Sunday, April 26, 2015

What is the Role of Women on Earth?

That's a big question, isn't it? To some, it may even sound insulting. I bring it up because, in the Church, the role of men is well defined, so clear, and very expansive. When we talk of women, however, we get focused on marriage, family life, and nurturing and seem to run out of other things to say.

Earlier, I wrote about viewing the temple endowment as a further endowment for women (not men), which points to gifts specifically given to them prior to coming to earth. What exactly do we do with that? How is that pre-mortal gift to play out in our lives now? What purpose does it serve in our individual lives and as members of the Church?

Here I will outline what I believe are the unique contributions women can make within the (current*) framework on the Church.

PROPHETESS

The Bible dictionary defines the word 'prophet' as he who holds all the keys and is president of the Church or, generally speaking, anyone who has the spirit of revelation.

Additionally, The Guide to the Scriptures specifically defines 'prophetess' as follows:

PROPHETESS 
See also Prophecy, Prophesy 
A woman who has received a testimony of Jesus and enjoys the spirit of revelation. A prophetess does not hold the priesthood* or its keys. Though only a few women in the scriptures are called prophetesses, many prophesied, such as Rebekah, Hannah, Elisabeth, and Mary. (Asterisk added)
[*In my own reading of this, I take "priesthood" to mean Aaronic/Melchizedek, not the broader term or "capital 'P' Priesthood" described here.]  

From this I feel that there are 4 distinct categories:
1) The Prophet (Thomas S. Monson as of 2015)
2) prophets (anyone with a testimony and the fruits thereof)
3) Prophetesses (named as such in the Bible, e.g. Miriam)
4) prophetesses (see below)

To me, prophetess suggests more than female "little p prophet." I base this on the Creation story in which Adam is clearly described as being made from the earth and starting life as a little child, forgetting everything that had occurred pre-mortally. In contrast, Eve is brought to him as a sage counselor who can see much more than what the eyes view in front of them (see also). For revelation, as I deem it, is not just seeing into the future, it's also remembering the past. --Even the pre-mortal existence with insight that can affect mortality. In this, Eve and her daughters are well-equipped. That uniqueness, in my opinion, is what warrants that fourth category for prophetesses.

We see examples of prophetesses (as described above) throughout the Bible and worth noting is that their power is usually on display in matters affecting their descendants. Rebekah for example prophesied that it was Jacob, not Esau, who should receive the birthright, and she took the situation into her own hands (even deceiving Isaac) to make things so. Similarly, Elisabeth prophesied that her son would be named John, and she came to this conclusion independent of her husband. Keeping this pattern, Hannah knew to dedicate her son, and only child (at the time), to the Lord in His temple as he would later become a prophet. In all three cases, when future generations hinge on foretold knowledge, it is woman's distinguished place to set things right. This makes her a prophet(ess) in the most distinct way.

Outside of the scriptures and in everyday life, women act as prophetesses when the veil is made thin to them as a privilege owing to their true and honest hearts. They are to share that insight with their families and one would hope that it is accepted and acknowledged.

ANGEL 
Angel mother is a term unique to women and is often used among Church members. In As Sisters in Zion we sing "the errand of angels is given to women." Joseph Smith once stated that women who live up to their privilege will have the angels as their associates. What does that all mean?

When asked to speak to the Relief Society, President Faust gave a talk entitled 'How Near to the Angels,' and in it he describes a view of righteous women in their ministry. Pres. Faust added that if women are true to the promptings they receive they will be employed in an angelic cause and live up to their purpose here on earth. Those promptings are described as "intuitive," which I take to mean unique to our gender, and "noble," which to me seems like something more than admirable. I'm thinking more along the lines of nobility, coming from Heavenly Mother even. In keeping with that perspective, Pres. Faust says that women have "feelings planted deep within [our] souls by Deity."--By using that word specifically he allows for the feminine form.

Stepping back, angels are defined in the Bible Dictionary as heavenly messengers. Thus, if women act on their intuition in the service of others, are they letting their actions reflect the heart and mind of God? I like to think so.

MOTHER
I don't feel a need to go deep into this section as so much of our church discussion go on about this, and Sheri Dew has already done a fantastic job of noting Are We Not All Mothers?

I will, however, re-emphasize that motherhood has been declared "the highest and holiest service to be assumed by mankind" and is "the highest place of honor in human life" (Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965-75), 6:178). It is about expounding upon doctrine, teaching life lessons, exhorting others to keep the faith, giving a glimpse into what Heavenly Mother must be like, and, yes, nurturing the talents one perceives in a child.


CONCLUSIONS
The purpose of this post was not just to brag about how awesome women are (though I do enjoy that), it's to provide concrete examples of what Latter-day Saint women have that's worth remarking.

Moving forward, I hope to hear myself, my daughter, and other women say...

  • I magnify my callings in the offices of the priesthood.
  • I have received or am preparing to receive my further endowment.
  • By virtue of my true and honest heart, the veil was made thin to me and I prophesy ____.
  • The reach of my ministry continues to grow.

I'd be delighted to hear (more) men say...
  • I honor my wife's prophetic revelations
  • I sustain woman's ministry
  • I respect mothers as having the highest and holiest calling
  • I acknowledge the unique gifts given to her pre-mortally, which bless my life now

I can already foresee this happening.

*Did I want to include "priestess" here? You bet your garment-covered bottom.

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