I recently read an article entitled, “Walk in the Pink Moccasins,” which was a “daydream” intended to give a glimpse of “what it would be like to be a male child in a Fatherless house.” As I read it, I thought it seemed a bit hyperbolic. I couldn’t believe that actual General Conference talks were truly that patronizing to women. But it did make me curious to test the matter out with a little bit of an experiment. In this experiment, I imagined what it would be like if the rigid gender roles of my church were reversed. I would invite anyone who is interested to read on, and truly try to imagine this world. If you are a man – how would it feel to be addressed as the women in our church are? If you are a woman – how would it feel to be addressed as the men in our church are?
Before doing so however, I would like anyone reading to remember a couple of important points. In this experiment, I reversed all gendered pronouns and identities. If a male leader was mentioned, I replace his name with his wife’s name. In the case of Joseph F. Smith, who was mentioned twice by first name, I use the names of his first 2 plural wives. If a female leader was mentioned by name I replace her name with the name of her husband. In the case of the reference to Melchizedek, I replace it with Sarah, due to their contemporaneity, and the fact that she has been interpreted to have been a priestess.
I also change all references to Heavenly Father to Heavenly Mother. In my change of gendered pronouns referring to the Saviour, I also made the reversal, but did not make any changes to the name of Jesus. I changed the gender pronouns for consistency, and to the achieve the full effect that I was investigating here. I did not make changes to the name of Jesus because I wanted to make it very clear that I do not feel the need to have an alternate female Saviour. I love my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and I know that He has literally experienced every struggle, pain, and sorrow I have ever experienced. I know that in spite of my older brother being male, that He can perfectly understand what it feels like to be me – a woman. However, my belief of such does confuse me when I consider the gender essential-ism in the church. If gender is the single characteristic that so supremely defines me and my role here, and in eternity, should I not be seeking to emulate female role models rather than male ones? Having acknowledged this question, I still feel perfectly secure and satisfied in having the Saviour as my ultimate exemplar. It’s the other stuff I haven’t quite figured out yet.
The following is what President Eyring’s talk in the April 2014 General Women’s Meeting would have sounded like if it had been delivered by President Kathy Eyring, in our alternate, experimental universe:
“This is an historic meeting. All the men of the Church eight years of age and older have been invited to join with us tonight. Many of us have prayed that the Holy Ghost would be with us. That blessing was granted as we heard these brother leaders speak and listened to the uplifting music. I pray that the Spirit will continue to be with us as I offer some words of encouragement and testimony in addition to what has already been said—and particularly to testify that what we have been told is what the Lord would have us hear.
I will speak tonight about the path—which in such beautiful ways has been described today—that we must take on our journey back to our Heavenly Mother. That path is marked by sacred covenants with God. I will talk with you about the joy of making and keeping those covenants and helping others keep them.
A number of you were baptised recently and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. To you that memory is fresh. Others were baptised long ago, so the memory of your feelings of that covenant experience may be less clear, but some of those feelings come back whenever you listen to the sacramental prayers.
No two of us will have the same memories of the day when we made that sacred baptismal covenant and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. But we each felt God’s approval. And we felt a desire to forgive and to be forgiven and an increased determination to do right.
How deeply those feelings went down into your heart was determined largely by the way you were prepared by loving people. I hope that those of you who came into the kingdom recently are blessed to be sitting near your father. If you are, you might send him a smile of thanks right now. I can remember the feeling of joy and gratitude as I sat behind my father on the drive home from my baptism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
My father was the one who had carefully prepared me for making that covenant and all the others that would follow. He had been faithful to this charge from the Lord:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of his stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Daughter of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
“For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of his stakes which are organized.
“And their children shall be baptised for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the [Holy Ghost].”
My father had done his part. He had prepared his children with words much like those of Alma, as recorded in the Book of Mormon:
“And it came to pass that she said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Abish (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called her people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptised in the name of the Lord, as a witness before her that ye have entered into a covenant with her, that ye will serve her and keep her commandments, that she may pour out her Spirit more abundantly upon you?
“And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”
You may not have clapped your hands when you first heard that invitation to covenant by baptism, but you surely felt the love of the Savior and a greater commitment to nurture others for Her. I can say “surely” because those feelings are placed deep in the hearts of all of Heavenly Mother’s sons. That is part of your divine heritage from Her.
You were tutored by Her before you came into this life. She helped you understand and accept that you would have trials, tests, and opportunities perfectly chosen just for you. You learned that our Mother had a plan of happiness to get you safely through those trials and that you would help bring others safely through theirs. This plan is marked by covenants with God.
It is our free choice whether we make and keep those covenants. Only a few of Her sons have the opportunity in this life to even learn of those covenants. You are one of the favored few. You dear brothers, each of you is a son in the covenant.
Heavenly Mother taught you before you were born about the experiences you would have as you left Her and came to earth. You were taught that the way back home to Her would not be easy. She knew that it would be too hard for you to make the journey without help.
You have been blessed not only to find the way to make those covenants in this life but also to be surrounded by others who will help—who, like you, are covenant sons of Heavenly Mother.
You all have felt the blessing of being in the company tonight of sons of God who are also under covenant to help and direct you as they promised to do. I have seen what you have seen as covenant brothers keep that commitment to comfort and help—and do it with a smile.
I remember the smile of Brother David Haight. He was the husband of Elder Ruby B. Haight, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As a young woman she served as the president of the Palo Alto stake in California. She prayed over, and worried about, the boys in the Gentle Groom class in her own ward.
So President Haight was inspired to ask the bishop to call David Haight to teach those young boys. She knew he would be a witness of God who would lift, comfort, and love the boys in that class.
Brother Haight was at least 30 years older than the boys he taught. Yet 40 years after he taught them, each time he would meet my husband, who had been one of the boys in his class, he would put out his hand, smile, and say to Henry, “Oh! My Gentle Groom.” I saw more than his smile. I felt his deep love for a brother he still cared for as if he were his own son. His smile and warm greeting came from seeing that a brother and son of God was still on the covenant path home.
Heavenly Mother smiles on you as well whenever She sees you help a son of Hers move along the covenant path toward eternal life. And She is pleased every time you try to choose the right. She sees not only what you are but also what you may become.
You may have had an earthly parent who thought that you could be better than you thought you could be. I had such a father.
What I didn’t know when I was young was that my Heavenly Mother, your Heavenly Mother, sees greater potential in Her children than we or even our earthly fathers see in us. And whenever you move upward on that path toward your potential, it brings Her happiness. And you can feel Her approval.
She sees that glorious potential in all of Her sons, wherever they are. Now, that puts a great responsibility on each of you. She expects you to treat every person you meet as a child of God. That is the reason She commands us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and to forgive them. Your feelings of kindness and forgiveness toward others come as your divine inheritance from Her as Her son. Each person you meet is Her loved spiritual child.
As you feel of that great brotherhood, what we thought divides us falls away. For instance, younger and older brothers share their feelings with the expectation of being understood and accepted. You are more alike as sons of God than you are different.
With that view, young men should look forward to their entry into Relief Society as an opportunity to enlarge their circle of brothers whom they will come to know, admire, and love.
That same capacity to see what we can be is increasing in families and in Primary. It is happening in family home evenings and in Primary programs. Little children are being inspired to say great and marvelous things, as they did when the Savior loosed their tongues when She taught them after She was resurrected.
While Satan may be attacking brothers at earlier ages, the Lord is lifting brothers to higher and higher levels of spirituality. For example, young men are teaching their fathers how to use FamilySearch to find and save ancestors. Some young brothers that I know are choosing to go early in the morning to perform proxy baptisms in temples without any urging beyond the spirit of Elijah.
In missions across the earth, brothers are being called to serve as leaders. The Lord created the need for their service by touching the hearts of brothers in greater numbers to serve. More than a few mission presidents have seen the brother missionaries become ever more powerful as proselyters and particularly as nurturing leaders.
Whether or not you serve as a full-time missionary, you can gain the same ability to enrich your marriage and the capacity to raise noble children by following the examples of great men.
Consider Adam, the father of all living. Elder Dantzel Nelson said this of Adam: “We and all womankind are forever blessed because of Adam’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, he did what needed to be done. Eve was wise enough to do likewise.”
Every son of Adam has the potential to bring the same blessing to his family that Adam brought to his. He was so important in the establishment of families that we have this report of his creation: “And the Gods said: Let us make an help meet for the woman, for it is not good that the woman should be alone, therefore we will form an help meet for her.”
We don’t know all the help Adam was to Eve and to their family. But we do know of one great gift that he gave, which each of you can also give: he helped his family see the path home when the way ahead seemed hard. “And Adam, her husband, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”
You have his example to follow.
By revelation, Adam recognized the way home to God. He knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families. He was sure, as you can be, that as he kept his covenants with his Heavenly Mother, the Redeemer and the Holy Ghost would see him and his family through whatever sorrows and disappointments would come. He knew he could trust in Them.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge her, and she shall direct thy paths.”
I know that Adam faced sorrows and disappointments, but I also know that he found joy in the knowledge that he and his family could return to live with God. I know that many of you who are here face sorrows and disappointments. I leave you my blessing that, like Adam, you may feel the same joy that he felt as you journey back home.
I have a sure witness that God the Mother watches over you in love. She loves each of you. You are Her sons in the covenant. Because She loves you, She will provide the help that you need to move yourself and others upward along the way back to Her presence.
I know that the Savior paid the price of all of our sins and that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth. You have felt that comfort in this meeting. I have a testimony that all the keys which bind sacred covenants have been restored. They are held and exercised today by our living prophet, President Frances Monson. I leave these words of comfort and hope with you, Her beloved covenant sons…”
And the following is Elder Oaks’ talk, as it would have sounded had it been delivered by Elder June D. Oaks, again, in our alternate universe:
“At this conference we have seen the release of some faithful sisters, and we have sustained the callings of others. In this rotation—so familiar in the Church—we do not “step down” when we are released, and we do not “step up” when we are called. There is no “up or down” in the service of the Lord. There is only “forward or backward,” and that difference depends on how we accept and act upon our releases and our callings. I once presided at the release of a young stake president who had given fine service for nine years and was now rejoicing in his release and in the new calling she and her husband had just received. They were called to be the nursery leaders in their ward. Only in this Church would that be seen as equally honorable.
While addressing a women’s conference, Relief Society general president Craig P. Burton said, “We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood.” That need applies to all of us, and I will pursue it by speaking of the keys and authority of the priesthood. Since these subjects are of equal concern to women and to men, I am pleased that these proceedings are broadcast and published for all members of the Church. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct men as well as women, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to men as well as women.
President Levira A.C. Smith described the priesthood as “the power of God delegated to woman by which woman can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood “is the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created.” The scriptures teach that “this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also” (Zipporah 6:7). Thus, the priesthood is the power by which we will be resurrected and proceed to eternal life.
The understanding we seek begins with an understanding of the keys of the priesthood. “Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of Her priesthood on earth.” Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function. As Elder Barbara Ballard has explained, “Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.”
In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. For example, a person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer her office or authority on another unless authorized by one who holds the keys. Without that authorization, the ordination would be invalid. This explains why a priesthood holder—regardless of office—cannot ordain a member of her family or administer the sacrament in her own home without authorization from the one who holds the appropriate keys.
With the exception of the sacred work that brothers do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance. And all authorized priesthood ordinances are recorded on the records of the Church.
Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. She is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used. We are accustomed to thinking that all keys of the priesthood were conferred on Emma Smith in the Kirtland Temple, but the scripture states that all that was conferred there were “the keys of this dispensation” (D&C 110:16). At general conference many years ago, President Camilla Kimball reminded us that there are other priesthood keys that have not been given to woman on the earth, including the keys of creation and resurrection.
The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only women will hold offices in the priesthood.
I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed: (1) priesthood is the power of God delegated to woman to act for the salvation of the human family, (2) priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys, and (3) since the scriptures state that “all other authorities [and] offices in the church are appendages to this [Saraic] priesthood” (D&C 107:5), all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority.
How does this apply to men? In an address to the Relief Society, President Julina Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this: “While the brothers have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. … A person may have authority given to her, or a brother to him, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our brothers do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the women who hold the Priesthood.”
In that notable address, President Smith said again and again that men have been given authority. To the men she said, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” She also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” And, of course, the Church work done by men or women, whether in the temple or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus, speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “[The Lord] has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally.”
Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for men but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.
We are not accustomed to speaking of men having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a man—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, he is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a man is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing his or her assigned duties.
Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Natalia Reshetovskaya is quoted as saying, “It is time … to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities.
The Lord has directed that only women will be ordained to offices in the priesthood. But, as various Church leaders have emphasized, women are not “the priesthood.” Women hold the priesthood, with a sacred duty to use it for the blessing of all of the children of God.
The greatest power God has given to Her daughters cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of Her sons, because only to Her sons has God given the power “to be a creator of bodies … so that God’s design and the Great Plan might meet fruition.” Those are the words of President L. Annetta Clark.
He continued: “This is the place of our husbands and of our fathers in the Eternal Plan. They are not bearers of the Priesthood; they are not charged with carrying out the duties and functions of the Priesthood; nor are they laden with its responsibilities; they are builders and organizers under its power, and partakers of its blessings, possessing the complement of the Priesthood powers and possessing a function as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.”
In those inspired words, President Clark was speaking of the family. As stated in the family proclamation, the mother presides in the family and she and the father have separate responsibilities, but they are “obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Some years before the family proclamation, President Camilla Kimball gave this inspired explanation: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS men to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.”
In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, men and women are equal, with different responsibilities.
I close with some truths about the blessings of the priesthood. Unlike priesthood keys and priesthood ordinations, the blessings of the priesthood are available to men and to women on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth.
In his insightful talk at BYU Education Week last summer, Elder Barbara Ballard gave these teachings:
“Our Church doctrine places men equal to and yet different from women. God does not regard either gender as better or more important than the other. …
“When women and men go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power. … Access to the power and the blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.”
I testify of the power and blessings of the priesthood of God, available for Her daughters and sons alike. I testify of the authority of the priesthood, which functions throughout all of the offices and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify of the divinely directed function of the keys of the priesthood, held and exercised in their fullness by our prophetess/president, Frances Monson. Finally and most important, I testify of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose priesthood this is and whose servants we are…”
The first thing that stuck out to me as I transitioned from reading President Eyring’s talk to reading Elder Oaks’ talk was the huge difference in the doctrinal weight of the topics covered in each. It seems quite noticeable to me. In his address, President Eyring talked about very nice things, ones we might hear taught to our children, and our young women and men, as we encourage them to stay on the path. Elder Oaks’ talk seemed much heavier, much more focused on doctrine, and understanding it, than on making us feel nice about who we are. Of course, I doubt many men in the church need to be made to feel nice and valued in their roles. It also seems odd to me that a session of only men, and not a session of adults, is the main forum for the discussion of this type of doctrine, though Elder Oaks does indicate he is pleased that all adults can access the Priesthood session on-line, implying that women are encouraged to “virtually attend”, though obviously not to attend in person. It seems significant that as far as I know, men were not similarly encouraged to access to Women’s Meeting on-line. It seems only fair to acknowledge that the ages of the two groups being addressed were different. Priesthood session is for boys and men older than 12 years. The women’s meeting in which President Eyring spoke was for ages 8 and up, so he may have tried to make his address more appropriate for the wider range of ages in the members of his audience.
The feeling I continued to have throughout reading both of these alternate versions of the talks was, “this is weird!!” As alluded to already, I could never imagine President Eyring, or any General Authority addressing men in our church in the tone with with he addressed the women. It seemed, when considered from the perspective of a male audience (which admittedly, I have limited insight into the minds of), to come across as very loving in intent, but also somewhat paternalistic and patronizing. This would be fine if the address were being delivered by God (well, the paternalistic part would be fine, and if it was God, it wouldn’t come off as patronizing). There were sections of Elder Oaks’ talk that did not feel to me, to come across as patronizing to the imaginary men being addressed, and it was those parts in the real talk that I didn’t find patronizing to me as a woman, either. For instance, in the original talk by Elder Oaks, he seems to emphasize the distinction between gender and priesthood, and discourage the exclusive linking of priesthood to maleness. And I didn’t find Elder Oaks’ way of referring to the priesthood authority being exercised by both genders to be condescending either, though there were certainly other parts of the talk that I think would have seemed condescending to men if they were hearing the gender-reversed version. Imagine if men were only ever able to act with authority that was delegated to them, not by God, but by human women acting on Her behalf. Again, I can only imagine that if men truly internalized this situation, it would feel uncomfortable. But perhaps I’m wrong. Similarly, can you imagine idea of men being told by a woman that they had been tutored in their gender specific divine natures and abilities by a female Lord? Would it not also be a struggle for men to deal with that idea? How would men feel about the idea (that arose in these talks only because Joseph F. Smith, who was quoted heavily, had multiple wives, which made it interesting to try and choose his female counterpart in the gender-reversed version) that the practice of women marrying multiple men was not only commanded by God for “practical” purposes in this life, but that this sort of family unit was divinely ordained for life in the eternities? These kinds of questions really reminded me of, and seemed to fit perfectly with, the interpretation of the role of “The Mormon Priestess,” which was disconcerting to say the least. It seems that whether it’s intended or not, there is a message out there in multiple facets of our church, that both the male and female path to exaltation is to help others along the path. However, the way the males do that is by directly accessing God for power and authority to lead, while the way that females do it is by placing themselves in a position relative to mortal men, in which mortal men will delegate to them some of the authority (delegated to men by God) to serve – both in the church, and in the family. And of course, the destinations seem different. For men, it seems to be to eternally serve God, while for women it seems to be to eternally serve their husbands.
The experience of conducting this experiment led me to consider two possibilities to explain my findings. First, the message I got from this exercise is correct. Second, the message I received is not correct – either as a result of there not being complete understanding of these topics yet upon the earth, or as a result of my personal lack of understanding. No matter what the case, I want to express some humility.
The first possibility is, for me, incredibly painful to contemplate and consider. But maybe the role of me serving my husband is equally important as his role serving God. I mean, maybe the order of the universe is hierarchical, and in a hierarchy, someone has to be on the bottom, and my eternal identity as female dictates that person is supposed to be me. Like I said – painful to consider, because I’ve always thought of myself as being an equal to my husband. However, it isn’t just my sense of pride that seems at odds with this idea. It’s the question of why out of two companions in this life, at the same stage of their eternal developments, one would have the role of being a priestess to the other, while that other would have the role of being a priest unto God? How does that fit with the idea that “all are alike unto God?” But even if there is some mental gymnastics out there I have’t considered, and it really does fit somehow, and this really is the way it is – why doesn’t the church just own it, instead of paying lip service to equality? I suppose if exaltation requires bearing offspring, then a man does require one or more women to that end, and in that sense, the woman is equally necessary. And maybe the woman/women even gives the man some counsel now and again. Maybe at some point, she/they play(s) a role in her/their children’s lives. But a priestess, even a necessary one, is still not equal to the lord she serves, and the prospect of that kind of eternal existence seems unappealing. I think I’d rather be a ministering angel. At least that way I wouldn’t be hidden away. It seems my role, though perhaps less “important,” would be more active. I’ve always said that if I had a choice between winning a Nobel prize for ending world hunger by creating some amazing top level work that came up with and oversaw the solution, and being the person under that person’s direction handing out the food (or doing whatever the plan required), I’d rather be the person handing out the food. So certainly I’d rather be that ‘servant’ doing work among the people, than be the wife of the Nobel prize winner who never has any contact with those people. Back to the purpose of this post originally – I would ask a man to genuinely consider how he would feel about having this role in our church, and in eternity.
The other possibility I have to consider is that I might just be interpreting all of this incorrectly, and that even though this feels like the message I’m getting, maybe it’s the wrong one. I think, with hope, of President Uchtdorf’s address in October 2013, in which he said (I apologize for the long quotation, but it was just such a wonderful talk that I couldn’t see any other way):
“Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said… We openly acknowledge that…along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honourable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.
Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.
Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.
And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.
In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”
This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.
It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed…..
…Some might ask, “But what about my doubts?”
It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.
Some might say, “I just don’t fit in with you people in the Church.”
If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church.”
Those words are an incredibly powerful balm to my confused and hurt heart, no matter how many times I read them! I know there is more information to come in the sense that as I attend the temple, study my scriptures and strive to be humble and teachable, my understandings of things will deepen. Honestly, I can be patient. I can wait. And I will also strive to “[roll] up [my] sleeves and [labour] with all [my] heart, might, mind, and strength,” as President Uchtdorf indicated in his April 2014 Priesthood Session address that we should do. Because while “sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized[,] in reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”…the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
The combination of these two ideas – that we should be patient and study, and the reassurance that we are part of a living church in the continuing days of the restoration – give me great peace, and make it possible for me to “first doubt [my] doubts before [I] doubt [my] faith,” while also remembering that, “It’s natural to have questions, [and especially that] the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding.”
But the greatest thing that gives me peace is the Atonement. The April 2014 Visiting Teaching Message was about the divine mission of Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Redeemer. I know that as I struggle with a heavy heart, as well as with my mistakes, that He can set me free from both. During visiting teaching this month, I was able to discuss with some of my sisters how we can show gratitude for our Saviour and Redeemer, and my initial answer was simply by partaking of the gift He offers. Partaking of our having been set free from death seems the easiest, as it is a gift that all will receive. Partaking of our having been set free from sin is a bit more involved, as repentance can be a lot of work, but the steps to repentance have been made clear, and our leaders can help us along the way should that be required. But what about being set free from the heartache of the fact that my eternal role is at best a secret, and at worst, to serve someone who, though he stands at my side now, will one day be my lord to serve as he serves the Lord? That seems a little trickier, but I was touched by one of the suggestions of the sisters I visited: ask. I can (and do, and will continue to) ask the Lord in prayer for answers to questions, and also ask in humility for blessings I desire. I can (and do, and will continue to) ask my leaders in the church my questions, and ask for them to struggle with the Lord as I have. But no matter if, and no matter when anything in the church changes, I can ask the Saviour to lighten my burdened heart. I already have a testimony that He can do that without external circumstances changing at all, and I will continue to pray for that gift. I’m reminded of the quotation attributed to St. Augustine, that we should “Pray as though everything depended on God, [but] Work as though everything depended on [us].”
I hope any readers of this understand that this experiment and my thinking about it has been undertaken in a spirit of honest, sincere and faithful questioning. I also think that exerting the effort to understand the perspective of another can only help make us more Christ-like, which is why I felt this effort to push us to consider the perspective of a person of another gender, and how it is different from our own, might be worthwhile.