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15 December 2013

Women in the Church

I got asked about women and the priesthood. Women, Mothering, feminism, priesthood... it's a huge topic, at least potentially.

The initial question was generated by a feminist's article. She saw that a number of her friends in "the cause" were calling for the Church to ordain women, and wondered if she ought to jump on the bandwagon, even though in 20 years of "committed feminism" this had never bothered her. 

Now, normally, I link to stuff that generates posts like this one. I'm not going to this time. I'm not linking because I think feminism is nasty, insidious stuff. It takes the actions of a relatively few men, and holds them up as examples of why ALL men are rotten. It devalues Mothering. It sends rotten messages to boys about not only the men in their lives, but also the men they will become. It teaches girls to look for offenses where they may or may not exist. It cripples relationships, and replaces unity with competition. And, in cases like this, where feminists "take on" the Church, it introduces seeds of doubt, and those seeds, when grown, bear bitter, destructive fruit. I'm not linking to that, but since I've been asked, I will share a few thoughts on women in the Church.

This has been a tough topic for me in the past. When I was 13 or 14 I remember really grilling one of my Sunday School teachers about it. "Why can't women have the priesthood?" I was a bit put off by that, at that time, and suspect I was somewhat belligerent. OK, knowing myself, I was probably more than a bit belligerent. I remember that I made him sweat a bit, which I regretted even then, but I also remember that I really, truly, wanted to understand. He told me that women get to be mothers, and I went away entirely unsatisfied. I didn't understand any more at the end than I did at the outset.

He was right.

The doctrine of Mothering is beautiful and profound. The privilege of Mothering is awe-inspiring. The experience of Mothering is like nothing else. Nothing else has challenged me, taught me, given me opportunity to serve, frustrated me, thrilled me, or made me grow like Mothering does. Nothing else even comes close. It's amazing stuff.

But the doctrine of it may just be one of the best-kept secrets in the Church. And that's what I was missing the day that my teacher told me, "Women get to be mothers."

It's knowing the importance of what I'm doing that keeps me going through the puke and the tantrums and the poop. It sustains me through the sleepless nights and the days when nothing goes right and I can't get "anything" accomplished. It puts the snot on my shirt in the proper perspective, so that I can see that it's not about the snot; it's not about the mess.

It's about salvation.

Think about the Plan. We'd come to earth, we'd get a body, we'd be tested, and have an opportunity to walk by faith. When given the choice between good and evil, we're here to prove to ourselves (because God knew from the beginning) that we really will choose the good.

So we have a family. We're born. We. Forget. Everything.

How terrifying is that? We come to take a test, and we're told up front that there's going to be a Veil of Forgetfulness that means that all the studying, or whatever it is you do to prepare goes away. Who agrees to that kind of thing? It sounds crazy! But not only did we agree, we shouted for joy! Why did we do that?

We knew we would have a Mother. Our own personal angel, guide, teacher, mentor, and care-giver, and her primary role -the main thing she's supposed to do- would be to nurture and to teach, so that all that important stuff that babies forget when they arrive as little bundles of cuteness and joy could be re-learned as quickly as possible. (Dads are awesome too, and I know that, but this post is about Mothering.)

Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
-The Proclamation on the Family

That's "it." Mothers nurture children. That's their main thing. You can say it in so few words, yet it will take a lifetime to really figure out how to do it, to know what it all means.

Sure, superficially, it's a messy job, and sometimes leaves you coated in grime its best not to consider too closely. But that's not what it's about. My husband sometimes comes home with grease smears on his shirts, or scraped up knuckles. But nobody thinks that's what his job is about; he works on radiation equipment for cancer centers. The mess is incidental. Mothering is about the Message.

For unto us a child is born
Unto us a son is given
and the government
Shall be upon His shoulder;

and his name shall be called
Wonderful, councilor
the Mighty God,

the Everlasting Father
the Prince of Peace
-The Messiah

But Mom can't do it if she's not there. And there's so many voices saying to her that she doesn't need to be there. So terribly many things saying to women, "Never mind that home and family stuff. It's beneath you." Or sometimes it's something more along the lines of, "You need that new _________. You're going to have to get a job." It's a lie. It's all lies. Our children need us. Your children need you. My children need me. And we can't swap places and expect it to work.

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.
-Heber J. Grant, October Conference 1942

The Lord, in His wisdom, sends us the children we need - and the ones that need us. He sends us souls that will blossom in the strengths that we have to offer, and that are able to weather our weaknesses. He sends us the children that can teach the things we need to learn, and that need to learn what we can teach. He sent my children to me, and He sent your children to you, and that was not an accident.

"It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters.
Ezra Taft Benson, October Conference 1981

You know how you always hear that it's the teacher that learns the most? Mothering is teaching. You teach them to walk and talk, to tie shoes and ride bikes. You teach them to work and play and to feed the dog and be nice to people -- and that's just the little stuff. Moms teach about God and the meaning of life, and the Gospel.

Mothering is about salvation.

There’s not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood and marriage. There is no superior career and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim that can exceed the ultimate rewards of family.
-- D. Todd Christofferson,  October Conference 2013

I've seen, time and time again, feminists try to convince women that something else, anything else, is more important than being at home. They're wrong. One summer I sat in my grandma's living room, and we talked about feminists. Grandma was born in 1927, and she was in her late 70s or 80s when we talked. She lived through some amazing history. She married my Grandpa in 1950, and they lived 38 years together. He died in 1988, and she went on another quarter century, looking forward to the reunion. She saw the rise of feminism first hand. This is what she told me:

Feminists should have stopped with the vote.

The more I think about it, the more profoundly right I think she was. All this "equality" stuff has lead women to trade something precious - partnership with God Himself - for a mess of pottage. A bit of alphabet soup after your name hardly compares. The personal development you might find in the workforce can't possibly hold a candle to what He would teach you in the walls of your own home.

Is it hard? Heck yeah! It's really hard! But, did you expect salvation to be easy? Do you even want it to be easy?

Good timber does not grow in ease.
The stronger wind, the tougher trees,
The farther sky, the greater length,
The more the storm, the more the strength,
By sun and cold, by rain and snows,
In tree or man, good timber grows.
Douglas Mallock

My Sunday School teacher told me: women get to be mothers. But it took twenty years and more for me to understand the majesty of what he was telling me. Mothering is amazing stuff. Fresh, pure souls, entrusted to my care. My job is to point them to Christ, to show them the way home. It's a hard job. The demands are constant. The rewards are amazing.

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!


Cellista said...

This was beautiful! I've never had a problem with not being able to hold the priesthood, but it's always good to be reminded about why motherhood is so wonderful and just what it is we're doing here. And I've had one of those days--you know the ones, where I really needed a reminder! Hopefully I can keep going tomorrow.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and all those great quotes too!)

Ritsumei said...

At the time, I somehow managed to be wise enough to just set the question aside, and keep an eye out for an answer, trusting that the Lord did have an answer. And, it did come. I'm so glad that the post helped you; this one took a couple months to write. It was so hard to put it into words. If you like these quotes, there are a bunch more. Check the top of the sidebar, there on the right. They'll be under "Mothering."


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