Sunday, May 29, 2005

A More Sustainable and Inclusive Motherhood

This is the fifth installment of a talk entitled The Divine Role of Mothers.
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Having discussed the divine role of mothers as creators, redeemers and saviors, and judges, I would now like to introduce a discussion of ways in which this role might be made more sustainable, and also more broad and inclusive.

Considering the sacrifices motherhood entails, it would not surprise me if the prospect of an eternal progeny as innumberable as the sands of the seashore seems, to some, more ominous than glorious. Historically, childbirth routinely claimed womens’ lives; thankfully, modern medical advances have ameliorated much of this danger. But also, it seems that motherhood has historically worn out many womens’ lives as well, taking not just a physical toll, but mental and emotional tolls as well---and I don’t know that as much progress has been made on this front. I suppose only those living and experiencing it could say. It's true that we don’t know in any detail what motherhood in eternity would be like; we may speculate that it is different than it is here in mortality, in ways that will make it more bearable. One might hope so, if it is a role that is to last forever!

But since we don't know for sure that the nature of celestial motherhood will be drastically different, perhaps we should "plan for the worst," so to speak. Regarding our own responsibility to make heaven heavenly, I like the following thought from Brigham Young regarding the heavenly city, described by John the Revelator as having streets paved with gold:
...we will have to go to work and get the gold out of the mountains to lay down, if we ever walk in streets paved with gold. The angels that now walk in their golden streets, and they have the tree of life within their paradise, had to obtain that gold and put it there. When we have streets paved with gold, we will have placed it there ourselves. When we enjoy a Zion in its beauty and glory, it will be when we have built it. If we enjoy the Zion that we now anticipate, it will be after we redeem and prepare it. If we live in the city of the New Jerusalem, it will be because we lay the foundation and build it. (JD 8:354-355)
Hence we should not simply presume that all will magically be different in eternity, and this includes motherhood: we should take responsibility in the here and now, to learn to do it in a way that would be sustainable throughout eternity if necessary.

There is necessarily sacrifice, a setting a portion of one’s life apart for this divine purpose instead of one’s own interests; but even the Savior received succor in the midst of his atoning sacrifice. Moreover, while infinitely deep, the Savior's distress was quite limited in space and time, and soon afterwards came the resurrection. By comparison the sacrifices of motherhood are, if not as deep, more sustained and extended in time. Ongoing succor, and some early installments of “resurrection,” or “new life,” in the midst of the sacrifice would, I imagine, be welcome.

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That BY quote has some rather profound ramifications in our gospel. I wonder if we would be willing to accept all the logical consequences of this principle? 

Comment by J. Stapley | 5/30/2005 05:32:00 PM  

Is it just me, or are there other utilitarians out there who are turned off by the utter absurdity of streets paved with gold? 

Comment by Last Lemming | 5/31/2005 09:37:00 AM  

J.,  I think you're right, and I think I could guess how far-reaching the implications could be in principle; but I'd like to hear you expound on it first!

The thing I found most interesting about the quote is that it seems to take the gospel "telescope" usually used to survey from an "eternal perspective" and turn it around so that we're looking through it the "wrong way," focusing on the implications of gospel principles for here and now. Of course, the Spinozist---worried the "here and now" might be all there is---loves this.

Last Lemming, I agree that as a literal matter streets paved with gold are a little absurd (unless one finds some way to harden it, and we find some way to make it more abundant!). I suppose the point of the imagery is the beauty and abundance that can be expected in the heavenly abode.

And I'm sure you realize that my reason for quoting it was not to discuss golden streets in particular, but to leverage the philosophy behind the statement. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 5/31/2005 10:25:00 AM  

Of course, and I like the philosophy too. But nobody has served up that image for me to criticize before and I had to let it out.

So when it comes to building a glorious Zion, you can expect to find me not mining gold, but assessing the demand for a hovercraft that would render paved streets altogether obsolete. 

Comment by Last Lemming | 6/01/2005 02:23:00 PM  

Last Lemming, glad to have been of service. I will look for your hovercraft! 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 6/02/2005 07:08:00 AM  

I agree with the tenor of the statement by BY. We must put forth great effort to bring about anything great. However, in another situation (more directly related to marital relationships) BY said the following: "If you could only see your husband as he will be in the glorious resurrection, this very husband you now say you despise, your first impulse would be to kneel and worship him." It thus seems that there will be drastic changes made with resurrection and glorification.

Notwithstanding, we must work to improve our situations and relationships. If motherhood is going to be sustainable, as you say, we must learn to succor the women in our lives.

So how do we do this? It seems to me (from my male perspective) that church culture (both brothers and sisters) exerts difficult expectations upon the women of the church: i.e. keeping a perfect home; being a world-class scrap-booker; being able to take the kids everywhere and having dinner ready exactly on time; performing mundane, boring, daily tasks without a hint of frustration. We all need to feel that we are able to have our own interests and then have opportunities to pursue them. This is especially important that husbands within the church seek to identify those things that their wives might be very interested in and then encourage that pursuit. The fulfillment a person feels when her interests are validated by those with whom she is most emotionally intimate can be the renewing turn that allows one to perform those difficult tasks of motherhood.

(I hope this didn't come across as paternalistic. It is just something I have learned that has made a great difference in my relationship with my wife.)

Comment by Mike Wilson | 6/04/2005 01:13:00 AM  

I have heard that second quote from Brigham Young too. I confess I'm less comfortable with it. It seems to me that many, many marriages "last" but with the parties sort of gritting their teeth, hanging on and expecting that somehow their relationship will automatically be different on the other side of the veil. Maybe so; but if Amulek is right that the same spirit that possesses us here will possess us there, it doesn't seem it would be quite that simple.

I agree on the other points---especially because they anticipate some things in the forthcoming parts of the talk! 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 6/04/2005 07:59:00 AM  



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