Wednesday, August 7, 2013

She Makes the Silence Speak

On September 23, 1995 Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, read The Family: A Proclamation to the World as part of his address during the General Relief Society Meeting.

The next day I turned 19 years old, and to be honest, the news of the recent proclamation didn't strike me as particularly earth-shattering.  For one thing, since it was first read to the Relief Society, I wasn't present. When I finally did catch wind of it, I was probably too busy thinking about girls, basketball, and my freshman year classes to pay very close attention its message.  Furthermore, the information probably sounded repetitive and close enough to common sense so as not to merit more than a cursory notice.

Little did I know at the time that the message of the proclamation was not only prophetic, but revolutionary in more ways than one.  The following lines from the proclamation are just one example to consider:

"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.  In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."

To my 19 year old ears, this phrase would have sounded like such a basic truth, and one that was, at least at one time, generally accepted, if not supported, by the culture at large. The truth remains that,

"ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

Amidst all of the commotion and confusion surrounding issues of gender, there appears to be a subtle attack being waged against both men and women, but particularly against women, mothers and motherhood.  Much of this attack may be attributed, as even several women have pointed out to me, to rampant and radical feminist philosophies.  On the surface, these theories seem to promote the rights of women and female success in the name of "individuality," "diversity," and "equality," while in reality they undermine essential characteristics of the divine nature and destiny of women.

Fortunately, there is enough evidence in ancient and modern scripture, as well as in the inspired works and words of honest truth-seekers, to remind us of the sacred and divine role of women and mothers. Even the Lord himself was not averse to describing His divine and loving concern for God's children in feminine or maternal terms:  

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37)

"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Isaiah 49:15)

The pioneer LDS poet and early Relief Society president Eliza R. Snow penned the immortal words of the hymn "O my Father":

"In the heavens are parents single?
No; the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal
Tells me I've a mother there.

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on hight?
Then, at length, when I've completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you."

In his book Joseph Smith the Prophet, LDS scholar Truman G. Madsen reported that an early leader of the primary and young women's organizations, Lillie Freeze, recalled a prophecy of the Prophet Joseph Smith: "He said the time would come when none but the women of the Latter-day Saints would be willing to bear children." (Joseph Smith the Prophet, p. 39. Original source of quote: Young Woman's Journal, Nov. 1890, 81)

Even though this is only a second hand account, it is clear that many women who have children or who desire to have children may feel marginalized and even ostracized in a modern culture that promotes radical feminist theories, such as the notion that womanhood and motherhood are merely social constructs established and maintained by an oppressive white male patriarchy, or the idea that truly intelligent and successful women can only find fulfillment through a successful career outside of the home.  

Expressions of feminist theories flood media and news sources and fill movie screens.  The modern heroines take the form of a "Brave" Merida who expresses the desire not to marry, and the irrepressible Katniss Everdeen who shudders at the thought of having children.  Of course, societal pressures are pervasive enough to influence almost everyone, but the onslaught against the home, against women and mothers is becoming increasingly pernicious.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell once pointed out, 

“Some mothers in today's world feel 'cumbered' by home duties and are thus attracted by other more 'romantic' challenges. Such women could make the same error of perspective that Martha made. The woman, for instance, who deserts the cradle in order to help defend civilization against the barbarians may well later meet, among the barbarians, her own neglected child.”  (
Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward)

Nothing can change the truth that we are the literal spirit offspring of Eternal Parents who watch over us all with loving kindness, and who make the sun to rise on the evil and the good, sending rain on the just and the unjust. The divine nature and destiny of men and women has not changed, nor will it ever change.  As one French female vocalist has sung, a mother is "like the stars" and "makes the silence speak."