Fair Mormon Conf – Sharon Eubank: This is a Woman’s Church

Eubanks[Sharon Eubank is the Director of LDS Charities, and her board of directors includes the three men who make up the Presidning Bishopric and the women who make up the Relief Society Presidency. In this role she travels the world and interacts with world bodies such as the United Nations.]

Sharon wants to go on record from her own experience: the doctrine and practice of the Church have given her, as a woman, things that she cares more deeply about than anything else in her life.

Sharon has found her experience in the Cuhrch incredibly empowering. She’ll talk about the doctrine and the practices the doctrine has inspired.

The Doctrine of Intelligences. We’ve always existed and cannot be created or made. We chose to ally ourselves with God, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They made it possible for us to have a spiritual body and a mortal body, and Christ allows us to have a resurrected body.

[The rest of this is often in first person, as I was just having a great time trying to capture the substance of what Sister Eubank was saying.]

Let me call my intelligence my first self. No one has the combination of gifts and personality that I have.

We then are able to add additional stewardships and roles. Christ says, I am the self-existent one: I am.” And we declared that we, also, exist. Then as we take on roles, we define ourselves in relationship to others. So as a woman I have taken on attributes and responsibilities and bodily processes.

Sharon believes womanhood has roles related to binding, connecting, bridging, and gluing. From her own experience, being in an image of the divine feminine, this is what she feels responsible for. For example, there is the Roman goddess Hestia or Vesta, a virgin who has no family, yet she is responsible for all family reslationships, her symbol is the hearth fire, she connects all family relationships into family and community, she weaves all things together.

D&C 88:119 says, Organize yourselves, establish a house. I don’t think this is a literal house or even necessarily the temple. It is a generation of life, of community. I think women have that role to establish that house.

I have divine parents. I belong to their divine household. Nothing can separate me from communication with them. I have a right to communicate with them directly, without intermediary. I can ask and they promise I will receive. My hunger for knowledge they will fill.

I am a sister. I am under covenant to Christ to be filled with His spirit. I’ve made covenants to sacrifice and serve and lead, as Christ’s sister.

I have responsibility as a wife in my chosen path. I call the opportunity to be bound and sealed a divine pair. We have the chance to take our individual unity and bind it to another to become a unified, divine pair. I now have a responsibility to care for this divine pair, this unity of two. This divine pair has not only the ability, but the authorized right to be creators, to nurture life. This is incredibly powerful.

The last role I want to talk about today is being a mother. This is my relationship between myself and my progeny. Eve was so eager for this that she sacrificed paradise. For this, her desire, Adam called her the mother of all living. You are an inheritor of that, the title of mother, even when we are not yet married. The gospel gives me the inherent title of being a mother, even if I don’t attain that in this life. I can’t get that anywhere else.

There are corresponding roles for men. For women and men, these roles expand our identity and individuality is lasting beyond the grave, and is everything I want to take with me.

I am unique, one of a kind. I have the ability and responsibility to heal and bind and create a generation of order. I have the right to direct communication with my divine parents. I have the chance to bind myself to Christ to repent and improve and have Him bind my acts. And I can bind myself to another unique entity, and we together may bring forth others who are unique.

Think what it means if you understand and believe this. If I didn’t have this, I would be so poor.

There are many doctrines in the Church that have to do with how we use our body. I think of it as a war being waged with two fronts: one side says “I am free to do whatever I want to do with this body, and this is freedom.” The other side says so many don’t have control over their bodies, due to trafficking, abuse, and other restrictions. Both of these fronts disproportionately affect women. Both of these fronts devalue women and only last for this life.

I find it ironic that the world is attempting to instruct the poor, benighted LDS woman. I spoke at the United Nations, and people presume that our doctrines regarding women are conservative. But I find that our doctrine is the most moderate and enlightening and empowering doctrine that exists.

I will personally reject promiscuity as being a freedom. 4 Nephi 1:16 says “There were no envyings, nor any lasciviousness…” I asked myself, what would it be like if there were no whoredoms.

  • No teenage couples.
  • No warped lives from sexual abuse
  • No fear of rape or vioelnce
  • No sex trade
  • No affairs
  • Intact marriages
  • No divorce
  • No seedy, creepy neighborhoods
  • No porn that warps the relationship between young people and rots married relationships.
  • No generation raised by women without husbands.

All this energy and money would go to productivity. How is this not more empowering? How is this not more free?

The Book of Mormon peoples eliminated the vices that harm women during the time described by 4 Nephi. We also have the widows of the stripling warriors, and we have the city of Enoch. Our spiritual heritage figured out how to do this.

The world tells us this is not possible. The world says depravity is natural. But God says He expects these things.

David O McKay speaks of the effect on men when the women in their lives live with discipline and faith. “Who can measure such a covenant. It excludes from man’s life every form of vice. It obligates him to industry. He binds himself to respect his fellow men and consecrate his life to humanity.”

Lillian DeLong. She was assigned to Ghana. She was training about Relief Society. A woman was saying “This is a woman’s church,” with tears streaming down her face. Lillian asked, what do you mean? The woman replied, “We have been in the marvelous Relief Society that teaches us not just spiritual things, but temporal things to make our lives better, and the men are being taught that they are not to beat their wives. Seven of my eleven children are dead, but in the temple I can be sealed to them.”

The doctrine expects discipline. It does not tolerate pornography or oppression. Poor societies benefit from being taught leadership, persuasive discussion, influence, literacy, research, food preservation, it goes on and on. All these things come to us from being a part of the Church. A member of the Peace Corps said, “You are the Mormon Peace Corps.”

Unlike other religions that exalt an individual, our highest expression of holiness is the sealed pair.

Practice – many don’t agree that this is a Church for woman, because sometimes our practice doesn’t live up to our doctrine.

We need new language. There are no terms for the things I want to talk about. An elderly woman in Estonia was translating the Book of Mormon into Estonian behind the iron curtain. She was struggling, because the communists had stripped these words from the language, such as the word priesthood.

If you don’t have language, you can’t have an understanding of the role. For example, we don’t know how to describe a mission president’s wife, and the indespensible role she fills. We do know what to call a temple matron, which is a distinct role from temple president. But so much of our language fails to describe the feminine roles.

Valerie Hudson spoke of this. “The priesthood is the authority of our Heavenly Father. There is a corresponding authority of our Heavenly Mother. And together man and woman share the power of the combined Heavenly Father and Mother, Priesthood with a capital P.”

What is it that matriarchy contributes to that, along with patriarchy? We need to find language for that. Some will be from revelation. The apostles are trying to give us new language. In just the past year, Elder M. Russell Ballard said that, when endowed, men and women are given the priesthood. Elder Oaks spoke of how women are given priesthood authority. Elder Perry keeps talking about the co-presidency of men and women. Elder Faust says that every father is to his family a patriarch, and every mother a matriarch, as co-equals in their equal and distinct parental rolls. They are trying to give us that language.

We need imagination. Young women may be in danger of learning passive helplessness when young men are doing all the actions, such as setting up chairs and home teaching. I also think we need better and more visible role models of men and women working together, not just to ourselves but to the world. We ought to be more articulate and visible about that.

I think there are many things we could do. But can we please keep the big picture in mind? I am the director of LDS Charities. I was in a panel about the social costs of pornography, how early use of pornography creates an earlier onset of sexuality, four times more likely to hire a prostitute, more likely to lose a job, more likely to contract disease. Then I got a call because a call talking about the 800,000 Christians being purged from Iraq and Syria. Their homes are being taken by ISIS, and everything of value is being taken from them, all identity papers, their wedding rings, everything, and they are being told that if they return they will be executed. And when these Christians get to Kurdistan, they go to the churches. They have nothing to eat.

We have one missionary couple in Kurdistan, and they’re calling me asking what they should do. And those images you’ve been seeing, a house folded in half from the mudslide, that’s in my ward. There are so many things we have to worry about. The things that are of concern in the international Church are not the things individuals on the Wasatch Front are thinking about. I think, perhaps, we have the luxury of caring about things that are less important.

Is it really about pants and how much we contribute to the scouting program? Or is it about providing fellow Christians who have been forced from their homes. I hope we can take the higher road.

Faith is a choice. We choose whether we will stick with what we have already felt. There are not answers to everything. But let us keep what we already know in the meantime.
I believe the large foundational stones are in place. Tropic environments need steady trade winds, which change the cellular structure of the bark and the tree, which prepares these trees for hurricanes. The wind makes us stronger for the hurricanes that will come in life. We need to teach each other and our youth to be able to sway in the wind, to not be so rigid.

When Brigham Young got to the valley, Brigham knew nothing about the seasons or the insects, or other things. All had pled for him to go elsewhere, but Brigham reached the valley and said, “It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.” The right place doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. But it is enough. Let us roll up our sleeves and use our individual gifts and go to work.

Joseph Smith said “Brethren, you no more understand the destiny of this Church than a little baby on its mother’s lap.” Of course the Lord could just give it to us. I work in Welfare, and I know that we have to do the work ourselves or we won’t value it.

At the core of recent press is, “Should we be seeking more revelation, should we be asking more questions?” Sister Burton said, “See what we can figure out together. What would you do if you were the leader? But let us be patient and humble.” Why do we think that if God is smiling on one he is frowning on another? The source of this is not God, but the Father of all lies. God extends charity to both of his children, the male and the female. The Lord has a space and a role for every one of us.

As Director of LDS Charities, my board of directors are the three members of the Presiding Bishopric and the three members of the Relief Society presidency. There was a meeting where I was the only one who held a certain position. But they did not shut me down. They asked questions, and they did not make a decision that overruled me. We have the chance to learn this government, the government of God.

Before Joseph died, he took time to speak to the Relief Society and the School of the Prophets, quoting 1 Corinthians where the foot could not tell the hand it had no need of the other. The powers of the priesthood, he taught, must be used with gentleness, love, and meekness, and love unfeigned. He did not just say this to the women. He said it to both men and women. These things must be done through united and meekness and patience.
I believe there is a great hunger in the world. I see it when women observe the Church, and they want purpose, they want to meet men who want to be faithful and they want to build families.

When I was on my mission in Finland, I met a woman who said she was a dancer. She asked me about myself, and she started with disdain as I talked about the Word of Wisdom and not having sex until marriage. Then she said, if you were dating men who feel the same way as you, that would be possible. When I left her, she was wistful. In the ways we are different from the world, it will attract women, because it is good and what they want.

The thing you are hungry for his here, in this Church. The practices might not be perfect, but they are living and they are full of hope. As for whether this is a woman’s Church, I witness of my experience, that what you are hungry for, what you want most, is here in this Church. And my prayer is that we can live up to our doctrine, for if we do the angels will not be able to be restrained from being our companions.

Questions

Regarding help for the refugees from ISIS: The Church authorized $100,00 for oil, beans, bedding, and other basic necessities for the Christian refugees in Kurdistan. More will continued to be authorized as fast as we can, for money in a good transparent way with a responsible partner. We are also sending aid to Gaza.

What makes you OK with not holding the priesthood? I believe anyone who is endowed holds certain aspects of the priesthood.

Why don’t we hear the wives of the GAs speak? I think it would be great.

How can we modify the rhetoric we teach our youth about chastity? The Church is very interested in curriculum to address these things. The youth curriculum addresses this because it turns it over to the youth.

What about allowing YW to be visiting teachers? Whether we do this exact suggestion or something else, we need to improve the experiences the young women have that deepen their testimonies. We can be more imaginative.

I worry about the crumbling society in Africa – is there hope? I think Africa in some ways has more hope, because they are not as burdened by secularism. The real hope for Africa in a Church setting is what the members do – we can not impose our solutions, but Africa can develop what works for them. They are so concerned with family, extended family, orphans. I have seen African women bristle when individuals from the UN suggest they should have limited their children, they see their children as their heritage.

Are you as excited about thousands of young women serving missions as I am? Yes I am. My mission taught me how to articulate before people. If we can deepen people’s understanding of doctrine and help them learn to be articulate, it is fantastic.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

13 thoughts on “Fair Mormon Conf – Sharon Eubank: This is a Woman’s Church

  1. “The Doctrine of Intelligences. We’ve always existed and cannot be created or made. We chose to ally ourselves with God, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They made it possible for us to have a spiritual body and a mortal body, and Christ allows us to have a resurrected body” I got into a row with another blogger over whether our spirits have always existed. This concept of us “ally[ing'” ourselves with our Heavenly Parents doesn’t seem to be what the Gospel Principles manual says. I know, in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, he addresses this a bit. But, BH Roberts points out in footnotes that Joseph was referring to intelligence as opposed to our spirits themselves. Any thought about this topic?.

  2. According to my understanding, God called us forth from our isolation as pre-existent intelligences to take on spiritual form. I believe this is what Sister Eubank means by allying ourselves with God.

    Once we had taken on spiritual form, then there was the matter of the disagreement between Lucifer and God, as Lucifer thought his idea was superior to God’s plan. And so a second time we had an explicit choice about whether to ally ourselves with Lucifer, the self-proclaimed purveyor of a “better way,” or Christ, as God’s chosen savior.

    Those of us who got born chose Christ, and so all who are mortal chose a second time to ally themselves with God.

    Makes sense?

  3. Oh, and this gets to the purpose of those in the highest heaven, we will be calling forth pre-existent, eternal intelligences, to give them spiritual life, as we had been given life.

    In my view, the primary role of women in heaven is to nurture and raise up these individuals, to prepare them for their own future as mortals and eventually eternal beings.

  4. I’m okay with intelligences being ‘organized’ (whatever that may mean) into spirits. But this brother seemed to take the position that we’ve always been spirits, essentially on the same basis as God. I’m comfortable with our doctrine as laid out on the Gospel Principles manual. I don’t know that the church has a clear and definite position beyond the ideas reflected there. Ch. 2 says we were begotten and born of Heavenly Parents. That’s all I need to know at this point in time.

  5. Hi IDIAT,

    Yes, I think the blogger who tries to argue he has always been a spirit hasn’t actually read Mormon scriptures on the matter.

    And Kareen, when I talk about these things, it likely sounds like sci fi because I’m an engineer. So I state these things in language that makes you think of sci fi, which typically uses technical language.

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