During 2017, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The quotes from Hinckley are in bold, with my comments following. If you would like to see the church manual online, go here. Latter-day Saints study this material on the second and third Sundays of each month (thus, chapters 1-2 are January, chapter 3-4 are February, etc.)
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
Women have a high and sacred place in the eternal plan of God.
Each of you is a daughter of God. Reflect on all the wondrous meaning of that one paramount fact. …
Here is a chapter dedicated to the women of the LDS Church. With so much controversy in the past few years regarding women in the church, a chapter like this is not unexpected. It needs to be understood that when Hinckley uses the phrase “daughters of God,” he means so in a literal way, as Mormonism teaches that in the preexistence obedient spirits were given the ability to come to this world. According to Mormonism, a woman on her own is not allowed to possess the authoritative priesthood that would give her the ability to gain exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
Women do not hold the priesthood, but if they are faithful and true, they will become priestesses and queens in the kingdom of God, and that implies that they will be given authority. The women do not hold the priesthood with their husbands, but they do reap the benefits coming from that priesthood (Doctrines of Salvation 3:178. Italics in original).
In other words, the woman’s authority is not provided unless she gets married in a Mormon temple. In other words, she needs the priesthood authority of her husband to even have a chance to progress in the next life. Smith explained,
Since marriage is ordained of God, and the man is not without the woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord, there can be no exaltation to the fulness of the blessings of the celestial kingdom outside of the marriage relation (Doctrines of Salvation 2:65. Italics in original).
As Charles W. Penrose put it,
When a woman is sealed to a man holding the Priesthood, she becomes one with him. Sometimes the man is the one and sometimes he is not, but she receives blessings in association with him. The glory and power and dominion that he will exercise when he has the fulness of the Priesthood and becomes a “king and a priest unto God,” she will share with him. Sisters have said to me sometimes. “But, I hold the Priesthood with my husband.” “Well,” I asked, “what office do you hold in the Priesthood?” Then they could not say much more. The sisters are not ordained to any office in the Priesthood and there is authority in the Church which they cannot exercise; it does not belong to them; they cannot do that properly any more than they can change themselves into a man. Now, sisters, do not take the idea that I wish to convey that you have no blessings or authority or power belonging to the Priesthood. When you are sealed to a man of God who holds it and who, by overcoming, inherits the fulness of the glory of God, you will share that with him if you are fit for it, and I guess you will be (Conference Reports, April 1921, p. 198).
And a church manual reports:
A woman can receive the blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood by receiving the ordinances of the gospel and by being married to a righteous priesthood holder. The blessings that come into a home when a man magnifies his priesthood affect his wife as much as they affect him. Perhaps the most important way a woman participates in the blessings of the priesthood is by receiving her endowment and being married in the temple (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, 2000, pp. 31-33).
As Mormonism founder Joseph Smith said,
Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory (History of the Church 5:391).
While I am not in complete agreement with the organization called “Ordain Women,” which is mainly made up of a group of feminist women who are demanding that the Mormon priesthood be given to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, I do understand their plight and the desire to have equality before God. They don’t want to have to depend on a man, any man for that matter, to have a relationship with God. That seems only fair in the scope of biblical truth. After all, if a woman marries a bad egg, what is her lot at death? There will be nobody there to call her from the grave and take her to this celestial kingdom. She will be assigned to another man, perhapssomeone she didn’t even know in this life. During her life she may have been faithful in her covenants, but because her eternal destiny rested with another who ended up not being faithful, she is destined to spend eternity in a completely different situation than what she would have desired or even imagined.
In Christianity, women are certainly valued and are able to have a full relationship with Jesus, whether or not they are married. In Galatians 3:28-29 Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
If marriage to a worthy man is a main requirement, then how could Paul have even said in 1 Corinthians 6:8, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am”? If Mormonism is true, then what terrible advice this would be! Indeed, it would be cruel for Paul to make such a suggestion when marriage is necessary to gain any authority. Again, without this authority, there is no chance to progress in the next life.
When Hinckley says that “women have a high and sacred place in the eternal plan of God,” according to Mormonism it can be found only in marriage to a priesthood holder for any hope to create spirit children in the celestial kingdom. These heavenly wives will never be worshiped as “Mother God.” The woman will never have the prominent place her husband will be allowed to attain, for as “God” of his new realm, he will be in control of his new world and become the object of worship of all the children.
Meanwhile, plural marriage—a practice that was officially banned in 1890 although the practice continued in the church until 1904—has been said by LDS general authorities to recommence in the heavenlies. As Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, “Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 578). In fact, many may not realize that plural eternal marriages happen every day (except Sundays) in LDS temples around the world. The church handbook explains, “If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the man may have another woman sealed to him if she is not already sealed to another man” (Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops, 2010, p. 20). This is how Apostles Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks understand it since each of them have been married for time and eternity twice in LDS temples, both times after their original wives passed away. These men fully expect to see each of these women in their new worlds.
Think about this. Polyandry—the marriage of one woman and multiple men—will not happen, but polygamy will! How disheartening for women who will have to share their husband with other women, many of whom they never knew and were added to the husband’s world in order to populate the new realm.
I remind you of words spoken by the Prophet Joseph to the women of the Relief Society in April of 1842. Said he: “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 454]. What marvelous potential lies within you.
I should point out that Joseph Smith used the original Relief Society (founded by his first wife Emma) to cultivate new polygamous wives for himself. This is supported in history. Consider the following passage from the book Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, written by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, both of whom were Latter-day Saints:
Emma reported that a young woman, Clarissa Marvel, “was accused of [telling] scandalous falsehoods on the character of Prest. Joseph Smith without the least provocation,” and asked that “they would in wisdom, adopt some plan to bring her to repentance.” She continued, “I presume that most of [you] know more about Clarissa Marvel than I.” There must have been silent consternation among a few in the group who were privy to the teaching of celestial marriage. Joseph’s plural wife Louisa Beaman sat in the meeting as did Sarah Peake Noon and Vilate Kimball. Did Emma know that her husband had approached some women and asked them to become his plural wives? (p. 108)
In fact, Joseph used some of the older women in the group to present his marriage proposals to younger women:
Unbeknown to Emma, Joseph had already taught these older women the principles of plural marriage. Sometimes referred to as “Mothers in Israel,” they assisted Joseph by contacting women, explaining the new order of marriage to them, and occasionally delivering marriage proposals. (p. 109)
Smith did much of his maneuvering right under the nose of Emma who appeared to be unaware of most of his marriages, including those to teenagers as young as 14 and to women who were married to living husbands. Secrecy was the norm in his marriages, and Emma was usually none the wiser.
The demand for secrecy coupled with the need to warn others of unauthorized practices such as [John C.] Bennett’s led Joseph and the Twelve to develop a system of evasion. By employing “code words” the practitioners of the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage,” as taught by Joseph, felt they could publicly deny one thing and privately live by another – and do it with a clear conscience” (pp. 112-113. Brackets mine).
The stats boggle the mind:
In the group of Smith’s well-documented wives, eleven (33 percent) were 14 to 20 years old when they married him. Nine wives (27 percent) were twenty-one to thirty years old. Eight wives (24 percent) were in Smith’s own peer group, ages thirty-one to forty. In the group aged forty-one to fifty, there is a substantial drop off: two wives, or 6 percent, and three (9 percent) in the group fifty-one to sixty. The teenage representation is the largest, though the twenty-year and thirty-year groups are comparable, which contradicts the Mormon folk wisdom that sees the beginnings of polygamy as an attempt to care for older, unattached women. These data suggest that sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation for Smith’s polygamy. In fact, the command to multiply and replenish the earth was part of the polygamy theology, so nonsexual marriage was generally not in the polygamous program, as Smith taught it” (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, pp. 11-12).
Why was Joseph Smith so intent in marrying other women? Historians have shown that his desire for sex with multiple women played a major role in why Joseph Smith’s sought them out:
Many concluded that the practice of polygamy stemmed from his own insatiable sex drive, fueled by a quest for power. In an effort to defuse that charge somewhat, others have intimated that Emma was frigid and unresponsive, implying that if Joseph had a problem it must have been Emma’s fault. …The majority of faithful Mormons would give little consideration to Joseph’s own physical drives or to other charges. With “an almost compulsive emphasis on unquestioning loyalty to the Priesthood authority as the cardinal virtue,” they would maintain simply that God commanded plural marriage through the prophet Joseph Smith (Linda Newell King, Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Smith, 1994, p. 97. Ellipsis mine).
Sex did play a role in Smith’s marriage decisions:
In conclusion, though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for this (except, perhaps, in the cases of the older wives, judging from later Mormon polygamy). And in a significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations…Eighteen of Joseph’s wives (55 percent) were single when he married them and had never been married previously. Another four (12 percent) were widows…However, the remaining eleven women (33 percent) were married to other husbands and cohabitating with them when Smith married them…If one superimposes a chronological perspective, one sees that of Smith’s first twelve wives, nine were polyandrous (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 15. Ellipses mine).
If Joseph Smith really was a man of God, called as a prophet to restore priesthood authority and help people connect with God, he would not have used these women as his play toys in fulfillment of his carnal desires.
To learn more about his topic, I invite you to go to www.josephswives.com.
You are very precious, each of you. … You occupy a high and sacred place in the eternal plan of God, our Father in Heaven. You are His daughters, precious to Him, loved by Him, and very important to Him. His grand design cannot succeed without you.
Since we’re on the subject of polygamy, how should we reconcile Hinckley’s words with the way Mormon women were treated in the 19th century by Smith and succeeding LDS leaders? After all, a person could not become divine without marrying multiple women. Second President Brigham Young said, “It is all connected with the exaltation of man, showing how he becomes exalted to be a king and a Priest—yea, even a God, like his Father in heaven. Without the doctrine that this revelation reveals, no man on earth ever could be exalted to be a God” (August 29, 1852, Journal of Discourses 6:282). He also said, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy” (August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:269)
I am not sure how this ought to be considered “a high and sacred plan in the eternal plan of God.”
Let me say to you sisters that you do not hold a second place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan. Without you the plan could not function. Without you the entire program would be frustrated.
A loose translation: “Without someone/ones to create spirit children in my next world, it would be impossible for me to progress. So thank you, ladies, for helping me reach the goal of becoming a god so my children can worship me one day.”
To be used a child bearers for a man’s world is, quite honestly, pathetic.
There has come to you as your birthright something beautiful and sacred and divine. Never forget that. Your Eternal Father is the great Master of the universe. He rules over all, but He also will listen to your prayers as His daughter and hear you as you speak with Him. He will answer your prayers. He will not leave you alone.
When Hinckley uses the term “birthright,” what exactly does that mean? According to the Bible, we are sinners and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). And this leads to eternal death (Rom. 6:23). What men and women need is forgiveness of their sins so they won’t experience eternal death.
The Lord’s counsel to Emma Smith applies to all.
The twenty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants … is a revelation given through Joseph the Prophet to his wife Emma. … Said he to Emma, and to each of us:
“A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion” [D&C 25:2; see also verse 16]. …
This is same Emma Smith who, if Mormonism is true, will have to share her husband with many other women, even though she denied her husband’s polygamous ways until her dying day.
In very large measure each of us holds the key to the blessings of the Almighty upon us. If we wish the blessing, we must pay the price. A part of that price lies in being faithful. Faithful to what? Faithful to ourselves, to the very best that is within us. No woman can afford to demean herself, to belittle herself, to downgrade her abilities or her capacities. Let each be faithful to the great, divine attributes that are within her. Be faithful to the gospel. Be faithful to the Church. We have all about us those who are seeking to undermine it, to look for weaknesses in its early leaders, to find fault with its programs, to speak critically of it. I give you my testimony that it is the work of God, and those who speak against it are speaking against him.
So let’s summarize the objects of a woman’s faithfulness:
In talking about faithfulness, I find it strange that Hinckley never said anything about “faithfulness to God.” Instead, the woman is supposed to “pay the price” to herself, the gospel, and the church. I think the latter two are pretty much synonymous. In order to get “the blessings of the Almighty,” a woman must keep commandments as taught by her church. As twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball put it,
Ordinances are basic to the gospel. Now, what is the gospel of which we speak? It is the power of God unto salvation; it is the code of laws and commandments which help us to become perfect, and the ordinances which constitute the entrance requirements (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 502).
He also said,
The Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, has given us our map—a code of laws and commandments whereby we might attain perfection and, eventually godhood. This set of laws and ordinances is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the only plan which will exalt mankind. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the sole repository of this priceless program in its fulness, which is made available to those who accept it. The Lord restored his kingdom in these days, with all its gifts and powers and blessings. Any church that you know of may possibly be able to take you for a long ride, and bring you some degree of peace and happiness and blessing, and they can carry you to the veil and there they drop you. The Church of Jesus Christ picks you up on this side of the veil and, if you live its commandments, carries you right through the veil as though it weren’t there and on through the eternities to exaltation (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 5. Italics in original).
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said,
The gospel is the plan of salvation. It consists of the laws, ordinances, and eternal truths by conformity to which the spirit children of God can progress and advance until they become like their Eternal Parent (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:27).
Showing how “gospel” and “church” are synonymous, McConkie adds,
The true gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth in the last days through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith. It is found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 334).
John H. Taylor, a mission president in 1925, spoke at a general conference to discuss the price that must be paid:
There is one thought, however, that people do not seem to be able to grasp, and that is that there is a straight and narrow way to get back into the kingdom of God. They seem to have the idea that by some inexplicable method they will be brought back into his presence, and that irrespective of the things that they have done upon the earth, he will forgive them and finally place them in the celestial kingdom. I hope that we, as Latter-day Saints, are not trying to deceive ourselves in regard to this thing. Men and women will only get the reward that they earn upon the earth, and with all the mercy that God will extend to them there still remains the attribute of justice, and men and women will pay the price of things that they do upon the earth if they are to receive the reward that God would have them receive in his kingdom (Conference Reports, April 1925, p. 90).
Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson said,
We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 442).
So, ladies, according to the Mormon leadership, salvation comes only through successful obedience to the laws as ordained by the male leaders of the LDS Church and their use of unique LDS scriptures. As D&C 25 puts it: “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.” A Mormon will say, “That’s what repentance is all about.” And that’s true. But what does the unique LDS scripture say about repentance? As D&C 58:42-43 puts it: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” Stopping the sin is a requirement for repentance to have an effect. If not, all former sins are “returned,” as D&C 82:7 says, “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” If you are someone like me who struggles with sin, that doesn’t sound very promising.
Be faithful to him. He is the one true source of your strength. He is your Father in Heaven. He lives. He hears and answers prayers. Be faithful to God.
I agree, faithfulness is important. But we must also understand that our “faithfulness” can never be good enough to save us from our sins. A very powerful book in the Bible is Galatians. Gal. 2:15-16 says,
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
According to Paul, it’s not based on a person keeping the law that brings forgiveness. Instead, it’s faith. Try as hard as you may, your works will never earn you God’s favor. It is, after all, a gift and can never be earned or repaid. Explaining the context of the passage, commentator Douglas Moo writes:
Here he (Paul) wants to establish the bedrock principle that all people—with the focus in this verse, as we have seen, on Jewish Christians—can be pronounced “just” before God through faith in Christ alone and not on the basis of “works of the law.” And because this is so, it is wrong for the Jerusalem authorities to impose circumcision on Gentile believers, it is wrong for Peter to refuse to eat with Gentiles, and it is wrong for the agitators to insist that the Galatian Christians submit to the law. Justification, one’s legal standing before God, is fully secured by faith in Christ. Nothing should be added; nothing can be added; nothing must be added” (Galatians, pp. 161-162).
In his book Galatians for You, Pastor Timothy Keller explains,
But the opposite of ‘justified’ is “condemned.” Justification means that in Christ, though we are actually sinners, we are not under condemnation. God accepts us despite our sin. We are not acceptable to God because we actually become righteous: we become actually righteous because we are acceptable to God (p. 59).
In his commentary on Galatians, the Reformer Martin Luther said,
We shall appreciate this liberty all the more when we bear in mind that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased it with His own blood. Hence, Christ’s liberty is given us not by the Law, or for our own righteousness, but freely for Christ’s sake. Reason cannot properly evaluate this gift. Who can fully appreciate the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and of everlasting life? Our opponents claim that they also possess this liberty. But they do not. When they are put to the test all their self-confidence slips from them. What else can they expect when they trust in works and not in the Word of God.
Luther also wrote,
The Roman theologians teach that no man can know for a certainty whether he stands in the favor of God or not. This teaching forms one of the chief articles of their faith. With this teaching they tormented men’s consciences, excommunicated Christ from the Church, and limited the operations of the Holy Ghost. St. Augustine observed that “every man is certain of his faith, if he has faith.” This the Romanists deny. “God forbid,” they exclaim piously, “that I should ever be so arrogant as to think that I stand in grace, that I am holy, or that I have the Holy Ghost.” We ought to feel sure that we stand in the grace of God, not in view of our own worthiness, but through the good services of Christ. As certain as we are that Christ pleases God, so sure ought we to be that we also please God, because Christ is in us.
The gospel described by the Bible and explained by these commentators is so much different than the “gospel” proposed by Mormon leaders.
The Lord continued, saying to Emma, “If thou … walk in the paths of virtue.”
“If.” That’s a big word. It’s the same word used in Moroni 10:32:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
The $64,000 question that needs to be answered by every Mormon is, “Just how am I doing at that?”
I think every woman … understands the meaning of that. I feel those words were given to Emma Smith, and consequently to all of us, as a condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Lack of virtue is totally inconsistent with obedience to the commandments of God. There is nothing more beautiful than virtue. There is no strength that is greater than the strength of virtue. There is no other nobility equal to the nobility of virtue. There is no quality so becoming, no attire so attractive. …
“Lack of virtue” is a pretty broad term. It is, as Hinckley puts it, “totally inconsistent with obedience to the commandments of God.” It is a “condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God.” This teaching is basing one’s righteousness as what one does (infused grace) rather than what has taken place in a person’s life (imputed grace). According to Christianity, grace is offered as a gift and cannot be earned as the result of commandment keeping. In other words, it’s impossible to be “good enough.” There is so much more hope with the biblical version of grace rather than what is offered in Mormonism. The Bible offers hope, but Mormonism offers none.
Emma was called “an elect lady” [D&C 25:3]. That is, to use another line of scripture, she was a “chosen vessel of the Lord.” (See Moro. 7:31.) Each of you is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you. …
There he goes again. “If you are living worthy of it…” In other words, if you are not living worthy of the gospel, then you do not have hope of exaltation. Martin Luther addressed this issue in his commentary on Galatians:
There are three ways in which the Law may be abused. First, by the self-righteous hypocrites who fancy that they can be justified by the Law. Secondly, by those who claim that Christian liberty exempts a Christian from the observance of the Law. “These,” says Peter, “use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness,” and bring the name and the Gospel of Christ into ill repute. Thirdly, the Law is abused by those who do not understand that the Law is meant to drive us to Christ. When the Law is properly used its value cannot be too highly appraised. It will take me to Christ every time.
Let me restate what Luther has said.
- Those who say you are justified by the Law are hypocrites because they are not able to keep all what the Law requires.
- Those who say salvation by grace is equal to having freedom to be as bad as you want to be miss the point of the biblical gospel As Luther says elsewhere, “Good works are not the cause, but the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous, then first we are able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the apple does not make the tree.”
- The Law is not meant to be rules and regulations that justify a person before God, but rather it is the tool to get a person to realize his or her shortcomings (i.e. reality that each one of us is a sinner) and to come to the cross with absolutely no credit whatsoever. Instead of a loan, the Christian is given more than he or she could ever bargain for: eternal life.
Continuing, the Lord said: “Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made” [D&C 25:13].
I believe he is saying to each of us, be happy. The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice.
How can a woman be “happy” knowing that she is unable to be “worthy” because the Mormon gospel offers only condemnation, not hope? Doing everything required in Mormonism is not possible. It’s an impossible goal.
Mothers have a sacred calling to bring up their children in righteousness and truth.
The true strength of any nation, society, or family lies in those qualities of character that have been acquired for the most part by children taught in the quiet, simple everyday manner of mothers.
It is the home which produces the nursery stock of new generations. I hope that you mothers will realize that when all is said and done, you have no more compelling responsibility, nor any laden with greater rewards, than the nurture you give your children in an environment of security, peace, companionship, love, and motivation to grow and do well.
I remind mothers everywhere of the sanctity of your calling. No other can adequately take your place. No responsibility is greater, no obligation more binding than that you rear in love and peace and integrity those whom you have brought into the world.
Being a mother is a calling. I so appreciate the work of my own mother as well as my wife who has been a wonderful mother to my children. However, salvation is not found in motherhood. Children will disappoint. They tend to be ungrateful. Some day they will move out of the house and may not even call you on a weekly basis. A woman cannot put her total self-worth into motherhood, no matter how important this role may be. Unfortunately, I feel many LDS women place their entire self-esteem into being a wife and motherhood, partly because they have been taught that this will be their role in the eternities. A Christian woman is able to place her identity in Christ. Again, I reference Galatians 3 where it says it is possible to be “one in Christ Jesus.” Martin Luther rightly put it when he wrote:
Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: “I am one with Christ. Therefore Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.”
A godly woman who understands who she is in relation to Christ will be fulfilled, more than any role as wife/mother/employee, etc. can do.
Women have great responsibilities in the work of salvation.
There is strength and great capacity in the women of this Church. There is leadership and direction, a certain spirit of independence, and yet great satisfaction in being a part of this, the Lord’s kingdom, and of working hand in hand with [holders of] the priesthood to move it forward.
God has given the women of this church a work to do in building his kingdom. That concerns all aspects of our great triad of responsibility—which is, first, to teach the gospel to the world; second, to strengthen the faith and build the happiness of the membership of the Church; and, third, to carry forward the great work of salvation for the dead.
Regarding “teaching the gospel to the world,” if the LDS gospel is not the true gospel and remains impossible for anyone to ever achieve, then this is not a gospel to be cherished. Second, Hinckley says it is to increase the faith “and build the happiness” of the church members. I’m not sure what the “happiness” of church members even means. Finally, he says they are to emphasize the “great work of salvation for the dead.” But if salvation for those who are already dead is not supported in the Bible, how is this work even considered “building up the kingdom”?
Rise to the stature of the divinity within you.
You are a vast concourse of women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. … No one can calculate the tremendous force for good that you can become. … I charge you to stand tall and be strong in defense of those great virtues which have been the backbone of our social progress. When you are united, your power is limitless. You can accomplish anything you wish to accomplish. And oh, how very, very great is the need for you in a world of crumbling values where the adversary seems so very much to be in control.
I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.
Marvelous is the power of women of faith. It has been demonstrated again and again in the history of this church. It goes on among us today. I think it is part of the divinity within you.
Sisters, rise to the stature of that divinity. In that effort make the world in which you live a better place for yourself and for all who will come after you.
The title of this section may not have been written by Hinckley, but it certainly has been included in this manual. It says, “Rise to the stature of the divinity within you.” I am reminded of what it says in Genesis 3:5: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
Humans are not “divine” nor do they have the capacity for it. Yes, Christians will have glorified bodies, but this is different from what LDS leaders have taught about the potential of godhood. Quotes such as these are considered blasphemous by Christians all over the world:
Can you see the reasonable basis for belief that you can become a God like he is by progressing here and hereafter? (Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 58).
We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation (Gospel Principles, 1985, p. 290).
Consider this fact: Your marriage is a laboratory for godhood (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 65).
Becoming a god is our greatest possibility in life. Jesus taught that all men, including himself, were the actual spirit children of God, and that according to the eternal laws of heredity, the offspring of God might hope to eventually become like their eternal parents. It is interesting to remember that God’s angels, spirits, and men are all members of the same species in different degrees of righteousness and different stages of development (Sterling W. Sill, That Ye Might Have Life, p. 26)
The purpose of mortal life and the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to prepare the sons and daughters of God for their destiny—to become like our heavenly parents (Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, October 1995, p. 7).
Yet, as mentioned earlier in this review, it depends on an individual’s obedience to the gospel law as promoted in Mormonism. As Seventy Milton R. Hunter taught,
Thus all men who ascend to the glorious status of Godhood can do so only by one method – by obedience to all the principles and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…No prophet of record gave more complete and forceful explanations of the doctrine that men can become Gods than did the American Prophet, and, furthermore, he definitely pointed the course which men must follow (The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 115. Ellipsis in original).
If you’re a Latter-day Saint who is not living up to these standards, you might ask yourself why you haven’t picked yourself up by your own “bootstraps.” In a speech given in 1965, Kimball said,
Man is created in the image of God. He is a god in embryo. He has the seeds of godhood within him and he can, if he is normal, pick himself up by his bootstraps and literally move himself from where he is to where he knows he should be (BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965, p. 26).
Kimball asked if you are “normal”? If you think you are, then you should be able to accomplish what is required. Forget those excuses of “I’m trying” or “I’m doing my best.” Rather, just do it. Trust me, though, successfully keeping all the commandments all the time–as you promise to do weekly in the sacrament service–is just not possible.
Years ago John Newton–who once transported slaves in England–came to know Jesus as his personal Savior. He created one of the best known hymns ever written, one that is not included in the LDS Hymnal. Newton’s words ring true today as they did in his day. Here are the stanzas:
- Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
- ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
- Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
- The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
- Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
- The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
- When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.