I have quite a few Mormon Feminist friends. They like to point out that Priesthood ≠ Motherhood. And I? Well, I actually agree! I think they were right to point out that the appropriate parallel to Motherhood is Fatherhood. But what exactly is the appropriate parallel to the Priesthood then? Over what gift/power of God to bless His children, has God given women a special stewardship? My answer to this question came in this general conference. The appropriate parallel to the Priesthood is Procreation.
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught in his talk, This is My Work and Glory:
- "In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family." (emphasis added)
If procreation is the gift of God, given to women to have stewardship over, but is shared by both husband and wife, it follows that virtue is women's special power. The more I ponder, the more it makes sense. Sister Dalton, gave a talk in General Conference and in the Young Women General meeting where she said these two things:
- "Virtue is the strength and power of daughters of God." - We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father by: Sister Elaine S. Dalton
- Cherish virtue. Your personal purity is one of your greatest sources of power. . . Your body is a temple. Why? Because it has the capacity to house not only your eternal spirit but also the eternal spirits of others who will come to the earth as part of your eternal family. . . Your role is an exalted role. God has given you a sacred trust!" Be Not Moved! by: Sister Elaine S. Dalton
These quotes rang so true when I heard them. I have pondered on a scripture in the Book of Mormon for several years now. In Jacob 2:28, it says, "For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. . ." Of course God delights in the chastity of men, but why did he specifically mention women in this verse? That is something that has come back to my mind from time to time, and it is beginning to become clearer to my mind, especially with these recent conference talks. It is because that is our special power and stewardship to bless God's children.
When we make immoral choices that violate that sacred trust God has given us, we lose our power. Sometimes, that ability to bear children is lost quite literally, when you consider that STD's have contributed to a 500%increase in infertility in women. But women lose power when they willingly give up their virtue in other ways - and we see this as men become less interested in marriage, less driven, less committed - as women on the whole choose promiscuity through reckless uncommitted sex and the allowing improper objectifying of their bodies through pornography and materialism. Who really loses? Women certainly do. Ultimately though, we all do.
Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing and raising children, just as many worthy men are not given certain responsibilities within the priesthood. However, if they are virtuous, they keep that same power and the promise of ultimately receiving that responsibility and blessing in eternity. Consider this quote from President Packer about men's priesthood responsibilities and see if you can't also make the same parallels I am making:
- "The priesthood is not divisible. An elder holds as much priesthood as an Apostle. (See D&C 20:38.) When a man receives the priesthood, he receives all of it. However, there are offices within the priesthood—divisions of authority and responsibility. One may exercise his priesthood according to the rights of the office to which he is ordained or set apart." What Every Elder Should Know - And Every Sister as Well - A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government by: President Boyd K. Packer
Every righteous women can hold and use the power of virtue and use it to bless the lives of God's children, regardless of what specific responsibilities she has in mortality, just as all righteous men can hold and use the power of the Priesthood to bless the lives of God's children, regardless of what specific responsibilities he has in mortality. There are special gifts, rights, and authority given to individuals to fulfill their unique responsibilities - but the power is complete. Eternally, we know that any difficulties in fulfilling all responsibilities as the they relate to the fallen nature of our bodies, will be perfected with our resurrection and our obedience to God's laws.
I have found several quotes from General Authorities that comment on the innate and special spirituality of women. This seems to dennote what I was saying above - that righteous women wield that power of virtue to bless themselves and other, regardless of their unique responsibilities where motherhood and marriage are concerned. Here is just one of them:
- "Surely the secret citadel of women’s inner strength is their spirituality. In this they equal and even surpass men, as they do in faith, morality, and commitment when truly converted to the gospel. They have 'more trust in the Lord [and] more hope in his word' (“More Holiness Give Me,” Hymns, 1985, no. 131). This inner spiritual sense seems to give them a certain resilience to cope with sorrow, trouble, and uncertainty." The Highest Place of Honor by: President James E. Faust
Undoubtedly, many will have trouble with my suggestion that the power of women is so tied up with our physical bodies, but we should not be so concerned about that because we know no blessing will be withheld from us if we are obedient to God's laws. In a very literal sense, this instruction from Isaiah applies to both men and women when you ponder on their unique gifts of God to bless his children:
- Isaiah 52:11 "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
Men are vessels of the Priesthood power, and women are the vessels of wombs which give bodies and life to God's children. Additional interesting and enlightening to note - both men and women have powers and roles which primarily include both a spiritual and physical element. These great powers and roles are not wielded alone, but in partnership with our spouse.
My friend Caity Cummings made this awesome chart illustrating this concept, and I share it with all of you with her permission:
Here are some of the quotes/blog posts I have found that I think back up the validity of this presentation of ideas:
- "This is the great, irreplaceable work of women. Life cannot go on if women cease to bear children. Mortal life is a privilege and a necessary step in eternal progression. Mother Eve understood that. You must also understand it." Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters by: Spencer W. Kimball
- "Adam held the priesthood. Eve served in matriarchal partnership with the patriarchal priesthood. So today, each wife may join with her husband as a partner unified in purpose. Scriptures state clearly, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). “They twain shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:8; D&C 49:16). Marvelously, it takes a man and a woman to make a man or a woman. Without union of the sexes, neither can we exist, nor can we become perfect. Ordinary and imperfect people can build each other through their wholeness together. The complete contribution of one partner to the other is essential to exaltation." Lessons from Eve by: Russell M. Nelson
- "In the beginning, Adam was instructed to earn the bread by the sweat of his brow—not Eve. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother’s place is in the home!" The Honored Place of Women by: President Ezra Taft Benson
- "In the beginning, God placed a woman in a companion role with the priesthood. God said, “It was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him.” (Moses 3:18.) . . . Since the beginning, a woman’s first and most important role has been ushering into mortality spirit sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven. Since the beginning, her role has been to teach her children eternal gospel principles. She is to provide for her children a haven of security and love—regardless of how modest her circumstances might be." The Honored Place of Women by: President Ezra Taft Benson
- “By divine design, men and women are intended to progress together toward perfection and a fulness of glory. Because of their distinctive temperaments and capacities, males and females each bring to a marriage relationship unique perspectives and experiences. The man and the woman contribute differently but equally to a oneness and a unity that can be achieved in no other way” (“Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Liahona, June 2006, 51–52; Ensign, June 2006, 83–84).
- "Thus, priesthood is the power of God. Its ordinances and covenants are to bless men and women alike. By that power, the earth was created. Under the direction of the Father, Jehovah was the creator. As Michael, Adam did his part. He became the first man. But, in spite of the power and glory of creation to that point, the final link in the chain of creation was still missing. All the purposes of the world and all that was in the world would be brought to naught without woman—a keystone in the priesthood arch of creation." (Emphasis added) Lessons from Eve by: Russell M. Nelson
- "The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). The man and the woman are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless, and complete each other." We Believe in Being Chaste by: Elder David A. Bednar
- “Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.” President Gordon B. Hinckley
- "'Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind' (Messages of the First Presidency, 6:178). The priesthood cannot work out its destiny, nor can God’s purposes be fulfilled, without our helpmates. Mothers perform a labor the priesthood cannot do. For this supernal gift of life the priesthood should have love unbounded for the mothers of their children. Men should give them honor, gratitude, reverence, respect, and praise." The Highest Place of Honor by: President James E. Faust
- To be entrusted with the power to create life carries with it the greatest of joys and dangerous temptations. The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing. Through the righteous exercise of this power, as in nothing else, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy. This power is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness. It is the key—the very key. Cleaning the Inner Vessel by: Boyd K. Packer
- This series of blog posts by one of my favorite LDS bloggers, Bonnie.
- And obviously, this divinely inspired document on the family. :)
Virtuous women and righteous Priesthood holders - together in marriage - wield the greatest powers of God and bless the world, each other, and their posterity, forever.