Both the brain and the heart are vital organs. Although they have very different responsibilities, neither is better nor more important than the other, for without either one, the body cannot live. Both are necessary for a fully functioning, healthy body: the brain tells the heart to pump, and the heart pumps blood to the brain so it can work. The same principle applies to family life. In General Conference April 2011, President Packer said,
“The great plan of happiness” centers on family life. The husband is the head of the home and the wife the heart of the home. And marriage is an equal partnership. A Latter-day Saint man is a responsible family man, faithful in the gospel. He is a caring, devoted husband and father. He reveres womanhood. The wife sustains her husband. Both parents nurture the spiritual growth of their children. [emphasis mine]Neither fatherhood nor motherhood is better or more important than the other. They are simply different. Both are necessary for a fully functioning, healthy family. Each plays a different role in family life, and together they support each other and balance the family. We should acknowledge and respect these different roles men and women play in family life, just as we do for our brains and hearts. We don't tell the heart that it is inferior to the brain or not important at all to the body, nor do we try to turn the heart into a brain. So why do we say and do these things to women?
"The Family: A Proclamation to the World" confirms these important truths:
- Men and women are supposed to be different.
- Men and women who choose to become parents are obeying God's first commandment and enforcing the plan of salvation.
- Mothers and fathers have different primary roles, but both are responsible for the temporal and spiritual care of their children and for helping each other fulfill their duties.
How does this apply to gender roles? That the plan of salvation is not one of equality does not mean that men and women are not equal or that their roles are not equally important. It simply means they are not the same. But the opportunity of salvation is equal, whether we bear the priesthood or bear children.* If we take the opportunity to fulfill the different but equally essential roles we have been given, exaltation will be ours.
Challenge: Elder Oaks advised that if you have any questions about the Church that bother you, put them on the shelf. You may not have received the answers yet because you are not ready to, and some answers won't come in this life.
*Elder Oaks used the example of D&C 38:42, which he had not thought of in the following way until that moment. Usually this verse is interpreted to mean priesthood bearers, but it also means child bearers. He said that women's ability to co-create a temple with God is "just as sacred [as holding the priesthood], perhaps even more so."