The Moral Force of Women

I loved Elder Christofferson’s talk in General Conference.  He spoke about the moral force for good that women bring to societies and families.  I love that he talked about women’s strengths, not just about how they fit in with the Priesthood.  He quoted women as his references, and his footnotes are just as good as his main talk.    He also avoided focusing exclusively on women as mothers and instead panned out to show our “moral force” as the greatest contribution to the world.  His examples were regular women–not famous for doing extraordinary things, just women who made a difference in his life through their goodness.  I think of his talk as the prequel to Sister Beck’s talk, Mothers Who Know. He lays out the philosophy and she elaborates on the details.

I loved his talk, but I couldn’t really pin down what he was talking about, exactly.  Moral force seemed like a vague term for goodness or being chaste.  But as I’ve started paying attention to the women around me, I get a clear picture of moral force in action.  Moral force, as I understand it, is doing what a person feels is right, regardless of the difficulty or inconvenience that it causes.  Rocking the boat, if necessary, to bring about an elevated result.

The other night, I was at a dinner for my husband’s work and I saw another wife that I had chatted with before.  She is an attorney and a rising star at her firm.  She also recently had her first baby.  I asked about her job, expecting to hear some positive report and instead she said, “I’m so tired of it.  I don’t want to keep working, I just want to be home with my baby.”  I was surprised; she was not LDS, she had no cultural ties to the stay-at-home track.  She went on, “I never expected to feel this way, but I just want to be home and raise my child.  Unfortunately, financially, we have made a life for ourselves on two incomes, but I’m going to find something that better suits my schedule–maybe part time or something.”  In this woman’s determination to adjust her life, I caught a glimpse of this moral force that Elder Christofferson spoke about.  She was going to pursue what she felt was right and important even at the expense of her partnership ambitions (“I don’t even want that life.  He’s there from 5:00am till 7:00 at night”) and dedicate herself to her family in a more sustainable way.  She’s willing to rock the boat in order to do what she feels is right.

Stay at home moms needn’t feel like their decision to stay home is the only true moral authority.  I know a lovely women who, in the face of cultural pressure to stay at home, felt that the needs of her family was best served by her continuing to work.  What a heartache to leave their kids with someone else so that she could go and work because she felt irrefutably that it was the right thing for their family at that time.  When her husband died of a rapidly-spreading cancer only a year after the diagnosis, she understood why the spirit had instructed her to continue her career.  Her moral courage and example of doing difficult things to provide for her family is tremendous.

Over and over, women take stock of their lives, decide what to needs to change, and then courageously act on it.

And we come by it honestly: Our first mother was just brimming with moral force.   There she was, happy in the garden of Eden–well, maybe not happy, but certainly she was well taken care of.  Everything she needed was there–food grew on its own everywhere.  She was always comfortable, never needed a stitch of clothes.  She could watch animals for entertainment, talk to Adam, and pick bunches of self-planting flowers.  At least, that’s what I would be doing.

Adam and Eve

But she wasn’t moving forward.  And she wasn’t exactly necessary.  Nothing depended upon her, not even her own survival.  She was stuck in paradise with no end in sight.  She didn’t feel much at all–no joy because she had no sadness to compare it to.  She might as well have been a rock or a panda lying in the sun just waiting for time to pass.  But she wasn’t a rock!  She had the freedom to choose and to act.  So she did.  And she ate that fruit and didn’t look back.  And life has certainly become more interesting.

As I think about this moral force in these terms–doing something that challenges us because we feel like it is right–it is important to remember that the courage to act must be founded on inspiration from God.  “Sisters, of all your associations, it is your relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who is the source of your moral power, that you must always put first in your life. Remember that Jesus’s power came through His single-minded devotion to the will of the Father. He never varied from that which pleased His Father. Strive to be that kind of disciple of the Father and the Son, and your influence will never fade.”

Women, let us continue to act, press forward and make some waves with our selflessness and goodness.  The world needs our voices and light.  Other women around us need to see that it is okay to be courageous, pure and kind.

“The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” – Margaret Nadauld

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8 responses to “The Moral Force of Women

  1. I love this ideal “to be courageous, pure and kind.” Often, I feel that as we speak out and speak up for our beliefs in courage, others translate that as aggressive. Do others find it a challenge to assert that moral force and still retain the appearance of kindness? How do you balance the passion and compassion?

    • Teresa, that is such a great point. We translate not making waves into kindness and even-temperedness (is that even a word?). But I have realized that if you aren’t making someone upset, you aren’t taking a stand. It goes in any direction. People who don’t believe like I do make me mad sometimes, and so they are taking a stand. I think we ought to be willing to take a strong stance about things that are important for us, and for our families and society at large. But that doesn’t mean we should impose our beliefs on others–we just need to explain them clearly, firmly and with a smile on our face. Let people know that we have good sound reasons for our opinions.

  2. Go go go Jan. I love that you used the talk to SEE other women who are doing what is right they inspiration. Lovely.

  3. I love this description of moral courage. I also love your point that our knowledge of what to do depends on us having a strong relationship with God. Beautiful! Thank you.

  4. I really struggled with his talk. I felt patronized. But reading the transcript, Neylan McBaine’s thoughts on it, and your insight on it has really helped…I feel like this talk is actually quite progressive because it can be interpreted in a variety of ways (even though some interpretations I have heard are quite unfavorable to me). But thank you for pointing out the progress to me, because I can see how the Spirit can reach me through his talk. Can we start talking about the moral force of men, independent of holding the priesthood? I think that would also be progress. I feel like men’s “moral force” in the Church is inseparably connected to their authority, and I think it should be separated.

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