On the Subject of My Highest and Holiest Calling
Dear Church leaders,
I’ve seen the new page at motherhood.mormon.org. You know which one: the one that celebrates mothers by saying that parenting (specifically, motherhood) is our “highest, holiest calling.”
First, thank you. I know you’re trying to pay me a compliment, and I should receive it graciously.
Second, I’d like to gently remind you that what you’ve said isn’t quite true, and I can’t honestly receive a compliment that is a lie.
Telling women that parenting is our highest and holiest calling—while failing to say the same to men—displays a freakishly bad double standard.
Linking LDS women’s worth to motherhood may sound like a good idea, but the truth is that it demeans our other very real contributions to the building up of Zion. It also sends the wrong message to LDS men: that their contributions to family life are less important than their wives’.
There are many, many women in the Church who simply can’t or don’t become mothers. And there are many men in the Church who are not fathers. When this is by choice and not by a fact of biology, it’s often because they are living chaste lives, and I really hope you aren’t criticizing them for that. When it’s by biological fact, I hope you aren’t intentionally saying that they are failures.
I’m not the most diligent student of the scriptures, but I believe—and please tell me if I’m not theologically sound here—that the highest and holiest thing we can do in mortality is choose to follow Christ. I don’t remember Him telling me to make babies. I do remember Him saying, “Come, follow me.” And that’s what I’m trying to do. (I hope, while I’m trying to follow Him, that I’m leading my kids in the right direction, because they’re watching what I do and say very closely, but to be quite honest, I’m a little more concerned about my choices than theirs.)
I really do understand that you are trying to honor women, and that you’re doing it in the way that you were taught when you were young. I appreciate that you are supportive of what I do as a parent. But the specific message you’ve given isn’t the prophetic guidance that I expect to hear from you. I just can’t believe that the very most important thing I can possibly do in this life is get pregnant and produce offspring. That’s a biological function that happens (or doesn’t happen) regardless of faith and repentance, regardless of baptism, and regardless of whether or not the people involved lead Christlike lives.
The message that you’ve written implies that my ability to produce children is more valuable than the conscious choices I make as a human being and a child of God. It tells me that my body, not my mind, is the most important thing about me.
That’s what Boko Haram has said to the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria: that they have worth only as wives and mothers, not as the students and thinkers they want to be.
I believe Jesus asks much more of me than a fertile womb. He asks me to be His disciple and to build Zion. And Mothers Day or not, I hope you change your new website to reflect that.