(Caveat: Yes, I know that all women will not be mothers in this life. This doesn’t address that at all. Don’t be offended)
There is so much buzz right now about women and the priesthood. Our Stake Conference led out with a talk on Women and the Priesthood, apparently hoping to resolve some of those concerns. But here is the thing: Women don’t need more talks about how they fit in with the power of the Priesthood. We get tons of those, it is a clear relationship. My opinion is that women want to hold the priesthood simply because they don’t understand the grand, weighty and essential part that has been reserved exclusively for them in the Plan of Salvation. We need more sacrament meeting talks about the role of women (and not just on Mother’s Day) that leave the men twinging with jealousy for the great destiny and work of women, not pandering efforts at inclusion in the Priesthood, which we know is not our right.
I’ve recently discovered a parallel in the gospel that helps me understand how I, as a woman, contribute to this whole plan.
Women are partners in two relationships. We are directly partners with the Savior in bringing about the salvation of mankind. We are also partners with the priesthood in bringing about the exaltation of our families and friends. We are fully half of each partnership.
First, salvation, and it starts with blood. Christ’s blood is a powerful image.
It is used in religious art, in rituals and ordinances to remind us of that greatest sacrifice of Our God in our behalf. His pain was so great that He bled at every pore and was then flogged, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross and died–quite possibly from extreme loss of blood. And His death brought about eternal life. For men, blood is a strong symbol of His sacrifice. For women, blood is a regular visitor. Blood accompanies the cycle of childbearing and the promise of new life. We are so much about His work that He gave us a regular reminder of how our blood, like His, provides a way for life to come to this earth. First through us and our offering almost unto death; and then through Him and His offering–His death.
Because of the work of women, Heavenly Father’s spirit children who choose to come to earth will have a resurrected body. We have to sacrifice ourselves to get spirits here, so that Christ’s sacrifice can be used. He cannot fulfill His role as the Savior if we do not fulfill our roles as mothers. And that is the whole partnership. As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. Everyone who has been born on this earth will be resurrected. That involves exactly two parties. Maybe our children will turn out not like we expected. Maybe horrible, violent criminals, maybe dictators of small starving nations. But when they finally get called up for resurrection, they will have two people to thank for their immortal body: The mother that gave them their mortal body, and Christ who gave them their eternal one.
The next part of this parallel involves what Christ did with his time on earth. Christ spent his life quietly going about, doing good. He spent his time “teaching, preaching and healing”. He didn’t seek honor or recognition for His work–in fact often he requested the person healed or taught to not say that he had done it. He was in the background, washing feet, slipping in through back entrances to raise the dead. Of course He wasn’t a shadow, doing things “in a corner”, He was confident and sure of His purpose–and that self-confidence allowed Him to do what He needed to do altruistically without waiting for praise or reciprocation.
Women’s lives follow this example. We are usually fine to stay up all night with the baby, make the home pleasant to live in, clean piles and miles of laundry, shop for groceries, cook those groceries, and then clean up after the cooking. All rather behind the scenes and quietly. Yes, it is draining and all-consuming and even mind-numbing sometimes, but with confidence in the outcomes and purpose of what we are building, we carry on with a full heart.
I see and feel around me the influence of the wrong older brother. The one who would go about doing good only if there was plenty of money in it, or a sense of self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction. The one who would get really bored with all of those gross sick people and want to spend time in the nicest homes and with the nicest looking people. The one who encourages us only do good if we can then post it on Facebook and wait for the validations to come streaming into our inbox. The one who said “Give me thy glory and thy honor”.
We must not let the world cure women of becoming too Christ-like.
Another parallel is that Christ is presided over by His Father, yet they are one. Christ seeks to glorify His Father, and the Father gives glory to His Son.
When Heavenly Father announces “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Christ does not cut him off and insist that he is fully capable of introducing himself. We know that Christ is magnificent and glorious, and He can be the Alpha and Omega and still be presided over by His righteous Father. And so can we. It doesn’t diminish our position any more than it diminishes His. We are declaring our participation in a fully-functional presidency when we become sealed to our husbands.
The marriage relationship is the basis of the next partnership. We are partners in the work of Exaltation as well. In the temple, women covenant to follow “the Law of the Lord” (who is Christ) while the men covenant to follow “the Law of Elohim” (who is the Father). We don’t need two Elohims in the presidency; the Godhead would fall apart without the Savior. And in our homes there should be a President and a Counselor and the influence of the Spirit all working as one. As ONE. And while Christ and women get people resurrected, the Priesthood and women get people back to God. The Priesthood ordinances and covenants are the way to the Celestial Kingdom. They are vital. And so are living up to those covenants every day–which is where women play a key role.
We are so important that if we don’t do our job then God has to flood the earth and start over. God told Enoch that all He asked of the people in the days of Noah was to 1) keep his commandment to love one another and 2) choose Him to be their Father; “But behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood” (Moses 7:33).
Who teaches people to love one another and to serve the Lord? Mostly women. From the time that a child is young, moms, primary teachers, neighbors and aunts are constantly teaching, modeling, correcting and encouraging. Children learn to be kind and they learn to love the Lord. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17)–it isn’t something that happens automatically, and moms almost exclusively have the ears of their children in the most formative years of life. When women stop the job of mothering (even if they have still borne the children), society unravels at an alarming rate. It only takes two or three generations, max (because the grandmothers can still instill the values into the second generation, when the mothers will not). After that, there are no examples left to follow and society is left to fend for itself “without affection and hating their own blood”.
Women need to embrace the essential role of both bearing children and raising them. It’s a lifetime job but if we don’t do it, no one else will. No one else can! If you don’t take time to look at your child each day and be completely over the moon for them and the special shape of their nose, the way they pronounce their “L” sounds and their bright eyes, no one else in their whole lives will do it. That is the power of a Mother. They give every human on the earth the sense of being profoundly loved and needed. And that sense of worthiness and belonging makes it easier to understand why Christ would suffer and die for us. It makes it easier for us to accept His offering on our behalf, because we already feel that we are special. Our moms thought we were, so Christ must think so too.
Women, we don’t need to hold the Priesthood. We need to own and give dignity to our essential part of the plan. We need to remember that only we can bring spirits onto this earth– indeed, as Valerie Hudson Cassler pointed out in the Two Trees talk (read it, if you haven’t already), even Eve had to give the gift of mortality to Adam. Women bring each soul on to earth, one by one. And then they raise them to follow God and keep His commandments. And they do such a good job at it that their children want to do the same thing and bring more spirits to earth.
Perhaps one way to begin incorporating this into our services and our collective consciousness in Church is to formally invite the mother to come and share her thoughts after her baby is blessed. Only and especially the mother.
A birth is one of the most singularly beautiful, spiritual and important events in a woman’s life. This is our ordinance. And the father gets to be the one showing the baby to the congregation after the blessing. Mothers need to be recognized, legitimized, and heard in these plan-fulfilling moments. Sure, some women are nervous and don’t like speaking in public. So are some missionaries, but we still expect them to do it because it is an important priesthood event. Mothers could also be invited to share their insights after a child is baptized, or goes on a mission. These are the culminating moments of a life’s work! The more we can let women talk about being women and mothers, the higher the regard all around for the work they do. The higher the regard for women being women, the less they will seek after holding the Priesthood.
There have been long stretches of time when the Priesthood has been removed from the earth, but never once has God suspended the duty of women to be mothers. We provide the plan’s momentum.
Without us, everything stops.