Not Your Typical Post On Motherhood in Modern Life
This is not a post on motherhood. Well, not directly.
Did anyone else feel like this General Conference was a little different? Sure, there were some additional significant changes, but there seemed to be a further line drawn in the sand, a deepening of the chasm between the Church of Jesus Christ and “the world.” For me there were new insights and sweet moments of encouragement, and other moments of pure revelation.
Insights and revelation from the prophets, apostles, and the incredible women leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ confirmed for me:
- There are profound nuances between discontent and disillusion: Michelle Craig “Divine Discontent”
- There is a greater responsibility upon us individually and in families to elevate faith and knowledge in and of Christ: David A. Bednar “Gather Together In One All Things In Christ”
- You must not rely upon the words of others; find out for yourself. Nearly every talk both days alluded to an aspect of this…
- Encouragement to seek out, build upon, and hone revelation through spiritual gifts. Again, numerous talks…
- Women are being called upon to elevate our spiritual intelligence: Read Every Talk in the Women’s Session of General Conference
How You “Hear” What’s Being Said
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about choosing who you’re listening to. With that theme in mind, today I want to focus on how you’re listening to the voices you hear. I want to speak of underlying messages in the talks given at the Women’s Session of General Conference and what I’ve observed since.
First, it’s important to note that I’ve been listening to/reading Saints, the recently released first volume of the Church history collection on Friday, the day before conference. There have been so many lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn from these stories, but the one that stuck out to me following Elder Dallin H. Oak’s talk, “Parents and Children” reminded me of something that happened to Joseph Smith, which changed the course of history.
Many disparaging things have been said of Elder Oaks and his bold declaration of mothers, families, and trends in recent history regarding motherhood. I checked in on Facebook to post that I was fasting from social media for 10 days, and I was taken aback with the many negative things several of my peers had to say of that talk in particular! Their words echoed a familiar phrase from the Bible, “This is an hard saying…” (John 6:61-62)
While yes, there were bold, unpopular things he said in there, I am 100% convinced that what was said was coming from a completely different perspective than what the world think he’s saying. While he is using words that, as one friend said, “Sounded like a step back into the 1950s,” it means something different from Heaven’s point of view.
I Don’t Think He Said What You Think He Said
This issue of Heaven vs. The World using the same words but meaning something completely different is not unprecedented.
Are you familiar with a man named Thomas B. Marsh? He’s remembered for a few things in Church History (ahem, some milk and cream), but something I didn’t know prior to reading Saints is that he was he was the very first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation. Seriously, no small thing or position in the Church nor of history. He became critical of Joseph Smith and disaffected for a number of reasons, but one thing he did set in motion a series of events that have shaped the very Church we belong to today.
This is what he did:
He wrote a letter to a governor.
That governor was Lilburn W. Boggs. (It’s the same dude who issued an extermination order of all Latter-day Saints in the state of Missouri. I’m not going to talk about the extermination order, but I wanted to include that for some frame of reference.) Thomas Marsh wrote a letter to Governor Boggs saying this:
“The plan of said Smith, the prophet, is to take this State, and he professes to his people to intend taking the United States, and ultimately the whole world.”1
Boggs took that literally, as in, that crazy leader Joseph Smith sounds like an insurrectionist and is guilty of treason against the state and country. So he arrested him, threw him in jail, and would eventually end up in Liberty Jail. A few steps down the history road from Thomas B. Marsh’s affidavit to Boggs, Doctrine & Covenants 121 happened because of what he did.
The funny thing of Joseph’s statement is that he totally said it. It was 100% true Joseph Smith said he’s building a kingdom that’s going to take over the world.
Do you know who else said that same thing? Jesus.
A Kingdom Not of This World
Pilate thought Jesus was crazy too. So did all of Jesus’ contemporaries. After Jesus was arrested, Pilate asked Jesus, “Art thou a king then?” Jesus answered him and said, “My kingdom is not of this world…” and adds, “…To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37.)
Did you get that last part? Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice… What that means to me is that those who are hearing the voice of the Spirit, which testifies of ALL TRUTH, will hear my voice and understand what Jesus and Joseph Smith are talking about.
Those who knew Joseph Smith, knew he was talking about the same Kingdom that Jesus was. The same is true of Elder Dallin H. Oaks.
President Oaks was talking about a motherhood and parenting that is “not of this world.” The prophets and apostles only talk about stuff of eternal consequence, of Jesus’ Kingdom. While, yes, it has space here on this planet, he is giving the perspective of nurturing, teaching, responsibility, priorities, power, stewardship, kindness, divinity, generosity, civility, grace, gentleness, and a gentle call to repentance if you are involved in meanness or pettiness.
He reiterated President Nelson’s words:
“Today, … we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.”
I did not hear a single thing in Elder Oaks’ talk that did not ring of Jesus’ words when he spoke his Sermon on the Mount. He’s calling us women to be stronger, and he knows the influence we have! It is not “potential” influence. It is a real, immeasurable influence in the world upon the men, women, children, youth, sisters, brothers, and peers of this world, and the world beyond.
A People Not of This World
Elder Oaks reaffirmed something that’s been said in every General Conference in recent years. He said:
“Our knowledge of God’s revealed plan of salvation requires us to oppose many of the current social and legal pressures to retreat from traditional marriage or to make changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women. We know that the relationships, identities and functions of men and women are essential to accomplish God’s great plan.”
He also said:
“The greatest job that any woman will ever do will be in nurturing and teaching and living and encouraging and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. There is no other thing that will compare with that, regardless of what she does.”
It sounds like he’s dissing on women who choose not to have children in favor of other roles. It also sounds like he’s critical of lives and lifestyles of beautiful men and women all over the world, and notably, LGBTQ+ identifiers. To those who hear through the filters of pop culture and what is the going trend of morality, he says “an hard saying,” indeed.
Elder Oaks isn’t talking about this world, though. He’s talking about the Plan, the World, and the Family from a completely different point of view. And it will never make sense to someone if you’re looking at it through the lens of the world — like the way Boggs and Marsh understood Joseph Smith’s words. And frankly, the same way the people of Jesus’ day looked at everything he was saying.
That same way he’s talking about motherhood is the same way Jesus was talking about His Kingdom. It’s not of this world.
Ears to Hear that are Not of This World
I encourage everyone to look at Elder Oaks and President Nelson’s words with eyes like Jesus would have you look — with eyes that don’t assume you already know what he’s talking about. Even if you completely agree with what was said, read it again with a prayer, “What would you, Heavenly Father, have me know from this?”
Above all, get the Spirit, and find out for yourself.
1Marsh’s affidavit further stated, “The plan of said Smith, the prophet, is to take this State, and he professes to his people to intend taking the United States, and ultimately the whole world” (Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; and the Evidence Given before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes against the State [Fayette, Missouri: Boon’s Lick Democrat, 1841], 57–59).