This week in Sunday school a mother asked how to help her daughters gain a testimony of the gospel without being able to receive the priesthood. She wanted to know how to help young women beyond teaching them how to “bake bread.”
This is what I want my young women to know about their role in the church:
Every human being wants to be loved. Every problem in the world exists because people do not have access to this love or do not feel it deeply enough for it to transform them. When we are unloved (treated unkindly) by other human beings, those feelings bleed into our understanding of God. Many women feel excluded from the Priesthood because they believe this status is a reflection of worth. If God loved all of his children equally, wouldn’t he give them the same responsibilities?
I have two children and I can confidently tell you that I do not love them equally. I love them both so much that I do not even stop to measure the amount of love I have for each of them. The concept doesn’t make sense. I love them, I love my husband, and I love you, young women. My love is different, special and individualized in each of my relationships, and it is always more than enough. I have two very different girls and when they are older, you can bet they will have different roles in our home to facilitate the function of our family, but mostly to teach them responsibility — and holding the Priesthood is more like being assigned a household chore than winning a free trip to Disneyland. Zoe might be assigned to do the laundry and Eve might have to mow the lawn. Why would I have both kids complete the same task? It would be redundant. They can learn the value of hard work in either role and the required interdependence will strengthen their relationship. I want Eve to count on Zoe for clean socks and Zoe to rely on Eve to maintain their playing field, just as Heavenly Father wants all of us his sons and daughters to require each other.
Heavenly Father loves all of us. He does not have some absurd hierarchy for dispensing love, saving the biggest slice for the prophet and apostles and dispensing crumbs to the rest of us. Why bother believing in God if you subscribe to that view? You need only look to humans if you’re looking for such vindictiveness.
Without the Priesthood, how do we then understand our roles as sisters in the Relief Society? To be sure, there is a lot of bread to bake. There are many casseroles to cook and baby blankets to quilt.
Listen close, girls. There is nothing wrong with baking bread. It is not frivolous. It is not unimportant. People need freshly baked bread in their lives. They need the soft smell of lavender scented soap on their hands and the feel of crisp clean sheets when they slip into bed at night. These simple yet significant tasks fill out life with moments of joy and comfort. I am not saying that all women should learn how to bake bread; I can’t even find the prepackaged loaves at Costco. My husband does that. I am saying that even the smallest gestures can be filled with love, whether performed by a man or a woman.
I cannot possibly tell you what you should do with your life: whether or not you should work outside the home, what kind of job you should have, or what hobbies you should invest in. No one can tell you these things. Not even your Heavenly Father. He can nudge you in a particular direction, but ultimately the choice is yours.
Whatever you choose, it will be important because YOU are important.
When you look at the men in your life — or the other women — remember that at times we have all felt the word “unfair” writhe into our bodies and settle into our intestines like a lengthy tapeworm, siphoning away all that could potentially nourish us. A friend of mine says, “A fair is where you go to see the pigs.” I don’t share his background, so to me, a fair is where you go to eat deep-fried Oreos, but either way, it has nothing to do with life.
The purpose of life is to be happy and become a better human being. Not everyone has the conditions to achieve this, but you do — whether or not you have the Priesthood, the latest iPhone, or classmates that notice you. It will never be your business whether or not other people appreciate you. Choose to be around those that do, but beyond that, don’t keep score.
I appreciate you. Your Heavenly Father does. Jesus does. This is enough.
The woman in Sunday school was concerned about helping her daughters gain a testimony. I do not share this concern for you or for my own daughters. You want a testimony? Find it. Sweat for it. Having clawed my way out of my old life to find and retain the gospel, I will never attempt to strap you down and hydrate you with an IV of the Spirit. I will continue making myself available to you in every way I know how, but if you have questions or the desire to feel a deeper connection beyond saying “hi” at church on Sunday, you know how to reach me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a lot of them and I’m ready to pray with you for the rest.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s me. Find someone who understands not only the gospel, but also life and learn something.
You have many opportunities in your lives. There are also many opportunities you will never have. Focus on what is true: your Heavenly Father loves you.
And I do, too.