The Women's Movement: Liberation or Deception?
Elder Thomas S. Monson
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(Ensign, January 1971, 17)
To quote the Master: “Ye are the salt of the earth. … Ye are the light of the world. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13–14, 16.)
In stark and glaring contrast to this spirit are the tenor of our times, the demands of our day, and the goals of our generation. Look about you. Listen to the many voices, each competing for a listening ear. What do you see? What do you hear? The topic: women’s liberation.
Recently I read with interest feature articles that appeared in five widely circulated American publications. All presented information regarding the subject of women’s liberation.
Several of the articles called attention to the fact that 1970 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the right of women to vote in the United States. And from this base came a description of the goals and demands that are now being made by some women: free abortion, free child care, and equal employment.
One piece suggested that women should literally demand these things. This article then went on to describe much of Friedrich Engles’ philosophy. Engles, you will recall, was a colleague of Karl Marx and spoke out with irony and force against much of family life. He referred to marriage as a dreary mutation of slavery, urged its abolition, and suggested a public responsibility for the upbringing of children.
In another magazine there was a report dealing with “The Motherhood Myth.” This article debunked the idea that there is anything particularly fulfilling and satisfying about being a mother. It quoted one psychiatrist who suggested that people should move from planned parenthood to planned unparenthood and that it would be more loving to children not to have them. The author of the article, a senior editor of the magazine, concluded: “If God were still speaking to us in a voice we could hear, even He would probably say, ‘Be fruitful. Don’t multiply.’ ”
Such idiotic and blatantly false philosophy must not be entertained or believed. For God has spoken. Indeed, he has spoken in a voice clearly understood by those who have ears to hear and hearts that know and feel.
From the scriptures we read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. …
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. …
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, … and it was so.”
The beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the creatures of the deep were all created. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. …”(Gen. 1:3, 6–7, 26–28.)
Again, in these latter days, the Lord counseled: “… marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.” (D&C 49:15–16.)
Thus, we have the contrast. On one hand, the philosophy of man; on the other, the truth of God. Let us examine the result when men’s philosophies prevail.
Error, sin, lust, envy, and evil thrive in the midst of today’s prosperity. More than $5 million a year is spent on pornographic literature by which vile men try to “dig gold out of dirt.” Magazines, movies, television programs, and other mass media are utilized to lower moral standards and behavior. Crime and delinquency are rampant, and spiritual values are questioned. Our interests are centered in ourselves. We are preoccupied with material things. Many of us are more concerned about conquering space than about conquering ourselves. We are more dedicated to material security than to inner purity. We give much more thought to what we wear, what we eat, what we drink, and what we can do to relax than we give to what we are.
The weakness of our will and the confusion of our choices are illustrated in a letter that was written by a mother to the popular columnist and human relations adviser Ann Landers:
“Dear Ann Landers: A year ago our two-year-old son, Earl, had difficulty breathing, so we took him to a doctor. We learned that Earl is allergic to cigarette smoke. My husband said we both had to quit smoking right then and there. He hasn’t touched a cigarette since. I went back to smoking that same night.
“My husband doesn’t know I smoke. I have to sneak around and smoke in the basement. And it is making a nervous wreck of me.
“Do you think it would be wrong if we let a nice couple adopt little Earl—a nice couple who don’t smoke? The only problem is that my husband is crazy about the boy. I love him, too, but I am more the practical type.
“What do you think, Ann? Mrs. E. R. M.”
“Dear Mrs. I think a lot of people who read this letter are going to say I made it up. It’s utterly fantastic that a mother would put cigarettes ahead of her own child. Don’t present your wild idea to your husband. I wouldn’t blame him if he decided to keep little Earl and unload YOU.”
Have such mothers become liberated? Have they achieved freedom? Equality? No. They have not been liberated. They have been deceived. They have lost their true identity. They have followed that Pied Piper of Sin who has cunningly led them away from their divine role of womanhood down that pathway of error from which a return journey is so difficult and never completed without scars.
Is there to be found a way to avoid such tragic consequences, even a method whereby sin may be shunned and righteousness enthroned? Perhaps a point of new beginning? Let me share an age-old truth that I saw presented in a most modern manner.
One of the fine musical comedies of recent years is Joseph Stein’s Fiddler on the Roof. This tells the story of an old-fashioned Jewish father in Russia who is trying to cope with changing times brought forcibly home to him by his beautiful teenage daughters.
The gaiety of the dance, the rhythm of the music, the excellence of the acting all fade in their significance when the father speaks what to me becomes the message of the musical. He gathers his lovely daughters to his side and, in the simplicity of his peasant surroundings, counsels them as they ponder their future. “Remember,” he cautions, “in Anatevka each one of you knows who she is and what God expects you to become.”
You, beloved sisters of the Church, know who you are and what God expects you to become. Your challenge is to bring all for whom you are responsible to a knowledge of this truth. The Relief Society of this, the Lord’s Church, can be one of the means to achieve such a goal.
From the beginning, the Prophet Joseph Smith recognized the importance of organizing the women of the Church “through the order of the priesthood.” As he did so, the Prophet declared: “… and I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the Lord, and this Society shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time henceforth. …” (History of the Church 4:607.)
In planning the curriculum for women of the Church, we have been guided by the Prophet’s statements, as well as the instruction provided by those who succeeded him in Church leadership. We have, with resolute care, followed these guidelines:
1. Every woman has been endowed by God with distinctive characteristics, gifts, and talents in order that she may fulfill a specific mission in the eternal plan.
2. The priesthood is the central power of the Church. “The priesthood is for the benefit of all members of the Church. Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession.” (John A. Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government [Deseret Book Company, 1939], p. 83.)
3. The home is the basic organization to teach an individual to walk uprightly before the Lord.
4. Compassionate service and a sensitivity to the needs of others are the principal purposes for which a women’s program was organized.
What the modernists, even the liberationists, fail to remember is that women, in addition to being persons, also belong to a sex, and that with the differences in sex are associated important differences in function and behavior. Equality of rights does not imply identity of functions. As Paul the apostle declared: “… neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)
Recognizing the truth of this statement, may I issue to you three challenges for our times: first, sustain your husband; second, strengthen your home; third, serve your God.
Sustain your husband. In speaking to missionaries, I frequently counsel them: “Love your companion. Make him a part of all you do. He may be short or tall, thin or fat, handsome or homely—but he’s all yours.” I think I need not elaborate on the analogy. Your husband is yours. Together you form a partnership with God. Your husband, as the priesthood bearer, is the head of the home. You, the helpmeet, are not the head, but just as important—the heart of the home.
Honor his priesthood, and he will respect your womanhood. Both husband and wife should appreciate that “woman was taken out of man, … not out of his feet to be trampled underfoot, but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.” (M. Henry.)
Be patient, be tender, be loving, be considerate, be understanding, be your best self as you sustain your husband.
Strengthen your home. Several writers of the women’s liberation movement have referred to the family dwelling as “that ghetto called home.” I reply: “Home is what the mother makes it.” Home, that beautiful word in our language, was never meant to be a ghetto, but rather a haven called heaven where the spirit of the Lord might dwell.
Too frequently women underestimate their influence for good. Well could you follow the formula given by the Lord: “… establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” (D&C 88:119.)
In such a house will be found happy, smiling children who have been taught, by precept and example, the truth. In a Latter-day Saint home, children are not simply tolerated, but welcomed; not commanded, but encouraged; not driven, but guided; not neglected, but loved. In such a home children will seek and obtain testimonies.
I recognize that there are times when mother’s nerves are frayed, her patience exhausted, and her energies consumed; when she says, “My children don’t appreciate a single thing I do.” I think they do appreciate you. One of the questions after a study of magnets at one junior high school was: “What begins with ‘M’ and picks things up?” The obvious answer was “magnet.” However, more than a third of the students answered “mother.”
There is no scene more touching or beautiful than a mother kneeling with her child by his bed as she teaches him to pray. Then, arising from their knees, the little one is tucked tenderly into bed, receives his good-night kiss, and as mother gently closes the door he hears her say, “Good night, sleep tight, wake up bright, in the morning light, to do what’s right, with all your might. … I love you.”
Serve your God. There are those women who fail their responsibilities, who neglect the word of God, using as their excuse the inactivity or disbelief of an errant husband. With such our Father is not pleased, for they hide the divine gift with which they have been endowed—the power to influence for good the lives of their husbands. What miracles could be accomplished in the ranks of the priesthood if each wife resolved to love the Lord her God with all her heart, her might, mind, and strength, and her neighbor as herself. You cannot serve your neighbor without demonstrating your love for God. Your commission is to “Go, gladden the lonely, the dreary; Go, comfort the weeping, the weary; Go, scatter kind deeds on your way; Oh, make the world brighter today!” (“Make the World Brighter,” Deseret Sunday School Songs, 1909, p. 197.) The heart of compassionate service, one of the hallmark creeds of Relief Society, is the gift of oneself.
Sisters, will you accept these three challenges: sustain your husband, strengthen your home, and serve your God? I promise, as a servant of the Lord, that as you do, the blessings of heaven will attend you.