Mothers in Israel and Daughters of Zion
Bruce R. McConkie
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(New Era, May 1978, p. 35; from an address delivered in Tonga on February 25, 1976)
There are many marvelous powers and blessings that come to women in the Church and kingdom of God on earth that are not found anywhere else. The Lord has given us many things that bless and ennoble and exalt women beyond anything ever dreamed of outside his church. Some of these things I shall now mention.
We know the place women hold in the plan of salvation. All of us are spirit children of God our Heavenly Father. We dwelt with him in the pre-existence; we are members of his family; we were begotten in his image. He ordained and established the plan of salvation so that we could advance and progress and become like him. The plan of salvation is called the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But spirit children are not born to a Father only. We are the offspring of Heavenly Parents. We lived in the family unit in the pre-existence. As our great doctrinal hymn says:
“In the heavens are parents single?
The name of the kind of life enjoyed by our Heavenly Parents is called eternal life. If we are to gain eternal life, if we are to advance and progress and become like them, we too must live in the family unit in the world to come. In other words, we must gain eternal family units of our own that are patterned after that of our Eternal Parents. This is the high and holy hope that the gospel holds out to both men and women.
Now, may I say that every eternal blessing offered to men; every gift, and grace, and good thing that men enjoy; and every power they possess; and every miracle they can work—all of these things are available to women also. Let us make our study of these matters by taking illustrations out of the scriptures.
Let us now take Eve, the mother of all living, as an example. Of Adam and Eve the Lord said:
“Male and female created I them.
“And I, God, blessed them, and said unto them:”—note that the Lord is not speaking to the man only, but to the man and the woman together—to both of them he said: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (Moses 2:27–28.)
We should note that both Adam and Eve prayed; they both heard the voice of the Lord; and both of them were commanded to worship and serve their Creator.
Then a sacrifice was offered; an angel appeared; they were taught to pray in the name of the Son; they learned of the great plan of redemption; and Adam blessed God, was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied concerning all the families of the earth.
Now we come to the part played by the woman. The scripture says:
“And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
“And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
“And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God.” (Moses 5:11–12, 16.)
It is common for us to speak of Adam’s transgression, of the fall of Adam, of the Lord giving commandments to Adam. But as we have seen from these scriptures, it was not Adam only, it was not Adam alone, who was involved in these things. All that transpired was a joint enterprise that took into account both Adam and Eve.
Eve was an active participant. She heard all that Adam said. She spoke of “our transgression,” of “the joy of our redemption,” of the “seed” they should have together, and of the “eternal life” that could not come to either of them alone, but which is always reserved for a man and a woman together.
She and Adam both prayed; they both blessed the name of the Lord; they both taught their children; they both received revelation; and the Lord commanded both of them together to worship and serve him in the name of Jesus Christ forever.
Truly, as Paul said, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.) It is an eternal principle that it is “not good” for man to “be alone”; he needs a woman to be “an help meet for him.” (Moses 3:18.) The man alone holds the holy priesthood and is appointed to care for and give spiritual guidance to his wife. But it rests with the woman, as our revelations recite, to “bear the souls of men,” that the work of the Eternal Father may be “continued, that he may be glorified.” (D&C 132:63.)
Eve, the mother of all living, is truly the perfect pattern for all her daughters. Oh that all women would follow the path laid down by the first woman of all women and do the things that she did that all might be saved!
May I now take our common ancestor, Rebekah, as a pattern for what her daughters in the Church today can do. Rebekah was barren until Isaac entreated the Lord on her behalf, and then she conceived. Then Jacob and Esau, while yet in her womb, struggled together. She was troubled and asked, “Why am I thus?” The scripture says, “She went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb,” and he then described them. (Gen. 25:21–23.)
Our purpose in telling this story is to show that when Rebekah was troubled and needed divine guidance, she herself took the matter up with the Lord, and he spoke to her in reply. The Lord gives revelation to women who pray to him in faith.
When Jacob and Esau had grown to maturity, the greatest concern of their parents was the matter of whom they should marry. The record says that Esau “took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.” (Gen. 26:34–35.) What this means is that Esau married out of the Church; Esau did not enter the Lord’s system of celestial marriage, and his marriage brought great sorrow to his parents.
Rebekah had great anxiety as to whom Jacob would marry. She was fearful that he too might depart from the teachings of his parents and marry someone who was not eligible to receive the blessings of eternal marriage.
And so the scripture says, “And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?” (Gen. 27:46.)
That is to say, Rebekah thought her whole life would be wasted if Jacob married out of the Church. She knew he could not enter the gate leading to exaltation unless he was married in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and so she brought the matter to Jacob’s attention. This is a great object lesson. The mother was greatly concerned about the marriage of her son, and she prevailed upon the father to do something about it. She was acting as a guide and a light to Jacob as my wife often does to me.
And so the account says, “And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.” (Gen. 28:1.)
How many of us have received blessings, patriarchal blessings, in which we are told to marry in the temple or to be married for time and all eternity? So it was with Jacob. Isaac blessed him and gave him a command that meant, “Thou shalt not marry out of the Church.”
Now, when we are a minority part of the population, it is sometimes difficult to find a marriage companion in the Church. We have to go to great lengths to associate with faithful Latter-day Saints, to associate with good, clean people who are worthy to have a temple recommend.
And so Isaac not only said, “Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan,” he also said: “Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.
“And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
“And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee.” (Gen. 28:1–4.)
That is to say, if Jacob married in the Church and was true and faithful, he would be blessed with eternal increase, with a continuation of the family unit in eternity, as his grandfather Abraham had been blessed before him. That he was obedient and faithful we learn from latter-day revelation that tells us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each entered the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, each “did none other things than that which they were commanded,” and each “have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.” (D&C 132:37.)
What we say for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we say also for Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, the wives who stood at their sides and who with them were true and faithful in all things. Men are not saved alone, and women do not gain an eternal fullness except in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Salvation is a family affair.
The revelation on marriage says that “if a man marry a wife” in “the new and everlasting covenant,” and they are then faithful and true in all things, “they”—meaning the man and the woman—“shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, … which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods.” (D&C 132:19–20.) That is, the man and his wife together and not either one of them alone, shall be exalted. They shall have eternal life; they shall fill the full measure of their creation; they shall inherit, receive, and possess all things.
What a marvelous example Rebekah has set for all the women of the Church. Not only did she pray and get personal revelation when she needed it, but she so influenced her husband and her son that they did what was necessary so that Jacob married in the Church and, with his beloved Rachel, gained eternal life as a result.
If we pursued our inquiry further, we would recount how Alma said that the Lord “imparteth his word by angels” unto men, women, and little children—all of whom are given words “which confound the wise and the learned.” (Alma 32:23.)
We would view again what happened on a Sabbath morning, in a quiet garden, outside a city wall, before an open tomb, when Mary of Magdala became the first mortal to see the resurrected Lord of Life.
We would mingle with the weeping Jews before a sealed tomb and hear the sisters of Lazarus—first Martha, then Mary—say to their beloved Lord, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”; we would hear Martha add, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee,” and then hear her say through her sorrow, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:21–32.)
We would see the widow of Zarephath use the last of her meal and of her oil to bake a cake for the man of God, then see the barrel of meal waste not and the cruse of oil fail not until the Lord sent rain again upon the earth. (See 1 Kgs. 17:8–14.)
We would see how the mothers in Israel and the daughters of Zion, along with their husbands and fathers, wrought righteousness, feared God, and worked miracles.
We would see their compassionate service, hear their testimonies, rejoice in their prayers, and know they are approved of the Lord.
Finally, we would see them with their families, in glorious immortality in the kingdom of our Father.
God grant that it may be so for all of us and all of ours.