Brethren, there have been many times when the instruction to women over this pulpit is to “get all the education you can”. This has been to prepare women for the realities of death, financial strain, and divorce that have been all too common, as well as to fight the stigma of those who have fewer children or delay children for a time to pursue their educational and professional goals. While the instruction is the same, the intentions of this when directed toward men is different.
It is fairly well established that men will seek education to be able to better provide for their families through their professions. While this is a worthwhile goal, this is not the direction needed when I tell you to “get all the education you can”.
Just as death, financial strain, and divorce have been more common among women, it has also been more common among men. If a great need arises, what do you men need to learn to be able to better support your home? It you’re thinking the answer is to simply make more money, you are thinking of this in the wrong direction.
The discipline most needed for additional education in our men is in the home. While you may have done well as a missionary or while away from home at school to take care of yourself, the dynamics change greatly when a family is involved. Eating ramen over the kitchen sink is a far cry from needing to provide healthy food for at least one additional person.
First, do you know how to care for your children? Simple tasks, such as changing diapers, helping the children get ready for bed, and making sure they have clean clothing to wear are basic parts of their care. Do you know how to provide nutritional food for them, get them to and from their school and other activities?
Second, do you know how your household finances are budgeted, beyond simply paying the bills you receive? You need to learn how to shop for food, clothing, and other necessities within the budgetary allowance you have made. You need to know what these necessities are, beyond potatoes and underwear.
Third, do you know how to care for the home itself? While you may know how to maintain the “perfect” lawn, this becomes less important when your floors become a mass of crumbs and stains because you have failed to learn how to maintain the “perfect” floor.
There are many more things that have often become the day-to-day work of your wife, even if she has needed to have work outside the home. You need to have a working knowledge of this work, just as it is important for her to have the education that can help provide an income, if necessary. Just as with the women, the time for the men to begin this learning and application is now, not when circumstances force you to.
Now, be warned, this call for education does not mean you should demand changes, take over, or force your wife to take the time to teach you. It must be approached with supplication and humility. Learn what you can, when you can. Ask to share tasks you would have otherwise left to others. Offer to help, do not demand to be in control.
Above all, learn about the part of your life more important than all others – your family. As a father, your most important contribution to your children is not in how much you can provide for them, it is in how much you can work with your wife in raising and teaching your children so they can go forward with strength into adulthood. The education of both you and your wife are of equal importance, whether it be in schooling, home and family maintenance, or in the Gospel. All of the learning you attain here will be of help to you in the hereafter, but more immediately, it will be a strength to you in the here and now. This I testify, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
One of the discussions running around feminist circles is about the use of Moroni 9:9 in President Dalton’s talk on virtue. The hurt expressed from using this scripture is the assumption that the loss of chastity and virtue means that the women were raped.
To show the scripture:
9 For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—
Sure, it’s easy to say this means rape, nicely tying chastity and virtue to it, but I think this misses that these women were taken prisoners. This could be the effects of months or even years in the hands of their captors.
These women were subjected to a period of time being prisoners. It would be likely that eventually they would come to empathize with, or even defend the actions of, their captors. The effect of this would have been a loss of virtue and chastity. Would they have the blame for this? No, it would be described that their virtue and chastity – their innocence – was taken by their captors, even if no sexual component was involved. We’ve only recently given this kind of thing a name – Stockholm syndrome.
Something more to remember are the other usages of virtue in the New Testament, when it was used to heal, as in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48:
43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
Virtue, even when paired with chastity, does not mean sex. No one would argue that the woman (and others, Luke 8:19) healed by the Savior in any way sexually violated Him, but in every case, it was described as a loss of virtue.
Virtue is power used to heal others, physically and spiritually. No, I am not saying that the Lamanite daughters were used as physicians, but that in their time as prisoners their ability to heal themselves and each other waned over time in what must have been an unbelievably horrific situation. In modern times, we seem to have gone to the easy answer in interpreting the words of Moroni. The worst thing we could imagine happening to a woman was rape, but we find with sad experience that there are worse things. To be kidnapped, kept by people doing horrific things, and seeing glimmers of false hope and trust in your captors can change you, taking away the virtue and chastity you once had.
For the sake of those who have had to live through the horrors of rape and kidnapping, we need to change our usage of Moroni 9:9. I think the recent use of it by President Dalton was a good step, but it is going to take a good deal of work for all of us to un-learn our hurtful interpretation of this. Rape and sexual abuse is damaging and vile. The burden of repentance for this should never be placed on the victim. No virtue or chastity has been taken from them, even though their innocence is lost. Using our virtue to heal should be foremost in our minds, not the erroneous idea that they are somehow to blame. We’ve bludgeoned our daughters (and sons) with this long enough.
In a prophetic dream by Lehi and Nephi in the Book of Mormon, there is a depiction of our journey through life returning to the presence of God. This includes a building full of jeering people, a river of sin, mists of darkness, and forbidden paths which try to take us out of the progression, the end represented by the Tree of Life.
To help everyone get from where they are to the Tree of Life, there is a “strait and narrow path”, bordered by an Iron Rod. In the dream, the Iron Rod was the means for anyone to reach the Tree of Life, but people had to choose to use it, ignore the words of the jeering people, and not let go and risk loss.
The tendency at this point is to see an absolutely straight path, with an absolutely straight rod, with no turns, making a bee line to the Tree of Life. We think that anyone who has deviated from the absolute course we think exists from point A to point B must be in apostacy, setting up the path we believe we are on as the best and absolute. This image of absolute rigidness and direction is what I believe is in error.
First, the word used is “strait”, not “straight”. It means “narrow” and “strict” – it is not an indication of direction. We are given nothing on how the path gets from one point to another, if it goes around hills or other landscape features (though none are given), only that it does lead to the Tree.
In the interpretation of the dream, the Iron Rod is interpreted as “. . . the word of God, which led . . . to the tree of life . . .”(1Ne.11:22) The “Word of God” is also another name given for Jesus The Christ (John 1:1). He was with God in the beginning, and by Him was all God commanded fulfilled.
So next time you sing the Hymn “The Iron Rod” or read about this in the Scriptures, or even feel like you’re not doing as well as you’d like, rather than thinking about an impersonal, solid rod, that couldn’t care if you used it or not, think of the Savior, hand outstretched, waiting for you to simply take His hand, so He can help you on your way to that distant, and seemingly impossibly hard to reach, Tree of Life at the end of our journey. It doesn’t matter where we are, seemingly far away from the main path, feeling like we’re only inches from the path, or even in the great and spacious building, He is there, mere inches away, hand outstretched, desperately hoping we will simply take His hand.
One of the best episodes of Start Trek: The Next Generation is entitled “The Light Within”. In it, Captain Picard finds himself thrust into a life completely foreign to what he had known. During this new life, he had the knowledge of where he had come from, but nothing else to connect him to his old life. There was no communication possible with the world left behind, nor knowledge in anyone in his new life that any other world even existed. In time, the new life had become his full reality, the past being only a vague memory. When he returned, it took some time for him to get used to the idea that 50 years had not really passed, but only a brief amount of time. To him, however, a full life of 50 years had passed, with a wife, children, and grandchildren. Those memories became a part of him, deeply effecting his life after.
Our life is similar. We came from a place of happiness, with loving parents, brothers, sisters of varying levels of closeness. We have been thrust into a body we have no idea how to make work, into a life completely foreign to the life we knew before, until our previous life fades to a vague memory that we soon forget. We live a full life, hopefully with a new family and friends, getting only impressions of where we were and where we are going after. When this life is over, we will return to the life we had before.
What will we find when we return? We know it will seem we were gone but a brief time. We will know the parents we left, the close brothers and sisters we left behind. We will remember every detail of both of the lives we have lived. Once again using our first life as a baseline, how will we see the new life we have lived? Joy? Horror? Tears? Outrage?
Who will we be when we wake?
I follow a fair number of blogs, both of the personal and group variety, in various levels of faithfulness to the Church. I stay away from those that are openly and continually critical of the Church, but not from those that have owners with opinions on how the Church should or could be different, so long as they are not openly hostile to either the Church or rational discussion about these things. I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of these things, but I wanted to talk about the reason I enjoy reading these differing views. Some people seem to think that any talk about how the Church could be different is akin to apostasy, and that those dissatisfied with things as they are should just leave. Some do, but if people are willing to be true to their covenants, I don’t see why they should. Hope for change does not equate to apostasy.
The 13th Article Of Faith says, in part, “We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.”
Hoping for more is part of who we are. The Church was founded on it. Some seem to believe that the Church has lost this; that we’ve gone into a holding pattern, reacting or barely moving over the years, being forced by societal pressures. I don’t think we have. I do think that movement has been made more difficult with the weight of history and the size and dispersion of the membership throughout the world, but we have far from stopped.
Do I know what changes the Church of the future might have? Nope. I know of things that I would like to see changed (see various previous posts to that effect), but I’m not the one in control. I don’t even think the leaders of the Church are in as much control as some think they are. I think they request direction almost constantly on what they should be doing, but much of their work is to build and maintain the Church as best they can, trying to direct people toward the Christ. Ultimately, it is His Church. I know He is working to guide all of us, no matter what position we have been given in the Church hierarchy or what we think is a minor calling, to bring ourselves, our families, our communities, our Church, and our world closer to Him. We may, as error-prone mortals, create bumps in the road for ourselves and others, but all of them – all of them – will be remedied and overcome by Him.
In the meantime, we hope, we try to help, and we continue to pray both that He will forgive our trespasses and that we will forgive the trespasses of others.
When a month has five Sundays, the fifth is given to each individual Ward to make a lesson for the adults based on the needs of the people in that Ward. We’ve had lessons from the Bishopric (who is in charge of the lesson) on food storage, families, and other more general topics such as tithing and temple attendance. Most of the time, this goes fairly well since the Bishop has a unique perspective on the needs of the Ward he has been called to watch over. Being mortal, there have also been failures. I’ve heard of one ward where the Bishop spent time instructing the women (and only the women) on the need to be more sexually available to their husbands. In our ward, we had something I’ve never seen before – a lesson from the Presidents of the Primary, Young Women’s Organization, and Relief Society (all of whom are women, for those who don’t know) to all the men of the Ward on how they can be better fathers. This covers a broad spectrum of men, from those not yet married to those with grandchildren. And, though it was the same lesson to all, I suspect that what was learned was different for each one of us, no matter what our circumstance.
First, we heard from the Primary President. She is the head of the organization within the Ward that teaches the children to age 12. First, she quoted The Family: A Proclamation to the World“:
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
Next, she shared some sobering answers to some questions she posed to the children in her care:
How do you know your father loves you?
- He plays with me
- He helps me
- He shows me
- I don’t know
What are things you want to do with your dad?
- Go play
- Spend time
How do you know your dad loves your mom?
- He does things for her
- Hugs & Kisses
- I don’t know
It’s these last answers, “I don’t know,” that are the most sobering. While we are doing some things right, if some of our children don’t know we love them or their mothers, we’re doing something wrong. Next, we had the President of the Young Women’s Organization, who has charge over the young women, aged 12-18, in our ward:
What is the greatest mistake in raising a daughter?
- Not understanding your significance in your daughter’s life
Your daughter sees how her father treats her, her mother, and other women. Daughters are not limited to your own family – you have influence as Home Teachers and even as friends of the family. Daughters who feel fathers care have less problems with stress, eating disorders, depression, etc., and more desire for education, independence, and growth. They make better decisions about sex and how others should treat them. Daughters see in their father what to expect in future relationships. Their experiences with Heavenly Father will be a relation of her experiences with her mortal father.
What can a father do?
- listen without criticism
- notice her mood
- be willing to talk 1 on 1
- spend quality time
- be there when needed
- show his love, even when she is not treating him well
- says and shows his love
- praises kindness and other good, intrinsic values
- shares his testimony and talks about his hopes and concerns
A father should be a guardian of virtue. Do not back away in those times when she is pushing you away. She may not always listen or make the right choices, but she will appreciate that you cared enough to try, and especially that you care enough to welcome her back with open arms, no matter how old she gets or how much time has passed.
We concluded with a few remarks from the Relief Society President, who is over all the women 18 and over. (She didn’t get much time):
Knowing her fathers love can help carry her through adulthood, and can be an example of the love of her Heavenly Father for her. Love her mother. You have ways to effect [your daughters] life in a way no one else can.
This concluded with a group of the Young Women singing “If the Savior Were Beside Me”
I thought it was a good lesson, all in all. Full of things to think about and inviting the spirit to help teach more than what was said. Thinking about it later, though – what if this were a lesson to the women, by the men, on how they could be better mothers? Would that have been as well received? I don’t know. I do know, however, that this felt right, and I’m glad the female Presidents in our ward had a chance to teach the men in a way we would not have usually gotten.
One of the current arguments for Same Sex Marriage (SSM) is that children can be raised just as well by two men or two women as they can by a woman and a man. It is essentially saying that in matters of parenting, gender does not matter. This seems to me to be directly contrary to feminism, since if gender did not matter, why should it matter if women are or are not in the same leadership positions as men? I can understand the attraction of connecting homosexual marriage and feminism; both have a desire to see that everyone is treated equally and fairly. However, to me, the persual of gay marriage undermines the feminist ideas that women cannot be served just as well by having only male leadership.
In LDS belief, men and women have always been and always will be men and women, respectively. Your gender, whatever it is, is eternal. No, this does not answer the state of those who have ambiguous gender, but for the majority it is simple enough – the gender you were born with is the gender you always were and always will be. Could we be wrong? Absolutely. I could get to the next life and find that I really am female, and that would take some getting used to, but I can leave that dilemma for then, rather than worrying about it now.
We do not react to men and women in the same manner, no matter who we are. If we are in a situation where the gender is ambiguous, we automatically assign one gender or the other until we can determine otherwise. If we discover we were wrong in our assignment of gender, our reactions to and perceptions of that person change with some difficulty, because we have so closely connected that particular gender to that particular person. Even in reading this post, you are making different judgements based on both my gender and yours. Men and women are different. They have physical, mental, and spiritual attributes that <i>in general</i> conform to their specified gender. Can these attributes be found outside of the given gender? Certainly, but as an exception, not as a rule. Do we know what these differences are? Very, very rarely. Even with our instinctual knowledge of the differences between men and women, these differences are very difficult to quantify and define.
Studies show (forgive my lack of links) that there is a difference in the general outcome of raising children in homes with both a mother and father committed to marriage, as opposed to a mother or father alone, two fathers, two mothers, or a mother and father with an unstable marriage. As children, we look to our fathers and mothers to see how we should react to others of that same gender, which cannot be accomplished as well as a single or same sex parent. It certainly <i>can</i> be done, but it is not accomplished as easily as it would be in a stable two-parent, two-gender home.
Some of the pains often pointed out by feminists are that it would be more preferable for women to be able to confess to other women (rather than male-only Bishops), pray to their Mother in Heaven who would be able to empathize with women better, and that women leaders would be more sensitive to womens issues. Men and women are not the same, but they should be treated equally, have equal opportunity for advancement even in those areas where men and women are seperated by those physical, mental, and spiritual differences. Even though equality of treatment is an important aspect of both feminism and advocating for the LGBTQ amoung us, the loss of gender roles in marriage and parenthood desired in same sex marriage are in direct opposition to feminism – that even though women and men are different, they should both be treated and respected equally.