The post takes issue with an article called, "The Fork in the Road: Graduate School or Motherhood?" in a BYU publication for women. Now, I'm not a BYU fan, and when I say that I don't mean that I don't follow BYU sports, I mean that I think that BYU -specifically their honor code- does some things that are fostering doctrinally unsound attitudes in their students, and then it exports those doctrinally unsound ideas to the rest of the US, and very likely the world, when the graduates leave. I actually think that these unsound ideas contribute significantly to the stereotypically unpleasant "Utah Mormon" that you hear about from time to time. So I'm cool with taking aim at BYU. However, in this case, I don't think it's just.
Here's the issue the blogger has with Fork in the Road:
Now, I don't see it. Sure, the reasons explicitly stated leave out the "individual path" option, but I think that if you read the article closely, the most likely reason why the author chose graduate school was either (a) she also had a struggle with infertility going on that she chose not to share with the reader, or (b) it was her... carefully chosen individual path. After reading and re-reading the article, I actually suspect the latter. So far, there's really not much to write about here. But the blogger continues:
The author points out that “decisions to pursue education, career, and family are very personal to each woman,” and that it’s important not to judge women for pursuing a career. She then lists reasons why women might want to pursue a career: a family may not be able to live on one income, a woman may become a single mother, or a husband may lose his ability to work.
What about the woman who pursues a career because that is her “individual path” that she has carefully chosen?
And this, I will address, because I am an advocate of careers as Plan B. But not because I have any desire to force people into "bounds" that I set. I advocate it because I believe being an at-home mom is the thing most likely to make the largest number of women happy. And that belief grows out of my understanding of the doctrines of the religion that I share with this blogger.
likelove to see more support for women who are completing graduate programs and pursuing careers, not just as a plan B. Pretending that the only possible reason a woman would want a career is as a backup is dangerous because it alienates those who are pursuing a career for other reasons. Doing so implies that such women are selfish and perpetuates a culture that tells women, “be whatever you want to be, as long as it fits within the bounds of what I think you should be.”
So. What is the doctrine on the matter? There's two topics here: education, and Mothering.
Mothering first. What is the doctrine of the Church on Mothering? I blogged about it some a few weeks ago. I'll give you a hint: Mothering isn't about the goo that's sometimes on my shirt, any more than my husband's work with cancer treatment equipment is about the grease that is sometimes on his hands. For some reason, this seems to be harder to see with the decision to be a SAHM than it is with other lines of work. But Mothering isn't about the mess or the housework. You have to look deeper than that to see the essence of Motherhood. President Grant had to say this about it, in a First Presidency Message, in Conference:
The Lord has told us that it is the duty of every husband and wife to obey the command given to Adam to multiply and replenish the earth... Thus every husband and wife should become a father and mother in Israel to children born under the holy, eternal covenant.
By bringing these choice spirits to earth, each father and each mother assume towards the tabernacled spirit and towards the Lord Himself by having taken advantage of the opportunity He offered, an obligation of the most sacred kind, because the fate of that spirit in the eternities to come, the blessing or punishments which shall await it in the hereafter, depend, in great part, upon the care, the teachings, the training which the parents shall give to that spirit.
No parent can escape that obligation and that responsibility, and for the proper meeting thereof, the Lord will hold us to a strict accountability. No loftier duty than this can be assumed by mortals.
Motherhood thus becomes a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord's plans, a consecration of devotion to the uprearing and fostering, the nurturing in body, mind, and spirit, of those who kept their first estate and who come to this earth for their second estate "to see fi they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them (Abr. 3:25)." To lead them to keep their second estate is the work of motherhood and "they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abr. 3:26)."
This divine service of motherhood can be rendered only by mothers. It may not be passed to others. Nurses cannot do it; public nurseries cannot do it; hired help cannot do it - only mother, aided as much as may be by the loving hand of father, brothers, and sisters, can give the full needed measure of watchful care.
The mother that entrusts her child to the care of others, that she may do non-motherly work, whether for gold, for fame, or for civic service, should remember that "a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame (Prov. 29:15). In our day the Lord has said that unless parents teach their children the doctrines of the Church "the sin be upon the heads of the parents (D&C 68:25)."
Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels. To you mothers in Israel we say God bless and protect you, and give you the strength and courage, the faith and knowledge, the holy love and consecration to duty, that shall enable you to fill to the fullest measure the sacred calling which is yours. To you mothers and mothers-to-be we say: Be chaste, keep pure, live righteously, that your posterity to the last generation may call you blessed.
-President Heber J. Grant, Message of the First Presidency, General Conference, Oct. 1942 (Emphasis added.)
So, the first and most important reason that I encourage women to be an at-home Mom is because it's really really important. I believe that it really is the highest, holiest service women can do. It's not a crumpled second, left over after men got the good careers; it's the best, most significant thing that a woman can do. We get to partner with God in His work.
His Work is grand and marvelous, and almost beyond the comprehension of man, He allows parents, and especially mothers to play a critical role! One that the Prophets have repeatedly warned cannot be delegated. They have warned that to do it correctly, Mom needs to be home. And not just when the kids are babies. Mom needs to be home. Children need their mother - and women need what the process of Mothering will do for and to them.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. -Moses 1:39
Two years after he became the prophet, Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk entitled, "To the Mothers in Zion" which emphasized the eternal significance of Mothering. There is a lot of good stuff in this talk, including the following:
Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with our Father in heaven. Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, "We'll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we've obtained a few of the material conveniences," and on and on.
This is the reasoning of the world and is not pleasing in the sight of God. Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early. And, husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing children.
Do not curtail the number of your children for personal or selfish reasons. Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity. In the eternal perspective, children--not possessions, not position, not prestige--are our greatest jewels.
Brigham Young emphasized: "There are multitudes of pure and holy spirits waiting to take tabernacles, now what is our duty?--To prepare tabernacles for them; to take a course that will not tend to drive those spirits into the families of the wicked, where they will be trained in wickedness, debauchery, and every species of crime. It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197). Yes, blessed is the husband and wife who have a family of children. The deepest joys and blessings in life are associated with family, parenthood, and sacrifice. To have those sweet spirits come into the home is worth practically any sacrifice.
President Benson goes on to acknowledge the struggles of those who wish for children, but cannot have them, and then he says this:
The Lord clearly defined the roles of mothers and fathers in providing for and rearing a righteous posterity. In the beginning, Adam--not Eve--was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother's calling is in the home, not in the market place. Again, in the Doctrine and Covenants, we read: "Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken" (D&C 83:2). This is the divine right of a wife and mother. She cares for and nourishes her children at home. Her husband earns the living for the family, which makes this nourishing possible. With that claim on their husbands for their financial support, the counsel of the Church has always been for mothers to spend their full time in the home in rearing and caring for their children.(Emphasis added.)
While it is the norm for girls to be encouraged to select a career, and even within the Church I have heard girls encouraged to look for their life's work outside the home, this is clearly not in step with either the scriptures or the teachings of the modern prophets. I think, too, that it is telling, the way that women talk about their lives. When you ask a woman who stays home what she does, she'll usually tell you some variant on, "I'm a stay-at-home Mom," but if you talk to women who work outside the home, even part time, they will usually tell you, "I am a nurse." "I am a teacher." "I do payroll and taxes part time for Bob's Heating." "I work a few hours a week at the craft store." It is very unusual for a working woman to mention that she is a mom when you ask what she does. The role of mother, though it is undoubtedly the more significant, gets very little consideration.
Whenever possible, the challenges and joys of full-time Mothering should be Plan A. Being a city planner or a therapist or an engineer can never hope to compare. To many listen to the feminists and other voices that encourage us to exchange our birthright for a lousy mess of pottage. Too many recoil at the foolishness of Esau's decision, and yet do the very same thing. A career is, and should be, Plan B. Mothering is the work of salvation; no career can hold a candle to that. Pretending otherwise is dangerous because it endangers souls. It pretends that following the prophet and not following the prophet are equally valid choices, and that is certainly not the case.
Which is definitely not to say don't be educated, but that's a post for another day.
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