Reverencing Womanhood – Some Doctrinal Points

"Jesus Appears to Mary" by Gregg Olsen

(To Jill, Mom, Mom (Carma) and the women/girls “who can tell me what to do.”)

One of the most touching stories in scripture is the exchange between the resurrected Lord and Mary Magdalene. Jesus’ tomb was empty and Mary, confused and alone, is standing outside the “sepulchre weeping.”[1] Someone nearby, she supposed was the gardener, asks “Woman, why weepest thou?”[2]

It is important to note the word “’woman’ was a term of high respect in the days of Jesus.”[3] In fact, I had a New Testament Professor in collage say that “woman” was a title reserved for queens and used with the utmost reverence.

As Jesus calls her by name, she recognizes the voice and tenderly answers “Rabboni.” The term meaning master was also used with reverence and respect. The romantic in me sees Mary approaching Jesus to embrace him when he says, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”[4]

The popular interpretation of this verse is that Mary couldn’t touch the newly resurrected body because He hadn’t checked in with the Father yet; that for some unknown reason, His glorified body could not be handled by mortal hands until after He ascended. However, seemingly[4.5] prior to this encounter, Jesus had appeared to women running from the empty tomb to report to the apostles and “they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.”[5]

Why were these woman allowed to touch Christ when Mary could not? The answer could be in the footnote. (My seminary teacher would be proud.) The footnote for “Touch” in John 20:5 is the Joseph Smith Translation and states, “Hold me not…” Instead of “Touch me not” it should read “Hold me not.” There could be varied interpretations of this as well but perhaps Christ is simply saying that he can’t bear to leave Mary in such a devastated condition; crying, confused and alone. “Mary, I’m alive. Don’t cry. I have to go to the Father but I can’t leave you like this. All is well. Please don’t ‘hold’ me up.” This interpretation also allows for a loving embrace that would rival anything Hollywood has ever created.

The reverence, care and love for womanhood that Jesus and this story demonstrates teaches us how we should view and treat the women in our lives.  Further, it teaches us how Heavenly Father feels about His daughters.  Multiple times in the scriptures He refers to women as His “fair daughters”.[6]

It has not been an easy road for women. As President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “Notwithstanding this preeminence given the creation of woman, she has so frequently through the ages been relegated to a secondary position.  She has been put down.  She has been denigrated.  She has been enslaved.  She has been abused.”[7]

It is clear, from the prophets, how we should and SHOULDN’T be treating God’s “fair daughters.”[8] We should love, cherish, build-up, protect, respect, serve and honor them. We shouldn’t abuse (emotionally or physically), control, belittle, ignore, leave out or mock women.

This isn’t anything new. We have heard it time and time again.  But do we understand the principles and doctrines[9] behind why we should treat the sisters in our lives with incredible respect and love? Why is it that Heavenly Father and His Son have such a special spot in their hearts for women? Let’s explore some of the doctrines connected to the sacred importance of womanhood.

Premortal World – Making Plans

Before coming to what we now refer to as “life”, we lived with a loving Heavenly Father and all His children.  We learned, progressed and lived much like we do now but without mortal bodies. There came a point where we, in order to progress further, had to leave the safety of our heavenly home and experience a life with choices and consequences. Abraham was shown, in vision, the planning sessions for this world and test.

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;[10]

He saw many of the great spirits planning and organizing the Great Plan of Happiness. In the Doctrine & Covenants we find a list of some of those who Abraham saw.

Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, 
 And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.[11]

The sisters in our lives are among those “faithful daughters” and were actively and anxiously involved in the first scenes of this great drama. They did not stand back waiting for instructions. They were and continue to be fully engaged in the work.[12]

Mortal Life – Mother Eve

Part of the plan is to enter into mortality; a time for us to gain experience, be tested[13] and ultimately to become the individuals God intends us to become.[14] We all enter this world via our mothers and Eve received the assignment to be the “mother of all living.”[15]

Exactly what happened in the garden has been the focus of furious debates for ages. Most of the Christian world believes that Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden was the biggest mistake of all time. Eve is viewed as, at best, gullible and at fault.  She was fooled or duped into partaking the fruit, bringing misery upon not only her and Adam but upon the entire human family.

This incorrect idea about the beginning stages of this mortal phase lead many to “err because we are taught by the precepts of man”[16] Latter-day Saints boldly declare that the “Fall” was part of the Plan of Salvation, that Eve’s role was absolutely key in that plan and that she did what had to be done. She was not fooled into anything. She went with eyes wide-open and should be revered and respected for her courageous actions.

We have heard or told the story of Adam and Eve so many times, we forget that it did not happen all in one day, weeks or even months. A lot of things had to occur between the creation of Adam and Eve and their encounter with Satan and subsequent eating of the fruit.

Here is what we do know:

  • Adam was created and because (by divine plan) he could not do it without help, Eve was created.[17]
  • The scriptures say that Eve was created from the rib of Adam[18].  President Spencer W. Kimball said this “is, of course, figurative.”[19]  Eve was not created from spare parts.
  • God walked, talked, instructed, counseled, commanded, married and loved Adam and Eve.[20]
  • God taught them the Plan of Salvation[21].  They understood it.
  • They were shown the choices given them and they understood the consequences of those choices.

Exactly when Satan began his assault we don’t know. Was he there the entire time or was the fact that God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden enough to keep the serpent at bay? My guess is he waited for the opportunity to present itself and then pounced.

Adam repealed Satan’s attempts and approaches Eve. The conflict forced Eve to consider all the choices and all the consequences of those choices.  It forced her to work through the problem and realize what had to be done. Perhaps she did not understand, at first, who the messenger was but she understood what she was doing and the consequences of her decision. She took the step, she pulled the trigger, and she set in motion the entire plan.

Eve, a woman, was the integral part or key to this phase of the Plan. If not for Eve, the Plan would have been frustrated. With reverence and deep gratitude we should always remember the sacrifice and step that Eve took that “men might be.”[22]

Elohim – Another Way to Look At It

When members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talk about “Elohim” most of the time we use it as the proper name of God the Father. In Hebrew the word means “god and plural”[23]. Therefore, we also use “Elohim” as a title referring to multiple gods.[24]

Consider the famous hymn, by Eliza R. Snow:

In the heavens are parents single?

No; the thought makes reason stare!

Truth is reason, Truth eternal,

Tells me I’ve a mother there.[25]

Connecting the dots, when we say “Elohim” are we perhaps referring to both God the Father and God the Mother in Heaven? Doesn’t “Truth eternal” tell us that She not only exists but also took and takes an active role in the Plan of Salvation?[26]

It is also interesting to note that scriptures containing the history of the world before the fall used the name “Adam” to refer to not only Adam but also to Eve. Only after the fall were Adam and Eve’s names used separately in the text[27]

Like we use “Parkers” to refer to both me and my wife, could Elohim sometimes refer to both Father and Mother?

An Elite Club – Saviorship

Soon after the creation of Adam the Lord says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.[28] Most of us have heard that “Help Meet” in Hebrew means “equal” but it also means “savior.”[29]  In the eyes of God, not only are women equal to men but they are saviors. Certainly, women do not have the power to atone for others, only Christ possesses this power. However, clearly there is some sort of connection between Christ as the Savior (capital “S”) and women as saviors (small “s”).

I have had the opportunity to read a handful of Patriarchal Blessings and many of the sisters’ say something in the effect of, “you’ll be a Savoir to your husband.” I have never seen the same said for husbands about their wives. There may be some out there, I just haven’t seen them. But it begs the question, “How are the daughters of God saviors?”

  • Both bring forth new life.
    • Moms through birth
    • Christ through baptism

It is Interesting that both have a lot to do with water.

  • That new life cost much pain, agony and most symbolically, blood.
  • Both Eve and Christ, before performing their culminating responsibilities, realize (perhaps for the first time) the pain they would have to endure and asked if there might be another path, another way to accomplish the duty.  But ultimately they both say, “thy will be done”. [30]
  • Christ sacrifices or “gives” himself in a covenant way for us.  “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”[31]  Women do the same; they “give” themselves to men, in a covenant relationship. This doesn’t mean they give away their agency, desires, feelings or respect.  They give themselves just like Christ gave Himself – as saviors.
  • That covenant makes a “new creature”[32] an “Elohim” in embryo, if you will.

Again let me make it clear, Christ was perfect and He is the Savior (capital “S”). But surely the daughters of God and Christ share a “savoirship” role in this great plan. Do we treat women, the daughters of God, the saviors (small “s”) of men, in the same way we reverence and honor the Savior of the World? And more importantly, do we understand who mom, wife, daughter, grandma, aunt, friend really is? They are the “fair daughters” of Heavenly-father.  President Hinckley put it this way:

 “Every woman is a daughter of God. You cannot offend her without offending Him. I plead with the men of this Church to look for and nurture the divinity that lies within their companions. To the degree that happens, there will be harmony, peace, enrichment of family life, nurturing love.”[33]

Sacrifice

When our second son was born, I was, of course, moved by the entire experience.  I had the opportunity to write some of the raw feeling I had as I watched my wife struggle to bring new life into this world.

 This past week I had the opportunity to witness God’s work as another one of His spirits entered this world.  Little Joshua was born on April 24.  As I watched and participated in his birth, I was continually amazed at how much Jill, Joshua’s mother, sacrificed.  It has been on my mind since; not just Jill’s sacrifice, but my mother’s and other mothers and ALL mothers.  They literally risk their lives to give us life.  And now as I look into my new son’s little eyes I can’t help wonder, “Will he respect his mother when he’s 15?”  “Will he cause her pain?”  “Will he treat her as he should or will he ridicule and make fun of her?”  If only I could show him; show him the pain, the sweat, the blood, the tears it took for her to get him here, HE WOULD NEVER DISRESPECT HER, NEVER.  No matter what Jill does from here on out, no matter the mistakes, no matter the embarrassments, no matter what, because of this one act, Joshua can NEVER justify disrespecting his mother.

It should be our goal to remember the sacred importance of the daughters of God – their role in the Plan of Salvation, in the creation, the fall, in our lives today.  Remember that they are our “saviors”, our mothers and our wives.

Have a Happy Mothers’ Day.


[1] John 20:11

[2] John 20:15

[3] Ridges, David J. “The New Testament Made Easier, Part One” pp. 366.

[4] John 20:17

[4.5] There is significant debate about the details and order of events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection. Some scholars believe that appearance to the women occurred after his visit with Mary and after Christ’s visit to the Father while others believe it happened before. Regardless of the order, Christ’s appearances to women, even before His beloved apostles, further demonstrates His love and respect for womanhood.

[5] Matthew 28:8-9 Italics added.

[6] Jacob 2:31-33

[7] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Women in Our Lives,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 82.

[8] For example: Richard G. Scott, “The Sanctity of Womanhood,” Ensign, May 2000, 36. James E. Faust, “The Highest Place of Honor,” Ensign, May 1988, 36. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Solemn Responsibilities,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 4

[9] Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children” Ensign, Nov. 1986 20.

[10] Abraham 3:22 Italics added

[11] D&C 138:38-39 Italics added

[12] D&C 58:27

[13] Alma 34:31-32

[14] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become” Ensign, Nov. 2000.

[15] Moses 4:26Genesis 3:20

[16] Beverly Campbell, “Mother Eve, Mentor For Today’s Woman: A Heritage Of Honor,” Journal of Collegium Aesculapium, 1994, 36

[17] Genesis 2:18

[18] Genesis 2:22

[19] Spencer W. Kimball, “Blessing and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, March 1976, p. 71.

[20] Talmage, James E., The Vitality of Mormonism. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1919, pp. 51-52.

[21] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 168.

[22] 2 Nephi 2:25

[23] The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., 452

[24] For example, D&C 121:28-32

[25] “O My Father” Hymns, 1985, no. 292 verse 3

[26] Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), p. 68.

[27] Moses 6:9

[28] Genesis 2:18

[29] R. David Friedman, “Woman, a Power Equal to Man,” Biblical Archeological Review 9 (January-February 1983): pp. 56-58.

[30] Matthew 26:42

[31] Ephesians 5:2

[32] Galatians 6:15

[33] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Women in Our Lives,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 84

9 Responses to Reverencing Womanhood – Some Doctrinal Points

  1. Janice Boice says:

    Thank you Troy, this was a great article. Yesterday I just reviewed Elder Cooks address at conference on womanhood and this was a great followup to his talk.
    Thanks
    Janice Boice

  2. You have shared some great insights. Your comment about Elohim meaning both Father and Mother is a concept taught by the Reno, Nevada Temple President in a Women’s Conference I attended about a month ago. I agree with your comments and I want to thank you for posting them.

  3. Leah Martin says:

    Hi Troy –
    Loved your comments – thanks. (Long time no see.)
    Interesting that some find the commands given by God in the Garden of Eden as “contradictory” – one to multiply and replenish the earth, and one forbidding them to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How could they do both? – the seeming contradiction.
    However, in my mind there is no contradiction – he says in Moses 3:16 “…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” Free of what? I say free of consequence that comes of agency. So, in vs 17 you could read, “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not **freely** eat of it…” (“freely” is added) If they eat of it, there are the consequences of death, misery, mortality as we know it.
    Interestingly, in chapter 4 when Eve does partake of the fruit of that tree, she noted that the fruit of it was “to be desired to make her wise” – much like Lehi found the fruit of the tree of which he partook, and wanted his whole family to partake.
    I agree – Eve knew full well her responsibility – indeed her saving act (small s) of leading the way for the human family and her role in the Plan of Salvation. Indeed, without her courage, the Plan would have been frustrated.
    Thanks again!
    -Leah

    • Troy says:

      Hey Leah! Good to hear from you. I have never looked at “freely” like that before. I guess I always thought of it as meaning “liberally” but I love how you connect that with agency and consequences. Awesome.

  4. Marti says:

    Beautifully written, as usual. 🙂

  5. Mandy says:

    I love the picture you used. Can you tell me the name of it or who it is by? Thanks.

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