Despite what some consider progress for women today, there can be an argument that the opposite has actually happened. Fond memories of good cooking, a clean house, and a person to rely on in difficult times have been replaced or forgotten. In many instances the whole idea of a women staying home to raise a family is abhorrent and troglodyte. At the same time a single parent mother who is forced to work is considered more of a saint than those who have a husband to look after financial needs. The concept of choice doesn’t really have meaning other than as a weapon of choice for social experimenters.
What has replaced long standing, although not always historically accurate, roles for women is the modern Amazonian lust for worldly power and prestige. Society has slowly made women into men while at times trying to displace them. Not only are they encouraged to have a career, but to be as free with their bodies as the natural person desires. There was a push back at the start of the feminist movement against the latter, but it was quickly abandoned by Sex and the City attitudes. Women can have it all; reject the consequences for themselves and society.
All of this isn’t to say that men and women are not to be seen as equals in life. Eve was, after all, symbolically taken out Adam’s rib to stand by his side, and not the foot or the head. He later in Genesis 2:23 proclaimed that Eve, “is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” No member of the Church or society is without some importance as 1 Corinthians 12 teaches, unless like Mark 9:43–47 there is a serious offense that must be dealt with. What must be acknowledged is that a women is not a man or the converse.
This is backed up by the Scriptures almost from the start. Going back to the expulsion, Adam and Satan were in some ways given similar curses related to the land. Eve’s curse had to do with what can be described in Genesis 3:16 as creation itself; the formation of the next generation:
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
There is also a blessing in disguise for the sorrow child bearing and rearing brings. The very curse that brings posterity also will destroy, as Genesis 3:15 reports, the power of Satan. Her seed, “shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” He will cause pain and suffering, but ultimately Eve’s children with Jesus Christ will have victory. Destroy the ideal of having and raising children then Satan has gained a victory of his own.
Mothers are a blessing. They cannot easily be rejected as important without losing something of the bedrock of a great society. They are the makers of this world. Elder Uchtdorf touched on this when he said:
If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.
Pushing women to think of motherhood as secondary to work and education is an abdication of responsibility. How many when in distress call out to God first and mother second? Men might keep the house in order, but women keep the house together. In her now classic talk “Mothers Who Know,” Relief Society President Julie B. Beck said:
When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children . . .
Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are “becoming less valued,” in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children . . .
Mothers who know honor sacred ordinances and covenants . . . These mothers know they are going to sacrament meeting, where covenants are renewed. These mothers have made and honor temple covenants. They know that if they are not pointing their children to the temple, they are not pointing them toward desired eternal goals. These mothers have influence and power . . .
Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes . . .
Mothers who know are leaders. In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization. These mothers plan for the future of their organization. They plan for missions, temple marriages, and education. They plan for prayer, scripture study, and family home evening . . .
Mothers who know are always teachers. Since they are not babysitters, they are never off duty. A well-taught friend told me that he did not learn anything at church that he had not already learned at home . . .
Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying . . .
It is not without substance that Sister Beck points first to the example of the Mothers of the 2000 Stripling Warriors. Their faith in battle won both victory and lives. All of this in Alma 56:47–48 was attributed to what the mothers taught them at home. Helaman relates that, “Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” He goes on to say, “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” What a remarkable tribute, but this is not the only one in the Scriptures.
In Proverbs 31:10–30, a woman and mother is praised for her virtues and home influence. In some ways it mirrors Sister Beck in glorifying the domestic life reaching beyond the walls of the home. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies,” it says. The results of her labors are, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” It should be a high honor to be called mother.
What of women who can’t become or are no longer mothers or wives? what role do they have? All the virtues associated with the home and raising children can be used for other endeavors. The main virtue is charity. Men should have the same, but woman have the responsibility to use it more abundantly. There is even an organization formed by Prophet Joseph Smith called the Relief Society set aside for this very purpose. He stated in the first meeting:
“the Society of Sisters might provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor— searching after objects of charity, and in administering to their wants — to assist; by correcting the morals and strengthening the virtues of the female community, and save the Elders the trouble of rebuking; that they may give their time to other duties &c. in their public teaching.”
The Relief Society is an official group under the direction of the Priesthood with women leaders made for women to reach out beyond themselves and the home. If everyone is a child of God, then women should seek to take care of the world. Probably the greatest example outside Mormonism is Mother Teresa who because of her own faith was never a biological mother. Yet, she looked after the hungry, the disadvantaged, the desperate, the poor, and those who were in the worst situations.
Women should seek after the needy and destitute like Jesus instead of for more money, more education degrees, more power and position, more praise of the world. Any single Sister can do this without marriage or children. Men, of course, should do what they can to facilitate and help any charitable contributions. Emma Smith as the first Relief Society President said its purpose was, “to seek out and relieve the distressed— that each member should be ambitious to do good— that the members should deal frankly with each other,” along with improving the morality of the community.
Despite the Priesthood and leadership roles conferred on men, there is still a lot of power allowed women. Many ancient and modern women were given the title Prophetess, with Miriam the sister of Aaron first mentioned by that designation. Eliza R. Snow has often been described as one in more recent times. Joseph Smith stated that a prophet is anyone who has the testimony of Jesus Christ and in that way women can be just as inspired as any man. Priesthood leaders should reach out to the sisters for their input and talents. As the LDS Handbook of Instructions 2 explains: “The bishop seeks input from Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary leaders in all matters considered by the ward council. The viewpoint of women is sometimes different from that of men, and it adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to members’ needs.”
Faith is an essential principle in any spiritual life. Women have as much power with it as any Priesthood holder. Joseph Smith stated that the Priesthood was authority and order culminating in the Temple, but “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongue, and let everything roll on.” He went on to say, “if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, then in wetting the face with water.” Any believer is capable of miracles and great good.
But, there is a warning. Joseph Smith also taught that women are not supposed to preside over men and asked where in the word of God they ever founded a Church? He then quoted Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11–12 that he wouldn’t let a women “to rule, or to usurp authority in the Church.” The list Joseph Smith made of false churches in his own day was heavy on women taking the lead.
The last thought comes full circle back to the start. Women’s first role and duty is to have and raise children. The home life might be put down in modern society, but those who believe should know better. The family is the foundation of society and women caretakers of the next generation.