Mormon Women, Priesthood and Equality

Among the strongest critiques levied against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) is that LDS women do not exercise priesthood, therefore they lack power -- or as the world terms it, equality. Feminist of all varieties, both inside and outside of the Church, often advocate that the Church needs to change its policy, in regard to this position, and allow women to be ordained to the Mormon priesthood.

In Mormonism, priesthood is defined as the power God gives to man to act in His Name. All official administrations in the Church are directed under and by priesthood authority - which 'authority' women in the LDS Church do not possess. However, as critical as one chooses to be with this arrangement, it is not unusual, nor primitive.

On March 17, 1844, Relief Society was established by the prophet Joseph Smith, to organize the women of the Church, under the hand of the priesthood. Their charge was to minister alongside the brethren to accomplish the work of the Lord. Relief Society was to be something quite different than what was popping up among other womens' groups of the time. Emma Smith caught her prophet-husband's vision and exclaimed these infamous words -- "We are going to do something extraordinary."

And indeed, that "something extraordinary" is evident more so today, than at any other time in the history of the world. Faithful Mormon women, who understand, cherish and value their role as Latter-day Saint women, with the help of technology, are having an increasing influence for good. Our ability to connect with each other to strengthen, teach and support is one of the great blessings of modern times, and most assuredly is part of God's plan to hasten His work. And in our desire to do so, we are touching the lives of many outside of our faith.

Mormon feminism is also broadening its influence, not only within the Church, but outside of her borders as well. With few exceptions mainstream media are much more interested in the minority, sensational agendas of LDS women who refer to themselves as progressive Mormon women, than with what the majority of faithful Latter-day Saint women think and feel about the same topics. And more importantly how faithful Mormon women resolve various issues, seen by outsiders of the Church as oppressive, in ways that strengthen their testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel.

Certainly we could have a lively discussion here about LDS women and priesthood authority -- which unfortunately just fuels the fires of dissent. So we won't. The many injustices that particular women have experienced within the Church, if listed, often due to lack of understanding, could possibly fill volumes. Nevertheless, that would not address the way things are intended to be, as understood by probably hundreds of thousands of faithful women in the Church -- and which both men and women within the Church acknowledge.

In speaking to the sisters of the Church, Sheri Dew said this:

“Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.”

It's been my experience in speaking to and reading the thoughts of many progressive Mormon women, that they do not have a strong, LDS doctrinal understanding of priesthood and womanhood, in general -- or, that they are openly choosing to be in opposition to the direction and revelation received by those called of God to direct these affairs -- and whom are sustained regularly by the body of the Church as prophets, seers, and revelators. Thus the discomfort that I, and many other LDS members share, when their liberal ideas, philosophies and advocacies are broadcast as false representations of how the majority of active Mormon women think and feel.

Faithful, active Mormon women do not oppose the counsel and inspired direction of living prophets, called specifically to address our day and whom members of the Church, by covenant, sustain.

I greatly appreciate section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The Lord straight up exposes the tendency of every man, when given authority, to use unrighteous dominion in its administration. He also warned that to do so would be the end of a man's priesthood power. Sadly the natural man, in so many, choose to ignore this admonition, and the tender hearts of the Lord's daughters are the frequent recipients of such ignorance. However, this is not the way the Lord intended it to be, but rather, knowing full well this was going to be a problem, called it out. As a Mormon women this is comforting revelation, which enables me to trust in the Lord, and His decisions, on how His Church would be administered here upon the earth -- and confident that ultimately, regardless of human frailty, His power will only be manifest upon the principle of righteousness.

Said Jeffrey R. Holland, at a recent Harvard Conference covering Mormonism 101"I would put the position of a woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints up against the dignity; and worth; and merit; and wonder of a woman anywhere on this planet. We just need to do better to to be able to convey that. We need to be able to make sure that everybody understands that -- including the women in our Church -- which I don't think we've done well enough yet."

Julie B. Beck, former general Relief Society president, eloquently instructed Mormon women on how to gain a better understanding of our own priesthood duty, as well as where and how we all obtain God's power to accomplish His work:

"I will say the priesthood duty of sisters is to create life, to nurture it, to prepare it for covenants of the Lord. Don’t confuse the power with the keys and the offices of the priesthood. God’s power is limitless and it is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what the brothers have and the sisters don’t have. This is Satan’s way of confusing both men and women so neither understands what they really have. . . . “Mine is a home where ev’ry hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood pow’r, With father and mother leading the way.” Mine is a home where every hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power. That is your responsibility, sisters, to help your home be a home that is blessed every hour by priesthood power. It isn’t just when Dad is there. It’s not just when Mom is there. It’s not just when a priesthood ordinance or blessing is being performed. It’s every hour as ordinances, as covenants, are made and kept."

I think it is wrong to assume that simply because the majority of Mormon women do not choose to be critical of our brothers, or try to change what the Lord has established, that we don't see or acknowledge problems within the Church -- because many of us do. Personally, I prefer to go forward, with faith, trusting that as I better understand the doctrine of the priesthood, and how it is manifest in the different roles that men and women share in the Lord's Plan of Salvation, I will better appreciate how, together, we are united in this great work of saving souls, and not necessarily administering the Church -- or being politically correct.

"When the frailities and imperfections of mortality are left behind, in the glorified state of the blessed hereafter, husband and wife will administer in their respective stations, seeing and understanding alike, and co-operating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. 
"Then shall woman be recompensed in rich measure for all the injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality. Then shall woman reign by Divine right, a queen in the resplendent realm of her glorified state, even as exalted man shall stand, priest and king unto the Most High God. 
"Mortal eye cannot see nor mind comprehend the beauty, glory, and majesty of a righteous woman made perfect in the celestial kingdom of God." (from the Young Woman’s Journal 25 [October 1914]: 600-604, link) -James E. Talmage

Kathryn Skaggs

Note: A few of my comments, in this post, were used out of context, and inaccurately, at the recent 2012 FAIR Conference. Please see my response here: Clarifying My Position on Mormon Women and Equality as Opposed to McBaine's FAIR Misrepresentation. (But probably best read after you read this post.)

Read my latest article on The Washington Post's On Faith Blog: Mitt Romney's Mormon milestone

Read more of what Jeffrey R. Holland had to say about women in the Church: Woman: The Crowning Creation and Glory of the Human Experience

Straight Mormons March on Sabbath in Gay Pride Parade

The Gift of Giving Life - A Book for Every Woman

This book review is a stop on the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life, a beautiful book written by LDS women, for LDS women, that I was recently invited to read. As most of you know I’m not inclined to do book reviews here on WBMW. In fact, I don't really consider myself qualified. However, after an initial, brief encounter with The Gift of Giving Life, I knew this book would be one that I would be recommending to friends and family -- which is something I can do. As I consider the readers of my blog friends, I want to share with you, just a bit, of why I think this book is worthwhile. To give you an indicator of just how special I think this book is, I ordered four copies and gave each one of my daughters this book for Mother’s Day.

There are many contributors to The Gift of Giving Life -- which is, among other reasons, one of the elements that makes this book applicable to all women -- but the main author is Felice Austin, with Lani Axman, Heather Farrell, Robyn Allgood, Sheridan Ripley as co-authors. Preface by Lynn Callister PhD.

Partial description of The Gift of Giving Life:

Pregnancy and childbirth are not to be feared; they are divinely appointed processes that can be joyful, spiritual, and bring families closer to God.The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth offers something that no other pregnancy book has before–a spiritual look at pregnancy and birth by and for LDS women and other women of faith. Through moving stories women in the scriptures, women from early Latter-day Saint history, and dozens of modern mothers, The Gift of Giving Life assures readers that God cares deeply about the entire procreative process. 

The Gift of Giving Life does not advocate for any one type of birth or approach to prenatal care, rather it intends to unify our families and communities in regard to the sacredness of birth. We also aim to provide you with resources, information, and inspiration that you may not have had access to all in one place before.

For me personally, as a mother who has given birth to five children, naturally, was an immediate interest in the book, due to the title: The Gift of Giving Life. I have, for years, had some very intimate thoughts, about women and birth, that are deeply spiritual, and I believe doctrinally based. I’ve always known that my impressions were pure revelation from God. Mormon women see giving birth in a much different way than many outside of our faith. Birth is deeply spiritual and makes us co-creators with God in bringing forth spirits into mortality -- givers of life. 

In my reading thus far, my own personal revelations have been confirmed by other women who share similar thoughts, and have written them down. I know these thoughts are not everyday thoughts. They are sacred, and not the things, about giving life, that we often discuss. Until now.

These inspired women, who have put together this beautiful book, have done an exquisite work in compiling so many of the eternal truths about motherhood, that I feel can be such a blessing for more women to contemplate. Things I would like the mothers of my grandchildren to know more about.

Page after page, of this lovely book, brought back so many beautiful feelings, and memories, about the sacredness of giving birth, that for this, now Nana, also brought some tears of joy. The gift of giving life is the crowning blessing of being a woman. Whether you're just beginning this magical journey, or find yourself at the place where you can look back on the miraculous process that you've already passed, it is an experience that will forever change how a woman looks into, and toward eternity.

I came to find out about The Gift of Giving Life through Heather Farrell, one of the co-authors of the book. Heather also writes on Women in the Scriptures, a blog that I link to in my sidebar, and highly recommend. I asked Heather if she wouldn’t mind sharing a few thoughts about how she became involved with GOGL project:

"I got involved with The Gift of Giving Life project about three years ago. Right after I had my daughter I felt prompted to write a piece on my blog about Eve and childbirth. A few weeks after posting it I noticed that Felice Austin and Lani Axman both linked to it on their blogs. I saw that they were working together to collect stories from LDS women about their spiritual birth experiences. I submitted Rose's birth story (which is in the book) and after reading more on my blog they both felt prompted to invite me to collaborate with them.

When they first invited me to work on the book, I didn’t know how I was going to be useful. I’m not a midwife. I don’t write a birth blog. Then one day I realized a significant proportion of the stories of women in the scriptures are birth stories. Especially the women we have names for: Rebekah, Mary, Elizabeth–they’re all birth stories! I realized that’s what I could contribute to this book: I could tell their stories.

We hope our book will help people realize that birth is a spiritual experience. You’re bringing a child through the veil to the earth. All of us co-authors had natural births, so we started by wanting everyone to think like we do. But the Lord has led us in a different direction. We gathered stories—there are about 70 different voices in the book–from women who prayed, and they were supposed to have C-sections, or they were supposed to have epidurals; that was what was right for them. And other women prayed and they were supposed to have a home birth. We came to realize that birth is innately spiritual; it doesn’t matter how you do it. So the book doesn’t advocate for one type of birth.

Doing the book, I came to realize that God cares about birth, and He’ll give you guidance. You should pray about where to give birth. You should pray about how to give birth. You should pray while you’re giving birth! I think we’ve lost those things a bit in LDS culture. I did the historical research for the book and realized that LDS women used to have a different, more spiritual perspective on birth. LDS midwives would pray before they’d attend births. During the births they’d call on priesthood holders to give the mother a blessing if the birth wasn’t progressing. LDS women did washing and anointing before birth. As LDS women, we’ve lost that understanding that birth is not separate from your spiritual life."

I really hope that we've perked your interest enough to claim your own copy of this important book. Personally, I think this is a book that every LDS women, regardless of age, with or without children, should own. You can purchase The Gift of Giving Life on (You should know that I'm an Amazon affiliate, so by clicking on the link I do make a little bit from your purchase.)

And to the men, who have read this 'review' to the end, you can learn so much from this book, too. So, give it the woman in your life that has given you, or your children, life -- and perhaps you could sit down with her and read some of the inspired essays included in this book.

Kathryn Skaggs

You're also invited to visit  The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for their newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 -- as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth. You can also find GOGL on Facebook.

More from WBMW:

Taking Mom Out of Mother's Day - Have We Gone Too Far?

Check Out New Widget and Resource for Answering Gospel Questions

Mormon bloggers, for quite a while, have been asking LDS tech people the golden question, when will visitors to our blogs be able to chat with LDS missionaries, directly from our blogs?

Well, guess what?  They listened. Just launched is a very cool, NEW, widget -- currently available for both Blogger and Wordpress platforms. The widget not only includes the long awaited chat with a Mormon missionary function, but you can also watch a selection of I'm a Mormon videos -- and access a simplified version of Mormon FAQ -- directly from the widget. 

In the quest to make sharing the gospel, online, as easy as possible, the widget should be a great option to all members who have personal blogs. It can easily be added to your sidebar, and allows you to keep doing whatever it is that you do, on your blog, without interruption.

Grab widget for your blog HERE

For many LDS members who have blogs that are not necessarily Mormon oriented, who would like a way to share their Mormon faith, this is an excellent way to do it.

Speaking of great resources for sharing the gospel, online, has recently launched a new section of their website to help members answer gospel questions, called: Answering Gospel Questions! “The growing prominence of the Church and the increasing inquiries from others present us with great opportunities to build bridges, make friends, and pass on accurate information.” said M. Russell Ballard.

"We wanted to supply members with some simple principles they can apply when addressing questions or comments about the gospel that may arise in their casual conversations with others.” —Michael Barber, product manager 

For more info see LDS Church News article: New Resource Helps Members Answer Gospel Questions

Needless to say, I'm very happy about these two, latest, resources for helping members share the gospel, and educate others about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, online. (Check out my sidebar >>>)

Knowing what to say in answering gospel questions is as important as how we go about it. The new resource offers great suggestions for how we can best go about interacting with others, not of our own faith, to make it a positive experience for everyone involved. 

In teaching my primary lesson, last Sunday, we discussed the great Book of Mormon missionary, Ammon. In our discussion we brought out the wonderful tools the Lord has provided for each one of us to accomplish our own mission, as members of His Church, to noise abroad the good news of the gospel. Among the greatest of these tools is faith. 

I have great faith that Jesus Christ is the Master of technology, and that as we have faith in Him and the miraculous tools that He is continually providing us to do His work, we are able to fulfill our own missions, as Latter-day Saints.

Kathryn Skaggs

WBMW on Sharing the Gospel, Online:


Mitt Romney on Marriage, Freedom of Religion and Trusting God

Mitt Romney was invited to address Liberty University's class of 2012, which happens to be a Baptist college. I was interested to find out what he said and found a great article written by Keith A. Fournier, a very surprised editor, at Catholic Online, who attended the commencement exercise, heard Romney's speech, and is a Catholic.

I find interest in this particular speech, for two reasons. Mitt Romney is a high profile Mormon and whatever he communicates, in relation to Mormon beliefs, is broadcast to large audiences. Second, Romney could very likely be the next President of the United States.

I was impressed, on both counts, with the content of his speech and found him to be more engaging than I've ever seen him before. From the standpoint of representing Mormon values, which are also Christian values, he presented these commonalities flawlessly.

Romney expressed his thoughts about the sanctity of marriage, being only between one man and one woman; the importance of freedom of religion; and then focused on trusting in God. Said Fournier:

Governor Romney did not attempt to argue the compatibility of his own religious faith and that of most of the graduates. I was relieved. He told the graduates and their guests, "People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview." He is right. 

Yes, he is. I was privileged to be involved with organizing my own Mormon Helping Hands day of service, where we joined forces with both the Catholic and Methodist churches, for a city-wide food drive, that benefited over 600 needy families, served weekly. It was a beautiful interfaith outreach, where all involved felt our Christian bond.

Read Fournier's entire article: Mitt Romney: Mormon Candidate at Baptist Liberty University Moves Catholic Editor.

Video: Governor Mitt Romney - Liberty University Commencement

Kathryn Skaggs

What others are reading on WBMW:

Taking Mom Out of Mother's Day - Have We Gone Too Far?

Mormons Value Traditional Marriage

Taking Mom Out of Mother's Day - Have We Gone Too Far?

In a desire to be sensitive toward women who are unable to have children I'm concerned that, perhaps on Mother's Day we may be going a bit too far. Not that we can ever be too compassionate in acknowledging the pain that surely accompanies the inability to have children but at the same time we shouldn't need to pull back in giving the much needed praise, encouragement and recognition to mothers who are actually raising, or have raised, children and all that that entails.

Concern for the feelings of women who have made career choices that cause them to delay motherhood, limit the number of children they have, or choose to not have children at all are among other reasons that motherhood, in general, has become a hot button issue even within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In order to be politically sensitive in all circumstances where the issue of how women fulfill their role as mothers comes into play, it is my observation that we are becoming increasingly comfortable with relegating actual moms to the back of the bus even on Mother's Day. And frankly, that kind of bothers me. Said President Hinckley on the awesome responsibility of mothers:

You have nothing in this world more precious than your children. When you grow old, when your hair turns white and your body grows weary, when you are prone to sit in a rocker and meditate on the things of your life, nothing will be so important as the question of how your children have turned out. It will not be the money you have made. It will not be the cars you have owned. It will not be the large house in which you live. The searing question that will cross your mind again and again will be, How well have my children done?

For those who know my history as a mother you might find this concern somewhat surprising. I've wrestled not only with my own Mother's mothering but also with my own ability to mother ideally. It took me a while to put it all into proper perspective. Now that I have, I'm an even stronger advocate for moms with all our weakness and insecurities.  We have a huge task as mothers in Zion and understanding this role is one of our great lessons as sisters in Christ.

Here in the United States Mother's Day was originally established to provide a special day for children to pay tribute to their mothers for their good deeds. It was encouraged that children hand write special messages of gratitude to their mothers. In fact, Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother's Day, was so upset by the almost immediate commercialization of Mother's Day that she actually turned against the memorial and wanted it rescinded.

The simple purity of Mother's Day is being recruited to the larger war on women, of women, and, perhaps even between women. Mormon moms, and Mormon women, are among those who, above all, should not allow this to happen. We, more than any other women on the planet understand the divine call of all women to ultimately become a Mom and I would think would not be comfortable in, no matter personal circumstances, wanting to see motherhood diminished just to be made to feel comfortable.

As I sat in my own church meeting on a past Mother's Day, I sensed that a conscience effort had been made to focus more on womanhood, in general, rather than on being a Mom -- a mother with children. I have no critique of the remarks given. Thankfully no one read off a list of what makes a perfect mother. You know the kind of list I'm talking about, right? The one that leaves every mother in the congregation, except for maybe one (the speaker's perfect wife or mother) feeling like scum on the bottom of a shoe. No, my ward pulled off this new twist quite flawlessly.

And yet, as a Mom myself, knowing well the sacrifices of so many others who have followed the commandments of God, counsel of living prophets, and promptings of the Spirit in making the choice to give birth and become a Mom in the face of so much opposition in today's world, I wished with all my heart, on Mother's Day, at the very least, someone would have given such Moms' recognition for this choice, sacrifice and life's work -- praise that it so well deserves.

Again, not that there's anything wrong, at all, in recognizing all women as mothers as part of their divine nature. Sheri Dew's great talk, "Are We Not All Mothers?" has had a profound impact on this discussion in the Church and rightfully so. I quote it often.

However, we can't shy away from moving forward once we've established this doctrine and acknowledge our gratitude for those women who are able, and willing, to make the bearing and nurturing of children their first priority and the impact for good this has on the lives of the children they nurture.

Even though, as Sheri Dew taught, Eve was called "the mother of all living," in the garden, before she ever bore a child, nonetheless, her full stature was not complete until after the Fall where she was able to finally have children in mortality. Let us never forget that although we have a prescribed divine destiny that it is in the fruits of becoming, or doing, that the promised blessings are ultimately manifest.

Women today, who make the choice to become mothers through giving birth or adoption (and those who desire to do so) are fulfilling their divine nature and destiny as commanded by God -- to multiply and replenish the earth. These particular women, in my opinion, standout among all women as lights to be honored and revered for their sacrifice in setting aside their own desires, and as the Savior, Himself, willingly follow God's Plan in the face of much adversity.

This is the perfect Mother: the one, with all her weakness, chooses to follow God's Plan and teaches her children to do the same although for the majority of us, incredibly imperfectly.

Howard W. Hunter on the Motherhood:
A man who holds the priesthood has reverence for motherhood. Mothers are given a sacred privilege to “bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of [the] Father continued, that he may be glorified” ( D&C 132:63). 
The First Presidency has said: “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 6:178). The priesthood cannot work out its destiny, nor can God’s purposes be fulfilled, without our helpmates. Mothers perform a labor the priesthood cannot do. For this gift of life, the priesthood should have love unbounded for the mothers of their children. 
Honor your wife’s unique and divinely appointed role as a mother in Israel and her special capacity to bear and nurture children. We are under divine commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and to bring up our children and grandchildren in light and truth (Moses 2:28; D&C 93:40). You share, as a loving partner, the care of the children. Help her to manage and keep up your home. Help teach, train, and discipline your children. 
You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother. 
A man who holds the priesthood regards the family as ordained of God. Your leadership of the family is your most important and sacred responsibility. The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life. 
We reiterate what was stated by President David O. McKay: “No other success [in life] can compensate for failure in the home” (David O. McKay quoting J. E. McCulloch, “Home: the Savior of Civilization,” in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, p. 116) and President Harold B. Lee: 
“The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 255). Effective family leadership, brethren, requires both quantity and quality time. The teaching and governance of the family must not be left to your wife alone, to society, to school, or even the Church. Howard W. Hunter, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 49

Kathryn Skaggs

Photo: Taken on my iPhone, of me and my Mom, on Mother's Day.

From WBMW:

Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus...

Woman: "The Crowning Creation and Glory of the Human Experience"

A Survivor of Mother's Day Depression Motherhood

Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus...

As a mother, having experienced the birth of my own children and passing through both the sorrows and joys of raising them (now being witness to my daughters as mothers having set themselves upon their own very personal journeys) I can only contemplate with deep emotion the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer.

To me, Mary is a sacred symbol as well as spiritual evidence to all mankind of the worth and dignity of the sacred calling of every woman, as a mother. As we study the life of Mary, the mother of the Savior of the world, the pattern of motherhood is clearly marked.

In bringing forth her first born son, Mary, was given a clear knowledge of who He was and with this understanding set herself, with Joseph by her side, to ensuring that Jesus was taught in all the ways of God that He might be prepared to fulfill His mission here upon earth.

Likewise, as Latter-day Saint parents we know that every child brought into our homes is a literal spirit son or daughter of God with a divine inheritance that must be claimed in order to receive it. To help them fulfill that mission while here upon the earth parents must tutor their children in the ways of God until they are ready to exercise their own God-given agency to choose it for themselves.

There is no greater call than to be a teacher. By divine decree, mothers are called to nurture, which is to teach. Mothers nurture as they guide their children in learning how to listen to the still small voice given to children when they entered into mortality. This critical preparation while they are young prepares them to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of their baptism. 

Like Mary, the time comes when we must trust that we have taught our children well, to take a step back, and allow the Spirit to move our children forward on their own path toward Eternal Life. And like Mary, who briefly panicked when Jesus, at age 12, wandered off to be about His Father's business learned to trust this holy process. Although Jesus, perfect, never once deviated from the course that He was destined, through the power of His Atoning mission has assured every one of us that when course corrections are necessary He has prepared the way that we may do so.

Every Latter-day Saint mother, comes to fully understand the great gift of the Atonement as she takes that difficult, inevitable step of having to stand back herself. From this point on, she becomes an observer to the lives of her children. Mistakes are made, many seemingly fatal. Without the Atonement, spiritual death would result. 

Again, I emphasize that which I have expressed many times before, but it is through my own journey, as a mother, that the deepest meaning of the Atonement has manifested itself to me personally. Without the Atonement I would lose my children. With it, I have hope of that promised Eternal Family that we live for daily as we keep sacred covenants made in holy temples of God. 

Knowing the happy ending, generally, does not make the process, or journey, easy. Mary is most often recorded in scripture as being alongside of, or nearby, in various accounts in the life of her son, Jesus. All mothers become familiar with this status, in the lives of their own children. Often times, much of what we witness is of concern. And like Mary, we must learn to have faith in God's plan and trust that the promised blessings, for all of us, will come.

Mary, during her own earthly life was ultimately given full knowledge that her son had accomplished the work He was sent here to do. How glorious and magnificent that must have been! That was her great gift, given by a loving Heavenly Father to the Mother of the Son of God.

And like Mary, we also, because of her Son, have an assurance that the exaltation of our children, by covenant, is fixed and immovable! There is no greater peace, for any mother, than to have such a knowledge.

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).

LDS Bible Video: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Kathryn Skaggs

You might also enjoy reading the most recent post I've written about Mary and motherhood on Mormon Women Stand: Were Women Ordained to Motherhood Before Birth?

More from WBMW on Motherhood:

Woman: "The Crowning Creation and Glory of the Human Experience"

With Mother's Day approaching I want to take a moment to reflect on the beauty, wonder, and sacred call of every woman as a mother. To be a mother, is gender specific and no male, however many attributes he may possess that are similar, can ever replace in the life of a child, or for that matter the plan of salvation, that of Mother -- called of God. 

In a world that would do away with gender specific roles, both physical and spiritual, the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are clear on the role and divine destiny of the daughters of Eve. 

That so many, even among our active members, choose to disregard these truths here in mortality it is not redundant to pause briefly and revisit The Family: A Proclamation to the World

A few months ago I was approached by freelance writer, Frieda Klotz, working on an article for Forbes Woman. She requested an interview with me, which reluctantly I gave. Her questions were focused on the role of Mormon women in the Church -- a controversial issue, for some, to say the leastAfter providing my direct answers to her inquiries a good month passed and I hadn't heard back from her. I decided to contact her to see if she was still planning on using the interview. She informed me that she was no longer working with Forbes. 

My first reaction was one of relief. I struggled, somewhat, with a few of the answers I had given her and wondered how they would be perceived, especially within the Church, and particularly with my readers here. I'm generally quite guarded about speaking of those things that others would take as criticism toward the Church. However, after careful consideration, and with Frieda's blessing, I decided to post the interview here as I felt the content important. Needless to say I have not done so -- yet.

But, after listening to a recent Q&A with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, following a beautiful apostolic speech that he gave at Harvard, (Which I highly recommend.) coupled with Mother's Day, which centers on the divine role of women, the timing, now, seems perfect. 

The Role of Women in the Mormon Church
Frieda Klotz' Interview with Kathryn Skaggs

Here are the questions that I'm interested in. I'm trying to get a
handle on the role of women within the Church -- and what it's like to
be a Mormon woman!

Let me begin with a bit of a disclaimer, in that I fully acknowledge my inadequacy to represent all Mormon women in the LDS Church. Like all women from one generation to the next we change based upon the lessons of the past and the hopes of the future. Mormon women, within our culture, are no different.

1. Would you say that Mormon values hold benefits for women in
general? What are those benefits?

I would definitely say that Mormon values, or beliefs, hold benefits for women in general. First of all, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the formal name of the church, doctrinally hold women in the highest esteem.  Recognizing that Adam, being the first man, was not complete without the woman Eve.  She is not second to him, but literally together they become whole.  Another important concept in Mormon theology is the belief that no person, singly, can reach the highest degree of glory in heaven.  A temple marriage between a man and a woman is the highest sacrament in the LDS Church and required to inherit the kind of life that God lives.  This understanding has great value to women around the globe.

2. Do you feel that the Mormon church places any restrictions on women
that are problematic?

The answer to that question depends upon individual women in the church and their personal background, perspectives and experience.  For instance, I personally have no problem that Mormon women do not exercise priesthood [administrative] responsibilities in the church.  On the other hand, a minority of active women in the church do wish otherwise.  Generally Mormon women are comfortable with the patriarchal organization of the LDS Church.  It is a large part of Mormon culture.  Although that’s not to say it’s a perfect earthly system. After all, we are not perfect people, right? 

Personally I’ve found my experiences as a Mormon woman, in the LDS Church, very much affected by the men who hold authoritative positions.  And I suppose that’s because I have often throughout my adult life served in leadership positions available to Mormon women.  When men in the church have a firm grasp on the Mormon doctrine of womanhood, and that although men have been given the responsibility to lead in the church, women are equal in the eyes of God – things go quite well.  And I will say that this has generally been my experience and is the way it should be.  And yet I have seen and experienced what is referred to in the church as “unrighteous dominion” where a priesthood leader will diminish the thoughts, opinions and position of a woman based on his leadership position over her.

There are a handful of leadership positions for Mormon women in the church, locally, who serve in these capacities under the direction of local priesthood leaders.  I have served in a number of these positions over the years and have found great fulfillment doing so as a woman in the church.    

However, in our homes it is different – men and women are encouraged to counsel together in all things pertaining to their families, as equals, and preside accordingly.  I think that younger people in the church are doing this much better than their parents.  I have three married daughters and am much impressed by how they delegate responsibilities as spouses.  And equally I’m impressed with how these younger Mormon men are responding to greater equality in their marriages.  I’ve always felt that a good motto to live by is “every generation better”.  I see great application to this concept in the LDS Church, with understanding and implementing proper roles between men and women.

Joseph Smith, founding prophet of the LDS Church, taught that teaching the members correct principles was the way to go, and then allow the people to govern themselves.  This is often a process that requires time and experience to get important things right. I’m happy to report that I see much improvement as church leaders continue to counsel members in these areas.

3. Margaret Toscano has said in a PBS interview that "there are some
things in the culture that are very damaging to women". Do you have
have any thoughts on the conflict she mentions between Mormonism and
feminism? (I should add that she also says, "there are a lot of
empowering things in the culture.").

I’ve already given you some of my personal thoughts on Mormon women and priesthood authority in the church in my answer to the previous question.  I’m going to address her assessment that the “present structure of the LDS Church does not allow woman to develop her full personhood” -- which to me is the most troubling and revealing. Let me begin by saying that it is not my intention to be critical of Ms. Toscano’s experience. Certainly she is a very educated and articulate woman, however I feel that in the particular interview that you are referring to, she displays a lack of understanding of the relationship between the official LDS Church and its members.

It is my opinion that it is not the responsibility or mission of the LDS Church, as an organization, to be the vehicle, wherein men or women, develop their “full personhood” and ultimately, as she also stated, their “sense of worth”. On the other hand, I do believe that the doctrines that are taught in the LDS Church, whether it be via modern revelation or scripture -- do indeed reveal powerful knowledge about our relationship with God, as our literal Heavenly Father.  It is this knowledge that gives members of the LDS Church a sure foundation upon which to build a very personal and intimate relationship with Him – not conditioned upon our activities and/or assignments in the organizational church.  In fact, it is in the family that Mormons believe they can reach their full potential as sons and daughters of God.

This distinction, I believe, is a very important one. Granted, perhaps more so for Mormon women to understand – which I feel most do. I can’t argue that to many outside of the church, looking in, that equality by today’s standards could be questioned. However, for the majority of Mormon women we are content with our understanding of God’s eternal plan for His daughters and because of this our feelings of worth can be secured.   

I’d also like to briefly mention the women’s Relief Society organization in the LDS Church. It is a great resource for helping Mormon women to both develop and express their gifts and talents among each other – as well a wonderful vehicle for service both within the church and in our local communities. I have a great love for this arm of the church that has a mission to help strengthen families and individual testimonies of Jesus Christ. I served as a president in this organization as a young mother and was greatly inspired by so many good women of great diversity. These examples of strong women of faith and confidence in their life’s choices continue to inspire me.

4. How would you feel if Mitt Romney were elected president?

After observing the current attempts to discredit Mitt Romney based on his Mormon faith, I would be most happy about him being elected as president because of what it would ultimately indicate about the American people in general.  I think that alone should be important to all of us.

5. What do you think are the biggest misunderstandings that
non-Mormons tend to hold about Mormons (if it's possible to

Beside the constant assertions that Mormons are not Christian or that we belong to a cult, I think the biggest misunderstanding about Mormons is a concern that we are not open about our religious beliefs which leads to a feeling that we are being secretive in some way. Of course this is highly perpetuated by both anti-Mormons and the media who are hoping to dissuade people from even considering a Mormon for president, so it’s not surprising that it continues to be a problem for members. I think most Mormons are very open and would love the opportunity to help others better understand our practices and beliefs. Really, the theory that Mormons are secretive just doesn’t quite fit when you consider we have over 50,000 missionaries, worldwide, willing to tell anyone willing, to open their door, all about us!  


I've taken the liberty to transcribe one particular question, asked of Elder Holland, by a young woman, during the above mentioned Harvard annual Mormon 101 Conference, and his beautiful and profound answer -- of which I hope that every LDS woman is blessed to hear. Since listening to this recording, weeks ago, Elder Holland's words have remained with me, and these truths have seared their way deeply into my soul. I think, after listening to Elder Holland's words, that you will better understand why I chose to finally post my interview with Frieda Klotz, on the role of Mormon women in the Church.

Note: Please do NOT quote Elder Holland from my transcript. Although I have been meticulous in my transcribing, what I believe I heard, in the recording, I have no authority to have done so. If you want to quote him, you need to go through the same painstaking labor of love that I did. In saying this, I recognize that my transcription is most likely less than perfect, and therefore I don't desire to be held responsible for any mistakes going abroad on the Internet. If you quote him, as I have, you are accountable -- as am I.

LDS Newsroom: Listen to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's question and answer session at Harvard Law School (In my imagination, this is exactly what it would be like to sit at the feet of an apostle of the Lord, ask him about the most pertinent questions of the day, and let him just teach me. This is a must-listen. Marvelous!)

(10:05 mark)

Question: I have more of a political question than a doctrinal question. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about the LDS view on women, specifically in light of the war on women, and Mitt Romney's comment that he would get rid of planned parenthood.

Elder Holland's answer:
I won't speak on Mitt Romney or his campaign. We are apolitical in the Church, in the partisan sense. So I won't comment on any candidate or any political party. 
But I can say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is more committed than any institution, any religious institution I know of, to the dignity and standing; and worth; and merit; and glory of a woman in anyway that I know it to say it to you. 
My wife --- where are you honey? Stand. Stand. (laughter) My wife was a general officer of this Church before I was and I don't know very many churches that do that. But she was the general officer over a global organization, years, years before anybody thought I had anything to offer. That may or may not be exactly what you have in mind in asking the question, because some of those come down to social issues -- contemporary political issues of the day, and you've referred to one. But we are, in principle, and that's where I'd like to keep this. 
In principle I can simply say that we believe that the creation of a woman was the crowning, and final, and most glorified moment of human creation.That we start with light and dark; and land and sea; and we move through fish and fowl; and beast of the field; and we get to Adam and it's still not good enough... and only when Eve was created --- this is our theology. You say it's political, but for me it's theological. That is our theology -- that the crowning creation and the glory of the human experience came with the creation of Eve.  
Now, we need to do better. Everybody needs to do better. I think society needs to do better. This Church probably needs to do better. Maybe your church does. I don't know. I think we all need to do better to make sure that that dignity comes through -- to make sure that this kind of communication is conveyed.  
With one of you in this audience I sat a couple of hours ago, and we talked about this -- how to do it better. How to be more explicit. How to find a better vocabulary. How to make actions follow our language, in our vocabulary and our sermons. I think that's a task that is probably still ahead of all of us. 
But certainly doctrinally, theologically -- I don't mean this to be overly boastful or to be patronizing in anyway, in any other tradition -- but I would put the position of a woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints up against the dignity; and worth; and merit; and wonder of a woman anywhere on this planet. We just need to do better to to be able to convey that. We need to be able to make sure that everybody understands that --  including the women in our Church -- which I don't think we've done well enough yet.

I really don't want to even try to commentate on such beautiful teaching by an Apostle of the Lord on the doctrine of womanhood -- only to say that Elder Holland's words resonated with me and because of personal experiences, as a Mormon woman in the Church, have very deep meaning. I trust that many of you will cherish his words as well.

What I will say, is how grateful I am to be a woman and a mother -- and to have a deep understanding of the role of women in the Church -- and of motherhood. I count this knowledge as a great blessing. A blessing that has come not only through experience but through prayer and seeking to understand with faith.

Happy Mother's Day!

Kathryn Skaggs

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