The Women’s Movement in Thomas S. Monson’s Words

I happened on an interesting article published in the very first Ensign magazine published in January of 1971. Pres. Thomas S. Monson, speaking as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke matter-of-factly about an issue we still struggle with today.

He begins by relating what recent news articles had been saying about women, mothers, and families. For example, several mentioned demands of “free abortion, free child care, and equal employment.”

womenslibOne article cited Karl Marx’s philosophy of “marriage as a dreary mutation of slavery, urged its abolition, and suggested a public responsibility for the upbringing of children.”

Another article quoted a psychiatrist suggesting a move from “planned parenthood to planned unparenthood.”  The author of the article went on to suggest: “If God were still speaking to us in a voice we could hear, even He would probably say, ‘Be fruitful. Don’t multiply.’”

With all of these worldly statements in place, Elder Monson began his talk with, “Such idiotic and blatantly false philosophy must not be entertained or believed.” These philosophies are still in place today, only now much of the argument comes from within church membership, or ex-members.

The fight within the church today is about women who want to hold the priesthood. They seem to think they deserve the responsibility of that “title, office, power.”  What they really want is to dump the drab lowly housewife title, hold the authority of office, and expand the idea of power to be all-inclusive. These women don’t seem to understand that they have most assuredly already received countless blessings that can only come through the power of the priesthood.

When Sis. Linda Burton made the comment, “I don’t think women are after the authority, I think they are after the blessings,” I pondered that and realized the value for women really isn’t in the title or office. The value comes through the blessings, which every one of us receives through righteousness. (read this interview here) The world teaches otherwise. By listening to the world we accept the world’s answers and forget the Lord. Elder Monson continued,

“Error, sin, lust, envy, and evil thrive in the midst of today’s prosperity…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.”

We see many men shirk their duties as husbands and fathers. There is no question that unrighteous men abound. Too many single homes attest to that. And too many women are left to raise a generation of children needed to carry on a value-based, righteous world. Unfortunately, as many strong women and mothers there are, there are also those mothers who have let down this responsibility and we are losing our children. Almost fifty years ago, Elder Monson shared this letter:

“Dear Ann Landers: A year ago our two-year-old son, Earl, had difficulty cig womanbreathing, 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.”

Even today, it is still shocking to hear of a mother who does anything un-motherly. Elder Monson shares his thoughts on the above letter:

“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. 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.”

All women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belong to the Relief Society, and members of the Relief Society have the specific responsibility to teach all children truth and knowledge of God by example and precept. If we don’t do it, no one else will.

Elder Monson lists three specific responsibilities of women in this church:

  1. 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.)   (This is first on the list because women have the responsibility to use and apply the ordinances of the priesthood in their lives.)
  2. The home is the basic organization to teach an individual to walk uprightly before the Lord. 
  3. Compassionate service and a sensitivity to the needs of others are the principal purposes for which a women’s program was organized.

With this list, he offers three challenges: “first, sustain your husband; second, strengthen your home; third, serve your God.”

Times haven’t really changed over the years. Satan is still viciously attacking the home. This wise and bold statement, by Elder Monson, could have been stated in our last General Conference:

“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.”

women herosSisters, we have much to stand for in our day. Don’t get caught up in plastic power or freedom shams. Know the Lord and love His word. Teach His word to the children who live in your home and your neighborhood. Be there for all the children who need an influence of righteousness.

Elder Monson concludes:

“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…The heart of compassionate service, one of the hallmark creeds of Relief Society, is the gift of oneself.”

Thomas S. Monson, The Women’s Movement: Liberation or Deception, Ensign, Jan. 1971