The topic continues to come up what is the roles of men and women in the Church. It is a subject that many feel passionately about one way or another. Since the family is the basic unit then discussion should start there. Generally both genders are commanded to get married and have children as shared responsibilities. It is the first role of any Church member to form and participate in a family structure.
Some years ago President Monson talked about the rights and responsibilities of the Priesthood. He listed concerns he had that men were not living up to the full stewardship of their callings. Among the problems he saw was a reluctance to do the most important duty of our mortality; to get married. He acknowledged marriage wasn’t always an easy choice, but they still needed to seek a companion:
“Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage . . .
Perhaps you are having a little too much fun being single, taking extravagant vacations, buying expensive cars and toys, and just generally enjoying the carefree life with your friends. I’ve encountered groups of you running around together, and I admit that I’ve wondered why you aren’t out with the young ladies.
Brethren, there is a point at which it’s time to think seriously about marriage and to seek a companion with whom you want to spend eternity. If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness.”
The institution of marriage is more than finding a friend or gratifying physical desires that are natural to life. It is a commandment of God. Salvation to the highest degree of Glory depends on two committed people coming together and forming a bond. This is not just any bond, but a relationship between a man and a woman greater than mere acquaintance. It is of eternal significance and therefore must be carefully sought and cultivated.
In the Garden of Eden man was first left alone. Looking down on this human creation, God saw how lonely and incomplete the figure would be.. We learn in Gen. 2:21-24 that He responded to this situation by making a second half of the human family:
“21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
When the time comes that children are to leave the home, one of the first responsibilities is to find a wife. It is true that a mission to preach the gospel is the first priority. After that comes dating and getting to know the many good and righteous women who might some day become a worthy companion. No amount of play, work, or school is to get in the way of reaching the goal of marriage.
Some argue that Mormons are too eager to get married and do so too early in life. True as that might be, it is the Lord that sets the standards. The Scriptures record no rule when and under what circumstances would be the best time. They are clear that marriage is of eternal significance no matter if done at a young or an older age. Like any choice we make, it is in consultation with the Holy Ghost that our decisions of who and when should be dependent.
President Monson mentions in the quote above that men are not asking women to marry. He in turn quotes former President Hinkley that men proposing marriage is the custom and therefore they get condemnation for holding back. Despite the God given roles of each gender, perhaps this is one case when the roles can be reversed. To be perfectly honest, men can sometimes be thick headed or just unsure of themselves. A nudge in the right direction from the girls might be necessary. Of course this shouldn’t become a push because that might end up sending the relationship over the edge. If the cultural responsibility of men is asking, then women’s could be to talk about a possible future together. In a world of group dating, women might have to get out of the social box and request a couples only get together. The point is to cultivate a culture of marriage.
The world argues that marriage should be postponed for long as possible, perhaps to acquire an education and money. Many might even go so far as to say that marriage itself is questionable. The Lord, on the other hand, is clear that is unacceptable and in D&C 49:15 warns, “verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.” Another place in 1 Tim. 4:3 is the same warning that marriage should not be forbidden along with meats.
Married couples are then commended to have children. Yet again, modern society demands this be curtailed either by time or the numbers born. Having more than one or two kids is seen as rude and strange at best, disruptive of the planet’s ecosystem or economy at worst. In contrast, Gen. 1:28 states God blessed Adam and Eve and said, “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Striving to have the least number of children goes against what Isaiah 45:15 explains is the purpose of the Earth:
“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.”
Not every couple has the medical ability to have children. We should be aware of, kind to, and show charity toward those couples. Most of them would do anything righteous to raise them if blessed. They often feel alone and left out. The same can be said for single men and women. We cannot forget them in their difficulties. How to help them or what place they have in the Church is a large enough question on its own.
That said, it is the responsibility shared by both men and women to get married. Once together as one, these couples are commanded to have children no matter if boys or girls. The only thing that should be stopping these two commandments, if in our power, is adherence to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. There is no waiting. There is only guidance and revelation. Otherwise, the Lord wants both genders to take the creation of family seriously. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve stated:
“The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling—from which they will never be released—is to one another and then to their children.”