The Moral Force of Women: Some connections

pb-110128-egypt-unrest-kiss-ps.photoblog900[image credit]

I’m supposed to be working on my class for tomorrow. I actually am, but I made a cool research discovery, so I wanted to share. For the last couple of days, I’ve been studying Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s most recent conference talk, “The Moral Force of Women.” I’ve long felt that women have a certain power (beyond childbearing) that cannot be duplicated or replaced. It’s not just nurturing (especially in the too-narrow ways we often define it), but it’s more like a binding power. I recently listened to a radio interview with M. Russell Ballard where he claimed that women have a special gift with one-on-one relationships. I’d never thought of that before but I think it’s true, and he said that men can learn a lot from women about that subject if they will watch and listen. Anyway, back to Elder Christofferson’s talk. He said,

“As grandmothers, mothers, and role models, women have been the guardians of the wellspring of life, teaching each generation the importance of sexual purity—of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. In this way, they have been a civilizing influence in society; they have brought out the best in men; they have perpetuated wholesome environments in which to raise secure and healthy children.”*

Something about that quote rang really familiar to me, mostly the phrase “civilizing influence.” Little by little, my old and tired brain started putting pieces together and I remembered it had something to do with Australia. I know. Weird.

So I’ve been trying to research it out and track it down, and–tonight–I found the connection. The whole thing is pretty amazing, but just read this one very cool account as told by Elder Bruce R. Hafen at the World Congress of Families in 1999. By no small coincidence, the title of his speech was “Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women.”

Consider now, in summary, a true story from Australian history that illustrates the power of women’s moral influence as mothers of hope, women of fidelity, wives of commitment, and nurturers of human ties. In its early decades as a British colony, Australia was a vast wilderness designated as a jail for exiled convicts. Until 1850, six of every seven people who went “down under” from Britain were men. And the few women who went were often convicts or social outcasts themselves. The men ruthlessly exploited them, sexually and in other ways. With few exceptions, these women without hope were powerless to change their conditions.

In about 1840, a reformer named Caroline Chisholm urged that more women would stabilize the culture. She told the British government the best way to establish a community of “great and good people” in Australia: “For all the clergy you can dispatch, all the schoolmasters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good without . . . ‘God’s police’– wives and little children–good and virtuous women.”

Chisholm searched for women who would raise “the moral standard of the people.” She spent twenty years traveling to England, recruiting young women and young couples who believed in the common sense principles of family life. Over time, these women tamed the men who were taming the wild land; and civil society in Australia gradually emerged. Also, the colonial governments enacted policies that elevated women’s status and reinforced family life.[23] As one historian said, “the initial reluctance of the wild colonial boys to marry was eroded fairly quickly.” Eventually, thousands of new immigrants who shared the vision of these “good and virtuous women” established stable families as the basic unit of Australian society more quickly than had occurred “anywhere else in the Western world.”[24]

This striking story of women’s moral influence grew from a conscious design to replace “the penal colony’s rough and wild ways” with “a more moral civilization.” The reformers intentionally capitalized on women’s innate “civilizing” capacity. [25] These women made Australia a promised land that flowed with a healthy ecosystem of milk and honey. And the milk, literally and figuratively, was mother’s milk–the milk of human kindness. That milk nurtures those habits of the heart without which no civil society can sustain itself.”

I. LOVE. THAT. Innate civilizing capacity. The milk of human kindness. Power. Force. Influence. Elder Christofferson quoted Elder Maxwell (he and this quote are both long-time favorites for me).

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?”

Sigh. I love being a woman. God has made His sons and His daughters powerful. He needs us both, and we can both do more with His help.

*Lest anyone get all worked up into a tizzy about women not being responsible for the morality of men, let’s agree to agree. Later on in his talk, Elder Christofferson acknowledges, “In these exhortations to women, let no one willfully misunderstand. By praising and encouraging the moral force in women, I am not saying that men and boys are somehow excused from their own duty to stand for truth and righteousness, that their responsibility to serve, sacrifice, and minister is somehow less than that of women or can be left to women. Brethren, let us stand with women, share their burdens, and cultivate our own companion moral authority. Dear sisters, we rely on the moral force you bring to the world, to marriage, to family, to the Church.”

Advertisements

Women’s Conference Weekly: The greatest champion of womanhood

[Hey, I stayed up way too late last night and gave my blog a facelift. I’ve never done pink before, but I’m hoping this is subtle enough. Feel free to look around the new digs.]

Imacon Color Scanner

Here are some notes from the class I attended  at BYU Women’s Conference called “The World’s Greatest Champion of Woman and Womanhood is Jesus the Christ” by Cheryl Savage and Ann Marie Toone. Please forgive that I am not the most excellent note-taker in the world, but I tried to capture some points and thoughts and quotes that stood out to me as I listened, and hopefully you’ll find them enlightening as well.

From Cheryl Savage:

She opened up by describing her large, young, busy family, and then said, “This is my stage and my season. I am a warrior.”

She used one of my favorite President Packer quotes:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”

Womanhood comes with its own set of messy mortality.

Satan has done his best to destroy women, but Jesus Christ is stronger than Satan.

Don’t measure your worth or your day by society’s standard.

Elder Craig C. Cardon:

“After we do all we can do, His compassion and grace are the means whereby “in process of time” we overcome the world through the enabling power of the Atonement. As we humbly seek this precious gift, “weak things become strong unto [us],” and by His strength, we are made able to do that which we could never do alone.”

Remember the big picture. Allow the Savior to help you. Find your joy and never forget it.

Cheryl posted up the complete transcript of her talk on her own blog, so go check it out in all its glory. I’m sure you’ll feel uplifted. (Oh, and she quoted my book a few times, which was so nice of her, but I still feel a little sheepish about it.)

From Anne Marie Toone:

Jesus Christ demonstrated deep familiarity with women’s lives. He appreciated them and ennobled them.

  1. Each woman is a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents.
  2. There is a plan.
  3. The Holy Ghost will help us know our role.

The Lord accepts our righteous offerings. He needs His daughters to receive, accept and fulfill their role.

He created men to need women, and He created women to need men.

He gives righteous women more lasting influence than women of the world. (I love that. I believe it so much. This is our great power.)

Women are expected to lead and counsel together with men.

Heavenly Father expects his daughters to use their influence to change the world.

She referred to Luke 10 to show that the story of Mary and Martha demonstrates that women could also participate spiritually in Jesus Christ’s work.

Christ was the greatest champion for us in the preexistence.

Question to consider:

If the Savior is my greatest champion, am I His?

These were both great talks. I could feel the spirit and the cheerleading of my Heavenly Father. He wants us to know how loved and needed and powerful we are. I know women and their work is valued and honored in His plan.

How do you know personally that Jesus Christ is a champion of you?

[Go here to see some of the women’s conference transcripts that are available as well as information about rebroadcasting on BYUTV.]

Can of Worms: A Mormon Woman’s View on Womanhood

Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night with something in my head that my brain starts blogging about.  After I mental draft for 30 minutes or so, I give in, get up, and get on the computer.  So, it’s 4:18 a.m., and you’ve been warned.  🙂

Facts:  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The church has been spotlighted quite a bit in the media lately.  Such attention leads to a lot of online “chatter,” including long comment threads on national media sites.  Even though my better judgment tells me not to read those threads because they are crawling with trolls, I sometimes do, and good grief, people are ignorant.

Anyway, people sometimes use these forums to voice their concerns about “Mormons” and what they believe.  An informal calculation in my head tells me that about 75% of these critics are just dead wrong, and about 25% almost have it right, but they’ve severely misunderstood some point of our doctrine.  Simply stated, they are simultaneously misinformed and sure they’re not.  It’s frustrating.

One of the common threads I’ve seen running through these “discussions” is that Mormons are oppressive to certain populations (women, blacks, homosexuals, etc…).  All of these claims make my brain rattle and I want to yell at the universe, “Come on!  Have you ever met a Mormon?  Have you been to a worship service?  Or watched a faithful Mormon family in action?  Or read our scriptures (including the Bible)?  It would not take long at all to figure out that those claims are preposterous!!!”  But, you know how the universe ignores all that fist shaking and pointless yelling, so here I am venting on my blog.  I could not even pretend to tackle all those “issues,” but I’ve just got to address the women one.  I probably won’t do it justice (and frankly, internet trolls scare me to death), but it is with a small dose of trepidation and a large dose of fire in my bones that I must express what womanhood means to me, and what I believe it means to my church, and in short:  to God.

Let’s start with an anecdote, shall we?  Approximately one hour ago, my daughter woke me up to tell me she peed in her bed.  Her sheets were wet, her clothes were wet, and she was cold.  I helped her change out of her clothes, washed her body with a warm washcloth, stripped the sheets, started the laundry, and tucked her into a new bed.  She asked me to wrap her in the blankets “like a burrito,” and I did.  I kissed her on the head, she snuggled down into the mattress, smiled, and said “good night.”  As I walked out of the room, I turned off all the lights, and in the dark journey back to my bed, I was given some thoughts.  (Sometimes thoughts are given, not just thought.)  I reflected on Continue reading