Have you ever wondered why we don't learn much about our Heavenly Mother?  Why isn't she mentioned?  I have thought a lot about this, and have come to the conclusion that part of the reason that God has not chosen to reveal her to us is that she is so special to Him, that He chooses to keep her sacred.  Can you imagine how it must make God feel for people to profane His name?  Imagine now that He not only might hear someone profane His name, but might also hear them profane the name of His choice companion.  So God has chosen to not reveal information about her.  In addition, she is not part of the Godhead, but is still a crucial player in the plan of salvation.  

Recently, there have been many women in the church who have questioned their role, and questioned if they are "equals" to the men of the church.  Personally, I believe that much of this thinking is influenced by the world.  I believe that the role of women is being attacked.

Before we came to this Earth, we lived with God as spirits.  Satan was one of our spirit brothers.  God the Father proposed a plan whereby we could come to earth to gain a body.  We would be tested and tried to see if we would obey God's laws.  We would be given free agency, and given the choice to decide whether or not to obey.  Satan proposed a different plan.  He proposed that instead of giving us free agency, that we should be forced to obey God's law.  He also proposed that in the end, he Satan, would get the glory.  Jesus then volunteered to support God's plan, and to offer himself as redemption for the sins of man, should we choose to go contrary to God's law.  His redemption would be conditional upon our repentance and obedience.  He proposed that the glory would be then given to the Father.  God the Father chose Jesus to fill the role as Savior.  Satan was angry, and a war ensued in heaven.  Of course God prevailed, and Satan and his followers were cast out of heaven, and he became the Devil.  

"7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."   Revelations 12:7-9
One of the things that strikes me about this story is that this war that occurred before this earth life, has not ended.  Satan is still on the attack.  He wants to undermine God's plan.  He wants to lead God's children away.  He is angry, and wants revenge.  
One of the key ways he has chosen to attack us, is to attack the family unit, and to make us question our roles in the family and church.  If he can make women feel that being a mother isn't meaningful or valuable, he can influence and entire society.  He does this through distraction, through the lure of money, through political persuasions, and most of all by telling women that being a wife and mother is demeaning.  He also attacks women of the church by trying to make them feel that because they do not hold the Priesthood, that they are of less value than men.  In fact, God Himself has never looked at women in this way.  God values women greatly!  Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley said,
 "First let me say to you sisters that you do not hold a second place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan.
Without you the plan could not function. Without you the entire program would be frustrated. As I have said before from this pulpit, when the process of creation occurred, Jehovah, the Creator, under instruction from His Father, first divided the light from the darkness and then separated the land from the waters. There followed the creation of plant life, followed by the creation of animal life. Then came the creation of man, and culminating that act of divinity came the crowning act, the creation of woman."  
I do not take those words lightly.  I truly believe that by nature, women are endowed with traits that, if practiced, are Godlike qualities.  Women have mothering instincts that help them to choose the welfare of their children over their own.  Pres. Hinckley also said,"You have walked hand in hand with God in the great process of bringing children into the world that they might experience this estate along the road of immortality and eternal life."  Think about what a sacred opportunity it is for us women to "walk hand in hand with God".  One of the greatest gifts that God has given women is the gift to create life.  This is a godly quality.  Women risk their lives in childbirth, then sacrifice their life in raising the children.  What trust He must have in us to turn over His spirit children to us to raise.  What a godly experience to have the chance to shape a human life!
 The world will tell women that they should turn that responsibility over to daycare.  The world will tell women that being a mother isn't fulfilling, and in fact is demeaning.  Women who believe these statements do not appreciate what a sacred opportunity they have in being a mother.  God Himself entrusts us to raise and teach His spirit children.  We should appreciate what a sacred opportunity this is.  
Within the church, women do not hold the Priesthood.  Some women will say that it is unfair.  Some will say that it is demeaning to women.  But I believe that these women don't appreciate their own role in the kingdom of God.  No, we do not have the Priesthood, but we have plenty of responsibility.  I have often said that I would not want the Priesthood because I have had enough responsibility without it!  Women in the church have plenty of opportunity to serve in positions of authority and responsibility.  We have our own women's organization that we run, under the direction of the Priesthood.  In addition, we help run the youth program and the children's organization.  For those who feel that it still isn't fair, I would like to share a scripture.  We usually use this scripture in talking about callings in the church, not about gender, but I think it applies to both.  
 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
 14 For the body is not one member, but many.
 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
Just because someone in the church doesn't have the Priesthood, doesn't mean they are not valued and important.  Just as the body cannot function well without one of it's parts, so too, the church cannot function without every member.  Each part is valued and crucial to the functioning of the body.  Each role in the church is crucial to the functioning of the whole.
Some may think that the Relief Society organization is not that important, but the Prophet Joseph Smith, in speaking about the Relief Society said, " “I will organize you … after a pattern of the priesthood,”...  Later, he added, “The Church was never fully organized until the women were thus organized.” (“Story of the Organization of the Relief Society,”Relief Society Magazine, March 1919, p. 129.)  Think about that.  The church was not fully organized until after the Relief Society was organized.  Perhaps it could be thought of as the crowning act of organization?  
In my own experience in serving in the church, I have found that not only have the Priesthood brethren been respectful of me, but they have treated me like royalty!  I have been invited to attend Priesthood councils which women do not usually attend.  I have always felt honored that they have risen from their seats when I walked in the door.  They have treated me with great respect and kindness.  Not only have they respectfully listened to my opinion, but they have often favored it because I was a woman.  I have always felt that my opinions and ideas were equally acknowledged and considered.  At times the Bishop or his councillors have come to me asking for help and for advice on certain matters.  I have always felt that they looked at me as in important part of the functioning of the church.  I don't share those thoughts to boast, but to try to impress upon my readers the level of respect and equality I have experienced.  
In conclusion, I wish that I could adequately express to the women of the church the love that I feel from the brethren of the church.  I wish that I could help you to understand the high esteem with which they hold you.  I wish that I could help you understand the importance God places on your role as wife, mother, and sister in the gospel.  "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord."  1 Cor. 11:11  Women are an integral part of the plan of salvation.  Women are loved by God.  The first person the resurrected Lord appeared to was a woman.  How I wish that women could see themselves the way God sees them, instead of listening to the way the world wants them to view themselves.

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