“Women, This Is Our Time,” Ensign, Mar. 1972, 36
For centuries women have been battling for an identity on an equal with men. In some places of the world, women are not privileged to be considered queens and mothers with all the rights and privileges accorded human beings elsewhere. The relationship between man and woman has been under debate since the time of our first parents.
In recent months woman’s place in society has become even more of an explosive issue in many countries. Much has been written, and some of the words that are being used in describing woman’s particular state are: “She is enslaved, subjugated, dominated, imprisoned.” I have taken these words out of recent publications advocating women’s liberation; but as I think of Latter-day Saint women, I think of them as being managers of households, holding public office, being teachers, having professions, being medical doctors and lawyers, driving automobiles, sharing in their husband’s community property, and having equal rights with men.
Many women have made great contributions in the fields of literature and art and in the sciences, and it is hard for me to feel sorry for us as a sex. I remember a little girl not long ago who, on hearing a lecture on women’s liberation, said, “I don’t want to be liberated until I know what it feels like to be captured.”
At the beginning of the nineteenth century when Joseph Smith was born, education for girls was quite unknown. They were allowed rather ungraciously to attend school when boys were away at work, and it was an ultraliberal idea to permit girls to acquire any learning other than the polite arts of reading and writing and perhaps a little smattering of French, music, and, of course, embroidery.
Socially, in the day of Joseph Smith, women were just emerging from the long, dark traditions of the crusades, the monasteries, and the later straitlaced Puritan prejudices against women holding any kind of office, owning property, or appearing in public life. Thus, when a fearless young prophet proclaimed as the first foundation principles of the gospel that women should have the religious franchise and that all things should be done in the Church with common consent, it was a stupendous announcement for the world.
And now, in the year 1972, we—you and I—find ourselves caught up in a new challenge, in a new decade, in a new time, for now are the perilous times, as foretold in the scriptures, of wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and times when men would forget God and there would be every kind of calamity imaginable facing women—but worst of all, the dissolution of the family unit.
That which people, especially women, seek as they cry for liberation is already in their midst; it is so close they do not see it, so simple that they cannot understand it: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who tell women to rise up and be liberated and demand a new role in life are only advocating liberation from the very functions created in them by God that make them different from men. God created man to be the husband, the father, and the breadwinner and the woman to be the wife, the mother, the childbearer and child-raiser. She is to be a helpmeet to her husband. She is to be a partner in the patriarchal order, an order that was determined before she came to this earth and that rules in heaven, in mortality, and in the eternities to come. The home is the castle, the husband the king, the mother the queen, the children the princesses and princes.
President David O. McKay said some wonderful things about women. He said, “The true spirit of the Church gives to women the highest place of honor in human life. To maintain and merit this high dignity, she must possess those virtues which have always demanded and which will ever demand the respect and love of mankind.” (True to the Faith [Bookcraft, 1966], p. 284.)
Are we possessing those virtues that mankind loves and respects? Are we modest or are we being immodest in following the fashion fads of today? Can we be more conservative and have more femininity and grace about us? Can we change the shoddiness that we see to excellence of action and excellence of neighborly love? Can we teach our daughters that which they should know before marriage, instead of letting them find out for themselves the fundamentals of child-raising and homemaking?
I am reminded of a little cartoon I once saw showing a mother busily pinning the bridal veil on her daughter’s head, as she was about to be married, and saying to her, “And then after you peel the carrots and dice them, you add one half cup water and a fourth of a teaspoon of salt.” As she dresses to be married is not the time to teach your daughter the fundamentals of cooking.
We must be responsible as mothers in the Church to teach these wonderful daughters who will take our places and raise our posterity to be the kind of mothers our Heavenly Father desires them to be through living the principles of the gospel. Because it was known that the overpowering evils that are confronting us would prevail in the earth, strong spirits were reserved to come forth in this day. Our mothers and our daughters are those strong spirits reserved to come forth in these days, reserved because the Lord knew that these evil influences would be present and that they had the strength and the stamina to overcome them. For such a time as this, we were reserved to come to this earth.
The various auxiliary programs—the Primary, the MIA, and the Relief Society—were all designed as goal-setting, decision-making, testimony-building guides in the lives of each of us, as a mother or a daughter; and for such a time as this our girls’ lessons teach them the laws of God, the purpose of their creation, their roles as women, chastity, modesty, what love is all about, friendship, and eternal life.
Girls must be taught that there is a time for preparing for dating and a time for dating; a time for a career, a time for courtship, and a time for marrying; and that marriage doesn’t automatically make a good mother or a good homemaker.
There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing (and I wish some of our girls knew this); a time for motherhood and a time for homemaking; a time for singing lullabies and a time for washing the dishes—and both are important.
There is a time to be an example; a time to teach; a time to help neighbors; a time to pray, night and day; a time to be led; and a time to quietly lead.
Yes, and there will be times to cry and times when our daughters’ hearts will break, for they are special persons endowed with tenderness and empathy and gentleness and compassion.
There are some of our wonderful girls who will never marry. Though we have more boy babies born into the world, by the time they reach maturity, statistically, we have more girls than boys. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear, do not feel that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel that the gospel is true, and would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord; and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now; the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed—for no blessing shall be withheld.” (Doctrines of Salvation [Bookcraft, 1959], vol. 3, p. 76.)
I would like to say to you girls who feel you should have married by this time and are not married: there is much you can do. You can help in the Church. Give yourself to other people. Give yourself to the Church. Give yourself to your own relatives and family. Make yourself as attractive as possible. Read books. Become educated. Learn everything there is to learn. Forget about your greatest desire of being married, but live worthy for that temple marriage, and you will be prepared for whatever blessing the Lord has for you.
It is my prayer that we can be so dedicated that not one single girl in this great Church will be forgotten or neglected by her mother, by her teachers, by her Sunday School leaders, her MIA leaders, her Primary leaders, or her Relief Society leaders. I pray that we can touch the heart of every girl so that she will know that she has been reserved to come forth at this particular time to solve the special problems that are hers in mortality.
I love the scripture, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5–6.) I know these are great and perilous times, and I know we were reserved to come forth in this day in strength to lead in these times. I know that our responsibilities are greater than we can ever comprehend, but I know that the Lord will bless us to succeed so that not one girl, not one mother, will be lost if we but lean on him.
This is our time. This is our time to serve the Lord and to serve each other, and I ask this blessing upon us in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.