Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Position of the Church on Prioritizing Womanhood: Education and/or Motherhood?

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I wrote this paper for a Religion Class (REL 333) at BYU with Br. Newell during my undergrad in 2007 and just stumbled upon it while organizing some files. I was extremely, extremely conflicted about pursuing a graduate degree and when to start our family and chose to make that the topic of this paper and researched some church guidelines.

Hope this might help some other women who are having the same wonderings.

The Position of the Church on Prioritizing Womanhood: Education and/or Motherhood?

The church’s position regarding the decision to continue an education or begin parenthood is between the couple and the Lord as stated in the attached research. It is not directly stated that one should always come before the other or whether motherhood and education should occur tangentially. However, a main responsibility and privilege of couples is to bring children into this world as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World:
The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children…. [and] God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. (Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S., 2005)
The commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” was the first commandment given to Adam and Eve anteceding the Fall (See Genesis 1:28 & Moses 2:28). This first commandment is still as much of a commandment as it was in the beginning. It should remain on all couples’ minds as they prayerfully ponder when to begin bringing children into this world. It is also important to note that the spirit doesn’t always move us with a voice of thunder and lightening.
True to the Faith, a book which describes positions of the church on various gospel principles, elaborates on the church’s position regarding when and how many children a couple should have.
If you are married, you and your spouse should discuss your sacred responsibility to bring children into the world and nurture them in righteousness. As you do so consider the sanctity and meaning of life. Ponder the joy that comes when children are in the home. Consider the eternal blessings that come from having a good posterity. With a testimony of these principles, you and your spouse will be prepared to prayerfully decide how many children to have and when to have them. Such decisions are between the two of you and the Lord. (Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S., 2004; Emphasis added)
There is no specific time frame that a couple must have children. Some couples may not have children for many years while others become pregnant quickly after marriage. We are not to judge each other in this matter. We may look to the brethren that guide our church as examples; some of the apostles have as many as ten children while others have two, some began their families almost immediately while others did not. These are very private and sacred matters that should be left between the couple and the Lord.
            All of God’s children are different and may be directed down different paths. God will not lead us astray. It is best that we heed the promptings of the spirit as directed and counsel with the Lord and our spouse regarding when to have children. In 1987, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled couples at a fireside:
Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with Father in Heaven. Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as, ‘We’ll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we’ve obtained a few of the material conveniences’ and on and on. Mothers who enjoy good health, have you children and have them early. (Benson, E.T., 1987)
While this counsel was stated over 20 years ago, it has not been refuted by any of the following prophets. Couples are not to put materialistic wants above the commandments of God. This is not to say that couples should not prepare wisely financially, emotionally, and physically for children. However, couples should remain cautious and prayerful as they consider their priorities- what is truly needed and what is simply regarded as a “material convenience”?
Years before this statement by President Benson, President Kimball counseled:
After marriage young wives should be occupied in bearing and rearing children. I know of no scriptures or authorities which authorize young wives to delay their families or to go to work to put their husbands through college. Young married couples can make their way and reach their educational heights, if they are determined. (Kimball, S.W., 1976)
Couples should not delay beginning their family for selfish reasons. Through faith and works couples may come to realize and obtain their educational goals (See James 2:24). It may not be immediately and it may not even be in this life, but the education gained from having an eternal family is endless. President James E. Faust has also counseled that “[We] need not try to sing all of the verses of [our] song at the same time” (Faust, J.E., 1986). There is order to all that needs to be done.
            President Gordon B. Hinckley has counseled members of the church to obtain as much education and knowledge as possible. “It is the obligation of every woman of this Church to get all the education she can. It will enlarge her life and increase her opportunities. It will provide her with marketable skills in case she needs them” (Hinckley, G.B., 2006). President Hinckley is constantly reminding us to be prepared for our future. Notice that he states “in case she needs them”. President Hinckley in no way is instructing women to work hard with education and a full-time career as the goal- although there are situations that merit this circumstance. It is important to realize that education does not only mean knowledge gained in a university, college or classroom setting- knowledge may be gained through an assortment of ways.
President Howard W. Hunter also stated that “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind” The purpose of our existence on this earth is to become exalted as gods and goddesses in the next life. Should we not strive here and now to become as near to divinity as possible? Many factors affect a couples’ life as they contemplate when to begin bearing and raising children, but the most important component of the decision is being led prayerfully by the Holy Ghost.

Personal Insights
            As a child, I was always blessed to have a full-time mother while my father worked outside the home. My mother was always home upon my arrival from school and work. My father often traveled, but was home occasionally and always helped fulfill household responsibilities. About four years ago, my father was in a car accident which left him permanently disabled. He has since been unable to do many things that he enjoyed previously including sports and more importantly has not been able to maintain a career.
            My mother and father had been married about 23 years at the time of his accident and the youngest child, my sister, was only 8 years old. As stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “disability… may necessitate individual adaptation” which is precisely what occurred in my family (Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B. & Monson, T.S 1995). We hoped for a few months that my father would recover quickly and be able to return to at least part-time work and continue providing for our family. However, even to this day he is still not able to work. My mother had obtained a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in French and had also worked as a teacher during the first few years of my parents’ married life. My mom began looking for a job as soon as we realized that their retirement money and life savings were dwindling quite rapidly.
            Due in large part to my mom’s degree and past experience she was able to attain a job that she enjoys- working as an office assistant for LDS Facilities Management. It has been a huge blessing to us that my mom was able to get a job that she enjoys and that provides the necessary income for the family to survive. My mother’s job probably barely brings in a fourth as much as my father’s job did in the past and they can only make ends meet because my father has private disability insurance which only lasts a few more years. They hope to pay off debt that was incurred in a business fraud just before his accident. After the disability income runs out, hopefully my father will have Social Security disability approved. However, for the time being, my family is able to live well and be self-sufficient and even still have time for the occasional vacation
            With the constant rise of education and knowledge available I realize that my mother was probably lucky to obtain the job she currently possesses- especially as a woman who hadn’t worked in 20 years with only a bachelor’s degree. I realize that opportunities like this are not very common, but I also realize the importance of faith that must be exhibited and maybe that’s where I struggle the most. Occasionally I find myself thinking that I am now obligated to get as much education as possible as quickly as possible just to be “safe”. Sometimes I think to myself that “something bad will happen. I just don’t know what.”
            I will graduate next year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at the age of 20. By the time of my graduation, my husband and I will have been married for almost two years. My husband will still have at least 2 years left of his undergraduate degree and then he plans to obtain both an MBA/JD. I had always planned to obtain a Master’s Degree as a child and teenager, but I never really expected to be married this young or even at all during my undergraduate education.
            While discussing with my husband President Hinckley’s counsel to obtain all the education we can he pointed out that education doesn’t necessarily mean attending a university or college. Education includes the knowledge we gain from reading and participating in various activities and learning new skills. We have been told, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth (D&C 93:36).” Many, if not all things, are learned through the spirit and it is this knowledge that we take with us into the next life.
            Children are to be raised in an atmosphere of peace, love and joy- an atmosphere of the gospel- surrounded by those that love and care for them. In order for children to be raised in this kind of atmosphere it is essential that both parents agree and set standards for their home. Families must participate regularly in family home evening, prayer and scripture study starting from the first day of marriage to establish good habits. I strongly believe that a couples’ relationship must be firm (but obviously not perfect) before bringing children into the home. I have witnessed the sorrow and grief that occurs when couples believe that a child will make things better and easier. It is upon a firm foundation as a husband and wife that children are to be raised.
            While I have not necessarily reached a conclusion for myself as to what I will do about graduate school next year, I will continue to trust the Lord and rely upon him for guidance. He knows my situation better than anyone- including myself.

Benson, E.T. (1987, February). To the Mothers in Zion. Retrieved May 18, 2007, from Brigham Young University: Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning: http://fc.byu.edu/jpages/ee/w_etb87.htm.
Clark, J.R. (1965-75). Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 6:178. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=bacd3ff73058b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
Faust, J.E. (1986). A Message to My Granddaughters: Becoming Great Women. Ensign, 16. Retrieved May 12, 2007 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=3e23ef960417b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1.
            ““[We] need not try to sing all of the verses of [our] song at the same time” (Faust, J.E., 1986).”
 Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S. (2004). Birth Control. In True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference. (pp. 26) Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Faust, J.E., Hinckley, G.B., Monson, T.S. (2005, September). The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,105-1-11-1,00.html.
Hinckley, G.B. (2006, November). In the Arms of His Love. Ensign, 115-118. Retrieved on May 28, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=05eb88f17feae010VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1.
Kimball, S.W. (1976, February). Marriage- The Proper Way. New Era, 4. Retrieved on May 28, 2007, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=024644f8f206c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=58fc5930f289b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1


Maria Bone said...

"...obligated to get as much education as possible as quickly as possible just to be “safe”." I firmly believe this line of thinking to be necessary for all women. We need to use our time well and always be prepared for disasters or simply the joys of being a SAHM. Education in all forms is never regretted.

yogamama said...

I had the same experience with my parents, my dad became disabled and my mom went to work full-time with a good job because she had education. I personally stay at home and work from home. My husband and I are both self-employed and have flexibility many workers don't. It works for us. We're a team as parents and in work.

Kara said...

I'm a mom of 5 (going on 6) and am a college student. I'm constantly getting asked by fellow students how/why I am doing this with so many kids and what I plan to do with my degree. I tell them I plan to continue being a SAHM and have it as a back-up. I feel it's important to have an education so that if something happened to my husband and he couldn't work I would be able to. Yes, it's hard going to school with that many kids, but it would be even harder if I had to support my kids without that education.