As I have written this series, as you’ve seen, I have taken a long pause between the first flux of chapters and now. As I have tried to continue my story, I have hit a wall where no matter how I tried to formulate my thoughts, I was having to do so much explaining in order to establish the grounds for everything else to make sense that I couldn’t even express the next topic I had prepared. In seeking and analyzing to figure out what was necessary backstory, I have come to realize that two major topics were foundational for my journey through feminism to even get anywhere productive. Those two topics were marriage and family. Womanhood cannot be properly understood without them. Although as women we come into this world single, marriage and family is part of our eternal destiny and they set the stage for knowing who we are and what to do.
I’ll acknowledge here that not every woman will have the chance to marry or to bear children. The Lord has much purpose for those women. It was partially on this topic that I have been trying to write, so we’ll go there soon. But to understand where those thoughts come from, understanding marriage and family is necessary.
It is said that the family is the basic unit of society. Elder L. Tom Perry said it best when he said, “What the restored gospel brings to the discussion on marriage and family is so large and so relevant that it cannot be overstated: we make the subject eternal! We take the commitment and the sanctity of marriage to a greater level because of our belief and understanding that families go back to before this earth was and that they can go forward into eternity” (“Why Marriage and Family Matter –Everywhere in the World,” April 2015).
So let’s do that, let’s make this subject eternal. In order to do so, we much go back to the beginning, to before this earthly life where we were still yet spirits living in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Mother. Every single one of us is a child of God; we are part of His eternal family. We came to this earth because He had a plan. Elder D. Todd Christofferson explains, “There came a time in this premortal existence of spirits when, in furtherance of His desire that we ‘could have a privilege to advance like himself,’ our Heavenly Father prepared an enabling plan. In the scriptures it is given various names, including ‘the plan of salvation,’ ‘the great plan of happiness,’ and ‘the plan of redemption.’ The two principal purposes of the plan were explained to Abraham in these words:
“‘And there stood one among them (Jesus) that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth were on the [spirits] may dwell: And we will prove them here with, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon;…and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.’
“Thanks to our Heavenly Father, we had already become spirit beings. Now He was offering us a path to complete or perfect that being. The addition of the physical element is essential to the fulness of being and glory that God Himself enjoys. If, while with God in the premortal spirit world, we would agree to participate in His plan–or in other words ‘keep [our] first estate’–we would ‘be added upon’ with a physical body as we came to dwell on the earth that He created for us.
“If, then in the course of our mortal experience, we chose to ‘do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God [should] command [us],’ we would have kept our ‘second estate.’ This means that by our choices we would demonstrate to God and to ourselves our commitment and capacity to live His celestial law while outside His presence and in a physical body with all its powers, appetites, and passions. Could we bridle the flesh so that it became the instrument rather than the master of the spirit? Could we be trusted both in time and eternity with godly powers, including power to create life? Would we individually overcome evil? Those who did would ‘have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever’–a very significant aspect of that glory being a resurrected, immortal, and glorified physical body” (“Why Marriage, Why Family,” April 2015).
He then goes on to explain the 4 essential components that were set in motion for this mortal experience to work. First was the creation. God created the earth, a dwelling place for us. Second was the fall. The story of Adam and Eve is actually an essential one to understand, but for now, their experience allowed for them and the earth to fall from immortal to mortal; however, they took a path of disobedience which required the third component, the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because Christ fulfilled the Atonement, Adam and Eve were not damned for their transgression, and neither are we for ours. We are able to make choices and repent from wrong ones, as well as gain control over the weaknesses of the flesh. My favorite scripture of all time explains, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patience, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). Elder Christofferson continues, “Fourth, and finally, is the setting for our physical birth and subsequent spiritual rebirth into the kingdom of God. For His work to succeed to ‘[exalt us] with himself,’ God ordained that men and women should marry and give birth to children, thereby creating, in partnership with God, the physical bodies that are key to the test of mortality and essential to eternal glory with Him. He also ordained that parents should establish families and rear their children in light and truth, leading them to a hope in Christ…A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive–the setting for the birth of children, who come in purity and innocence from God, and the environment for the learning and preparation they will need for a successful mortal life and eternal life in the world to come.”
In the ideal family situation, one with a father and a mother who love and follow God, children come to the earth. In an environment best suited to successfully navigating mortality, of learning about the plan and what the Lord would have them do, with parents dedicated to rearing their children in light and truth as directed by God, children are best prepared to make decisions, to contribute to society, and to establish families of their own. Of course not all children will accept truth and light, but in order to give them the best chance, they, too, deserve the ideal family situation. This is why God has revealed so much on the doctrine of the family in these latter-days: successful and strong families are critical to the plan.
But the family does not just have purpose in mortality. We believe that a marriage performed with the priesthood in the temple of God seals a family together for eternity, meaning that family unit can be together foreve as they remain true to their covenants. And as those children are married and sealed to their families, links are made, binding one family unit to another, subsequently binding all God’s children to Him, fulfilling His desire to be with His family for forever.
I love this advice from a letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian martyr from the 20th century, to his niece in preparation for her wedding:
“Marriage is more than your love for each other…In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom.. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind” (as qtd. in “Why Marriage, Why Family”).
We’ve talked about the importance of family, and in light of that, we can look at marriage. Of course love plays a part in marriage. But as this uncle reminds all of us, when we decide to get married, we are making a commitment not only to each other of fidelity, but of establishing a family unit. Marriage isn’t about the happiness of two people. It’s about the success of a future family.
As women, we play a crucial role in the plan of God, one that connects us to all mankind. He needs every woman to make the family the priority, to value the family. Both men and women are critical components of family units, fathers and mothers are needed to satisfactorily rear children in righteousness. Establishing these kind of family units are that vital piece that was designed to afford Heavenly Fathers children, one generation at a time, the right environment in which to learn of Him, His Son, and their plan and commandments, so that they are prepared for the test of mortality, to their exaltation or not based on what they do with truth. Children who come from strong families with both a mother and a father to learn from are best suited to be a parent and contribute to other families in creating a strong community. As Elder Perry testified, “We…believe that strong traditional families are not only the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy, and a stable culture of values—but that they are also the basic unit of eternity and of the kingdom and government of God” “Why Marriage and Family Matter”).
This post has been a lot to unpack, so if you are still with me, thank you. It is on the background of this post that the whole of these chronicles can now find place. It is here that we can say, “Here is the purpose of mortality, here is the purpose of marriage, here is the purpose of family, now what is the role, importance, and vision of womanhood within them?”