More thoughts on gender equality: Eternal Equality

Apr 21, 2012 by

(Technical note: I wrote this several years ago when I was using someone else’s computer on vacation and had computer trouble which prohibited me from doing references/links…and then it sat unfinished. I hope to add them sometime, but for now if you want to find the reference for any quote, use any phrase from the quote in a search on lds.org. I also hope sometime to update this post, but for now, I’ll share this as some food for thought. Even as I use quotes from lds.org, this post should not be viewed as officially stating the position of the Church, but rather expressing some of my thoughts and beliefs about equality, gender roles, and equal partnership and some of how they relate to God’s plan for His children.)

Preface:
I approach this topic with some trepidation because I know it’s a tender one for many. I want to say upfront that my intent is not to disregard such people. On the flip side, I believe that the doctrines discussed below can actually help us all understand better why things in the Church may appear to be unequal to some but really aren’t. There is divine purpose in the organization of the Church, in the gender roles as they are defined in the Proclamation and elsewhere, and in the differences that exist between men and women.

I want to also say that I realize that there is no exact cookie cutter that can represent “male” and “female” traits universally and unequivocally. In some ways, I have felt all my life that I don’t fit some “classic” female traits or roles (I was a tomboy as a youth; I have never been one to feel feminine in demeanor or style; homemaking or mothering skills in many senses don’t come naturally to me.) But I’m striving.

I believe the teachings below with all of my heart. Even as a person who sometimes feels like a bit of an exception to the rule naturally, I believe that I am here to develop certain traits, to focus on certain roles and responsibilities, and to be a partner to my husband in our family and a sister in the gospel working alongside other women in partnership with the men. The truths taught below give perspective on why this is our charge, and how following God’s plan and the order of His kingdom makes it possible for us to grow and develop in ways that can lead us to our heavenly home and goals.

I realize also that I am fortunate in that many of my family and church experiences have been positive with regard to a sense of equal partnership. Have they been perfect experiences? No. I believe this is all a process for all of us, and as such, sometimes people will let us down, will abuse position or power, or will act unilaterally instead of in a spirit of partnership. This has happened on occasion in my life, and it’s very, very difficult to deal with. This does not mean, however, that the organization or system that God has designed for families and the Church is wrong; it means that individuals still need to catch the vision of the true doctrine that can change their behavior (a la Pres. Packer’s oft-repeated quote). In my opinion, changing the system fundamentally (e.g., giving women priesthood, or eliminating different family roles and responsibilities, or whatever else people have discussed as options) won’t fix those problems. Only individuals embracing and living the doctrine as it should be can improve those situations where abuses happen.

If you are one in such a situation, my heart goes out to you. Cling to the promises that God has made that if *you* are faithful, no blessing will be withheld in the eternal scheme of things. That is no small promise. No matter what, know that even the trials you face in this imperfect world, with imperfect people trying to live the gospel, can be turned to your good. But my plea is not to reject the gospel because of the imperfections of people. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Know also that our leaders are aware of the fact that sometimes abuses happen. And still, they encourage us to cling to the truths of the gospel, not to try to change the way things are to prevent pain from people’s imperfections. Consider this from Elder Ballard:

In these latter days, we see people, increasing in number, who urge others to feel and voice dissent when frustration and hardship enter their lives. They would have us believe that the Church or its leaders are unfair to women, or that women are denied opportunities to realize their full potential within the gospel framework. Sisters, we know that the Church is made up of mortals, that priesthood leaders are fallible, and some may not always handle their stewardships with suitable sensitivity. However, I want you to understand this plain truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the only way for women or men to achieve their full potential as children of God. Only the gospel can free us from the terrible effects of sin. Only by following God’s plan for us, with faith and determination to live ultimately in eternal families, can we qualify for eternal life in His presence.

The purpose of this post, then, is to explore more about “God’s plan for us” and how the concept of equality fits into that plan, in the eternal scheme of things. As a warning, this post is long. It is also direct (hence part of the reason I wanted to write this preface); I believe it’s important to explore the doctrines openly. I want us to know the teachings of the Proclamation and our leaders, not simply discuss opinion on this topic. I have tended to not write as much with lots of quotes, but at some point, I believe that unless we appeal to the authority of our prophets and apostles who are the only people authorized to speak for God, we are basically putting ourselves back into a sort of pre-Restoration mode of lots of opinion but little absolute truth. We can’t simply discuss our opinions and perspectives and experiences; we need to have revealed, authorized truth upon which to rely. I believe that in the end, it is only by embracing and understanding these eternal truths that we as men and women can work together in unity and equality and “fill the measure of [our] creation.”

In a Church press release (it’s now been a couple of years ago), it was stated that “certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions.” I think this is also true about some words that have different meanings and connotations than in other contexts, such as the social sciences and even the culture at large.

Take the word “equality,” for example. When we talk about equality, particularly of the sexes, all sorts of thoughts and emotions and definitions and biases and even baggage are already present before a discussion even begins. For my purposes here, I begin with a couple of quotes to help us keep the right perspective in our discussion. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

Free and open doctrinal discussion is important in gospel scholarship, but remember that most things have been put into place by God and simply are not subject to change. The doctrines and principles of the Church are established only through revelation, not legislation. This is God’s plan; we do not have the prerogative to alter or tamper with it.

Our task is to integrate the principles of the gospel into our lives so that our lives will be in balance. When our lives are in balance, before you realize it your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm that your Heavenly Father loves you and that His plan is fair and true and we should strive to understand it and enjoy living it.

Neal A. Maxwell (then assistant to the Council of the Twelve) shared some thoughts that can also be relevant as we discuss this sometimes tender topic:

[There is a danger and approach that] seizes upon a single, true principle and elevates it above its peer principles. This act of isolation does not make the principle seized any less true, but it strips that principle of its supporting principles. One can be incarcerated within the prison of one principle.

For instance, “peacemakers” are precious commodities, but peace-making must be tied to other principles or it can easily become peace-making at any price. Candor is an important attribute, but it must not be separated from genuine concern for those who will feel the consequences of candor. Paul’s counsel is to be sure that we are “speaking the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15.) Love and truth need each other.

Charles Frankel observed of those who would … subordinate everything else to “equality.”:

“The fallacies of … egalitarianism come largely from having ripped the notion of equality loose from its context. The result is to turn it into a principle vagrant and homeless, and identifiable in fact only if a quasi-theological context is unconsciously imported.” (“The New Egalitarianism and the Old, Commentary, Sept. 1973, p. 61.)

Elevating any correct principle to the plane of religion is poor policy. Just as one person makes a poor church, one principle makes a poor religion!

The doctrines of Christ need each other, just as the disciples of Christ need each other. It is the orthodox orchestration in applying the gospel of Jesus Christ that keeps us happy and helps us to avoid falling off the straight and narrow path, for on the one side there is harsh legalism and on the other syrupy sensualism. Little wonder that man needs careful and precise help, the guidance of the Spirit, in order to navigate under such stressful circumstances.

Little wonder we so need those eternal perspectives which come from looking at life through the lens of the gospel!

The purpose of this post is to consider the principle of equality through the lens of the gospel. While I understand that I certainly don’t have a corner on truth, I have seen clear patterns in what we are taught, and these teachings cross generations and also come from both male and female leaders.

I like to call this concept Eternal Equality. I want to explore this concept by considering doctrines and principles in the Proclamation (and as expounded upon by our leaders) that support and clarify this important, eternal principle. I believe such a perspective can help us understand greater truths than worldly perspectives and philosophies (such as feminism) alone can give, and can even sometimes help us recognize incorrect teachings in such perspectives.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Church, and thus am sharing my own conclusions about this, but I do believe there is much support in the consistency and clarity with which we are taught, and power in considering the teachings and the threads throughout our leaders words (that includes women as well).

The post contains the following three sections:

  • Eternal Equality Defined
  • Gender Roles and Differences are Essential
  • Equal Partnerships are a Key Part of the Plan

Eternal Equality Defined

First of all, to coin a phrase from Stephen Covey, I’ll begin with the end in mind. What does equality mean to God? I believe equality in the gospel involves much more than just this earthly life and what we do and are. The Proclamation states:

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.

Men and women are equal before God first and foremost because we all have an equal “divine destiny” that can allow us to return to the presence of God and to enjoy all that the Father has to give, which includes eternal life and exaltation. God is “no respecter of persons” and thus all have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of eternity. The key is to understand, embrace and follow the plan of God.

Elder Maxwell once said:

In the world to come, to these, the most faithful, our generous Father will give “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38). Brothers and sisters, there isn’t any more! (Emphasis added.)

In a very real sense, I feel I could simply end there. If we are ever prone to think that life or the Church or whatever else “isn’t fair” we might well remember what Elder Maxwell said. If God has promised all He has if we are faithful, what more can we want?

Still, continuing to explore this concept…. There are various talks that discuss this idea that we as men and women are equal before God because we all can receive the ordinances and experiences that are necessary to enjoy all the blessings of eternity. One talk that has remained fixed in my mind was from Sister Julie B. Beck, [formerly] the General Relief Society president. In a General Conference talk, she reminded us that:

The blessings of the priesthood, which are available to men and women alike, are woven in and through and around their lives. Each of them is blessed by sacred ordinances, and each of them can enjoy the blessings of spiritual gifts by virtue of the priesthood.

All faithful members of the Lord’s Church are equally blessed by priesthood ordinances.

I am grateful that through the infinite fairness and love of God, all men and women were given equal partnership, gifts, blessings, and potential through priesthood ordinances and spiritual gifts. Because of the priesthood, which is woven in and around and through our lives, every power, every covenant we need to do our life’s work and walk back to our heavenly home has been poured out upon our heads.

While there are many other quotes I could include, I will add only two for the sake of time and space, one from Elder Ballard and one from President Packer:

I pray for the Spirit of the Lord this evening as I teach a fundamental principle of the gospel that, if understood, will fortify and bless you sisters in your quest for eternal life.

Our Father in Heaven loves all of His children equally, perfectly, and infinitely. His love is no different for His daughters than for His sons. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, also loves men and women equally. His atonement and His gospel are for all of God’s children. During His earthly ministry Jesus served men and women alike: He healed both men and women and He taught both men and women.

The gospel of Jesus Christ can sanctify both men and women in the same way and by identical principles. For example, faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are requirements for all of God’s children, regardless of gender. The same is true of temple covenants and blessings. Our Father’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). He loves us all equally, and His greatest gift, the gift of eternal life, is available to all.

The creation of the world, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith all have one unifying purpose: to allow all of the spirit children of our Eternal Father to obtain mortal bodies, and then, through the gift of moral agency, to follow the plan of redemption made possible by the Savior’s atonement. God prepared all of this for us that we might return to our heavenly home, clothed in immortality and eternal life, to live with Him as families.

[T]he promise of exaltation remains an attainable goal for each one of us. The prophets have stated clearly that no blessing will be withheld from any of God’s sons and daughters if they love Him, have faith in Him, keep His commandments, and endure faithfully to the end.

Most of what men and women must do to qualify for an exalted family life together is based on shared responsibilities and objectives. Many of the requirements are exactly the same for men and women. For example, obedience to the laws of God should be the same for men and women. Men and women should pray in the same way. They both have the same privilege of receiving answers to their prayers and thereby obtaining personal revelation for their own spiritual development¦. In these confusing times, keeping our feet on the gospel path can be difficult. We hear many persuasive voices urging us to turn our backs on revealed truth and embrace the philosophies of the world. [We need to] keep our eternal perspective clear and unimpaired. (M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 89)

And from Pres. Packer:

The whole physical universe is organized in order that man and woman might fulfill the full measure of their creation. It is a perfect system where delicate balances and counter-balances govern the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual in mankind.

The separate natures of man and woman were designed by the Father of us all to fulfill the purposes of the gospel plan.

Men and women have complementary, not competing, responsibilities. There is difference but not inequity.

And blessings bestowed impartially upon man and woman alike include:

-Baptism
-The gift of the Holy Ghost
-The testimony of Jesus
-Personal revelation
-The ministry of angels
-The responsibility to teach, to testify, to exhort, to edify and to comfort
-The faith to be healed
And many other spiritual gifts.

All under a uniform standard for worthiness.

And the highest ordinances in the House of the Lord they receive together and equally or not at all!

Note President Packer’s point that our separate natures are part of God’s plan, which leads into the next point I want to discuss.

Gender Roles and Differences are Essential

We are taught clearly and repeatedly that gender and our different gender traits, roles, and responsibilities are essential to God’s plan and to our potential for eternal equality.

The Proclamation states:

Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose….By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

Following are numerous quotes that in my mind help shed more light on these important concepts. Note that some of these quotes discuss not only our family roles, but our church roles and responsibilities as well. (All bolded emphasis is mine.)

Elder Scott said:

Our Heavenly Father endowed His sons and daughters with unique traits especially fitted for their individual responsibilities as they fulfill His plan. To follow His plan requires that you do those things He expects of you as a son or daughter, husband or wife. Those roles are different but entirely compatible. In the Lord’s plan, it takes two –a man and a woman–to form a whole. Indeed, a husband and wife are not two identical halves, but a wondrous, divinely determined combination of complementary capacities and characteristics.

Marriage allows these different characteristics to come together in oneness ”in unity” to bless a husband and wife, their children and grandchildren. For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed. Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one–to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan.

Elder Ballard said:

Even though men and women are equal before God in their eternal opportunities, they have different, but equally significant, duties in His eternal plan. We must understand that God views all of His children with infinite wisdom and perfect fairness. Consequently, He can acknowledge and even encourage our differences while providing equal opportunity for growth and development.

Our Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when we lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters.

Both men and women are to serve their families and others, but the specific ways in which they do so are sometimes different. For example, God has revealed through his prophets that men are to receive the priesthood, become fathers, and with gentleness and pure, unfeigned love they are to lead and nurture their families in righteousness as the Savior leads the Church (see Eph. 5:23). They have been given the primary responsibility for the temporal and physical needs of the family (see D&C 83:2). Women have the power to bring children into the world and have been given the primary duty and opportunity as mothers to lead, nurture, and teach them in a loving, spiritual environment. In this divine partnership, husbands and wives support one another in their God-given capacities. By appointing different accountabilities to men and women, Heavenly Father provides the greatest opportunity for growth, service, and progress. He did not give different tasks to men and women simply to perpetuate the idea of a family; rather, He did so to ensure that the family can continue forever, the ultimate goal of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. (Emphasis added.)

Elder Bednar said:

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. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11; italics added).

President Kimball said:

Our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences–with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood–but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.
Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you just as are those we sustain as prophets and apostles! (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 102.)

President Kimball’s quote brings out an important point. Men and women aren’t just given different responsibilities at home, but also in other roles as sisters and brothers in the gospel.

Sheri Dew also included this idea in her powerful teachings on this subject:

Two are usually better than one, as our Father confirmed when He declared that “it was not good that the man should be alone” and made a help meet for Adam — someone with distinct gifts who would give him balance, help him shoulder the burdens of mortality, and enable him to do things he couldn’t do alone. For “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” [This scripture is so important; note how many times it has been repeated!]

Satan understands the power of men and women united in righteousness. He would have us believe men and women are so alike that our unique gifts are not necessary, or so different we can never hope to understand each other. Neither is true.

Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths.

These truths about the divinely appointed stewardships of men and women are largely lost on the world today. You will not find them on a TV sitcom or even, sadly, in some homes and wards. But they are not lost to the Lord, who has given us “a pattern in all things, that [we] may not be deceived.”

Said President Harold B. Lee: “Pure womanhood plus priesthood means exaltation. But womanhood without priesthood, or priesthood without pure womanhood doesn’t spell exaltation.“

I believe it is essential for us to realize that it would go against the plan to have men and women be equal in the sense of a worldly definition of this concept — to have completely equal responsibilities and roles. The Lord doesn’t want us to be only independent, self-sustaining individuals. His plan takes us a step further. He wants us as men and women (in families and in the Church) to have roles and responsibilities that complement and are interdependent. I’m not sure that word even captures the fullness of what partnership really means in God’s plan, but I do agree with then-Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe who noted in a powerful Women’s Conference talk (given in partnership with his wife) that equal partnership is something not understood by the world, because it is a gospel principle. We can’t reach our eternal destiny and eternal equality without such interdependence and without the differences that exist. And we can’t understand what partnership means without the Spirit unfolding the truths of this principle to our view. No feminist theory or analysis can fully do that.

Equal Partnerships are a Key Part of the Plan

The Proclamation reminds us that husbands and wives are obligated to work as “equal partners.” This principle also applies to men and women working in the Church, as has been mentioned numerous times above and will also be discussed below.

Following are only a few quotes on this subject. As with all the other topics, I could include many more.

President Hinckley taught that we are to “walk side by side with respect, appreciation and love for one another. There can be nothing of inferiority or superiority between the husband and wife in the plan of the Lord.”

He also has said that

Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood.

President Howard W. Hunter taught that:

A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto…. The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal) – that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.

Elder Oaks said:

The family proclamation gives this beautiful explanation of the relationship between a husband and a wife: While they have separate responsibilities, “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

President Spencer W. Kimball said this: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 315).

President Kimball also declared, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man ‘should not be honored in his priesthood’ (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 316).

There are cultures or traditions in some parts of the world that allow men to oppress women, but those abuses must not be carried into the families of the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember how Jesus taught: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, but I say unto you …(Matt. 5:27-28). For example, the Savior contradicted the prevailing culture in His considerate treatment of women. Our guide must be the gospel culture He taught.

If men desire the Lord’s blessings in their family leadership, they must exercise their priesthood authority according to the Lord’s principles for its use:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41-42).

When priesthood authority is exercised in that way in the patriarchal family, we achieve the “full partnership” President Kimball taught. [I believe it's that kind of leadership that makes equal partnership possible in the Church as well.] As declared in the family proclamation:

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, [and] compassion” (Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

I had already bracketed a comment about how I think these principles extend to the Church as well, and Elder Oaks seems to agree.

Church callings are performed according to the principles that govern all of us in working under priesthood authority in the Church. These principles include the persuasion and gentleness taught in the 121st section, which are especially necessary in the hierarchal organization of the Church.

The principles I have identified for the exercise of priesthood authority are more understandable and more comfortable for a married woman than for a single woman, especially a single woman who has never been married. She does not now experience priesthood authority in the partnership relationship of marriage. Her experiences with priesthood authority are in the hierarchical relationships of the Church, and some single women feel they have no voice in those relationships. It is, therefore, imperative to have an effective ward council, where male and female ward officers sit down together regularly to counsel under the presiding authority of the bishop.

I included this long passage from Elder Oaks because he addresses abuses that should not exist; challenges that single women might face in feeling partnership in the gospel plan; and similarly the importance of partnership in the Church as well as the family.

Sister Dew talked about this as well:

The Lord’s pattern for couples and in large measure men and women serving together in His kingdom was established by our first parents. [Elder Scott also invited the study of Adam and Eve's lives and roles.] Together Adam and Eve labored, mourned, were obedient, had children, taught their posterity the gospel, called upon the name of the Lord, “heard the voice of the Lord,” blessed the name of God, and dedicated themselves to God. Repeatedly the scriptures about Adam and Eve refer to the pronoun they.

Elder Ballard has also repeatedly discussed the importance of men and women working together not only in their families, but in the Church. For example, he said:

Brethren, please be sure you are seeking the vital input of the sisters in your council meetings. Encourage all council members to share their suggestions and ideas about how the stake or ward can be more effective in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead….

In these perilous times, we need the cooperative effort of men and women officers in the Church because absolute vigilance is required on the part of all who have been entrusted to help watch over the kingdom. We each have large individual responsibilities, but just as important is the responsibility we share with others to come together in council in a united effort to solve problems and bless all of our Church members. When we act in a united effort, we create spiritual synergism which is increased effectiveness or achievement as a result of combined action or cooperation, the result of which is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

I think Elder Ballard’s point there is a key to understanding the Lord’s concept of equality. Only as we work together as men and women with the different traits, roles and responsibilities we have can we create the kind of “synergism” that can help the Lord’s work move forward as it needs to. Such unified and combined effort also gives us the personal experiences we need for our individual spiritual growth that can make reaching our eternal potential possible.

Obviously, I could end up compiling a book of quotes about this concept of eternal equality and the various truths that combine to make the Lord’s view both different and deeper than any perspective the world can give us. Eternal equality requires differences — including gender roles and responsibilities in the family and in the Church — because God knows what we need to return back to live with Him and to enjoy exaltation. These differences are necessary both for our individual growth and for the unity required in families and in the Church. I ache for people to be able to see beyond what seems to be unfair at the outset (“Why are men the ones who hold the priesthood? Why does the structure of the Church leave men as presiding over auxiliaries? Why are we taught that men are to preside — why don’t we use a different word if equality is the goal?” etc.) we can all seek to embrace these doctrines and let them distill on our hearts and change our lives — for our leaders teach us that the more we follow God’s plan, the more happiness we can have, now and eternally. I trust in God’s promises that He will bless all of us — His sons and His daughters — with all that He has if we are faithful and unified in His way. What more could we ask for?

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  1. For some reason, I can’t see the post text anymore, so just in case others are finding the same thing, I’m posting the text here.

    (Technical note: I wrote this several years ago when I was using someone else’s computer on vacation and had computer trouble which prohibited me from doing references/links…and then it sat unfinished. I hope to add them sometime, but for now if you want to find the reference for any quote, use any phrase from the quote in a search on lds.org. I also hope sometime to update this post, but for now, I’ll share this as some food for thought. Even as I use quotes from lds.org, this post should not be viewed as officially stating the position of the Church, but rather expressing some of my thoughts and beliefs about equality, gender roles, and equal partnership and some of how they relate to God’s plan for His children.)

    Preface:
    I approach this topic with some trepidation because I know it’s a tender one for many. I want to say upfront that my intent is not to disregard such people. On the flip side, I believe that the doctrines discussed below can actually help us all understand better why things in the Church may appear to be unequal to some but really aren’t. There is divine purpose in the organization of the Church, in the gender roles as they are defined in the Proclamation and elsewhere, and in the differences that exist between men and women.

    I want to also say that I realize that there is no exact cookie cutter that can represent “male” and “female” traits universally and unequivocally. In some ways, I have felt all my life that I don’t fit some “classic” female traits or roles (I was a tomboy as a youth; I have never been one to feel feminine in demeanor or style; homemaking or mothering skills in many senses don’t come naturally to me.) But I’m striving.

    I believe the teachings below with all of my heart. Even as a person who sometimes feels like a bit of an exception to the rule naturally, I believe that I am here to develop certain traits, to focus on certain roles and responsibilities, and to be a partner to my husband in our family and a sister in the gospel working alongside other women in partnership with the men. The truths taught below give perspective on why this is our charge, and how following God’s plan and the order of His kingdom makes it possible for us to grow and develop in ways that can lead us to our heavenly home and goals.

    I realize also that I am fortunate in that many of my family and church experiences have been positive with regard to a sense of equal partnership. Have they been perfect experiences? No. I believe this is all a process for all of us, and as such, sometimes people will let us down, will abuse position or power, or will act unilaterally instead of in a spirit of partnership. This has happened on occasion in my life, and it’s very, very difficult to deal with. This does not mean, however, that the organization or system that God has designed for families and the Church is wrong; it means that individuals still need to catch the vision of the true doctrine that can change their behavior (a la Pres. Packer’s oft-repeated quote). In my opinion, changing the system fundamentally (e.g., giving women priesthood, or eliminating different family roles and responsibilities, or whatever else people have discussed as options) won’t fix those problems. Only individuals embracing and living the doctrine as it should be can improve those situations where abuses happen.

    If you are one in such a situation, my heart goes out to you. Cling to the promises that God has made that if *you* are faithful, no blessing will be withheld in the eternal scheme of things. That is no small promise. No matter what, know that even the trials you face in this imperfect world, with imperfect people trying to live the gospel, can be turned to your good. But my plea is not to reject the gospel because of the imperfections of people. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Know also that our leaders are aware of the fact that sometimes abuses happen. And still, they encourage us to cling to the truths of the gospel, not to try to change the way things are to prevent pain from people’s imperfections. Consider this from Elder Ballard:

    In these latter days, we see people, increasing in number, who urge others to feel and voice dissent when frustration and hardship enter their lives. They would have us believe that the Church or its leaders are unfair to women, or that women are denied opportunities to realize their full potential within the gospel framework. Sisters, we know that the Church is made up of mortals, that priesthood leaders are fallible, and some may not always handle their stewardships with suitable sensitivity. However, I want you to understand this plain truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the only way for women or men to achieve their full potential as children of God. Only the gospel can free us from the terrible effects of sin. Only by following God’s plan for us, with faith and determination to live ultimately in eternal families, can we qualify for eternal life in His presence.

    The purpose of this post, then, is to explore more about “God’s plan for us” and how the concept of equality fits into that plan, in the eternal scheme of things. As a warning, this post is long. It is also direct (hence part of the reason I wanted to write this preface); I believe it’s important to explore the doctrines openly. I want us to know the teachings of the Proclamation and our leaders, not simply discuss opinion on this topic. I have tended to not write as much with lots of quotes, but at some point, I believe that unless we appeal to the authority of our prophets and apostles who are the only people authorized to speak for God, we are basically putting ourselves back into a sort of pre-Restoration mode of lots of opinion but little absolute truth. We can’t simply discuss our opinions and perspectives and experiences; we need to have revealed, authorized truth upon which to rely. I believe that in the end, it is only by embracing and understanding these eternal truths that we as men and women can work together in unity and equality and “fill the measure of [our] creation.”

    In a Church press release (it’s now been a couple of years ago), it was stated that “certain words in the Mormon vocabulary have slightly different meanings and connotations than those same words have in other religions.” I think this is also true about some words that have different meanings and connotations than in other contexts, such as the social sciences and even the culture at large.

    Take the word “equality,” for example. When we talk about equality, particularly of the sexes, all sorts of thoughts and emotions and definitions and biases and even baggage are already present before a discussion even begins. For my purposes here, I begin with a couple of quotes to help us keep the right perspective in our discussion. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

    Free and open doctrinal discussion is important in gospel scholarship, but remember that most things have been put into place by God and simply are not subject to change. The doctrines and principles of the Church are established only through revelation, not legislation. This is God’s plan; we do not have the prerogative to alter or tamper with it.

    Our task is to integrate the principles of the gospel into our lives so that our lives will be in balance. When our lives are in balance, before you realize it your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm that your Heavenly Father loves you and that His plan is fair and true and we should strive to understand it and enjoy living it.

    Neal A. Maxwell (then assistant to the Council of the Twelve) shared some thoughts that can also be relevant as we discuss this sometimes tender topic:

    [There is a danger and approach that] seizes upon a single, true principle and elevates it above its peer principles. This act of isolation does not make the principle seized any less true, but it strips that principle of its supporting principles. One can be incarcerated within the prison of one principle.

    For instance, “peacemakers” are precious commodities, but peace-making must be tied to other principles or it can easily become peace-making at any price. Candor is an important attribute, but it must not be separated from genuine concern for those who will feel the consequences of candor. Paul’s counsel is to be sure that we are “speaking the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15.) Love and truth need each other.

    Charles Frankel observed of those who would … subordinate everything else to “equality.”:

    “The fallacies of … egalitarianism come largely from having ripped the notion of equality loose from its context. The result is to turn it into a principle vagrant and homeless, and identifiable in fact only if a quasi-theological context is unconsciously imported.” (“The New Egalitarianism and the Old, Commentary, Sept. 1973, p. 61.)

    Elevating any correct principle to the plane of religion is poor policy. Just as one person makes a poor church, one principle makes a poor religion!

    The doctrines of Christ need each other, just as the disciples of Christ need each other. It is the orthodox orchestration in applying the gospel of Jesus Christ that keeps us happy and helps us to avoid falling off the straight and narrow path, for on the one side there is harsh legalism and on the other syrupy sensualism. Little wonder that man needs careful and precise help, the guidance of the Spirit, in order to navigate under such stressful circumstances.

    Little wonder we so need those eternal perspectives which come from looking at life through the lens of the gospel!

    The purpose of this post is to consider the principle of equality through the lens of the gospel. While I understand that I certainly don’t have a corner on truth, I have seen clear patterns in what we are taught, and these teachings cross generations and also come from both male and female leaders.

    I like to call this concept Eternal Equality. I want to explore this concept by considering doctrines and principles in the Proclamation (and as expounded upon by our leaders) that support and clarify this important, eternal principle. I believe such a perspective can help us understand greater truths than worldly perspectives and philosophies (such as feminism) alone can give, and can even sometimes help us recognize incorrect teachings in such perspectives.

    Of course, I cannot speak for the Church, and thus am sharing my own conclusions about this, but I do believe there is much support in the consistency and clarity with which we are taught, and power in considering the teachings and the threads throughout our leaders words (that includes women as well).

    The post contains the following three sections:

    Eternal Equality Defined
    Gender Roles and Differences are Essential
    Equal Partnerships are a Key Part of the Plan
    Eternal Equality Defined

    First of all, to coin a phrase from Stephen Covey, I’ll begin with the end in mind. What does equality mean to God? I believe equality in the gospel involves much more than just this earthly life and what we do and are. The Proclamation states:

    In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.

    Men and women are equal before God first and foremost because we all have an equal “divine destiny” that can allow us to return to the presence of God and to enjoy all that the Father has to give, which includes eternal life and exaltation. God is “no respecter of persons” and thus all have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of eternity. The key is to understand, embrace and follow the plan of God.

    Elder Maxwell once said:

    In the world to come, to these, the most faithful, our generous Father will give “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38). Brothers and sisters, there isn’t any more! (Emphasis added.)

    In a very real sense, I feel I could simply end there. If we are ever prone to think that life or the Church or whatever else “isn’t fair” we might well remember what Elder Maxwell said. If God has promised all He has if we are faithful, what more can we want?

    Still, continuing to explore this concept…. You are probably familiar with various talks that discuss this idea that we as men and women are equal before God because we all can receive the ordinances and experiences that are necessary to enjoy all the blessings of eternity. One talk that has remained fixed in my mind was from Sister Julie B. Beck, [formerly] the General Relief Society president. In a General Conference talk, she reminded us that:

    The blessings of the priesthood, which are available to men and women alike, are woven in and through and around their lives. Each of them is blessed by sacred ordinances, and each of them can enjoy the blessings of spiritual gifts by virtue of the priesthood.

    All faithful members of the Lord’s Church are equally blessed by priesthood ordinances.

    I am grateful that through the infinite fairness and love of God, all men and women were given equal partnership, gifts, blessings, and potential through priesthood ordinances and spiritual gifts. Because of the priesthood, which is woven in and around and through our lives, every power, every covenant we need to do our life’s work and walk back to our heavenly home has been poured out upon our heads.

    While there are many other quotes I could include, I will add only two for the sake of time and space, one from Elder Ballard and one from President Packer:

    I pray for the Spirit of the Lord this evening as I teach a fundamental principle of the gospel that, if understood, will fortify and bless you sisters in your quest for eternal life.

    Our Father in Heaven loves all of His children equally, perfectly, and infinitely. His love is no different for His daughters than for His sons. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, also loves men and women equally. His atonement and His gospel are for all of God’s children. During His earthly ministry Jesus served men and women alike: He healed both men and women and He taught both men and women.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ can sanctify both men and women in the same way and by identical principles. For example, faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are requirements for all of God’s children, regardless of gender. The same is true of temple covenants and blessings. Our Father’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). He loves us all equally, and His greatest gift, the gift of eternal life, is available to all.

    The creation of the world, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith all have one unifying purpose: to allow all of the spirit children of our Eternal Father to obtain mortal bodies, and then, through the gift of moral agency, to follow the plan of redemption made possible by the Savior’s atonement. God prepared all of this for us that we might return to our heavenly home, clothed in immortality and eternal life, to live with Him as families.

    [T]he promise of exaltation remains an attainable goal for each one of us. The prophets have stated clearly that no blessing will be withheld from any of God’s sons and daughters if they love Him, have faith in Him, keep His commandments, and endure faithfully to the end.

    Most of what men and women must do to qualify for an exalted family life together is based on shared responsibilities and objectives. Many of the requirements are exactly the same for men and women. For example, obedience to the laws of God should be the same for men and women. Men and women should pray in the same way. They both have the same privilege of receiving answers to their prayers and thereby obtaining personal revelation for their own spiritual development¦. In these confusing times, keeping our feet on the gospel path can be difficult. We hear many persuasive voices urging us to turn our backs on revealed truth and embrace the philosophies of the world. [We need to] keep our eternal perspective clear and unimpaired. (M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 89)

    And from Pres. Packer:

    The whole physical universe is organized in order that man and woman might fulfill the full measure of their creation. It is a perfect system where delicate balances and counter-balances govern the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual in mankind.

    The separate natures of man and woman were designed by the Father of us all to fulfill the purposes of the gospel plan.

    Men and women have complementary, not competing, responsibilities. There is difference but not inequity.

    And blessings bestowed impartially upon man and woman alike include:

    -Baptism
    -The gift of the Holy Ghost
    -The testimony of Jesus
    -Personal revelation
    -The ministry of angels
    -The responsibility to teach, to testify, to exhort, to edify and to comfort
    -The faith to be healed
    And many other spiritual gifts.

    All under a uniform standard for worthiness.

    And the highest ordinances in the House of the Lord they receive together and equally or not at all!

    Note President Packer’s point that our separate natures are part of God’s plan, which leads into the next point I want to discuss.

    Gender Roles and Differences are Essential

    We are taught clearly and repeatedly that gender and our different gender traits, roles, and responsibilities are essential to God’s plan and to our potential for eternal equality.

    The Proclamation states:

    Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose….By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

    Following are numerous quotes that in my mind help shed more light on these important concepts. Note that some of these quotes discuss not only our family roles, but our church roles and responsibilities as well. (All bolded emphasis is mine.)

    Elder Scott said:

    Our Heavenly Father endowed His sons and daughters with unique traits especially fitted for their individual responsibilities as they fulfill His plan. To follow His plan requires that you do those things He expects of you as a son or daughter, husband or wife. Those roles are different but entirely compatible. In the Lord’s plan, it takes two –a man and a woman–to form a whole. Indeed, a husband and wife are not two identical halves, but a wondrous, divinely determined combination of complementary capacities and characteristics.

    Marriage allows these different characteristics to come together in oneness ”in unity” to bless a husband and wife, their children and grandchildren. For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed. Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one–to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan.

    Elder Ballard said:

    Even though men and women are equal before God in their eternal opportunities, they have different, but equally significant, duties in His eternal plan. We must understand that God views all of His children with infinite wisdom and perfect fairness. Consequently, He can acknowledge and even encourage our differences while providing equal opportunity for growth and development.

    Our Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when we lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters.

    Both men and women are to serve their families and others, but the specific ways in which they do so are sometimes different. For example, God has revealed through his prophets that men are to receive the priesthood, become fathers, and with gentleness and pure, unfeigned love they are to lead and nurture their families in righteousness as the Savior leads the Church (see Eph. 5:23). They have been given the primary responsibility for the temporal and physical needs of the family (see D&C 83:2). Women have the power to bring children into the world and have been given the primary duty and opportunity as mothers to lead, nurture, and teach them in a loving, spiritual environment. In this divine partnership, husbands and wives support one another in their God-given capacities. By appointing different accountabilities to men and women, Heavenly Father provides the greatest opportunity for growth, service, and progress. He did not give different tasks to men and women simply to perpetuate the idea of a family; rather, He did so to ensure that the family can continue forever, the ultimate goal of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. (Emphasis added.)

    Elder Bednar said:

    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. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11; italics added).

    President Kimball said:

    Our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences–with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood–but the man is not without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord.
    Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you just as are those we sustain as prophets and apostles! (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 102.)

    President Kimball’s quote brings out an important point. Men and women aren’t just given different responsibilities at home, but also in other roles as sisters and brothers in the gospel.

    Sheri Dew also included this idea in her powerful teachings on this subject:

    Two are usually better than one, as our Father confirmed when He declared that “it was not good that the man should be alone” and made a help meet for Adam — someone with distinct gifts who would give him balance, help him shoulder the burdens of mortality, and enable him to do things he couldn’t do alone. For “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” [This scripture is so important; note how many times it has been repeated!]

    Satan understands the power of men and women united in righteousness. He would have us believe men and women are so alike that our unique gifts are not necessary, or so different we can never hope to understand each other. Neither is true.

    Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths.

    These truths about the divinely appointed stewardships of men and women are largely lost on the world today. You will not find them on a TV sitcom or even, sadly, in some homes and wards. But they are not lost to the Lord, who has given us “a pattern in all things, that [we] may not be deceived.”

    Said President Harold B. Lee: “Pure womanhood plus priesthood means exaltation. But womanhood without priesthood, or priesthood without pure womanhood doesn’t spell exaltation.”

    I believe it is essential for us to realize that it would go against the plan to have men and women be equal in the sense of a worldly definition of this concept — to have completely equal responsibilities and roles. The Lord doesn’t want us to be only independent, self-sustaining individuals. His plan takes us a step further. He wants us as men and women (in families and in the Church) to have roles and responsibilities that complement and are interdependent. I’m not sure that word even captures the fullness of what partnership really means in God’s plan, but I do agree with then-Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe who noted in a powerful Women’s Conference talk (given in partnership with his wife) that equal partnership is something not understood by the world, because it is a gospel principle. We can’t reach our eternal destiny and eternal equality without such interdependence and without the differences that exist. And we can’t understand what partnership means without the Spirit unfolding the truths of this principle to our view. No feminist theory or analysis can fully do that.

    Equal Partnerships are a Key Part of the Plan

    The Proclamation reminds us that husbands and wives are obligated to work as “equal partners.” This principle also applies to men and women working in the Church, as has been mentioned numerous times above and will also be discussed below.

    Following are only a few quotes on this subject. As with all the other topics, I could include many more.

    President Hinckley taught that we are to “walk side by side with respect, appreciation and love for one another. There can be nothing of inferiority or superiority between the husband and wife in the plan of the Lord.”

    He also has said that

    Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood.

    President Howard W. Hunter taught that:

    A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto…. The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal) – that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.

    Elder Oaks said:

    The family proclamation gives this beautiful explanation of the relationship between a husband and a wife: While they have separate responsibilities, “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

    President Spencer W. Kimball said this: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 315).

    President Kimball also declared, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man ‘should not be honored in his priesthood’ (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 316).

    There are cultures or traditions in some parts of the world that allow men to oppress women, but those abuses must not be carried into the families of the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember how Jesus taught: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, but I say unto you …(Matt. 5:27-28). For example, the Savior contradicted the prevailing culture in His considerate treatment of women. Our guide must be the gospel culture He taught.

    If men desire the Lord’s blessings in their family leadership, they must exercise their priesthood authority according to the Lord’s principles for its use:

    “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41-42).

    When priesthood authority is exercised in that way in the patriarchal family, we achieve the “full partnership” President Kimball taught. [I believe it's that kind of leadership that makes equal partnership possible in the Church as well.] As declared in the family proclamation:

    “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, [and] compassion” (Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

    I had already bracketed a comment about how I think these principles extend to the Church as well, and Elder Oaks seems to agree.

    Church callings are performed according to the principles that govern all of us in working under priesthood authority in the Church. These principles include the persuasion and gentleness taught in the 121st section, which are especially necessary in the hierarchal organization of the Church.

    The principles I have identified for the exercise of priesthood authority are more understandable and more comfortable for a married woman than for a single woman, especially a single woman who has never been married. She does not now experience priesthood authority in the partnership relationship of marriage. Her experiences with priesthood authority are in the hierarchical relationships of the Church, and some single women feel they have no voice in those relationships. It is, therefore, imperative to have an effective ward council, where male and female ward officers sit down together regularly to counsel under the presiding authority of the bishop.

    I included this long passage from Elder Oaks because he addresses abuses that should not exist; challenges that single women might face in feeling partnership in the gospel plan; and similarly the importance of partnership in the Church as well as the family.

    Sister Dew talked about this as well:

    The Lord’s pattern for couples and in large measure men and women serving together in His kingdom was established by our first parents. [Elder Scott also invited the study of Adam and Eve's lives and roles.] Together Adam and Eve labored, mourned, were obedient, had children, taught their posterity the gospel, called upon the name of the Lord, “heard the voice of the Lord,” blessed the name of God, and dedicated themselves to God. Repeatedly the scriptures about Adam and Eve refer to the pronoun they.

    Elder Ballard has also repeatedly discussed the importance of men and women working together not only in their families, but in the Church. For example, he said:

    Brethren, please be sure you are seeking the vital input of the sisters in your council meetings. Encourage all council members to share their suggestions and ideas about how the stake or ward can be more effective in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead….

    In these perilous times, we need the cooperative effort of men and women officers in the Church because absolute vigilance is required on the part of all who have been entrusted to help watch over the kingdom. We each have large individual responsibilities, but just as important is the responsibility we share with others to come together in council in a united effort to solve problems and bless all of our Church members. When we act in a united effort, we create spiritual synergism which is increased effectiveness or achievement as a result of combined action or cooperation, the result of which is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

    I think Elder Ballard’s point there is a key to understanding the Lord’s concept of equality. Only as we work together as men and women with the different traits, roles and responsibilities we have can we create the kind of “synergism” that can help the Lord’s work move forward as it needs to. Such unified and combined effort also gives us the personal experiences we need for our individual spiritual growth that can make reaching our eternal potential possible.

    Obviously, I could end up compiling a book of quotes about this concept of eternal equality and the various truths that combine to make the Lord’s view both different and deeper than any perspective the world can give us. Eternal equality requires differences — including gender roles and responsibilities in the family and in the Church — because God knows what we need to return back to live with Him and to enjoy exaltation. These differences are necessary both for our individual growth and for the unity required in families and in the Church. I ache for people to be able to see beyond what seems to be unfair at the outset (“Why are men the ones who hold the priesthood? Why does the structure of the Church leave men as presiding over auxiliaries? Why are we taught that men are to preside — why don’t we use a different word if equality is the goal?” etc.) we can all seek to embrace these doctrines and let them distill on our hearts and change our lives — for our leaders teach us that the more we follow God’s plan, the more happiness we can have, now and eternally. I trust in God’s promises that He will bless all of us — His sons and His daughters — with all that He has if we are faithful and unified in His way. What more could we ask for?

  2. Wow, this was a great post. Thanks for a good read and for sharing the quotes and thought. This subject is very revelant for our day.
    Blessings to you for sharing this post of thoughts today.

  3. I’ve been thinking about your post for a couple of days. I admit that I think there are changes that could be made to some traditions or cultural ideas to help women feel more valued within the Church. But I also think that much of what goes on that causes women to feel less valued comes from either a lack of knowledge or a lack of confidence from both men and women. Not that I’m saying it’s all women’s fault, because I don’t believe that, either. But I think that if we better understood what’s already been written, discussed these things, and defended them, it could go a long way toward understanding. Quotes like the ones you’ve listed, a careful reading of the handbook, and other sources can clarify how important the voices of women are in the Church. Then we need to have the confidence to speak up and make sure that our opinions, feelings, and spiritual insights have a place. Then if someone is out of line, it becomes much easier to educate them. We don’t have to be afraid of truth.

  4. “What does equality mean to God?” is an absolutely fundamental question. I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms before. Very illuminating.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Q&A: The roles of men and women in Mormonism | Mormon Women - About LDS Life and Belief - [...] can read some of my thoughts and a compilation of quotes in a post I did a while ago …
  2. On Mormon women and the priesthood: God does not give crumbs | Mormon Women - About LDS Life and Belief - […] as Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, “In the world to come, to these, the most faithful, our generous …
  3. What Does Equality Mean to God? | Junior Ganymede - […] A very good question. […]
  4. Thoughts on doctrine, culture, structure, practice, visibility, change | Mormon Women - About LDS Life and Belief - […] plan of salvation is the ultimate manifestation of equality. All are alike, all are invited, all will have opportunity …

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