The Case for Mary
March 1971

“The Case for Mary,” New Era, Mar. 1971, 42

The Case for Mary

We take a look at women’s liberation so that Latter-day Saint girls can gain perspective about the attitudes being thrust upon them by the world. As a woman, I, like Goethe, can promise to be sincere but not impartial

Women are being talked about.

In magazines and newspapers, on radio and TV, in the fashion houses, and around advertising conference tables, we are indeed being talked about. If we were to believe all that the mass media present about women as a group, we would be in a constant state of confusion.

Scientists try to explain us. Doctors diagnose our ills. Moralists cluck their tongues at some of us. Religionists chastise others of us. Psychiatrists scold and philosophers would explain us away. Educators tolerate us. Demonstrators have taken us on as a cause, and as a result, some persons keep very, very quiet, hoping the whole bad picture will simply disappear.

We are also being talked to.

We are urged by some to get out and do something significant in the world. We are urged by others to stay home and feed the fires of heart and hearth. We are urged to have families and fulfill the measure of our creation. But if we do, still others say we aid and abet the population explosion. We are trained in schools exactly the same as our brothers, and are then sent forth with the subtle reminder not to compete with them and upset the scheme of things. We have been worshiped and exploited, applauded and forgotten. We have been the target of jokes, the object of lust. All about us is dichotomy.

Some people’s preoccupation with women as “things” instead of human beings on the same level as men is one anger that burns in outspoken members of the contemporary radical feminist movement. It is one reason given by women’s liberation movement advocates for stirring up such a storm today.

Women’s liberation?

What is it? What is it for? Who wants it? If you had it, what would it mean? Liberated from what? Liberated for what? Is somebody kidding? What woman—me?

Self-accepting women often mock the whole idea behind such a movement. Others make the fast retort that the cause is just and they hope someone can do something for it.

Proponents are strident in their shouts that today’s educated woman can never be fulfilled as a human being with ironing, laundering diapers, or typing an endless supply of dictation from the boss as her major activity. When a girl does the same work and gets less pay than a man, it’s unfair, they insist. Judy Wanniski, Washington, D.C., columnist, suggests that the “alleged chivalrous code” governing women’s working rights may “prevent desirable job advancement for women and prevent women from much-sought and desperately needed overtime work and pay.”

Radical feminists add that women are treated as second-rate citizens, beleaguered members of a minority group in a patriarchal society. They think that men have entirely too much to say about their church lives, their education, their social behavior, and more importantly, their home life. They are angry at Hugh Hefner; angry at graffiti and four-letter words; angry at advertisers; angry at being made a thing of; angry at fashion designers and the clothing industry for manipulating women’s lives. Girls suffer under the cultural trap of boy-ask-girl—which is one reason there are so many unmarried women around, observes one liberation fan.

Liberationists have another anger. It is directed at those who believe women are subservient to men. They quote Rousseau: “The education of women should always be relative to that of men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young, to take care of us when grown up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable; these are the duties of women at all times, and what they should be taught in their infancy.”

Too much of this kind of thinking still persists today, according to some liberationists. “Woman’s place is not in the home,” they snap. “She is an individual first.”

Herein, then, is the main force of the movement—to destroy the old idea of woman as a homemaker and helpmeet to man.

Such a drive strikes at the basis of God’s plan of life for us on earth. And frighteningly, these attitudes have been picked up by the mass media and spread across the minds of unthinking people with some rather startling ramifications. In the wake of the far-reaching women’s liberation movement sweeping the world, many persons will flounder unless they understand fully what it is all about, what good can come from it, and what damaging effects it might have.

A young woman in the Church, with a life sweetened by gospel experiences, enlightened by religious training, strengthened by the ordinances and directions of the holy priesthood of God, is bound to have a different view of her own role as a woman, no matter how liberal or emancipated or sophisticated she may think she is. Deep down, her own feelings must convince her that she is a cherished child of God and the recipient with others of his children, both male and female, of all the blessings of a plan of eternal life. To the man it has been given to lead. To the woman it has been given to love and bear children. As a man shares in the joy of children, so woman shares in the elevation priesthood gives to life. “… neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)

This is not to say that woman is or even ought to be without a certain restlessness in all of today’s commotion. Social change is hard on everyone. However, a young Latter-day Saint woman’s thinking should be colored by her special values. Any new idea or attitude should be weighed against the eternal scheme of things before it finds lodging in her life—before it effects a behavioral change.

The gospel of Jesus Christ provides freedom of spirit and choice vastly more meaningful than anything radical feminists’ attitudes can offer. And in addition, the gospel gives special guidance to woman’s role and strength to help her keep her commitments.

Our church training blesses us with an awareness that today is part of forever and that “to every thing there is a season.” In the case of womanhood, there is a time for dating and a time for preparation and formal education, a time for personal identity and a time for homemaking and motherhood. It seems obvious that if a girl knows her age, knows her “season,” and understands the magnificence of her role, she can bend to the involvements and pursuits that are appropriate for that period of her life with a greater degree of serenity. To the girl who marries later than sooner, the season of preparation is simply longer, but her contributions as a woman are still significant in the role she plays now.

It takes more know-how and courage to be a proper woman these days. What woman is good at, the world needs more of. Her intuitive, sensitive, caring qualities should be cultivated and not traded in for a football uniform, long hours in the office, or the right to go to war like a man. To be a mother is to shape lives and thus truly change the world. Life for one who influences children is more than making soap, reading gentle stories, or going to school meetings. It is preparing children to meet the social pressures of the day and to meet God later on.

When we talk of women’s liberation, we get to the point where we must admit that there is no such thing as absolute freedom or complete liberation from what one innately is. There is only freedom of choice—of what you do about where you find yourself in life. Instead of being liberated, perhaps the protest marchers are only being deceived! To be an equal with man, to play his role, would be to take on his kind of bindings and traps and responsibilities from which there is no freedom either, such as war.

What do we lose as women when we rebel against our God-given role? We lose the delight of being loved as we serve swiftly to meet the need, quietly to sweeten the heart, and purely with sensitive compassion and unique caring qualities.

Though we may not be militant, even being disgruntled at the part we are marked to play can cost us joy and satisfaction and earn us the distrust and disinterest of men. And that is to lose what life is all about. It’s like the lines in the simple song: “… or would you rather be a fish?” … or a bird … or a pig. We are what we are and thank God for the differences. Being the best of what we are, male or female, working to improve our lot as we go, is the answer to life’s journey. It is the Lord’s way for us.

Samuel Johnson’s statement seems applicable here: “Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.”

One of the good things to come out of the women’s rights movement is the intellectual awakening that it has given some girls. They are thinking seriously about what it is to be a female as well as a human being. It is a kind of catharsis. It is a stimulant to consider one’s blessings and responsibilities and realities and unchangeables. It is to consider frameworks and possibilities.

To learn and to grow as a human being is important. To become skilled in one’s particular role is the avenue to fulfillment and success. Our prophets have spoken on this. Under Joseph Smith came the Relief Society program to enrich women’s lives. Brigham Young started what is now the YWMIA. And President Joseph F. Smith counseled women: “Seek to be educated in the highest meaning of the term; get the most possible service out of your time, your body and brains, and let all your efforts be directed into honorable channels, that no effort be wasted, and no labor result in loss or evil.”

The Savior lifted woman. There are numerous references indicating this in the New Testament. One such story should be motivating and directed to today’s young woman who wants to be more than “slave labor in the galley of some man’s house,” as the liberationists put it.

The Savior went to visit in the home of his two beloved friends on one occasion, and the scriptures tell us that Mary sat “at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39–42.)

The case for Mary is a commanding one. To be a Mary is to be at the Savior’s feet, learning those truths important to eternal life. This is the good part that cannot be taken away and that can be used in bringing Christ into the lives of others.

Mary wasn’t cumbered with much serving (so as to give a good impression of herself to the Savior!). She listened responsively and wisely, at his feet. Some women wear motherhood, wifehood, servicehood like a red flag draped about their shoulders in a martyr’s guise. They are cumbered with much serving. Others prepare and play their part with happiness and grace, following the word of the Savior and conforming their lives to his teachings. There is balance in their pursuits.

This is the case for Mary. This is the ideal for woman.

Illustrated by Stanley Wanlass, Marilee Campbell